gifts for travel families

Looking for a gift that will be used over an over by a family on the go? These are our family’s running favorites when we are en route, dining out, or settling in at our destination.

The prices on these items range from $15 to $40 USD and all of them get their money’s worth!

Related post: Favorite Travel Activities Under $15 for Kids

I’ve organized this article into two parts:

  1. Kids’ Products – Items to entertain, educate, feed, or comfort the littles.
  2. Convenience Products – Items to make traveling easier, more comfortable, and therefore more enjoyable.

Kids’ Products

Mr. Buckle

Best for: Airplane, Car Rides, Restaurants
Age: 1-2 years
Duration: 30 min

My 18 month old really struggled at first and quickly got frustrated, but by the NEXT DAY he was whizzing through all the straps on this buckle toy. At that age he wasn’t able to unclip them himself, but he’d get so much satisfaction out of clipping all the straps.

This toy afforded us many peaceful moments on planes.

mr buckle must have kid travel item

Triangle Crayons

Best for: Airplane, Restaurants
Age: 1-2 years
Duration: 30 min

Major “aha” moment for me when I realized they sold tripod crayons. I wasn’t buying them for the grip, but to prevent them from rolling off restaurant tables or the plane’s tray tables.

Quiet Book

Best for: Airplane, Car ride
Age: 18 months -3 years
Duration: 30-45 min

We’ve had two flight attendants approach us asking about this toy and coming back with their cell phones to take a photo. They thought it was the coolest idea as they watched our then 18 month old explore each page of his quiet book.

I used to think I’d have someone make a felt activity book / quiet book for my kids. For $35 though, it’s not worth the hours upon hours of effort it would take to do so. This has adorable activities like velcro foods to take out of the fridge and put on a plate, petals to add to buttons, outfits to dress a doll, and more.

quiet book board must have kid travel item

Bento Box

Best for: Airplane, Car ride, Beach day
Age: 1+ years
Duration: 20 min

I find my toddler has a longer ‘meal time’ attention span when he has variety on his plate and it’s presented in a way different than he is used to. The Bento Box is only used on trips so I guess that makes it special and he likes opening it up to discover what was packed. I like that it seals very well and insulates its contents.

Water Drawing Board

Best for: Airplane, Car ride, Restaurants
Age: 1-4 years
Duration: 20-40 min

An excellent no-mess activity for the car is this B Toys Portable Board. It is two sided so our son is never waiting for his drawing to dry and disappear, he just flips it and keeps on ‘painting’. It comes with four pens that you refill with water.

water drawing board must have kid travel item

Toy Pullback Trucks

Best for: Anywhere
Age: 1+ years (supervised)
Attention Duration: 45-60 min

These pullback toys entertain my 3 year old for days on end. He plays with them in the car, on the beach, at the table, anywhere. This set comes with a fold out scene as well as signs.

toy pullback trucks must have kid travel item

No Mess, Spill-Proof Snack Cups

Best for: Anywhere
Age: 1+ years

These genius snack cups get shaken, tossed, and the snacks stay safely inside! A must have with young kids. The tops are cut so that little hands can reach in for a handful, but they close behind them. Use a pacifier strap to clip the cup onto their bib, stroller, etc.

Kids’ Harness

Best for: Airplane, Car ride, Beach day
Age: 1+ years

Yes, I’ll put my kid on a leash. Sure, there is an element of not wanting to chase after him should he decide to bolt, but it is first and foremost for his safety. I kept a firm grip on the handle when we were out west exploring the Grand Canyon. You can bet if we go to Disney this will be with us. Our toddler doesn’t mind this harness at all, it feels like a backpack to him. Plus, in the car and at bedtime he plays with it like a stuffed animal.


Best for: Rod trips
Age: 18 months +
Attention Duration: 20 min

On road trips, I keep a canister of Glowsticks in the door of my car for long car rides when my toddler gets antsy after dark.

Model Magic

Best for: Restaurants
Age: 2+ years
Duration: 45 min

Model Magic holds together a bit better than Play-Doh which sometimes leaves behind little crumbles. I prefer Model Magic while traveling.

model magic board must have kid travel item

Suction Plates

Best for: Airplane, Restaurants, Airbnb, Hotels
Age: 1-2 years

There was a brief, but frustrating stretch of several months where my son was prone to swatting his plate right off the table. I learned to travel everywhere with a suction plate.

