Setting out on a family adventure can be an incredible way to create lasting memories, but we all know how challenging it can be to keep everyone amused during lengthy car rides, flights, or wilderness adventures! This is where playing travel games will come to the rescue. They not only make time fly by, but also encourage family bonding and help forge unforgettable moments as you play games, laugh, and learn together.
In this article, we'll go over some travel games perfect for families on the move, ranging from timeless road trip games that need no equipment, to compact board games, card games, and even digital alternatives for those inevitable hotel room evenings.
So, fasten your seatbelts and prepare to discover some entertaining travel games that will captivate the whole family on your future escapades!
Classic Free Road Trip Games
License Plate Game
A timeless favorite, the License Plate Game is perfect for car trips. The objective is to spot license plates from as many different states (or countries) as possible. Each player keeps track of the plates they've seen, and whoever has the most by the end of the trip wins.
This game is not only fun but also helps kids learn about geography, and what parent doesn't love free travel games!?!
There are plenty of twists and different versions that you can choose to suit your personal preferences or just keep everyone on their toes with a fresh spin.
-Pick a letter: You could choose to keep track of how many license plates start with a specific number or letter.
-Make it personal: Count how many personalized plates are seen in a set amount of time.
-Alphabet upgrade: See who can go through the entire alphabet first by spotting plates that start with each letter in order. This adds an extra challenge to the game and can help kids practice their alphabet sequencing.
-Scramble: Try to create a word using the letters on each license plate you spot. The person who comes up with the longest or most creative word for each plate earns a point. At the end of the trip, the person with the most points wins.
- Storytelling: Use the letters on license plates as the starting letters for words in a story. Each player takes turns adding to the story using a word that begins with the letters on the license plates they find. This encourages creativity and imagination while still playing a game that requires no tools, accessories, or money.
The Alphabet Game is a simple yet classic travel game perfect for passing the time during long drives. Each player must find the letters of the alphabet in order, either on road signs, license plates, or billboards. The first person to complete the entire alphabet wins.
Tip: You can add a competitive twist by dividing the family into teams and racing to finish first!
"I Spy" is an age-old classic fun game that works well for children of all ages. One family member selects an object nearby and says, "I spy with my little eye, something that is [color/shape/size]." The other players then take turns guessing what the object might be. The person who guesses correctly becomes the next "spy."
Mix it up with these fun twists:
I Spy Categories: Instead of only using colors, shapes, or sizes as hints, add categories like animals, landmarks, or vehicles. This can help expand the range of items to choose from and create more interesting and challenging clues for players.
I Spy Timer: Set a time limit for each round of "I Spy." If the other players cannot guess the object within the given time, the "spy" earns a point. This adds a sense of urgency and competition to the game.
I Spy Teams: Divide the family into two teams, and have each team take turns spying and guessing. Each correct guess earns the team a point, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
I Spy Scavenger Hunt: Before the trip, create a list of items that players must find during the journey. Instead of just spying on random objects, players must spot items from the list. The first person to find all the items on the list, or the one with the most items spotted by the end of the trip, wins.
I Spy Alphabet: Players must find objects that start with each letter of the alphabet in order. The first player to spot an object for each letter wins. This adds a challenging and educational element to the game, as players must think of words that correspond to the letters of the alphabet.
In this game, one player thinks of an object, person, or place, and the other players take turns asking yes-or-no questions to figure out what it is. There's a limit of 20 questions to determine the answer.
If they guess correctly, the person who asked the winning question takes the next turn. If not, the original player reveals the answer and gets to choose again. This fun game not only keeps the family entertained but also encourages critical thinking skills.
Themed: Choose a specific theme for each round, such as movies, animals, or famous landmarks. This can help narrow down the possibilities and make the game more challenging and engaging.
Speed: Set a timer for each round, giving players a limited amount of time to ask their questions and guess the answer. This adds a sense of urgency and excitement to the game.
Reverse 20 Questions: Instead of one person thinking of an object and the others asking questions, have one player ask a question, and the others must come up with an answer that fits the question. The player who asked the question then chooses the most interesting or creative answer, and that person becomes the next one to ask a question.
Collaborative: Work together as a team to guess the answer. Players can discuss and strategize about which questions to ask and share their thoughts on the possible answers. This encourages teamwork and communication among family members.
Charades: Combine elements of 20 Questions and charades by having the person who knows the object act out clues instead of answering yes or no questions. This adds a fun physical element to the game and can create some hilarious moments.
20 Clues: Instead of asking yes or no questions, the person who knows the object provides a series of 20 clues, one at a time. After each clue, players can make a guess. The game continues until someone guesses the object correctly or all 20 clues have been given. This adds a different dynamic to the game and can make it more challenging.
