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If you plan to be on the go this holiday season, or if you are a family that frequently travels all year round, toys that travel well are key! My family travels as often as we can, so we are always on the hunt for great travel-friendly toys. Plus, as the kids get older, they need some great travel gear. We won’t be home this year for the holidays, so like many families, we need to find something to put under the tree that can fit in our suitcase to come home with us.
Here are a few of our favorite travel-friendly gifts for kids:
Books we love:
Where do Jet Planes Sleep at Night by Brianna Caplan Sayres
I think I read this book about 5,000 times in a row when we first got it. They love seeing the mom, dad and baby planes, and arguing whether each plane is mom or dad- haha!. And they love learning about the different types of airplanes mentioned in the book.
Flying by Donald Crews
This book has been my boys’ favorite for quite a while. It’s simple, and only has a few words per page, but it takes you through the process of flying (boarding, taxiing, take off, flying and landing). My kiddos love telling me all about it and explaining every step.
What’s in My Truck OR What’s on My Farm by Roger Priddy
These books are so great for travel because there are tons of little flaps to open, and instructions to find something on the pictures or under the flaps. Reading this book can take quite a while, and getting to move the flaps help keep my littles engaged.
The 50 States: Explore the U.S.A. with 50 fact-filled maps! by Gabrielle Balkan
Our little travelers LOVE looking at maps and following along on our travel routes. This amazing book is filled with beautiful colorful maps and tons of fun little facts about each state. It’s the kind of book that we can read a hundred times and pick up, or start a discussion on something a little bit different every time.
Travel-friendly Toys We Love:
Sometimes it feels like the best toys are the BIGGEST toys and, it’s just not possible to bring these big toys when you are traveling. But we’ve managed to find some great toys that are great to take in the car, or on a plane.
A small airplane is a perfect airplane toy. Kids will love acting out the whole process of loading and flying as you go through it. And after a few flights, kids are bound to get pretty interested in airplanes. This toy comes as a whole set, but you can just separate the airplanes for travel, and play with all the smaller accessories only at home. Many American airlines are available, but we always choose Delta so we figured we’d get the miniature version as well.
These toys are so fun for ALL ages. On a recent trip, little kids, bit kids, and adults all sat down and played with these together. They are dishwasher safe, safe for younger toddlers, and great for the plane. They don’t stick well to the tray table, but we’ve used them on the window or on the tablet or built-in airplane screen.
The 70-piece tube is tiny and easily slips into any handbag or a carry-on and you won’t even notice it’s there! You can get sets in a variety of colors, based on your preference. You might lose a few pieces on the flight, or at the hotel, but it doesn’t matter. 70-pieces is MORE than enough, and they are cheap enough that you can replace once a refill is required.
Tegu magnetic blocks are beautiful, and so well made. Kids and adults enjoy playing with these beauties, and this great little travel set makes it possible. Theses blocks can mix into a bigger collection of Tegu blocks at home, but when on the go, your kiddos will still get to create with them.
This fun little puzzle game is a true all-age game. Little guys can do the ‘easy’ puzzles, or just add gears to the board in any order they choose. Older kids, or even adults, can try the more advanced puzzles. They really are difficult! The toy comes as a board-book sized play board plus a nice little bag of gears so you can keep track of all the pieces.
These beautiful playsilks make a super versatile toy. Babies and toddlers can play peek-a-boo with them, or just enjoy the texture. Older kids can get creative and make them into costumes. They can be tossed in the air, spread out as a play mat, or they can become ‘water’ or ‘lava’ or whatever your kid’s creativity allows. And they are a super-thin (yet durable) piece of silk, so they fold up tiny and are perfect to take with you anywhere.
Travel Gear We Love:
Maybe it’s just because my husband and I are gear junkies, but my kiddos LOVE their travel gear. They feel so grown up with their own gear! And since its stuff they actually need as well, it’s a great gift. These are a few of our (my kids’ and my) favorite pieces of travel gear for kids.
