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If you haven’t already read my post on the Dos and Donts of Flying with an Infant or my Baby’s First Flight: What to Expect at the Airport posts, make sure to check those out for the best tips on successfully navigating the airport with ease. This is what has worked for us in our experience, but I do recognize it might be what everyone swears by. We flew on over 10 airplanes within the first year of our daughter’s life & have road-tripped several times with her as a toddler. I’m confident that the tools we’ve discovered in helping entertain her as a baby and toddler while traveling will work for you too!
Best Travel Toys for 18 Month Old
While I am sure you already have some toys at home that you could bring while traveling, there is something about the novelty of a new toy that can better capture your little one’s attention. Consider purchasing a few new travel toys for your 18-month-old that you think they will enjoy, coupled with ones you already have in your toybox. Don’t bring them out to play with until you are actually on the airplane or in the car driving. That way they get to fully explore the new toy/activity which should occupy them for more time.
1. Doodle Board
We got this doodle board as a gift for our toddler, and it has been a fantastic travel toy! It is so simple and easy to use. It even comes with a little strap for the pencil so that you don’t lose it while traveling! Don’t worry about having to charge it or clean up after your kid uses it, it’s easy, mess-free fun. You just click the button to erase and start over!
It will easily grow with your child too. As a 1 or 2 year old they will probably just scribble, but as they get older they can use it to practice writing letters and words. You can play tic-tac-toe and any other creative drawing games that come as their abilities to draw advance!
2. Traditional Sketch Pad
Again, this is a fun mess free drawing activity for your toddler while they are traveling. The drawing pencil is attached, you can start teaching shapes with the shape magnet pieces, and it is so compact it can easily fit in the diaper bag. Draw animals and make the animal sounds with them or just let them doodle how they want!
3. Reusable Sticker Book
My daughter all of the sudden LOVED stickers around a year old. She loved peeling them off and sticking them onto another piece of paper. Cute stickers can get pricey if your child is just sticking them on a useless piece of paper, so the best way to save your money and have something that will last is to purchase some of these reusable sticker books! The stickers can be moved around for several uses making it worth the investment.
They have many different scenes and character themes. You can find the one that will capture your child’s interest the most. Stickers are something that will keep my toddler entertained for a substantial amount of time while traveling! And I feel good about her playing with them because she is working on her fine motor skills in the process.
4. Bendy tubes
Another favorite travel toy for 18 month olds are these bendy tubes! These tubes help your toddler build their large motor skills when pulling it apart. It makes a fun sound when they pull it and you can also connect them and create other interesting things to play with. We have had these tubes for over a year and my daughter still is entertained by them!
5. Busy Books
Busy books are exactly what they sound like. They are small books (usually made of soft fabric) that have a variety of activities inside to keep your little one busy. Different textures to touch, buttons to push, buckles to unclip and put back together, etc. I highly recommend having something like this with you to keep those little hands occupied while traveling!
6. Toy Cell phone
Our kids live in a world where everyone has a cell phone. Why not get them their own too?? This specific one doubles as a teething toy and play phone. These are the types of travel toys my daughter seems to love! She loves pushing buttons and hearing the different noises. She pretends to talk to people on the phone since she sees us doing that on a daily basis. This is a great inexpensive travel toy for your young toddler to bring on a trip.
These ones that look like iPhones are also so cute. This one has way more functions than just a simple “play phone” like the one above.
7. Travel Sized Bubbles
What kid doesn’t love bubbles?? Remember you still have to get through security, so you can’t bring a big bottle of them, but these little miniature bottles are perfect to have on hand. It will help get their energy out when you are not driving or sitting in the airplane. This is a super inexpensive way to keep them entertained! Bring a few to have on hand throughout the trip.
8. Fidget Toys
This one little compact travel toy for 18 month olds has all the random household objects they’d love to get their hands on! This little cube is such a cool toy for toddlers, I absolutely loved it when one of our friends brought it on a road trip recently. They can twist, open, shut, and spin all the different parts! This surely will be a hit with your 18-month-old as you introduce it to them as you travel.
Another easy fidget travel toy is a pop it. You can find these literally everywhere these days! Kids of all ages (and even some adults) LOVE to play with these. Myself included! There is something gratifying about popping all the little circles! This is again a great fine motor activity for your toddler to master while you are on the airplane or on a long drive in the car. Plus they are usually pretty inexpensive.