Points-based: Assign points based on the number of questions it takes to guess the object. The fewer questions used, the higher the points earned. Keep track of each player's points, and the player with the highest score at the end of the game wins. This adds a competitive aspect and encourages players to think strategically about their questions.
Travel Board Games
Magnetic Chess, Checkers, & Backgammon
For families who enjoy strategy games, a magnetic chess, checkers, and backgammon set can be the perfect space-saving travel game. These game boards have magnetic pieces that stay put even during bumpy car rides or turbulent flights. Plus, with three classic games in one convenient case, there's plenty of variety to keep both kids and adults entertained for hours.
Word game enthusiasts will love travel-sized Scrabble! With a smaller board and individual tile holders that keep the letter tiles stay where you put them, it's easy to set up and play on an airplane tray table, hotel room desk, or picnic table.
There's actually many versions for you to choose from like the more classic travel edition, the junior Scrabble version, Scrabble scramble to go, Scrabble road trip games, Scrabble tile lock, and more!
Remember: This game not only provides entertainment, but also helps improve vocabulary and spelling skills.
If your family loves the classic Monopoly board game but needs a more portable option, Monopoly Deal is the perfect solution as travel board game.
This fast-paced card game retains the spirit of the original game while being easy to pack and play on the go. With simplified rules and shorter playtime, it's a great choice for keeping the family engaged during travel downtime.
More Magnetic Travel Games
Melissa & Doug Take-Along Magnetic Jigsaw Puzzles
Melissa & Doug make magnetic jigsaw puzzles for toddlers and young kids that are perfect for traveling with. These particular puzzles are available in a princess theme, farm theme, and vehicle theme.
Best Travel Card Games for the Whole Family
UNO is a favorite classic card game that appeals to players of all ages. Its simple rules and colorful cards make it an ideal travel game. Players take turns matching cards by number or color while using special action cards to keep the game exciting. The first person to have no cards left in their hand wins. It's easy to pack and perfect for a quick game in a hotel room or a lengthy session during a long layover.
Grab this waterproof version, Uno Splash, to leave with your camping supplies or use next to the pool worry free!
Guess in 10
Guess in 10 is an extremely popular skill-based guessing card game that requires players to ask questions to determine the correct answer- similar to Guess Who. There are tons of different themes to choose from like Animals, Dinosaurs, Sports, Countries, Professions, etc. So you can pick what your kids like the most, or collect them all!
There's the original format that is recommended for ages 6 and up, but they also have junior versions for ages 3-6.
Go Fish is a classic game that younger children adore. Players ask each other for specific cards to create sets or matches. If the other player doesn't have the requested card, they say, "Go Fish," and the requester draws a card from the deck. The game continues until all matches are made or the deck runs out.
It's a fun way to pass the time, and kids can even practice their memory and counting skills. You can pick up a game of Go Fish at just about any major retailer for fairly cheap, but we recommend this 6 pack of card games for kids 4 and up, simply because it's a fantastic deal! Plus, when your kids get tired of Go Fish, you'll have more options like Crazy 8's, Old Maid, or Slap Jack to choose from.
Spot It! is a fast-paced exciting card game that challenges players to find matching symbols on different cards as quickly as possible. With multiple game modes and variations, Spot It! keeps the whole family entertained and on their toes. Its compact size and quick playtime make it perfect for playing during short breaks in your travel itinerary or while waiting for a meal at a busy restaurant.
Like many of the games we've suggested already, Spot It! has multiple versions to pick from. The classic is wonderful and recommended for ages 6+, but there's junior versions for children 4+, "superpacks" for more options and longer game time, and even themed editions like this fun Harry Potter version!
Puzzle and Strategy Games
Games on the Go
Games on the Go is a great compact puzzle game for family outings! Technically it's 50 different games and activities involving things like strategy, memory, trivia, silly word games, search & find, challenges and more!
It's small enough to fit on a keychain or even a pocket, can be played by all ages and needs just a minimum of 2 players for hours of entertainment.
It's small, simple, versatile, and affordable- what more could you want!?!
Bananagrams is a fast-paced, Scrabble-like word game that doesn't require a game board, making it a fantastic choice for travel. Players race to create interconnected words in a grid-like cross-word pattern, trying to use all their letters before the other players do. The game's portable banana-shaped pouch makes it easy to pack and take on the go.
Rush Hour is a strategy game that challenges players to slide cars and trucks around a grid in order to clear a path for a specific vehicle to exit. With different levels of difficulty, it works for both kids and adults. The compact game board and storage tray make it an excellent travel companion. It's a single-player game, but family members can take turns or work together to solve the puzzles.
