What to pack and be prepared for traveling with a 5-year-old
Once they got old enough, our children loved to help plan upcoming adventures and vacations, especially when the destination included fun things for them to participate in. At around the age of five or six, most kids begin to take an avid interest in travel and the process of getting to and from a magical new place.
I often think of the range of 5-8 years old as the “Golden Age” in a child’s adolescence. They’re fully potty trained, in school full-time, and generally responsible enough (and willing) to help with younger siblings.
Don’t get me wrong – any road trip or flight in our family is still peppered with several “Are we there yet?” questions. Still, five-year-olds are much better about keeping themselves entertained or participating in a side-splitting round of Would You Rather.
In this article, we’re going to explore the Best Travel Toys for 5-Year-Olds to take with you on your next vacation. We’re sure that these fun, engaging, and humorous options will add some pizazz to your next trip!
This post is part of our tried & tested travel gear reviews and our best travel toys collection
Traveling With a Five-Year-Old
Before we dive into the fun part, we’d like to take a few minutes to offer some suggestions for traveling with a five-year-old. These are based on personal experiences and advice from friends with families, and we hope they’ll help with upcoming family vacations.
Pack a Spare Set of Clothes: Even though most five-year-olds can make it to the bathroom with no accidents, there are times when a toilet is not easily accessible. Additionally, sometimes children will try to “hold it” because they’re nervous about going to the loo mid-flight.
It’s helpful to talk with your five-year-old before a long flight or car ride to let them know that everything will be okay if they do have an accident. It also never hurts to pack a few pull-ups to give them an added sense of security.
Give Them Some Responsibility: When each of our own children was around five years old, we began to give them more responsibilities when we went on family trips, such as packing their own backpack or travel bag to figure out what they could easily carry and what needed to stay home.
Provide Several Options for Activities: Five-year-olds may be a somewhat less hyper version of being four, but they still need plenty of travel toy options to keep them entertained along the way. We recommend a travel tray for long car rides so that everything is close by, and these can also work well for flights.
Best Travel Toys for a 5 Year Old
- Teebee – Kids Travel Toy Box
- 8.5 inch LCD Writing Tablet Doodle Board
- Skillmatics Educational Game: Dots and Mazes
- Educational Insights Kanoodle Jr. Brain Boosting Puzzle Game for Kids
- Coloring Books
- Paint by Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals
- Classic TOMY Water Game
- Melissa and Doug Deluxe Water Wow! Activity Pads
- I Spy Gold Challenger: A Book of Picture Riddles
- Melissa & Doug Fashion Design Activity Kit
- Don’t Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book!
- Tangoes Animals
- Spot It! Junior Animals Card Game
- Fat Brain Toys Shape Game
- Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Tablet, 8″ HD display
If you’re planning a long car or train ride, this travel toy box should be on your list. It unfolds into a tray table full of engaging activities such as an 80-page puzzle book with pencils and building bricks for hours of play.
Your child can also use the lid of the lap tray for playing other games and coloring, and the travel toy box has enough room to add a few extra essentials for the trip.
We highly recommend this LCD Writing Tablet as one of the best travel toys for 5-year-olds because it’s mess-free, portable, and the screen can be cleared with the simple push of a button.
This doodle board comes with an easily replaceable, built-in battery that lasts for up to 6 months. Your child can use the attached stylus to draw endless masterpieces on the large, glare-free screen.
These Skillmatics reusable activity mats are a sure-fire way to cure hours of boredom while traveling. This travel toy comes with six double-sided sheets and a skilly billy pen that can be wiped clean with the included duster cloth.
Your five-year-old can build several core skills with multiple engaging activities that can be completed again and again. This is an excellent toy to be handed down to other children.
If your child loves to solve puzzles, this travel toy for five-year-olds has 60 challenges packed into one small package.
The Kanoodle Jr. encourages the development of crucial skills, such as spatial reasoning and critical thinking. The portable puzzle board also acts as a case for all the puzzle pieces and a 60-page booklet to keep everything organized.
Nothing beats travel boredom like a good, old-fashioned coloring book. If your five-year-old loves to create vibrant and unique pictures, check out options like this Unicorn Coloring Book or Coloring Books for Boys.
Each book is appropriate for ages 4-8, meaning they’re versatile enough for several children to use them in one trip. The illustrations are simple enough so that it’s easy to stay inside the lines but also provide a variety of engaging pictures to keep your child entertained for hours
Don’t forget your marker pens too! Look for the type that click together easily or store in their own case so they don’t go missing so easily, and washable, of course!
Paint by Sticker books are a less-mess alternative to paint by numbers, and they’re very travel-friendly.
This zoo animals version allows your child to create ten beautiful sticker paintings and helps them to work on both counting and hand-eye coordination skills. The quality cardstock also has perforated edges so that they can be gifted to friends and family alike.
The best travel toys for five-year-olds are ones that present different scenarios every time, and this portable water game does just that. Your child must tip the toy so that all three rings are on the dolphin’s nose. It’s more complicated than it looks!
The game is straightforward to set up–just fill with water and push the button to play. Empty the water before going through airport security and fill it up again before your flight. If you’re traveling with multiple children, see who can capture the rings the fastest!
Melissa and Doug Deluxe Water Wow! Activity Pads
These Melissa and Doug Deluxe Water Wow! Activity Pads are a go-to for our family trips, and for a good reason. They’re lightweight, reusable, and appropriate for a wide age range (trust me, even my tween when she’s bored joins in!)
You can refill the water pen repeatedly, and the coloring pages clear up as they dry. Each pad comes with a red lens to find hidden pictures, and the spiral-bound pad keeps everything together. Some of our favorite options for slightly older kids include Around Town, Adventure, and Fairy Tale.