As your little travelers grow, they will want to start packing their own carry-on, and even better yet, carrying it themselves. We love these backpacks because they come in about a thousand fun animal prints, they are sturdy and well made, and you can’t beat the price! Our kids chose the cute little fox, but it was a TOUGH choice because there are so many cute options. This backpack does not have a sternum strap, but we added this one to ensure the straps don’t slip off of their shoulders.
For many traveling families, screens are lifesavers for flights or long drives. Plus, if you allow any screen time at your destination, it’s nice to have control over what they are seeing, rather than letting them watch whatever may be on the tv at your hotel (usually garbage in our experience). As a non-Apple family, we still feel that iPads are the best options for our kids. Read why here. And with kids, you DEFINITELY gotta protect your device. These cases have kept our iPads safe from our wild animal kiddos, plus the handle is great for allowing them to easily carry their tablet. It even folds back making its own stand, which definitely comes in handy.
Don’t forget a great set of headphones for your kiddo. We prefer Bluetooth to avoid cord tangles and battles. Even at age 3.5, my kiddos struggle with using something that’s plugged in. These headphones have a SUPER long battery life, so even if you constantly forget to turn them off, you can always count on them to be charged and ready to go. They are soft and comfortable and have easy intuitive controls.
If you are a travel-loving family, chances are pretty good that you have at least a passing interest in photography. And your kiddos likely would LOVE to give photography a shot as well. My littles were constantly begging to use my phone or camera to take a picture or wanted to take their iPads everywhere to take pictures with it. They were SO excited about getting their own cameras! They use them all the time and love setting up photos and checking out the pictures they’ve taken.
For younger kids just getting started, we recommend this budget option. It has a silicone exterior for shock protection, has a removable SD card with plenty of storage, and a simple interface without any built-in apps (not too many distractions). It comes with a strap to allow kids to wear the camera on their neck or wrist, and it was easy for my kids to understand and use.
As your kids get a bit older and more advanced in their photography skills, check out the Olympus Tough TG-6. It’s shockproof, waterproof, dustproof, even freezeproof, and still a fairly advanced camera with 4K video recording capabilities, shooting up to 120 fps, 4x optical zoom, and you can buy a telephoto lens attachment to increase your zoom capabilities.
A nice pair of sunglasses
For sunny destinations, don’t forget eye protection for your kids! Babiators are great because they are literally indestructible. You can bend them, twist them, drop them, etc, and they just keep on going. And even if your kids somehow manage to break them (or even LOSE them) within a year of purchase, Babiators will replace them for you! And they are super cute too!
A great water bottle
Save money and the environment by bringing your own water bottles and refilling them, rather than buying water bottles. And to keep everyone excited about using their water bottles, make sure you get awesome ones. Our whole family uses Hydroflasks. They are tough and keep your water cold forEVER. The kid’s version isn’t totally leakproof (if you open it and tip it over, water will come out), but it’s pretty easy to keep your drink IN. Plus, they are a great size for little guys- big enough you aren’t constantly refilling, but not SO huge that they are excessively heavy.
A nice kid’s air mattress
Finding a travel sleep solution for littles is tough! Toddlers and younger children sleep crazy and are at risk of falling off of a taller bed. Plus, sometimes, there just isn’t a bed available for them. We love the Intex Cozy Kids Inflatable Airbed because it’s kid-sized, bright and colorful, and STURDY. They’ve held up after dozens of trips despite my kids’ constant jumping and bouncing on them- obviously, I wouldn’t RECOMMEND that, but it’s nice to know they won’t fall apart if kids act like kids.
A cozy comfort item
When spending time away from home, it’s nice for kids to have a soft and cozy comfort item to take with them. Falling asleep with the same stuffy no matter where they are will provide comfort and security. And we love our Jellycat Penguins. They are soft and fluffy, and just the right size.
Another wonderful gift for kids who are constantly on the go is the gift of an experience. Travel families know that experiences are worth more than items, so give them something they’ll be able to remember forever. These are very location-specific, but a few options might include aquarium or zoo tickets, museum tickets, a sleigh ride or Polar Express tickets, trampoline park tickets, or a gift certificate for an ice cream or a meal at a fun restaurant.
What great gifts have you given travel kids? Or what gifts have your kids loved?