Your first flight with your toddler or baby can be a frightening thought. We’ve all empathised with the parent desperately trying to placate their wailing child on a flight and dreaded that it might one day be us.
Even if you’ve got a little angel, the strange enclosed space, loud noises, unfamiliar sensations and all those new faces can be aggravating and difficult for them to understand.
The best we can do for this situation is prepare for the worst, and luckily, there’s a whole market of fun, diverting travel toys that will keep your little one stimulated and occupied and hopefully keep those tears at bay!
On this list, we’ve compiled some of the best travel toys for toddlers and babies for soothing and imaginative play to pack in your carry-on luggage on your upcoming flight to make sure they stay calm and collected.
- Best Baby Travel Toys
- Best Toddler Travel Toys
- What Makes A Good Travel Toy For Flying?
- Final Thoughts on the Best Travel Toys For Young Kids
Best Baby Travel Toys
We’ll start our list of suggestions with travel toys that are best suited for 0-2-year-olds.
At this early stage in their development, babies are beginning to explore the world in a very hands-on and mouth-on way, so we want baby travel toys with moving parts and soft edges that encourage free exploration and don’t inhibit explorative play.
Let’s have a look at some of the best baby toys to make your flight a peaceful, quiet time.
Bright Start Links
These link ring toys are the model of simplicity, but if we observe our babies as they begin to explore the world, we’ll see that simplicity is always best. You can see this by giving them a set of keys, the jingle-jangle and lose fitting easily moved pieces are perfect for tuning their fine motor skills.
That’s the sort of effect these rings have with their bright colours made from gentle, non-toxic plastic.
This set comes with 24 separate rings, which is great value and offers a potentially giant interactive toy for your little one.
These rings are easily linked and unlinked, and each has a unique pattern, which though it may seem irrelevant, is a fantastic way to engage your infant as they explore the different textures.
They are made of durable but soft plastic, meaning they make an excellent substitute for a teething toy, and even if your baby isn’t yet teething, we know how keen they are put to every new thing they find in their mouths.
This simple, versatile toy can be attached to your tray table, to a rattle, and shaken around in a paper cup, providing many ways to keep these travel toys fresh and entertaining.
Janet Ahlberg, along with Allan Ahlberg, created some of the world's most popular picture books, including Each Peach Pair Plum and The Jolly Christmas Postman, both winners of Greenaway Medals.
Of course, books aren’t technically a toy, but the simple page-turning mechanism of a book, while not even noticeable to a grown-up with years of interaction with books under their belt, can be fascinating to a child.
The magic of revealing new pictures and ideas with each simple turn of the page can be a fascinating experience for babies, and a baby’s endurance for repeating the same activity over and over again can’t be underestimated!
If you choose to bring a book or two with you, we recommend a board book as babies often don’t have control over their fine motor skills, and ripped pages are likely to occur. Plus, the robust card pages provide them with something solid to chuck around and play with; sure, they may not be made for that, but if it keeps them happy, then job done!
The other thing that makes books such a great idea for long-haul flights is that instead of simply placating your baby, they encourage interaction between you and can serve as a soothing reminder of bedtime, maybe even buying you a precious hour or two of peace, if they happen to doze off!
beetoy Sensory Buckle Toys
This sensory buckle bag toy for toddlers is a great gift for babies and a perfect travel toy. The plush fabric brings a comfortable touch, and the well-made and compact size design is easy to carry.
You only need to take one look at this to understand why it makes such a great choice to keep your child entertained on a plane. The beautiful bright colours of the charming cartoon design leap off the toy, making it irresistible for little hands.
Buckle toys fit into the Montessori learning style; fidget toys encourage passive learning while keeping your child entertained.
Even when we’re fully grown, we can’t deny how pleasing the satisfying click of a buckle is; that’s just as true for babies.
The colour-coordinated buckles develop cognitive and motor skills and hand-eye coordination, making this a great travel toy for development and keeping them occupied on your plane ride.
ONLYFUN Montessori Dinosaur Busy Board
Busy boards make fantastic travel toys as they condense the variety of a number of toys into a single spot.
This charming selection of sensory activities is easily zipped up into a self-contained carry case that only weighs 260g, so your little one can even carry it around, giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility that all kids love.
Made of soft felt, busy boards incorporate a variety of mess-free sensory activities such as buckles, zips and shoelaces for them to do and undo, not only keeping them occupied but helping them develop motor skills while they practice intricate procedures disguised as a brightly coloured, dino-themed toy.