The original version is recommended for 8 years and up, but don't worry if your kids are a little younger, they have a Junior version for 5 years +.
Games for Younger Kids
Tic Tac Toe
Tic Tac Toe is a simple yet entertaining game that can be played almost anywhere. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Players take turns drawing Xs and Os on a 3x3 grid, trying to create a line of three of their symbols horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Tic Tac Toe is an excellent way to keep little kids engaged and help them develop their strategic thinking skills.
Memory games are perfect for younger children and can be easily customized for travel. You can DIY and create a set of cards with matching pictures, like animals, shapes, or colors, and lay them face down on a flat surface. People take turns flipping over any two cards, trying to find matching pairs. The player with the most pairs at the end of the game wins. Memory games help improve concentration, focus, and cognitive skills.
If you're looking for a time-saving option, Melissa & Doug make a great memory game called Flip to Win that comes with seven double-sided cards (14 games essentially) in one compact and durable travel ready package.
A compact, dry-erase search-and-find game can keep younger kids entertained on the go again and again. Skillmatics makes over a dozen different "write and wipe" activity mats for children 3-6 that are not just perfect for keeping them busy, but educational too.
Not only do they have the variety of search and find mats, but you can also get ones that focus on math, writing, interactive stories and more.
Digital Games for Family Fun
Offline mobile games
In today's digital age, there are countless mobile games that can be played offline, making them good options for travel. Choose age-appropriate puzzle games, word games, or strategy games to keep the family entertained during long flights or hotel stays.
Some popular offline mobile games include Fruit Ninja, Minecraft Pocket Edition, Monument Valley, Cut the Rope, and Candy Crush.
Interactive trivia apps
Interactive trivia apps are a fun way to engage your family in a little friendly competition. Many trivia apps offer a variety of categories and difficulty levels, so there's something for everyone.
Some popular trivia apps include Trivia Crack, QuizLand, and Jeopardy!. Just make sure to download the app and any necessary content for offline gaming before your trip.
Word and number games
Word and number games are not only entertaining but also educational, helping kids and adults alike to improve their vocabulary, spelling, and math skills. Some popular digital word and number games include Words With Friends 2 (which can be played offline against the computer), Word Search, and Threes!.
These games can be played on smartphones or tablets, making them ideal for travel.
DIY Travel Game Ideas
Unleash your family's creativity with storytelling games. One person starts a story with a sentence or two, and then each person takes turns adding to the story. This can be as silly or serious as you like, and it's an excellent way to pass the time while also encouraging imagination and bonding. You can even set a theme or include specific words to make it more challenging.
Scavenger hunts are a versatile and engaging activity for families on the go. Create a list of items or sights to find at your destination or during your journey, such as specific landmarks, animals, or types of vehicles. You can even make it more challenging by adding riddles or clues to solve. Scavenger hunts encourage exploration, teamwork, and a sense of adventure, making them an excellent addition to any family trip.
We included camping-themed scavenger hunts divided by age group in our free printable activity sheets here:
Packing Tips for Travel Games
Organizing game pieces
To keep your travel games organized and prevent lost pieces, use small ziplock bags or containers to store game pieces and accessories. You can also invest in travel game sets like some we suggested above that come with built-in storage compartments.
Be sure to label each container or bag with the name of the game to make it easy to find what you need.
Choosing games based on trip length
Consider the length of your trip and the amount of downtime you expect to have for playing games when selecting your games to pack. For shorter trips or limited downtime, choose some quick games that can be played in short bursts.
For longer trips or extended periods of downtime, consider packing more involved games or ones that can be played in multiple sessions.
Games are age-appropriate
When selecting games for your trip, make sure they are suitable for all the family members who will be playing or grab enough options at least to entertain everyone. Check the recommended age range for each game and consider the interests and abilities of your children. Bringing a mix of games that appeal to different ages and preferences will help make sure that everyone stays entertained throughout the journey.
The importance of family bonding during trips cannot be overstated, and engaging in fun travel games is a fantastic way to strengthen those connections while creating lasting memories. By encouraging your family to participate in a variety of fun activities – from classic road trip games to travel-sized board games, card games, and even digital options – you'll not only keep everyone entertained but also take your family vacation experience to the next level.
With these fun and engaging travel games for kids in your arsenal, you'll be better prepared to conquer boredom and enjoy quality family time on your next adventure. So, start packing your favorite fun games, and get ready for a trip filled with laughter, excitement, and unforgettable moments.