Children and their parents won’t be able to resist these trending play items that entertain, educate and recreate fond memories.

July 3, 2024

From plush, to puzzles, board games and more, families on vacation want a way to be entertained after the excitement of the day has come to a close. In the car, on an airplane or simply back at the hotel, toys enhance the experience families have on their trips. When those toys also tie into the places they visit, they add even more special meaning.

At Margaritaville Resort Orlando, Retail Manager William Hill tries to keep an eclectic mix of toys and games that include puzzles, plush and pool games in stock.

Margaritaville Resort Orlando caters to families with toys and games that not only capture the laidback lifestyle of the venue, but that also bear the resort name.

The selection runs the gamut to cater to hotel guests with children who want to be entertained, including board games, a hook-and-ring game, Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, bouncy balls, action figure sets, and even a travel-sized memory game similar to Simon.

“We carry a lot of impulsivity toys like stress balls and stretchy stuff that kids will pick up and grab for $10 or less, and then we also have our more expensive side,” Hill describes.

Visitors to the store are drawn to the giant plush cheeseburger at the front entrance. Made by Squishable, the scrumptious nod to the Cheeseburger in Paradise song Margaritaville founder Jimmy Buffett made famous can belong to a customer for $250.

“We’ve sold five of them since I started carrying them in December,” says Hill. “Is everyone going to want to buy it? No. Is everyone going to want to come in and look at it? Absolutely. If we sell it great. If we don’t sell it, it’s still an attention grabber.”

Plush is the bestseller among kids at the resort. The Margaritaville store has quite a selection, too. “We’ve got Squishable, Wild Republic and Jellycat. Everyone knows Jellycat and goes crazy for that.”

Margaritaville Resort carries Wild Republic’s Perching Parrot Huggers, which Hill describes as similar to slap bracelets that will hug the child’s wrist. “Those have sold really well. I would say here, specifically the parrots in a mix of different sizes are my top seller in plush.”

Hill notes that because the resort is in close proximity to Target, Five Below and Ross, he has to differentiate his offerings.

“What I have to offer up here is No. 1 things they are not going to see in those stores in some different level, but also No. 2 name-dropped items like the travel memory game which has our name on it. The hook-and-ring game also says Margaritaville on it.”

Hill does have some items that the other stores carry like Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, but he says that is because he wants to make the store a one-stop shop for the kids.

For the pool, the store is stocked with Margaritaville floats, diving items and waterballs. Hill describes a pool game he carries called Flungle by Waboba as a bocci-type game for the water.

He also stocks soccer balls, footballs and little rubber duckies that are “quick little pickups for kids to play with in the pools.”

Stuffed stuff that sells

Wholesale company, The RGU Group, sells plush souvenirs that include static, name-dropped items as part of its “pick-n-pack” program as well as 6-inch and 9-inch regional plushies which can be printed on demand with customers’ logos or art from RGU’s library of custom designs. The company also can produce a custom, exclusive variant of an existing product, explains Connor Atkins of the RGU marketing team.

RGU’s major release in 2024 has been its 100% recycled line of graffiti-inspired teddies, which in just two production runs has kept nearly 9 tons of plastic from entering the environment, notes Atkins.

At Fiesta Toy, the axolotls have been getting a lot of attention lately. “Our No. 1 selling item no matter where the customers are located is axolotls,” says Coral Reynolds, president. “The social media and buzz behind them makes them great for anyone. Kids know what they are even if the adults do not, and they transcend any norms as far as locations.”

The axolotl is also trending with Wild Republic. According to Victor Armendariz, Latin American/Caribbean sales manager for Wild Republic, the native animal of Mexico started trending because of a video game and social media, and now he says, “We can’t keep it in stock.”

Margaritaville Resort Orlando caters to families with toys and games that not only capture the laidback lifestyle of the venue, but that also bear the resort name.

The company has recently introduced a line of biodegradable toys called Green Guardians and is launching a biodegradable plush line. Armendariz notes that these are products that children can “love, cuddle and play with,” that also offer an educational message.

Stuffed States is another plush company that couples learning with lovable plush. Owner Stacey McLaughlin says she thinks educational toys are finding a new road into the souvenir business.

The company specializes in selling plushies shaped like every U.S. state.

“Our Stuffed States are the perfect educational companions for kids, helping them explore the geography of the state they’re visiting on vacation,” she says.

She also notes that shop owners are finding that Stuffed States seamlessly fit into various sections within their shops. “These versatile plushies perform just as admirably in both local state and town pride sections, making them a popular choice for a wide range of customers.”

Toys that teach

Educational toys are the name of the game at the stores inside the Griffin Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, which include two “everyday stores,” the newly remodeled gift shop at the Henry Crown Space Center, and pop-up gift shops that are tied to exhibits like its current James Bond one. There is also a holiday shop later in the year that ties in with the Christmas Around the World exhibit.

Joseph Straub, store manager with Event Network, oversees all of the museum’s retail. He says toys and games account for approximately 27% to 35% of overall sales. At the museum’s main store, 30% of the store is made up of kid/toy presentations. Among his top four most exciting toys that he sells are a line called Genius at Play, which includes plasma balls, Newton’s cradles, and a vortex lamp that ties in well with the museum’s tornado exhibit.

“This is a tornado lamp to replicate that because how else can you bring a tornado home?” Straub asks. He adds that the plasma balls resonate with all ages and tie in with the huge plasma ball the museum has on display.

Klutz is another popular toy line that Straub says includes a clay pet adoption kit, magical baking set and a make-your-own-soap kit — “just really fun things that you can actually use while being educational.”

Brown Toy Box is one of the museum’s newest offerings. Founded by Terri-Nichelle Bradley, the toy line focuses on Black excellence. The museum carries five of these boxes, including one on astronomy.

“You can make your own telescope. It has a constellation mapping activity, constellation ceiling stickers and an activity book. Each box has a kid character representing all different ethnicities so you are building a world for a character that comes in the box, which is so cool,” he says. “They are also great ways to get kids interested in those kinds of careers.”

Space themes are popular on toys and plush at the Griffin Museum of Science and Industry.

Plush also does well at Griffin Museum of Science and Industry. The museum has a farm exhibit where visitors can watch real baby chicks hatch, “so of course baby chick plush does very well, and we have cow and pig plush.”

Space is another big theme for plush at the museum. Event Network created its own line of plush called Gumball Plush, which according to Straub has no plastic for eyes and comes in a sun, moon and earth. Palm Pals from Aurora are another popular plush item.

“The toy literally sits on the palm of your hand,” he says. “They are very big for our field trip students because they’re inexpensive.” The Palm Pals are available in cloud, star, cow and pig at the museum.

With so many product ideas, there’s no more excuses for kids to be bored on vacation.