Having all these activities stored in one busy board also saves having to bring a bunch of small toys that only have one individual use.
Please note, however, children under 3 should not be left alone with this travel toy as it contains some smaller pieces.
Thanks to the lightweight and compact design, designed as a tote bag, weighs only 260g, your kids can easily carry it and take it wherever he/she wants. Only suitable for under 3s with supervision.
You’d need to have been living on a desert island for the last few years to not know what a fidget spinner is. These simple sensory toys appear out of nowhere and took everyone, grown-ups included, by storm, so it makes sense that a gentle one designed for little hands is a great choice for keeping little kids entertained.
With this pack, you’ll get three separate spinners, one with two silicone bubbles, one with three and one with four. Three toys for one reasonable price isn’t only good value for money, but the variety in shapes, colours and designs offer that bit more variety to keep them entertained.
All the bubbles are brightly coloured, and their soft texture is very pleasing to squeeze; they make a soft popping sound when squeezed, which will be satisfying to your little one, not to mention the easy spinning action that makes fidget spinners so popular.
This fidget spinner also comes with a suction cup so it can be stuck and unstuck to a tray table, which isn’t only practical but also provides another element of sensory exploration. And most importantly, if baby doses off, you can steal it to keep yourself occupied!
These sensory toys for babies feature 9 vibrant silicone bubbles in total. The silicone bubbles have printed numbers 1-9, which let babies learn numbers. They can be stuck on the wall, floor, table or ceramic tiles.
Best Toddler Travel Toys
As much as you might want to stop time moving forward and keep your baby tiny forever, it’s a fact of life that they’re going to get bigger before you know it. Toddlers require more stimulation as their brains develop to cater to their growing sense of perception and potentially limited patience.
We’ve assembled a list of some of the best toddler toys to keep your older kids entertained and agreeable on your upcoming flight.
We’ve tried to keep this list limited to simple, cheap travel toys but it seems a bit disingenuous to leave out tablets as we’ve definitely used them before to keep our toddlers occupied on a flight — sometimes, they’re the only thing that can keep their attention for extended periods!
There are a whole host of different tablets for kids on the market and we’ve got a post running down the best ones: 7 Best Tablets For Kids
Whether you’re for or against screen time for young kids, it’s hard to deny how useful a tablet can be on a plane, particularly if you’re on a long-haul flight.
Tegu Magnet Blocks
These charming, durable blocks make perfect travel toys. Their elegantly simple design means they make an intuitive toy that allows kids to engage in self-led, unscripted play.
They can assemble the chunky, different-shaped blocks into a variety of shapes or towers, building structures or making patterns and unmaking them to build another. They’re small and compact, easily stored in the cute felt case that they come with, making them easy to keep all in one spot for easy retrieval and putting away.
These toys are made of wood, and their chunky, rustic feel is a wonderful change from a market populated by cheap plastic choices that rarely stand the test of time. This travel toy not only feels like an heirloom from a few generations ago but due to their sturdy craftsmanship, it’s likely they will stay in your family for generations.
The perfect travel toy for building on-the-go! Whether in the car, plane, the diaper bag, the purse, or at the restaurant; now you can "thinker" wherever you are. Fully Compatible with ALL other Tegu Magnetic Wooden Sets.
Pocket Etch A Sketch
Of course, you do! This timeless toy is a staple of our childhood, and its elegant design means it’s still a surefire hit today.
The full-size one might be a little bulky to pack in your carry-on luggage, but there’s no need to worry about that with the pint-sized travel version.
If you’ve got a budding artist flying with you, the simple no-mess system that uses aluminium powder to make simple shapes and pictures still feels like magic when we use them as grown-ups and is a great way to let your toddler get creative without having to bring along a bunch of paper and pencils.
Unplug with the world’s favorite drawing toy: Classic Etch A Sketch! For more than 60 years, children and adults have been experiencing the magical world of creativity and pencil-free drawing with the Etch A Sketch doodle board!
Water Magic Colouring Books
Toddlers love colouring and this is one activity that can often keep their attention for a good long while — perfect for flights!
But we all know that colouring can get messy, especially if you’re using pens, and no one wants to be scrabbling around airline seats for stray pencils and pens. This is where Water Magic books come in — you simply need to fill the included pen with a little water and your toddler can use it to colour in the book.
The pictures are coloured and disappear after a few minutes so can be coloured in again and again. Ideal for toddlers who like repetition!
