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Are we there yet?
How much longer?
I want to go home!
Ahh, the familiar soundtrack of traveling with children. No matter how excited they are about the possibility of vacation and family fun, most of our kids act like “getting there” is pure torture.
With summer approaching, there’s a good chance many of us are preparing to hit the road or skies with our families. While the idea of a vacation is thrilling, the thought of being stuck in the car or airport with whiny kids can be enough to make you stay home.
While I would prefer to sit back with my book and enjoy the scenery during a road trip, my children find this quiet activity to be the bane of their existence.
Instead, they’d rather spend hours reminding us how much they hate having nothing to do.
And honestly, I can’t say I blame them too much.
After all, how many of us love the “traveling” part of a trip?
So when the going gets tough and getting there is taking too damn long, travel games for kids are here to save the day.
Now, I think most of us can agree that the quiet game sounds like an excellent option during travel, but our kids want constant interaction, entertainment, and conversation to keep themselves busy from point A to point B.
That’s where playing games come in handy.
While busting out the family Monopoly board in the backseat isn’t an option, there are plenty of fantastic ways to satisfy their need for fun.
All it takes is a bit of creative packing to ensure they have a good time during a car ride or flight. Keep reading to learn more about our favorite travel games to play with kids, as there are many excellent choices to pick from!
Whether you have infants, toddlers, or teens, the suggestions below will make traveling as exciting as the destination itself.
Entertaining Infants During Travel
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could bust out a deck of cards and play a round of Go Fish with your baby during a flight or car ride?
Unfortunately, babies still need to earn their card-playing stripes.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t find fun things to do with them while you’re traveling, though. Aside from just packing their favorite baby toys, why not try some of these activities for babies during travel?
- Stacking Cups
- Rattle Socks
- Baby Coloring Books
- These “palm grip” crayons are great for little ones starting to color.
- Shape Sorter Activity Bag
- Busy Boards
- Montessori Toys and Activities, i.e., Pull String Toys
Feel free to utilize a little screen time during travel, too, if that’s something you feel comfortable offering your baby.
While babies and infants might end up sleeping during the car ride or flight, our toddlers are usually less likely to snooze for most of the trip.
They don’t want to miss a moment of the fun, you know?
The hard part is that toddlers are also usually the ones most likely to get restless and bored during travel. While your teen might be fine popping in earbuds and playing on a phone, it takes more effort to impress our 1–4-year-olds.
Rest easy, though; there are plenty of options for playing travel games with kids and toddlers.
Note: If any of the suggestions below require a solid surface, travel trays will be your best friend! We bought this style for our girls, and they loved them!
Match games, or memory, are a favorite in our house. We have spent many an afternoon at home playing marathon championships! These also make great kids’ travel games.
They usually take up a decent chunk of time and give your children something to focus on during travel. Plus, there are many versions to choose from, with adorable tiles from various movies, characters, games, and more.
Some favorites include:
You can also get versions where kids have to match one side of a picture to another, like this Heads and Tails game, which is a great learning activity while you’re on the go.
You know when we were kids, and we would play that silly “hot potato” game with our friends where we’d pass or toss an object quickly back and forth for a particular time or until someone dropped it?
This game is essentially that, but trust me when I say your kids will freak out over it!
During a recent chat with a friend about gift ideas for a birthday, she suggested this toy to me. She said it cracks her kids up and keeps them busy for a long time.
After taking a quick look at the reviews, I see she’s not alone in her opinion!
Kids and families love this game, and it’s an excellent option for travel since it can easily be played inside a car, plane, or train.
And don’t stress about your little ones chucking it at another passenger; this “Pass the Potato” travel game for children is soft for easy play and peace of mind!
My mom’s thrift store game is strong, and I was thrilled when she found this at a second-hand shop during our eldest’s early years. To this day, this look and find style toy remains a favorite in our house!
You shake and move the tube to try and reveal hidden objects inside the beads.
This game has accompanied us on many adventures and kept our kids entertained!
As a child, I always loved playing and building with tangrams in school. Now that I have kids, I continue enjoying these toys.
The Coogam tangram puzzle book is fun for the whole family. You can all take turns racing each other to see who can complete the various puzzles fastest.
Not only do these guarantee a good time, but they’re also an excellent STEM learning activity and help our kids practice hand-eye coordination and observational skills.
Plus, they’re easy to pack in a carry-on bag or car activity kit.
Sure, there are fancy iSpy games you can buy like the one linked above that focuses specifically on things kids could “spy” during travel, but you can always stick to the good old-fashioned road trip game many of us grew up with!
Whether sitting in a plane or car, you can play with objects inside or things you see going by outside. Take turns calling out the color of a particular item and see which family member guesses it first!
This is a great idea for everyone and can get younger and older kids playing together.
Using your car window, activity tray, or airplane tray table, your kiddos can use their imagination to build all sorts of cool things with Squigz suction toys.
They also come with a convenient carrying case, a favorite feature for travel toys.
Not only can your kids exercise their creativity with these, but they’ll also help boost their fine motor skills.
Once your kiddos are school-aged and know how to read, there are even more ways to entertain them while you’re traveling on your family vacation. Check out the travel games for kids below:
This simple and fun game will keep your family entertained throughout your entire road trip! All you have to do is be the first person to spot license plates from all fifty states or at least find the most before you arrive at your destination.
