7 'life-saver' toys that will see you through your summer holiday, as approved by parents

Whether you want to keep kids entertained or carve out just a few minutes of peace on holiday, these are the parent-approved toys you need to take with you

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you want to make sure the kids are entertained while you're on holiday (or en route), then these parent-approved purchases deserve a spot in the family suitcase.

No one wants to hear the dreaded 'Mum, I'm bored', but as all parents know, it can be really hard to keep kids entertained when you're on holiday, especially if you are trying to carve out a few minutes of peace and quiet for yourself. While it's unlikely you'll have a never-ending stash of the best kids toys 2024 in your luggage, you'll need to whittle down your choices to what will fit in the suitcase (or hand luggage) and what will keep your kids entertained for the longest. Plus, if you are looking to stock up, there are loads of early Prime Day toy deals to be had right now.

Experts suggest that there are certain types of toys that all parents should have in their bag when travelling anywhere with kids, so we've asked a bunch of parents to share their experiences of travelling with kids, and which toys proved worth their weight in gold.

1. Doodle boards

Mum-of-two Laura, who has two girls aged six and two, says: "For me, the number one life saving toy to take on holiday is a mess-free reusable drawing pad. We use them everywhere when we go away with the girls - planes, ferries, in the car. They are an absolute bargain and by far the best thing I've bought them." These drawing pads come in a pack of two and are less than £10, and are suitable for kids from the age of three.

If a flight in involved, then Laura makes sure she has a stash of wrapped toys, gifts or sweets to eke out over the journey. She adds: "If we're going on a plane, I'll wrap a little present for each hour of the journey for the girls to unwrap, which keeps them entertained and helps to break up a longer journey too." If you want to give this a go yourself, without breaking the bank, keep your eyes peeled for multi-buy offers or multipacks that can be separated into individual little fun parcels for the kids to enjoy.

2. Fidget toys

Mum Grace has just returned from a holiday with her four-year-old, Max, where she raved about this dinosaur fidget toy. "Max was really well behaved on the flight and loved looking out of the window, but when we were on the way from the airport to the hotel, he started to get a bit restless. He's obsessed with dinosaurs, so he was super excited when I pulled this dinosaur fidget toy out of my bag. It lights up, which he loves, and it plays sounds - but thankfully there is volume control. After a very early morning flight, I don't think any of us could have handled it at full volume. But luckily, Max didn't mind, and he played with it all the way to the hotel.

"It's small enough to fit in my bag, and is lightweight, so it's easy to have on hand at all times, just in case. The buttons are really easy to push, and it's great for boosting hand-eye coordination too."

3. Washi tape

GoodtoKnow's Family Editor Stephanie Lowe shared that having a roll of washi tape in her bag at all times was a life-save when travelling with her son Ted when he was a toddler. "Having washi tape in my bag at all times was so handy with a toddler. We'd use it to mock up a racing track that he could follow with this little cars. It's great on a flight too - you can stick it to the back of the seat in front, or on the walls or windows, and Ted would be entertained for ages trying to peel it all off. And it's completely mess-free, so we didn't have to worry about causing any damage or leaving any sticky residue behind.

"Wrapping your child's toy in tin foil can also be a great way to keep them busy. When Ted was in toddler era, I would scrunch tinfoil around his favourite toys, leaving an arm out that he would recognise and then he would work at getting the tin foil undone to 'save' them. This was great for boosting his pincer grip and fine motor skills as well as teaching him about perseverance."

4. Uno

For mum-of-two, and GoodtoKnow's News Editor Lucy Wigley, you can't go wrong with Uno. "We take Uno everywhere! I have happy Uno memories from every holiday we've been on since the boys were old enough to play it, and there's even been times when we've played it while away and ended up with a table full of other children all joining in!"

Suitable for kids from the age of seven and between two and ten players, Uno is perfect for family holidays. It's compact, so takes up very little space in the luggage, but we guarantee you'll be talking about the moment someone puts down the +4 card at the last minute for years to come.

5. LEGO

GoodtoKnow's deputy editor Heidi Scrimgeour is a mum-of-three and swears by Lego and Duplo for giving kids something to focus on while you get your bearings. Heidi explains: "The boys always got a big, new, exciting Duplo set to open when we got to our destination. The novelty of a new toy is amazing for keeping them entertained first thing each morning while we enjoyed a coffee and a few minutes' peace. As they got older, we'd switch to Lego, which might seem like a nightmare for plane travel but again the longevity factor of giving the kids something to focus on while we unpacked unpacked helped enormously."

"The boys were obsessed with Marvel LEGO and would often spend holiday money on a new one - they'd have a decent number of pieces to keep the boys busy, but I also loved that the pieces were big enough that they were tricky to lose."

6. Stickers and activity books

For dad-of-two Peter, sticker books are a must-have if you're taking kids on holiday. "We'd buy four or five sticker books or activity books to take on holiday, wrap them up, and take one in our hand luggage and hide the others in the suitcase to use during the holiday.

"The first time the kids ever went on a plane, we got an airport-themed sticker book, and they loved spotting what they'd seen in the book in real life. It was a long day of travelling, but the idea of unwrapping a present definitely kept meltdowns at bay. The other activity books in our stash came in really handy when we were eating in the hotel restaurant. The kids were entertained and my wife and I managed to finish our meal together."

7. Suction spinners

Mum-of-one Lucy swore by suction spinners when travelling with her son when he was six months old. "I took a pack of suction spinners in my bag when we took Harry on his first flight - I was so nervous he would cry the entire time, and that I'd get frustrated looks from fellow passengers. But thankfully, Harry was good as gold and loved spinning his toys. I stuck one to the tray table and had Harry on my knee and he was so happy spinning it round and trying to grab it. I gave him another one to have in his hands, which he loved to shake and pop in his mouth."

If you're travelling with an infant, then this foldable foam mat is also a good idea. It's light and compact enough that it can fit in your luggage, and will give them a safe place to enjoy some tummy time when you get to your destination. It can lay flat, or you can pop the sides up to create a type of pen that can help keep a baby's toys contained.

For more tips on travelling with kids this summer, make sure you know how to sit together as a family on the plane for free, the expert-approved ways you can save money at the airport, and how long child passports last.

Consumer Writer & Money Editor, GoodtoKnow

Sarah is GoodtoKnow’s Consumer Writer & Money Editor - which means she writes about everything from this year's top toys and the newest toy releases, to discounts on days out and childcare costs. Sarah is passionate about helping mums save money wherever they can - whether that's spending wisely on the right toys and kidswear or keeping on top of the latest news around child benefit, the motherhood penalty. A writer, journalist and editor with more than 15 years' experience, Sarah is all about the latest toy trends and is always on the look out for toys for her nephew or Goddaughters so that she remains one of their favourite grown ups. When not writing about money or best buys, Sarah can be found hanging out with her rockstar dog Pepsi, getting opinionated about a movie or learning British Sign Language.