We’ve chosen a dinosaur themed book but there are a huge amount of other themes and subjects to choose from according to your toddler’s interests.
Just one warning: remember to fill up the pen with water after you’ve gone through security. You wouldn’t want to be stood waiting for 30 minutes while your bag is emptied by security over a tiny pool of water in a kid’s pen… would you?
Speaking for a friend, of course…
Magic is in the pages of each book, fill the water pen and colour each page to reveal a beautiful hidden design. Then once dry the designs magically disappear, ready to be re-discovered, over and over again.
Travel Toy Sets by My Busy Books
These fantastic activity books come based on various popular properties, including Disney, Pixar and Nickelodeon characters, so regardless of your toddler’s interests, you’re sure to find something that will keep them hooked.
These durable board books come with a playmat, which is not ideal for a plane setting, but also with a series of figures, which anywhere else would retail for the price of the whole package. This great value means you don’t just get a book to keep them occupied; the figurines provide the opportunity for imaginative play long after they’ve read the book cover.
A book and toy all in one, this My Busy Books activity kit comes complete with a brightly illustrated book, well-crafted figurines, and a giant durable playmat.
Toporchid Cheese Threading Toy
Continuing from our early theme of classic wooden toys, this charming old-fashioned style toy’s basic concept is simple enough to provide plenty of self-led play.
The swiss cheese-shaped block is full of holes, and the attached string and needle give your toddler a chance to work on their coordination as they thread it through. It sounds like a silly idea, and it is, but silly is best when you’re little, and the freedom for creativity means they won’t play with it once and get bored.
On top of all this, it’s a unique travel toy that they can be proud of and gives a return to simpler toys that nurture creativity.
Help your child develop their imagination and coordination with this great travel toy! The worm is attached to string and allows your child the opportunity of threading it through all the holes.
Pop Up Fidget Toy
Alongside fidget spinners, pop-up toys have been a craze with kids in the last few years, and you only need to fiddle with one for a few minutes to understand why.
The concept is simple; the rows of bubbles made of soft, non-toxic silicone that can be popped one way and then popped back out. That’s about it! Simple as it is, this design is elegant and perfect for stress relief and is a perfect, straightforward activity that can almost be hypnotic once you get into it, just make sure you remember to share it with your toddler!
Reduces stress dramatically with a popping feeling: helps immediately to transition into a calm, relaxed state. These PILPOC Pop Its are highly used by occupational therapists - not just toddlers on holiday!
What Makes A Good Travel Toy For Flying?
You’ve got several different qualities you should consider beyond simply the sort of thing that your child is interested in when you’re selecting fun, convenient and stimulating airplane toys for long-haul flights.
The reason we’re looking at travel toys in the first place is to avoid them making too much noise, so the last thing we want in our airplane toys is an obnoxious travel toy that beeps, whirs and whizzes when they play with it.
When you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, you’re already going to be bringing along a bunch of essentials such as nappies, food or a booster seat. You definitely want to avoid giant bulky toys; go for ones that can be easily stowed away when you’re not using them.
We all know how annoying it is when we forget to charge our phone, tablet or wireless earbuds. All of a sudden, the crutch we were relying on to get us through a long, boring task is out the window, and we’re left to our own devices.
The same is true for baby and toddler travel toys. You’ll have enough plates to spin when you’re preparing for your flight, so ideally, you want a toy that doesn’t need you to remember to charge it.
Clean and compact
You want a toy that doesn’t take up too much space, especially when luggage restrictions can be tight and your carry-on might already be close to the limit without having to worry about packing travel toys. As well as this, you want something that comes in as few pieces as possible, so you don’t lose any, and simply for practicality’s sake.
Mess-free is always best, too; this means Play-Doh is a no-no!
Final Thoughts on the Best Travel Toys For Young Kids
Preparation is key in every aspect for flights, and this is never more true than when you’re on your first flight, or any flight for that matter, with your little one.
Once you’ve overcome the stress of getting to the airport and on the flight, the last thing you need is a temper tantrum when your confused little one finds themselves stuck in a seat in a strange place for the next few hours.
Luckily, any one of the travel toys on our list makes a great way to placate your kids, keeping them entertained and stimulated whether in solo play or with you.
The variety is extensive, so you can bring a colouring book and a Montessori-style learning toy, so if one starts to wear thin, you can switch them over to the other.
Above all, it’s important to stay calm and relaxed and enjoy the trip; once you’re off the flight, it’s sunny skies and sandy beaches, so keep your mind on that, and you’ll both be happy!