Taking the whole family on an adventure? Here’s a tip: 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. That’s why when it’s time to hit the open road, rail, water, or air, we recommend packing travel games for kids.
It’s no secret that 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 their parents and siblings outside the digital realm. One of the best ways to organize this is to break out the travel board and card games for them to play because 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. Plus, these types of activities offer several developmental benefits, including early learning, healthy brain development, improved language skills, and focus.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best travel games for kids you’ll find on the market today. The list includes a mix of traditional ‘travel’ games, like board games and card games, as well as solo activities and products that promote STEM learning. Check out our picks for highly rated games that will keep kids entertained for hours.
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. Paint by Sticker Kids: Zoo Animals
BEST STICKER BOOK
You’ve heard of paint by numbers, but have you ever heard of Paint by Sticker? This crafty series of artistic booklets from Workman Publishing each include 10 pictures and enough stickers for your child to fill them all in. The instructions are simple: Find the numbered sticker, peel the sticker off the sticker sheet and place it on the picture. Designed for kids ages five to 12, this backseat arts and crafts project will keep your child occupied for hours and help fine-tune their developmental skills through number recognition, matching practices, spatial orientation, and introduction to numbers. Plus, there’s no actual paint involved in the creation of these masterpiece pages, which means no messy cleanup for mom and dad.
3. Rubik’s Cube
BEST BRAIN TEASER
Have a tween on board? This age group is particularly tricky to keep preoccupied without screens these days, but if you’d prefer your road trip double as a digital detox, here’s a brainteaser sure to keep them busy. The original Rubik’s Cube is a 3 x 3 multicolored cube puzzle that’s definitely baffling. With a whopping 43 quintillion possible moves and countless mind-boggling dead ends, your child will be so preoccupied trying to return the cube to its original state that checking Instagram will be the last thing on their mind.
4. Would You Rather Game Book
BEST CONVERSATION STARTER
Instead of singing yet another round of “99 Bottles of Beer,” rest your vocal cords and play a juicy (family-friendly) game of “Would You Rather?” instead. Charlie Wright’s activity book is a compilation of silly scenarios to get kids laughing and thinking. Questions include things like would you rather be a superhero or a wizard, own a dog or a cat? To keep the game going, use the questions as conversation starters and inspiration for your own off-script “would you rather” scenarios.
5. Janod MagnetiBook Magnetic Animal Mix and Match Game
BEST FOR PRESCHOOLERS
Even if your travel plans don’t involve a trip to the zoo, your preschooler can still learn all about animals with the Janod MagnetiBook Animal Mix and Match Game. The travel-friendly storage box also acts as a magnetic easel to rearrange combinations of the 30 magnetic pieces. Your child can mix, match, and successfully create 10 animal images, which helps them to better identify these creatures in real life. What’s more, the hands-on activity is great for fine-tuning little one’s fine motor skills and gives you the opportunity to quiz their knowledge on animal noises, habitats, etc.
6. Crayola Color Wonder Stow & Go Mess Free Coloring
BEST COLORING KIT
Little ones love to color and thanks to Crayola they can do so en route to your vacation destination, sans messy scribbles if they venture outside the lines. The Color Wonder Stow & Go Mess Free Coloring kit is just as beloved by parents as it is by kids because not only are the four Color Wonder Markers nontoxic, they’re also magic, only showing up on the brand’s special Color Wonder paper.
7. Buckle Toys Busy Board
BEST FOR BUSY HANDS
This writer will never underestimate the power that anything that clasps, zips, ties, or buttons can have over a child after seeing the pure joy on her nephew’s face as he bucked and unbuckled his high chair’s seat belt at the dinner table — and neither should you. To help keep curious hands away from their car seat buckle, keep this Busy Board from Buckle Toys in your backseat. Complete with colorful buckles, shoelaces, a snap pocket, shapes, and a zipper, each task on the Busy Board helps children develop their fine motor and cognitive skills, hand-eye coordination, and problem-solving abilities.
8. Educational Insights Travel Blurt! Game
FOR LARGE GROUPS
Now the entire family can play Blurt! on the go. For those who aren’t familiar with the popular game of word recall, players are read definitions, and the first one to “blurt” the answer gets a point. The travel-friendly version includes 450 words on 75 double-sided cards, a card sleeve, a scoreboard, and four magnetic score pieces. The first one to the top of the scoreboard wins bragging rights (and maybe gets to choose where you stop for lunch).
9. SGILE Magnetic Drawing Board
BEST NOSTALGIC ACTIVITY
Magnetic drawing boards are a classic travel-friendly toy sure to give any millennial parent a wave of nostalgia. SGILE’s model is an upgraded version of the black-and-white boards we once doodled on back in the day; the board displays four colors (red, blue, yellow, and green) and comes with four stamps in different shapes to help your child create even funkier masterpieces than they would with just the magnetic pen. And because it’s all magnetic, once the board is full they can slide the eraser across the screen, cleaning their page for a fresh screen.
10. The Ultimate Travel Journal For Kids
FOR RECORDING MEMORIES
It’s never too early to introduce journaling to your children, and what better time to start documenting their day-to-day than on your family adventure? Rob Taylor’s travel journal includes enough prompts and activities to span up to four trips. Your child can record their hopes, highlights, new discoveries, and keep busy in the backseat with activities like fill-in-the-blanks and word puzzles.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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 will also help develop identification of feelings and emotions, promotes turn-taking, enhances attention span, and builds focusing skills.
14. 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 around for bumps, and sniffing for scents. Great for two or more players, ages seven and up.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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.
20. 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.
21. 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 difficulty 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.
22. 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.