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Every parent knows - and dreads - the plaintive little cries of ‘are we nearly there yet?’, usually uttered just as you pull out of the driveway at the start of a four hour drive. Bored kids aren’t conducive to happy journeys, whether you’re travelling by car, bus, train, plane or boat.
If you want to avoid playing yet another game of eye spy, it pays to be organised before you set off by packing travel toys in your hand luggage. Although kid-friendly tablets can save your bacon in times of serious need (ie: incessant whining), the NHS advises that you limit your child’s screen time and keep an eye on what they’re watching too. For this reason, we’ve only included screen-free toys in this guide.
Whether your kids are into colouring, puzzles or stickers (actually, aren’t all kids mad for stickers?!) and whatever age they are, there will be something to keep them happy during your travels.
How we chose our recommendations
All the travel toys in our line-up are courtesy of tips from Mumsnetters. We reckon that the parents on our boards have tried and tested every travel toy for children on the market. With over 10 million users each month, that’s a staggering wealth of knowledge and experience.
We first consulted consumer sites to see which travel toys for children were mentioned. We then studied reviews of travel toys for toddlers, travel toys for babies and travel toys for older kids on the Mumsnet forums to find out which travel toys parents and their children had tried, tested and loved for long journeys.
Finally, we collated all that information and compared them to other online reviews to see which were the bestsellers and which received rave recommendations. We then cross-referenced our findings to select the travel toys that had won the most accolades and recommendations across the board, to bring you a selection of the best at various price points for different age groups.
We think there’s something here for every junior holidaymaker to keep them smiling on journeys. Here are the best travel toys for kids for 2022.
What are the best travel toys for kids?
Best overall travel toy: UNO
Best budget travel toy: Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad Habitats
Best travel toy for babies: Lamaze Freddie the Firefly
Best travel toy for toddlers: Megasketcher Magnetic Scribble Board
Best sustainable travel toy: 8 Piece Tegu Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set, Blues
1. Best overall travel toy: UNO
Price: £7 | Buy now from Amazon
“We always take Uno with us when we go away. The teenagers now end up sitting with us to play it!” FrightorFlight
UNO was first developed in 1971 and has been a popular family card game ever since. It fits into a standard sized eco-friendly cardboard box (no plastic to see here, thank you very much). It’s ideal for chucking in hand luggage or a suitcase to play en route or at the pool or beach. It works for ages seven upwards and while it’s generally known as a group game, it’s also possible to play it solo, making it the ideal flexible travel activity for either one person or the entire family.
The aim of the group game is easy to get to grips with - you have to get rid of your cards and be the first to shout ‘UNO!’ when you only have one left. There are 112 cards in a mix of four colours (red, green, blue and yellow), plus 8 Wild Cards and 8 Draw Two, Reverse and Skip cards in every colour. It’s suitable from age seven.
2. Best budget travel toy: Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad Habitats
Price: £6 | Buy now from Ocado
“Melissa and Doug reusable sticker pads.” Ricekrispie22
Most kids adore stickers and this brightly coloured pad is suitable for 3 years plus. Most sticker books offer limited entertainment - once you’ve used all the stickers, it’s game over. But this reusable book from playtime geniuses Melissa & Doug has longevity because the 150 hard wearing vinyl stickers can be peeled off the pages and repositioned as many times as your child desires.
There are five different backgrounds in the book - a farm, a prehistoric landscape, a desert oasis, a jungle and the sea. Whether your child chooses to stay accurate and put sheep and cows on the farm and sharks in the ocean or go leftfield by adding a T-rex to the jungle, they’re sure to enjoy the chance to be creative as many times as they like. Size wise, the book measures 14 x 11cm so it should fit in a rucksack or travel bag for easy portability. It is one of the cheapest toys on our list and you’ll also get loads of playtime out of it - and therefore hopefully some more peace - during your trip.
Related: The best remote control cars for kids of all ages
3. Best travel toy for babies: Lamaze Freddie the Firefly
Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon
“Oh, Lamaze Freddy Firefly also popular.” Etherealhedgehog
Mumsnetters love Lamaze baby toys for being tactile, brightly coloured and hard-wearing. They’re not the cheapest newborn toy but they wash and wear so well, they’re the sort of travel toy for babies that can be handed down from one child to the next. It can be hard to entertain a baby on long journeys, especially if it’s not possible to walk around with them. But a brightly coloured, interesting to touch (and chew) toy is always a winner.
Freddie the Firefly has a soft velour body, which is ideal for cuddling and stroking. High contrast black and white patterns, a discovery mirror, crinkle wings, click-clack rings and a squeaker should keep your baby entertained for a while at least. There’s even a pull out teether and the toy can be fixed to your buggy or travel bag so it doesn’t get lost. Lamaze also offers other animal travel toys including Salty Sam the Octopus and Tilly Twinklewings, amongst others and all are suitable from birth.