You could either write down a list of all fifty states ahead of time for your family to mark off or download our cute coloring map to keep track of your license plates!
If you want a product you can use over and over again, Melissa & Doug make a wood version of the license plate game that’s easy to keep in the pouch on the back of your car seats!
These work well when stuck in the car for long periods.
While we’re on the topic of family-favorite board games, it’s worth mentioning that some popular selections are also available in compact sizes for travel.
Many also come with convenient carrying cases that will help control the number of small pieces floating around your mode of transportation.
A few fantastic options include:
Carpool Chaos is a collection of cards that offer up various games, challenges, and conversation topics to make long hours on the road less miserable.
When I was looking at the reviews, a lot of people said they loved this game because it was fun for everyone.
Whether you have young kids, older teens, or adults in the car, there’s something everybody will enjoy.
Every time we go on a long trip, our girls get a new activity book to bring with them. They love doing puzzles, mazes, and word searches to help them pass the time on the road or in the air.
If you want to save money, we’ve created a fun download your kids will love that includes different travel theme worksheets they can do while you’re on the go.
The alphabet game is a classic if you want to play travel games with kids. This one can be challenging, but it also provides hours of entertainment!
All you have to do is find words spelled out that begin with each letter. The catch is, however, this must be done in alphabetical order, and only one person can use each word.
You can look for street signs, buildings, billboards, and more to start checking letters off your list!
Dice games can be excellent options for travel, especially if you’re on a plane with a convenient tray.
Story Cubes are one of my top picks for family travel games. I love how much of a creative outlet they provide for kids and adults alike. The game includes nine dice with different images on them.
All you have to do is roll them and make up a story that includes all nine elements.
Whether you use a magnetic travel set or our printable cards, Bingo is a great travel game for kids and families!
There’s so much fun to be had with this game!
I’m a sucker for a good scavenger hunt, that’s probably why they’re one of my favorite options on this list!
The thing I love about this travel game is how versatile they are.
Whether you create your scavenger hunt, buy a set, or print off our digital game, there are endless fun things to look for while you’re on the road or in the air.
10. Rubiks Cube
What toy can you give your child that can keep them occupied for hours at a time?
That’s right–a Rubik’s cube!
These brain teasers are guaranteed fun during long car rides and flights.
They’ll give your kids something to focus on, and they’ll feel so proud of themselves if they can figure out the puzzle.
11. Card Games
We like to bring a couple of different ones to keep things interesting.
As someone with a deep love for “Cards Against Humanity,” I was thrilled to find out they make a child-friendly version we can play with our kids.
This easy-to-pack card game offers hours of hilarious conversation and silliness that you and your little ones will enjoy.
By the time your children hit their tween/teen years, it’s possible they’d rather sit on their phone for the duration of your travels.
When you can lock them down for several hours of quality family time, why not take advantage of the opportunity?
Playing travel games with kids is a fantastic opportunity to have fun and reconnect with older children.
If you need help coming up with ideas to grab their attention, stick around!
Does your family fancy themselves CSI experts? Do you have what it takes to solve a crime? If so, now’s your time to shine!
This Criminal Mind Puzzles book has over 100 crime-related puzzles and challenges. You’ll read clues, look at crime scene photos, and assess evidence to determine who did it.
This is a fun travel activity for teens, whether you’re looking for something to do as a group or individual.
Let me start by saying that I’ve never played Catan. So, while I would love to wax poetic with the rest of you about how amazing it is, I can’t speak from experience.
That said, many people and families LOVE this multiplayer board game!
While dragging your normal Catan set on the road with you might be inefficient, you’ll be happy to hear that there’s a mobile dice game version that’s easy to play while you travel state-to-state.
This is the right choice if you and your loved ones are in the mood for an on-the-go adventure.
Foldology is equal parts origami, puzzle, and brain teaser; it’s also the perfect travel game to play with your tweens and teens!
Each set comes with 100 different puzzles at various difficulty levels.
Packed in a convenient tin that’s easy to throw in a suitcase, After Dinner card games are a fun way to kill some time when you’re en route with your family.
I love these sets because they’re affordable, and the company also makes many versions depending on your interests.
They have riddles, trivia games, charades, truth or dare, and many more!
Getting tweens and teens to open up and talk is often as easy as counting every piece of sand on the local beach. After all, we remember what it was like being “too cool” to hang out with our parents.
However, if you want to get them talking, why not make a game out of it?
Loaded Questions on the Go is a card game with more than questions to keep the laughs and conversations going.
Does your family have a soft spot for trivia? If so, Trivial Pursuit offers mini packs based on various decades from the 1980s to the 2010s.
This is one of my favorite travel games for kids, teens, and adults.
Turn Your Travels Into a Fun Experience With Your Kids
It’s easy to hand over a tablet and let your kids do their thing for hours in a car or a plane. They’ll be happy and relaxed, plus the trip will feel faster than it would with non-stop “Are we there yet?” conversations.
This is a perfectly acceptable way to spend your travel time, but if you’re interested in another (or additional) direction, family travel games and activities are the ideal solution.
Not only will they occupy your travel companions, but you can also feel confident that everyone will have a good time!
From card games to activity books, there are plenty of ways to make the hours fly that don’t involve staring blankly out the window en route to your destination.
When you were young, what were your favorite travel games for kids?
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.