If you’re planning to take a family trip or vacation, try some travel games for kids to keep kids entertained while in the car, train, or plane. When you’re traveling with kids in tow, travel games can be as essential for a fun and successful trip as packing snacks and making sure your kids are rested before the trip. With a little advance preparation and some fun travel games at your disposal, your kids are less apt to get cranky or bored while on the road.
Here are some ideas for great travel games for kids to try on your next family trip.
1. Last Letter, First Letter
Word games can be particularly useful -- not to mention fun -- for kids who tend to get sick while focusing on something like a book or a DVD. Any family travel game that involves looking out the window can help prevent car sickness. My family loves to play a game we invented called last letter, first letter.
To play: Players decide on a category, such as animals, and one player starts with a word (in this case, say, zebra). Then the next player has to name an animal that starts with the last letter of the animal that was just named (say, antelope), and so on. When someone gets stuck, that person gets a strike. When any player gets three strikes, they are out. The winner is the person who is still remaining after everyone else is out. Tip: Parents may want to help younger grade-schoolers. A 5-year-old probably won’t be able to keep up with an older sibling or adults in the car, so adult help is always a good idea. Older kids with bigger vocabularies will be able to throw more difficult words into the mix.
2. I spy
An oldie but a goodie. Kids will love taking turns guessing and "spying" when playing this travel game.
To play: One player starts by describing something he or she spies, usually outside the car. The spied object can be described using letters, as in "I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter 'c.'" Then each player takes turns taking guesses such as "cow," "cornfield," and so on, until someone correctly guesses the answer, such as "cloud." Another variation of the game is to describe the spied object with a color, such as "I spy with my little eye something white" to describe the cloud.
3. Twenty Questions
This is another classic car or travel game that is great to play with kids.
To play: One player picks an object (players can decide beforehand whether or not to narrow down the choices by having the questions answerer state the category of the answer. So, for example, the answerer can say, "I'm thinking of a place" (you can decide that your categories are occupations, places, animals, etc.). Then the other players each take turns asking questions that may help narrow down the possibilities, such as "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" or "Is it edible?"
4. Travel Chess, Checkers, Board Games
Another excellent way to have fun on the road is by playing a travel game version of a favorite family board game such as Scrabble or Yahtzee. Get one of these top travel games for families or a travel game size chess, checkers, and backgammon set, and your family is sure to look forward to the trip as much as they are to getting to where you’re going.
5. Math Games for the RoadFrom spotting numbers to estimating the cost of meals to calculating how much change you should receive when purchasing something, a family trip can be the perfect opportunity for grade-school age children to try out some math skills with some road trip math games.
6. Travel Game Print Outs
Finally, check out these kids' travel games to print out compiled by About.com's family vacations guide, Teresa Plowright. Her suggestions for these games, which are a great alternative to handheld video games, DVDs and other electronic entertainment, are a fantastic idea. And travel game printouts of games such as tic-tac-toe, connect the dots, and word puzzles can also challenge kids’ minds as they have fun.
7. A Kids' CD or an Audiobook
While kids' CDs and DVDs aren't technically travel games for kids, they can be invaluable for some zone-out entertainment in between fun travel games for kids. If you're traveling by car and have a built-in DVD player, that can be an excellent way to pass some time as long as your kids don't get carsick from focusing on the screen while the car is moving.
If your family travel plans are to go by airplane or train, a laptop that plays movies can be a very handy thing. (And as parents know, iPods can be a lifesaver when it comes to entertaining kids; but the small screen might not be great for viewing a full-length movie, especially if more than one child is crowding around it.)
You can also bring CDs of excellent children's music or books or download them onto your iPod. For music, try these great kids' CDs that grownups will also enjoy. And for audio books, try these top 6 ones to enjoy at home and on vacation, compiled by Elizabeth Kennedy, About.com's children's books guide.