If your five-year-old loves puzzles and riddles, this enchanting I Spy Book of Picture Riddles will keep them coming back again and again to discover new items on each page.
The book is filled with vibrant, eye-catching photographs taken by Walter Wick, and author Jean Marzollo has filled each page with riddles to challenge even the most determined riddle-solver in your family.
The budding fashion designer in your family will love this activity kit with interchangeable fashion plates that allow them to create endless designs.
Each rubbing kit comes with nine double-sided design plates, coloring utensils, and a carrying case, making it perfect for designing on the go. The kit doesn’t include paper, so remember to grab a blank writing pad for your child’s travel case as well.
Mo Willems is known for his wacky children’s books, and this hilarious activity book is an extension of his popular series. The Bus Driver provides instructions for each activity, and all the while, the pigeon tries to convince the reader to put the book down and do something else.
We’re in love with this particular travel item because not only does it provide a wide range of activities for your child, but it also helps them to develop a relationship with the character within.
Who knew so much fun was possible with just seven different shapes? The Tangoes Animal book is an ideal travel toy for five-year-olds because it provides 48 tangram challenges and a magnetized board to reduce the chance of pieces getting lost along the way.
The attached challenge cards are arranged in three different challenge levels, and each picture resembles a familiar animal. You’ll find yourself drawn into the fun as well with this refreshing take on the ancient Chinese Tangram puzzle.
One of our tried-and-true family travel toys has been several different versions of Spot It! Spot It! is especially fun to play on a long flight, in the terminal, or on train rides, and everyone can participate.
This fast-paced travel toy works on symbol recognition and eye association because each card is filled with six colorful animals of different sizes. Regardless of the card combination, two cards always have a matching symbol, allowing for endless playing options.
The shape game is another intriguing puzzle option for your five-year-old (and maybe you!). It’s comprised solely of heavy-duty activity cards and wooden blocks, so we recommend storing it in a plastic bag for travel.
The goal of this travel toy is to follow the stars to arrange the blocks in different challenging combinations. The Shape Game encourages spatial reasoning, logic, and critical thinking skills, to name a few. It’s also appropriate for ages 3-6, so younger siblings can join in the fun as well.
Traveling for any length of time can be exhausting, and sometimes both parents and children need a mental and physical break. That’s where the Amazon Fire 8 Kids Tablet with an 8” display comes in.
Download a few of your five-year-old’s favorite apps or take advantage of the included year of Amazon Kids+. The tablet also easily connects to in-flight Wi-Fi to stream appropriate movies, and Bluetooth capabilities make it easy to pair with your child’s favorite headphones.
Speaking of which…. headphones and tablets should always go hand in hand. Your 5-year-old will be at that age where they’re between specialised toddler headphones and using proper kids headphones. Here are a few of our favourites for this age group.
More ideas for entertaining young kids on long trips
Even with all the toys and tech you can throw at a kid to keep them happy on the move, sometimes what they simply want is YOU! Often easier said than done if you’re the one driving or you’ve got younger siblings keeping your hands full.
It is really important to remember though, just because your 5-year-old is more self-sufficient and a much better traveling companion than most tots, some one-on-one time doesn’t go astray. Some engaging games without toys should be used too, why not try:
Family car games – some favorites even 5-year-olds witll understand are
- I-spy (though you may need to do colors or phonetics rather than alphabet)
- The Alphabet game – great for learning your ABC’s, go through everything you know starting with A is for ….., then B, C etc taking turns around your group – you could try animals, foods or people’s names with a 5-year-old. older kids can try countries, cities, movies.
- Would you rather? – a classic car or queuing game for kids, no tools needed just some inspirational and fun questions to get your little one thinking (eg would you rather a per crocodile or a pet lion – the more nonsensical the better!)
Audiobooks – sharing an audiobook or podcast is a great family activity. You can get absorbed in the story whilst also chatting or explain parts too. Audiobooks need not be something you simply plug your kids in, grown ups can love them too!
Take some snaps! – Let your kids take control of the camera for a bit. Most 5-year-olds can probably operate a camera better than you can; let them record the journey from their perspective. It can actually be great fun looking back at what they think it was important to record or seeing the view from the back seat! We watch these back at our meal breaks and it’s loads of fun for us all.
Snacks! – It doesn’t seem to matter what age kids are, snacks are the stuff of travel dreams. My Master L can remember pretty much any place he’s been simply by the snack he ate there (not bad for a fussy eater).
The important thing when travelling with your 5-year-old, space out the treats. Whilst it’s tempting to give them sweets if say they haven’t asked “are we there yet?” for 30 minutes, all parents should know the result of too many sugary sweets and cooped up in a car or plane… Not saying never, just space them out and try and keep snacks healthy for longer-lasting energy.
More tips for pre-schooler travel
This is honestly a great age to travel with kids. They really get so much easier and so much less gear to contend with! If you’d like more from our blog on travel tips and products you might need from the pre-schooler to a grade school kid age group, why not check out:
- Best gifts for outdoor-loving kids – embrace your little one’s love for the outdoors with these include non-toy gifts for outdoor-loving kids
- Helping kids sleep on planes – the best airplane sleep devices helping kids to spread out and rest well on a plane
- 15 steps to conquer jet lag – beating the menace of long haul holiday joy the easy way
- 45 essentials for family road trips – don’t leave home without all of these items for your car, your kids and your sanity!
- The best beach games for families – enhance your next trip to the beach with these fun beach & water games for all the family
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Don’t miss our latest travel toy guides:
- Best travel toys for every age group
- Tried & tested travel toys for a 1-year-old
- Travel toys perfect for your 2-year-old
- Terrific travel toys for a 3-year-old
- Fabulous travel toys for a 4-year-old
- Engaging toys for toddlers on road trips
- Best kids toys for the beach
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