10 Must Have Cheap Toddler Travel Toys
Everything on this list is inexpensive (I got it all at the dollar store) and these travel toys are sure to get you some happy travelling time with your little ones totally engaged in some fun play. This isn’t some generic list – this is a specific list of travel toys that I have personally had huge success with, and some may surprise you!
We have flown with toddlers numerous times and recently did a long road trip, and I mean LONG. Our 21 hours – two straight days of 10.5 hours in the car was potentially a recipe for disaster. Add in a 2 and 4 year old in the back seat and I really thought maybe we were out of our minds!
But these travel toys for toddlers (and preschoolers) in surprise bags were a life saver!
The toys kept everyone happy for awhile, provided a perfectly timed distraction when needed because things were getting a bit tempered and like I said, because everything was from the dollar store it didn’t break the bank!
How To Choose the Best Toddler Travel Toys
To be a great toddler travel toy an item needs to meet several criteria to make it worth taking up that precious space in your bag when travelling! Here’s how I chose what to take:
- Interactive – To be truly one of the best travel toys it needs to be something interactive that will hold a young child’s attention for a little while. Interactive toys – ones that require a child to DO something or offer pretend play opportunities are the best for that!
- Size – It had to be both small and light. Consumable travel toys are some of the best – ones that your child enjoys doing the activity but then it’s done. Paper crafts are good for that because they are fun, then when done can be recycled.
- Independent Play – The travel toys need to be something your child can do on their own. This means no reading required, no million little pieces they’ll just drop and then cry for you to pick up, nothing they can’t open or close.
- Cost – Keeping the costs low is always the goal, but for toys that aren’t necessarily meant to be permanent additions to your toy collection it’s even more important!
- Safety – Depending on the age of your child it is important to be aware of small parts. If your child is beside you on a plane you can supervise, but if they are in the backseat of the car, you likely can’t. If they are on their own your safety standards need to be even more careful than usual!
Luckily for you, I’m giving you only the best of the best on this list. We had more than this with us, but some things ended up being just okay or honestly a total flop. I’m looking at you bead kit I foolishly thought would be okay despite its pieces because it was in a container that fit on my 4 year old’s lap… Yep, I’m still finding beads in my car!
The 10 Best Toddler Travel Toys (That Work for Preschoolers Too!)
So, as I said, I got all of our travel toys at a dollar store where I live, Dollar Tree, so everything was $1.25. How awesome is that?! I recommend you grab a screenshot of the list at the bottom of the page and head to the dollar store yourself to get the best deals!
If you can’t get to the store though, read on and you’ll also find an Amazon shopping list for affordable Amazon versions of everything on the list too!
1. Colouring Book + Crayons
There are so many of these to choose from you are sure to find a winner your child will love! Pick a favourite character, choose a book with more than just colouring- we found a great dot-to-dot one for our preschooler who loves numbers!
Top Tip: Get fun crayons to go with the book to make it more special for the occasion: We got glitter crayons and the kids loved them! Make sure you know where the crayons end up though…yep I’ve had one melted into a car seat. Learn from my mistake!
Bonus: Check out this DIY jigsaw puzzle craft for a great activity you can use their coloured pages for if you have a layover or at the hotel!
2. Craft Kit
There are lots of these to choose from, so be sure to consider the toddler travel toy criteria. You need to get something that your child can do all alone and without too many loose parts to be dropped and lost.
A favourite of ours is a sticker mosaic like these because the stickers come all stuck together on one sheet, so it isn’t really loose parts. This sailboat entertained my 4 year old for over a half hour.
If you don’t have a craft kit, these easy preschool ice cream crafts are actually one that older preschoolers could do on the move. All you need is paper and glue.
Seriously, toddler toys for in the car or plane don’t have to be fancy! I spent $1.25 on a new package of stickers and cut up a rainbow of different coloured construction paper to go with it and voila – sticker art toy. This became an awesome toy for in the car and was so cheap!
Actually, I made little half-sheet cards folded and ready for my kiddos to use stickers to make cards for the family members we were going to visit! Adding in this little purpose to the craft made them so much more engaged.
This cheap travel toy got us a half hour or so of quiet from both a 2 and 4 year old and the grandparents loved their cards!
4. Hidden Picture Book
There are so many ways to do this – a book, print off some sheets online or buy some. Just make sure they have pictures of what to look for, not just words. Unless your 2 year old can read in which case, wow!!
I found these awesome packages of 10 individual sheets – some were search and find, others were spot the difference between two pictures. Both were a huge hit – partly because of how I set it up. I didn’t just hand over the 10 pages and think that would work.
Search & Find Travel Toy Hack:
My 2 year old got the search and find – he’s really in a phase of loving those. We would do one sheet at a time together spaced out during the drive.
Now the simple trick to make this a better travel toy: But before giving your kiddo a sheet, take a quick picture of the page on your phone then pass it back with a crayon to colour each thing he found. With your photo you can give prompts like “Can you find the hat?” or “I bet I can find the shoe before you do!” and that makes the world of difference.
My son loved it – he was playing “with” me, not just looking at a sheet on his own. Hopefully your toddler will too!
My 4 year old loved the princess spot the difference too. She would do one page, checking off each difference like a little secretary with her list. So cute! Then before the next sheet, she would guess which princess was on it. Or I’d give a clue about the princess on the next one and again, it was more like a game played “with” me. She did all ten sheets right in a row, loving the whole activity. At least a half hour of fun!