Many restaurants would serve kids’ meals on porcelain plates! Transferring his food to this plate gave me peace of mind that we’d get through our meal without anything shattering on the floor. Additionally, many Airbnbs we used didn’t have plasticware, so we’d find ourselves using this often. They come with lids so we’d plate his meals ahead of time for our day trips.

Volume Controlled Kids’ Headphones

Best for: Airplane, Car ride, Beach day
Age: 1+ years
Duration: 20 min

I could only listen to Shiny so many times… I was relieved to be able to plug in these headphones which have a max volume setting that is safe for little ears.

kid headphones must have kid travel item

Travel Convenience Products

Travel High Chair / Booster Seat

This Travel High Chair collapses and tucks into a small bag for easy transport. It has long straps to buckle it securely onto any chair. Meals with an infant on your lap get old real quick.

I even use it when we are picnicking on the ground to keep my 1 year old in one place while we inhale our food.

We bought a second one as well to leave at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.

Cooler Backpack

This cooler bag comes EVERYWHERE with us. It is our go to day bag. Even for small trips we put our snacks in the bottom cooler and use the top spare space for an assortment of kid supplies.

This also acts as a great personal item for the plane. The cooler on the bottom is perfect for snacks and milk, while the storage on top is convenient for grabbing in flight supplies. It also has pockets on the side to easily carry my water bottle and Kids’ Thermos.

Inflatable Pool Noodles (for more than just floating!)

Tuck these inflatable noodles under the sheet at the edge of hotel/Airbnb beds so your toddler doesn’t fall out.

Great for sword fights too!

Baby Monitor

It takes up next to no space in the suitcase, so I like to bring our baby monitor if my kids will be sleeping in a separate room. We also used it on a cruise so we could tuck in our son and then go have a drink and late night snack date in the hallway outside our door.

Scarf with Hidden Pocket

Don’t be a target for pick pocketers. Tuck your cash, card, and phone right into your scarf. I have one of these and LOVE it. Fantastic gift idea.

Trtl Travel “Pillow” / Neck Support

To me, these are much more comfortable than the shoulder pillows which leave me with a kinked neck. It wraps right up to your chin so it supports your head in a more upright position. Plus it is machine washable!

Car Power Converter

Power your everyday household items from your car’s cigarette lighter with this converter! Plus, it offers a couple bonus charging ports as well.

Travel Picnic Table

We had this travel picnic table pre-kids for all of the concerts we used to attend in local parks. Now we continue to use it for family picnics if there is room in the car to pack it.

Massive Mom Hook

I hang EVERYTHING from my stroller handle using this large carabiner. Grocery bags, backpacks, my purse all clip on easily. I’m going to miss having a stroller once my kids outgrow them.

Easy Wipe Bibs with Pocket

These are ultra thin bibs that are easy to wipe off rather than create more laundry to carry around. We like the silicone kind at home but they are bulkier to pack. dirty

Actual Milk You Don’t have to Refrigerate

It’s hard keeping milk well refrigerated when you’re on the road. With these, you don’t have to! We avoid exposing them to high heat , but they do not need to be stored cold.

Packing Cubes

To save yourself sanity on vacation, it is important you know where everything is so you can quickly access whatever you need. We either pack 1 cube per person, or 1 cube with each of our outfits for any given day. This is especially helpful if we are road tripping and want to bring just enough into a hotel where we are only spending a single night.

You’ve probably seen these recommended a dozen times, we dismissed them for a long time, but they make a word of a difference when packing for a whole family. Do yourself a favor and order a pack! We prefer the sets of all large cubes vs. the assorted size packs.

A Clip On Fan for Your Stroller

Keep baby cool with this battery operated travel fan. If packing this for air travel, be sure to bring the battery in your carry on as it is lithium which is prohibited in checked baggage.

Universal Window Shade (that allows you to open the window!)

If we are getting a rental at our destination and will spend a significant amount of time driving, we bring our pull-over window shades for the kids. They are easy to pack and we love that they 1) fit on just about any car door and 2) allow you to open the window unlike the suction shades.

Globally Inspired Picture Books

Picture books about unfamiliar places, faces, foods, and customs have generated such wonderful curiosity and discussion in our home.

Here are some of our favorites:

Busy Board

Quiet Books or Busy Books make excellent toys for road trips or air travel. I’ve had a number of flight attendants and fellow passengers take a picture of ours for the toddler in their lives.

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links on which (at no additional cost to you) I may earn a small commission. I promise to use any kickback to explore more of our incredible world. Read full privacy policy here

1 Comment

  1. […] more ideas, check out this article that has options in the next price range […]

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