4. Best travel toy for toddlers: Megasketcher Magnetic Scribble Board
Price: £13 | Buy now from Amazon
“If you can get a cheap little magnetic doodle board, they provide lots of fun!” canberramum
It’s great to get creative but drawing can sometimes get a bit messy, with paper, crayons and pen lids flying everywhere - hardly ideal if you’re stuck in a cramped train compartment or plane seat. To minimise hassle, mess and stress when your child realises that they left their favourite felt-tip on the bus you’ve since alighted, consider a magnetic scribble board, which uses the traditional magnet pen and metal filaments under a screen to draw ‘magic’ pictures which can be erased in a flash.
The screen on this mini Megasketcher Magnetic Scribble Board measures just 14 x 10 x 5 cm, making it ideal for chucking in a bag. Your little artist can draw fine lines as desired with the attached pen and use the star stamp to decorate it. Once they’re finished, simply wipe clean with the ‘magic eraser’ and start again for hours of fun during your trip. No ink, paper or battery is required - perfect. The only drawback is that it’s made of plastic, which isn’t particularly eco-friendly. But for entertainment value, it gets top marks.
5. Best sustainable travel toy: 8 Piece Tegu Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set, Blues
Price: £18 | Buy now from Amazon
“Tegu magnetic blocks. They do a travel pack in a little pouch.” blamethecat
If you try to limit the plastic you buy for your kids, you’ll approve of this all natural wooden travel toy set. Containing no lead, no plastic, non-toxic, water-based lacquer finish and no small parts, these little magnetic wooden blocks are safe for all ages and enhance fine motor skills, imagination, problem solving, balance and storytelling skills.
Your child can create whatever they like from Tegu blocks. They’re easily portable too as they can be stashed away in their cotton carry bag, flung into hand luggage and then fished out for use in the car or plane - or during waiting periods in an airport. There are no garish colours (this set is decorated in calming blue tones) or flashing lights or batteries required - not all kids may appreciate this on the face of it but give them half an hour with the blocks and they’re sure to be won over. It isn’t the cheapest toy but it’s sure to be one that will last and can be handed down to future generations.
6. Best travel toy for teenagers: Ideal Rubik's Cube 3x3 from Ideal
Price: £11 | Buy now from Amazon
“DS has his in his hand constantly at the moment. He just told me his hands are tired so he was going to have a rest. Two minutes later-click click click!” heartonthetyne
Rubik’s Cube is a cult classic that has been beloved by puzzle fans ever since its invention in 1974. In fact, it’s officially the world's bestselling puzzle. There are apparently 43 quintillion combinations but only one solution, which can be solved in under 10 seconds once you know how. But first you’ve got to work out how!
There’s no getting around that it’s a hunk of plastic but we’re pretty sure that not many Rubik’s Cubes end up as landfill because it’s so darn addictive, it’s hard to put down let alone chuck in the bin! The premise is simple; twist the colour coded sides until you have all the same colour stickers on each side - and no, you can’t take the stickers off and replace them - although it is tempting. Rubik’s Cube is suitable from age three and appeals to all age groups.
7. Best travel toy for three year olds: Galt Toys, Water Magic - Look and Find On Holiday, Colouring Books for Children
Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon
“Galt toys water magic colouring in books are fab.” musicalmama
Is it time for more mess-free creativity? No parent in their right minds would permit actual painting whilst in transit. But with this reusable water magic colouring book, you can be that fun mum or dad who says a big fat ‘yes, why not?!’ to a spot of water colouring on the train, plane or at the beach.
The set features a chunky, hard-wearing spiral book with six reusable picture boards and a water pen, which you simply dab in water and then use to magically colour in the pictures. There’s added fun with a ‘spot who’s hiding in each scene’ game too. It’s suitable for kids aged three and above although won’t hold much interest for older children. Be warned that you’ll need to have a small container of water handy for wetting the pen along with having somewhere to dry the book once it dries, ready to be reused.
8. Best travel toy for four year olds: Play-Doh Starter Set
Price: £16 | Buy now from Amazon
“If you have a car seat tray thing then play doh is fab.” janeisnotmyname
It’s fair to say that not everyone would be cool with having crumbs of Play-Doh squished into their car upholstery. Train conductors might have something to say about it being dropped in their tidy train carriages too. However if you have a car seat tray then you could let your child have a play with this portable travel set from Play-Doh.