5. Pipe Cleaners
Yep, the little craft sticks that come in every craft supplies kit but are annoying to try to glue to anything because no child has the patience to wait long enough for it to dry so don’t actually get used much… Or is that just me?!
Well let me tell you, on a whim I decided to bring the big bag of them we have thinking they may be fun. And they were SO much fun! In fact, plain old pipe cleaners came to the rescue and entertained the kids for over an hour of our drive. And not just any hour – the very last hour after 20 hours of driving over two days.
Pipe cleaners were like the Legos of the car! After a few prompts by me of twisting some together in different ways, my kids both made all kids of neat shapes, twirled them around fingers, twisted them to make animals, you name it, they made it.
We extended the fun by having building challenges: to make specific shapes or an animal or who could put 3 together the fastest. They had a blast!! Lesson learned – pipe cleaners don’t belong in the craft drawer, they belong in the car!
6. Surprise Activity Pack
These are great, usually have a few stickers, little colouring book and crayons. These are great travel toys for in the car, but are especially perfect toys for toddlers on an airplane in my opinion.
This is because on its own it may not last a long time entertaining your child, but on a plane where you are sitting next to them you can do it together. You can make it go on a bit longer by chatting about what you’re doing, asking questions etc.
It is also a very convenient little bag that takes up very little space in a carry-on and provides you with the crayons for other activities you might bring.
7. Travel Bingo
This can be great if done right. Everything needs to be pictures and prompts for things are useful otherwise a big bingo card of things can be overwhelming!
I loved this travel game specifically because it was just vehicles. A more specific list so they know to just look at the road or parking lots. It only works if where you’re driving has traffic and/or buildings though…we went through a lot of just trees areas. Just trees and signs warning of the moose at night – yikes!
Other than this vehicle game, I actually just used our regular neighbourhood scavenger hunt sheet we use on walks sometimes. It helped that the kids were already familiar with what to look for, but was fun and fresh because it was a totally different environment to search.
You can download the neighbourhood scavenger hunt on this post about 9 awesome games for walking with kids.
This seems random, I know! Maybe it’s just my kids, I don’t know, but I bought these on a whim while getting everything else and they were actually the most popular of all the toys. It was the one travel toy my kids looked for over and over again and wanted to have with them.
The pros are that they are one piece, can be moved and interacted with in many ways, have no small parts and were cheap – I paid $1.25 for two! The con is that it’s a slinky and can get tangled! But in some ways untangling them provided me with some mindful entertainment of my own while they napped hahaha
9. Toy Figures
Depending on what kind of things your child likes, get a couple new little toys to play with. We went with a couple small toy dinosaurs, a couple little movie figures, and a doll each as perfect road trip toys.
The key was to make sure both of our kids got two of each thing so they could have a little pretend play between the characters. We also made sure they each got the same two so there weren’t any fights!
10. Lift the Flap Books
These books keep little fingers busy! Until kids can read, it’s all about the pictures and making up a story to go with it. Add in some flaps for fun surprises and you’ve got something to entertain toddlers and do a great job of developing fine motor skills while you’re at it!
We love the Little People Lift the Flap Books because there are so many flaps to do, not just one per page! That’ll keep little ones busy much longer.
When to Hand Out Your Toddler Travel Toys
You have lots of options, but I’ll share what worked for us! Don’t just put them all in a bag and give them at the beginning of your trip!! It is all about timing and having something new and interesting throughout the journey.
We put each travel toy in a brown paper bag and kept them in the front seat with me. I chose paper bags because they were cheap and easy to store in a grocery bag. Plus, they were easy to recycle or the kids even could use their crayons and stickers to decorate one as another activity if needed.
Every hour or two it was surprise bag time and the kids would each get a bag to open. We didn’t put a firm schedule on it and if things were already relaxed then we wouldn’t interrupt the calm! If things were starting to feel like it was going to fall apart any second it was surprise bag time!
I actually ended up having way more bags prepared than I needed. These 10 must-have toys (plus a couple 1 hour turns with the tablet – let’s be real!) made our whole 20+ hour journey mostly smooth. We also played lots of fun no-prep preschool road trip games.
You can also do what I did and label the bags with first initial and number order to give them. It lets you plan that both kids will the same or similar size/interest level toys at the same time to minimize fighting.
Your Travel Toys Shopping List
Shop From Home Toddler Travel Toys
If you just can’t get to the store – maybe Covid , maybe mom life and you’ve got no time. No worries! Here’s an affordable Amazon shopping list to get everything with just a few clicks and as budget-friendly as possible that way.
Top 10 Toddler Travel Toys: Amazon Shopping List
The only travel toy on the list that I couldn’t find on Amazon was the little surprise grab bag which is really just another colouring book so not a huge deal if you don’t have both.
Everything else has so many great options – I’ve picked favourites but if you click, the related items for each show other versions of the same product like sticker packs or books.
Here are some favourites that will make your drive or flight a lot more fun for your toddler.
Have a wonderful trip enjoying many happy moments together!
I’d love to hear how it went – check out the Happy Moments Mom facebook page and tell me how it went!
Enjoy a happy moment,
More great ideas for little kids: