Transforming Travel Toys

When traveling with children—especially little ones—it’s important to make them feel comfortable and secure wherever they are. But with checked bag fees going nowhere but up, we don’t want to fill up the suitcases and carry-ons with lots of bulky stuff. So to help make transitions—and packing—easier, here are four space-saving products that do double- or triple-duty.

cuddleuppetsCuddleUppets are part blanket, part puppet, and a lot of fun for the kids. At 39” x 28”, they’re about the size of a child’s blankie, and they come in seven varieties, including Blue Elephant, Lady Bug, Unicorn, Purple Monkey, and Green Crocodile. Soft, with paws on each corner and a large, stuffed head, children can use them to put on puppet shows for the family or to give their imagination a workout by themselves. If mom or dad has one too, you may find yourself adding a few extra miles to your car trip or hoping your flight is delayed so you can have more time to play together. When you’re done for the day, the kids can snuggle up with their CuddleUppet and drift off to sleep. CuddleUppets are machine washable and recommended for ages 6 months – 15 years, but unless they come out with one that texts or plays Angry Birds, they really aren’t going to interest anyone much over 6—not including parents, of course. Retail price: $19.99, but available only online at www.cuddleuppets.com

Although Zoobies come in wide variety of styles, our favorites for the family-on-the-go are Blanket Pets and Slumber Pets. Blanket Pets are a stuffed animal, blanket, and pillow all rolled into one. With at least 25 animals to choose from, even the pickiest kids will find something to entertain themselves with in the car, plane, hotel, or grandma’s house. At the end of the day, unzip the plush blanket and use the animal’s head as a pillow (it’s stuffed with microbeads for maximum squishability). Machine washable, Blanket Pets retail for $29.99, although the more collectible “retired” models are more. zoobies.com

zoobies - slumber petZoobies Slumber Pets take Blanket Pets up a notch and come with a lightweight sleeping bag rolled up inside. Available in varieties such as Furbie the Feline, Gumdrop the Golden Retriever, and Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar, they’re great for long car rides, hotel stays, and everywhere else—and there’s a good chance your child will want to use it at home too. Made of Zoobies’ soft fleece and topped off with the Slumber Pet’s microbead head, the sleeping bag (which at 43″ x 22”, is roomy enough for most little ones) zips off for easy washing. Children love sleeping on a large stuffed toy pillow, as well as playing with it during waking hours. As your little one gets ready for bed in an unfamiliar place, snuggle up with her for a story featuring the animal of choice, and help her get ready for another exciting day. Blanket Pets retail for $39.99. zoobies.com

pillowpets from mypillowpetsPillow Pets may have been last year’s hot item, but they’re still fun, easy take-alongs that are perfect for family travel. As with CuddleUppets and Zoobies, Pillow Pets can start the day as a plush, huggable, cuddly friend and end up as a plush, huggable, cuddly pillow. There are dozens of Pillow Pets, and even the littlest hands will be able to operate the “transformer” features (but be warned: in a few years, the word “transformer” will take on a whole new meaning). Retail prices vary with size, but average around $30.00. Check ‘em out at mypillowpets.com and let your child make the final selection.

Safe travels!

Travel Toys That Transform

The Parents@Play team reviews four space-saving products that  will make transitions–and packing–easier when you’re on the road: