Taking the whole family on an adventure may take extra planning on the part of parents but exposing children to new experiences has positive benefits. Traveling can help prepare children to be better students and make them more tolerant and respectful of others. Preparedness is key in any type of travel situation and while you can’t plan each minute of the ride, you can help pass the time with some well-thought-out choices. Screens have become the go-to source of entertainment for kids (and if we’re being honest, adults as well), but travel offers a great opportunity for kids to bond with siblings and become engaged in new experiences. That’s why when it’s time to hit the open road, rail, water, or air, we recommend packing travel games for kids.
Board and card games offer several benefits, including early learning, healthy brain development, improved language skills and focus. When a child plays a game with a sibling or a peer, they learn teamwork and create lasting memories that can make for positive relationships. By playing board games with others, children also learn how to lose, which is an important skill and helps to develop tolerance and understanding.
We’ve included several board games on our list, as well as more traditional ‘travel’ games and products that promote STEM learning. These games are all highly-rated and will keep the kids entertained for hours while also helping them develop some important skills in the process. Check out our picks for the best travel games for kids below.
1. Mad Libs
Mad Libs really need no introduction. Known as the world’s most popular word game, this version of Mad Libs on the Road is the latest installment to keep you entertained for hours. You can help create car songs, spot some historical sights and even stop at a roadside diner, all with this fun, interactive game that will keep your kids engaged and cracking up at the end of each story.
2. Kids Against Maturity
BEST FOR ODLER KIDS
Turn your next trip into your kid’s favorite game night with the super fun and funny Kids Against Maturity. The game comes with 500 questions that give players a chance to fill in their own answers for hilarious results. One player gets to pick the most hilarious response for each round and whoever wins the most rounds at the end is the winner. Up to four people (parents are also invited) can play at once, making it a great option for traveling in large groups. Sure, there’s a lot of toilet humor and there may be the occasional fart noise, but parents will love hearing laughter from their kids instead of the typical silence that comes from staring at screens during long car rides.
3. Travel Bingo
FUN FOR CAR TRIPS
Regal Games’ Original Travel Bingo set keeps the kids occupied by interacting with the scenery. Assorted travel Bingo Cards encourage players to spot various items from the back seat such as a barn, truck, stop sign, etc., and allows you to mark the items with the Fingertip Shutter Windows. The first player to get five shutter windows in a row calls Bingo.
4. You Gotta Be Kidding! Card Game
GREAT CONVERSATION STARTER
The You Gotta Be Kidding! Card Game by Zobmondo is the card game version of the popular board game of the same name. This game gets kids and grown-ups thinking, laughing, reasoning and having fun making goofy decisions and completing “Would You Rather?” challenges. The best part of this game is that it allows kids to have fun speaking up and the word “neither” is not permitted as an answer in the game. Forty cards with 160 questions will keep them entertained for hours and it comes in a travel-friendly box.
5. Spot It! On The Road Game
BEST FOR LARGE GROUPS
Spot It! On The Road Game is a fast-paced game that can help kids develop attention, visual perception, speech-language and fine motor skills while keeping them busy. This is a simple pattern recognition game in which players try to find an image shown on two cards but includes a twist. Each card contains a number or colorful symbol that you would see on a typical road trip and any two cards have exactly one animal in common and whoever has collected the most cards when the deck runs out wins.
6. Emojinks! Card Game
BEST MATCHING GAME
Get your emoji recognition on with the Emojinks! Card Game. This interactive family-based card game involves picking two cards with each having one matching emoji. Each card has two sides which indicate advanced and beginner levels and the goal is to spot the matching emoji’s and the card is yours. This game will not only keep the kids occupied but it will also help develop identification of feelings and emotions, promotes turn-taking, enhances attention span and builds focusing skills.
7. Scavenger Hunt Travel Card Game
BEST FOR ALL AGES
The Travel Scavenger Hunt Card Game is a great travel card game for any road trip. Each person takes five cards and tries to locate various roadside objects. In addition, several funny cards can pop up and encourage kids to use all their travel senses by listening for sounds, feeling for bumps and sniffing for scents. Great for two or more players, ages seven and up.
8. Melissa & Doug Game On! Reusable Games
For a truly lightweight travel game that parents can easily slip inside their diaper bag or backpack, we like the Melissa & Doug Game On! Reusable Games. The activity book comes with two dry-erase markers that include erasers on the end, making it easy for kids to try (and try again) their hand at the several games and challenges inside the book. Designed for ages six and up, we like that the reusable book and markers can be enjoyed by a child traveling on their own or by two kids at the same time.
9. 5 in 1 Magnetic Mini Board Games
BEST CLASSIC GAMES
If your backseat includes the next great chess champion or even kids who just love to play checkers, you’re going to want the 5 in 1 Magnetic Mini Board Games. The magnetic board game and magnetic pieces come with everything kids need to play chess, checkers, backgammon and dominoes. A deck of playing cards is also included, giving kids even more playing options. The lightweight and compact set, which once folded measures 9.8 x 4.9 inches, is a great option for long trips and to keep on hand once players have reached their destination.
10. Wikki Stix Traveler Playset
BEST FOR BUILDING
For kids who love using LEGO and PlayDoh and for parents who don’t want to clean up either of those toys inside their car or an airplane, we recommend the Wikki Stix Traveler Playset. Great for kids of all ages, Wikki Stix are colorful and waxy bendable sticks that kids can use to make countless creations. Packaged in a travel-friendly plastic case, the set includes 144 wiki sticks in primary and neon colors, as well as a 12-page idea booklet. Wikki Stix are made with non-toxic food grade wax and hand knitting yarn, making them a safe product to use by little ones.
11. Coogam Travel Tangram Puzzle
BEST PUZZLE GAME
For a travel activity that will challenge kids and provide ample opportunity to work on their fine motor skills, problem-solving skills, cognitive abilities and color and shape recognition, we like the Coogam Travel Tangram Puzzle. A tangram is a puzzle consisting of seven pieces that users must put together in order to form shapes. The booklet comes with the seven shapes or ‘tans’ that are needed to complete the shapes. Both the booklet and tans are magnetic, making it easy for kids to contain their pieces while solving the puzzles. The booklet comes with 360 patterns and solutions to challenge kids ages three and above.
12. Pop-O-Matic Trouble Grab & Go Game
BEST TRADITIONAL BOARD GAME
Take the fun of game night in a compact and travel-friendly size with the Pop-O-Matic Trouble Grab & Go Game. The Hasbro classic is fun for kids ages five and up and features a small board with 16 peg pieces that stick into the board, making it ideal for use while traveling. The all-in-one gameboard includes a plastic cover to ensure the pegs aren’t lost while in transit and the die is encapsulated in a translucent plastic bubble that makes it a great option for use in a car or airplane.
13. Hoyle Fun Pack Kids Card Games
BEST CARD GAME SET
For kids who love to play card games, we recommend the Hoyle Fun Pack Kids Card Games. The set includes six individually packed decks for playing Go Fish, Memory, Old Maid, Crazy Eights, Slap Jack, and a matching game. Each deck has colorful cards with fun illustrations that young kids will enjoy. The set includes games that are appropriate for users as young as three and for older kids. We also like that because all of the decks come in their own box, parents can give the set to their kids all at once or keep some cards on hand as a backup for when boredom gets to an all-time high while traveling.
14. SmartGames IQ XOXO
BEST STEM TOY
For a travel toy that grows with players and offers several STEM features, we like the SmartGames IQ XOXO. The award-winning game challenges players to complete puzzles that work on skills like problem-solving, cognition and patterns. The game comes with a booklet that features 120 challenges of varying degrees of difficulties and players can also go online to download even more challenges from the SmartGames app. Not only is the toy educational, but it’s also designed specifically for travel. Lightweight with a small footprint, the gameboard folds into itself to keep all the pieces contained when not in use.
15. Educational Insights BrainBolt
BEST SCREEN GAME
We understand that most parents are looking for travel games for their kids that don’t include screens, but we think the BrainBolt from Educational Insights deserves an exception. The interactive handheld game challenges users to remember light and sequence patterns. Players can set the level of difficulty for the game and opt for one or two-player modes, which allows kids to compete with each other while traveling. The game uses three AA batteries, which is good news for parents who need to save the chargers for their own devices.