9. Window Toys
As I briefly mentioned above, take advantage of the windows in the airplane and car to provide more entertainment for your 1 year old! These little suction cup toys are the perfect activity for the airplane. Your child will have fun sticking them and pulling them off the seat in front of you as well as the window. You can also work on their sorting skills by asking them what color each item is and sticking them into piles on the food tray in front of you.
10. Play Camera
Last but definitely not least is this ADORABLE play camera. This might be the BEST travel toy for your 18-month-old not only because will they love pushing all the buttons, hearing it make noises, and light up, but it actually is functional. That’s right. This play camera has 32 GB of memory that you can then upload onto your computer. See what your trip looks like from your 18 month old’s perspective. They can take pictures and videos.
Again, this is a travel toy that will grow with your child! My daughter plays with hers regularly even after having it for 6+ months. I am excited to have the memories she captures on her little camera and of course the cute memories I will always hold on to of her being a toddler photographer.
Other Things to Bring When Traveling with an 18 Month Old
teething tablets & Amber bracelet
Our daughter had just barely turned 1 when we were boarding our flight to Oahu, Hawaii at 6am. She was not super happy that we were waking her up that early to get on an airplane, but I could tell that that wasn’t the only thing making her grumpy. The things that normally would make her happy weren’t working & I was starting to stress! I stuck my finger in her mouth & sure enough, her gums in the way back were all swollen. She was getting her molars and I wasn’t prepared.
Some nice people in a couple of rows behind me on the airplane graciously offered me some helpful teething medicines & now I make sure we have these on hand with us whenever we travel! You just never know when those pesky teeth will want to pop through! I suggest you travel prepared for this scenario because it can be very difficult to calm a fussy, teething toddler on an airplane.
Another way to be prepared for teething is this amber bracelet or necklace. Plus it is an absolutely darling accessory for your baby! The amber is said to have natural analgesic properties. So when your baby wears it, the oil from the amber is absorbed into their skin and it helps manage their teething pain! I loved using this one with our daughter. I am not a doctor or any kind of medical professional, so take it for what it is… and if you are concerned about your child wearing a bracelet or necklace you certainly do not have to follow my recommendation!
But look how cute she was in her little anklet!
Favorite Bottle or Sippy Cup
I weaned our daughter from breastfeeding just after her first birthday so when we then traveled without that crutch, we had to find something that worked for soothing her during take off and landing. These are by far our favorite cups because they are spill-proof, easy to clean, and not too bulky.
Loading your kid up with junky food or sugary food isn’t going to help you have a good experience on the plane. A sugar rush with no where to go with all their energy is asking for a disaster! I like to load a couple of these snack containers up with things such as cucumber slices, cheese cubes, berries, and crackers. I will also bring a pouch in case nothing else is working, but I try to stick with more whole-food, filling options usually. Snacks are always a good distraction tool & this container in and of itself can be a toy for your budding toddler.
Maybe travel toys just aren’t cutting it. Put everything away and interact with your child! Sing songs like Old MacDonald, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, or The Wheels on the Bus. Move their body in the actions of those songs to help them get some of the large motor activity they so desperately want while being cooped up in an airplane or car. Let them stand on your lap and look around at the people around you while you quietly sing songs with them and connect with them.
Downloaded Show/Movie on your Phone or ipad
A couple downloaded movies or shows on your phone or tablet for back up reinforcements
I’m not going to lie, sometimes your child will just not be happy with any of the toys you brought for them. Or if your travel time is pretty extended, they might just not want to play with those same 5 things you were able to fit in the diaper bag. This is when it is smart to have the last resort backup plan of a show. Download a show or movie before your trip that you know they enjoy watching. Screen time is such a touchy topic for parents these days, but sometimes to survive traveling with a toddler, you have to let them do it.
There are plenty of things you can try and do before offering the show or movie, but don’t beat yourself up if they get to watch an hour of TV while traveling.
Entertaining an 18 month old while traveling is no easy task, but you’ve got this! Be creative, patient, and flexible as you play with your child on the airplane or in the car. You should be proud of yourself for traveling with your toddler! Many people think it can’t be done.