The Travel Toy Box

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21 countries, 41 states, and the District of Columbia. That’s how many places I have traveled with my oldest son in his ten years on this planet. His younger brother’s numbers are slightly lower but no less impressive (ridiculous?) given his age. So to say that I am intimately familiar with traveling with children would be quite an understatement.

On a recent episode of the City Mom Collective Podcast, Just Add Sprinkles, the topic du jour was family travel hacks. Friends, the mamas on that podcast delivered, so go give it a listen if you haven’t yet! As I was listening, though, I realized that no one had specifically discussed one of my favorite travel hacks:

The Travel Toy Box.

It’s no secret that bringing toys along while traveling, especially something new that your kids haven’t seen before, is essential for keeping little ones entertained (big ones, too!). Distraction is key, no matter how old they get, and preparation can make all the difference. The travel toy box is one of the many things we have streamlined in our family to make life just a little bit easier when traveling with kids.

We keep a small plastic tub with a lid, like this one, ready to go at all times. It’s small enough to throw between my boys’ seats in the car, and the fact that it’s clear makes it easy for them to see what’s inside. I just grab it on the way out the door whenever we’re going on a long car trip. It comes along for boat days and is also a great thing to have ready in case of a hurricane evacuation. For plane trips, I simply choose a few of the items out of it or let my kids pack their own carry-ons from its contents. I even pull from it when we head to restaurants since most of the things in the box will fit in my purse and entertain my kids while we wait for our meals.

My boys are school-aged, so the contents of my travel toy box are currently geared toward that demographic. Plenty of the following items have been in there since they were much younger, though, and are still fan favorites. The key is to stick with small things that don’t make big messes and don’t have a lot of pieces.

Here’s what you might find in our travel toy box at any given time:

Activity Books

Our box is always stocked with small activity books and notepads of all kinds like this On-the-Go Mini Game Pad. Dover Little Activity Books are the perfect size! My kids are especially partial to mazes, sudoku, paint by sticker, and dot-to-dot books from preschool level to extreme. We also like to keep a pack of erasable colored pencils or a small box of crayons in there for this reason. Restaurant crayon packets are perfect. When my kids were younger, a Ziploc with small Color Wonder Makers and a Color Wonder Book were always in the travel toy box.


Drawing and Writing Toys

Other writing and drawing-related toys in the box include Water Wow pads, a Boogie Board, a DoodlePro, and a travel spirograph set (pro tip: a standard set of sticky notes are the perfect size for this and also double as a distraction pad for toddlers).

Card Games

Card games are the ideal size for the travel toy box. Ours is currently stocked with Spot it!, Uno Splash (great for boat, beach, or pool days), and Go Fish.

I also always keep this amazing Games on the Go! deck either in the travel toy box or clipped to the inside of my backpack or purse. This deck has saved us in so many long waiting situations and recently got us through hours of lines at Disney World.

Waiting in line at Disney with Games on the Go!

Other Games

Another game that takes up a little more real estate in the box but seems to be worth it is this 3-D tic-tac-toe set. I just keep it in a Ziploc bag so we don’t lose the pieces. It usually makes an appearance at restaurants or on an airplane. The World’s Smallest Perplexus falls into this category as well.


As for actual toys in our travel toy box, we keep things like magnetic tin sets, a Ziploc or small plastic container filled with Legos or PLUS PLUS Blocks, a retro View Master, lacing cards in a gallon Ziploc, and Wrap-Ups. My kids also reach for the Story Cubes in our box when they want to make up stories together or as a family.

Do my kids still whine about getting on screens while we travel? Yes. Do I let them on screens? Yes. But when I tell them it’s time to put the screens down, we put on some music or a good podcast and open up the travel toy box. My little adventurers love revisiting what’s inside, and I love never having to think about what toys to pack since the box is always ready to go.


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