It’s definitely the sort of toy you could pack in your main luggage and produce when you get to your holiday destination if you need to keep your child busy for a while in your hotel room or apartment. Featuring four pots of Play-Doh in different colours, nine modelling tools and a reusable tote to keep it all together when not in use. This set is suitable for ages three and up. It’s not cheap - it’s almost three times the price of the Galt Toys, Water Magic - Look and Find On Holiday, Colouring Books for Children for instance - but it offers value for money in that it’s a toy that you can carry on using once you’re back home.
9. Best travel toy for older kids: LEGO 41937 DOTS Multi Pack 4in1 Bracelet, Picture Frame, Bag Tag & Pencil Holder Summer Vibes Arts and Crafts Set for Kids
Price: £19 | Buy now from Amazon
“My 10yo likes Lego Friends, Harry Potter, Dots and odd set in the other themes.” Aroundtheworldin80moves
LEGO is a failsafe activity idea for entertaining children over the age of six, and the beauty of it is that there’s really no upper age limit either - you could even have a go if you’re delayed at the airport and need to pass the time. Yes, it’s more plastic but it’s not single use plastic; LEGO is the sort of toy that your child will keep and reuse repeatedly in years to come or pass it on to friends or siblings.
There are so many different LEGO play sets to choose from, many of which are suitable as travel toys. This DOTS set is ideal for travel because it involves sticking the pieces of LEGO onto a bracelet and bag tag, which can be then worn or used during your journey. However, you might want to suggest waiting to decorate the picture frame and pencil holder until you arrive at your destination.
10. Best travel game for the family: Exploding Kittens
Price: £15 | Buy now from Amazon
“Was going to say exploding kittens as well. It was bought with younger ds2 in mind but teenage dc always play it with their friends and we’ve played it with other adults just because it’s a laugh.” LooksBetterWithAFilter
When you’re stuck in a caravan with rain pouring down outside or you’re waiting ages for a delayed train, a brilliant card game is what you need to lift spirits. Exploding Kittens is a Mumsnet favourite and is great for two to five players of all ages from seven year olds to ‘too cool for school’ teens, as well as adults.
There’s nothing more unifying than a good old giggle over a ridiculous card game - and Exploding Kittens is unashamedly ridiculous. A record breaking Game Of The Year Award Winner, it’s sold more than 10 million copies. It takes only two minutes to learn as the rules are so simple, namely if you draw an Exploding Kitten, you lose and are full of loser sad-sauce. All the other cards in the deck help you avoid or mitigate your risk of drawing an Exploding Kitten. If you don’t explode, you win. We’re confident that all of that will make complete sense if you just buy the game and have a go…
How do you keep kids entertained on long journeys?
There are so many ways to entertain children while travelling and you don’t have to resort to screens.
You could play games such as the old classic eye spy or pull out fun cards games such as UNO or Exploding Kittens. Encourage them to draw on a mess free Megasketcher Magnetic Scribble Board, or create with the LEGO 41937 DOTS Multi Pack 4in1 Bracelet, Picture Frame, Bag Tag & Pencil Holder Summer Vibes Arts and Crafts Set for Kids - oh, and don’t, whatever you do, forget the snacks!
What can I give my child on a long flight?
Sticker books such as Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad Habitats are great on long flights because your child can unpeel and rearrange the stickers on the colourful backgrounds as often as they like… For younger travellers, the stickers can even be stuck on the plane’s window or on the seat in front of them, just don’t leave them behind when you leave the aircraft.
A reusable magic painting book such as Galt Toys, Water Magic - Look and Find On Holiday, Colouring Books for Children should also keep them entertained, so long as you have a small pot of water for them to wet the pen with or to refill your pen.
How do you make a long car journey fun?
Long journeys are tough on kids - if you don’t mind small pieces of Play-Doh sneaking into your car upholstery and you have a pull down car tray that your child can use, the Play-Doh Starter Set should keep them entertained.
The 8 Piece Tegu Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set, Blues is less messy but will keep their hands busy, as will a classic Ideal Rubik's Cube.
How do you travel with two kids?
Travelling with one child can be tough but having double trouble brings extra challenges. If they’re old enough to play card games together, introduce them to UNO - our overall best travel game for kids. A fun game for all the family, it takes up barely any space in a travel bag and two children over the age of seven can have hours of fun trying to outwit each other to win.
Why you should trust us
Mumsnet has been helping parents make their lives easier since 2000 and, in those years, we’ve seen, tried and reviewed thousands of products. We work hard to provide honest and independent advice you can trust and we spend hours scouring the Mumsnet forums and online bestseller lists to find products that real parents rate.
Transparency is really important to us and that's why we're always upfront about where we find our recommendations. We write about products that we feel offer the best value to most parents – the ones that our users would recommend to their own friends and family.