The Best $3 Travel Toy: Ikea Stacking Cups

By Eileen Gunn

I was in Ikea the other day and was excited to see these stacking cups make their return. They’d disappeared for a while, at least from our Brooklyn outlet. And they were sorely missed.

They cost $2.95 or so. After clinging to our set for 3 or 4 years now I can tell you they were absolutely a best-three-bucks-you’ll-ever-spend type of purchase.

IKEA cups stackedStacked together, they’re exactly 3-inches squared. They slip easily into a diaper bag if you use one, or your shoulder bag or your kid’s backpack.

We’ve used them as sand toys when we came across a playground sandbox (or beach) unexpectedly. They’ve been equally good bath toys when we needed a few in a hotel room. A few have small holes in the bottom and 1 make a sieve.

They’ve kept Tiny Traveler unbelievably busy in the back seat of the car. She’s used them to sort and count odds and ends (including snack mixes, when the cups are clean). She also used them to “cook,” and “bake.” She also “made” coffee and tea for mom and dad and hot chocolate for herself.

When you’ve returned home, pop them in the dishwasher. And then back in your day tote as soon as possible for the next time you need them.

I highly recommend picking up a set before heading off on your next car trip. Or really, before leaving your house.

What’s the most handy under-$5 item you’ve bought for family travel? Give us your best suggestion in the comments below!


  1. Elizabeth Bucceri
    October 9, 2014 at 10:15 am — Reply

    I bought these for my neighbor’s son, and they are great.

  2. MJ Parker
    October 9, 2014 at 10:14 am — Reply

    That is awesome!

  3. […] that winging it can work out. If you want to pack toys look for compact stackables like these Ikea cups or these handy sets (see them in the photos above) from Kid […]

  4. Nancie
    August 25, 2013 at 7:21 pm — Reply

    Can see how these could be both useful and fun when traveling with kids.

  5. Marcia
    August 22, 2013 at 5:58 pm — Reply

    I can see them being used for all kinds of activities. At $2.95 for 6 buckets, it’s a great buy for sure!

  6. Natalie
    August 20, 2013 at 8:34 am — Reply

    We have a set too! I also love ColorWonder (though it’s pricey!) for the car or plane. Don’t worry anymore about losing crayons in seat cracks, down the aisle, etc and if this only comes out for trips it’s even more exciting since it’s a “only-sometime” toy. We also bring puzzles in zip locks – we have a voracious puzzler – a good idea for mom & dad with a glass of wine if you want to do something fun while the little one sleeps. 🙂

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