Having fun games to play in the car, in the airport, or at your destination is more than just a way to keep the kids from fighting. Though that definitely doesn’t hurt! Family travel games and activities can keep the whole family interested in the scenery, tuned in to the details of the destination, and full of vacation excitement throughout the trip. Pair your road trip activities with great family road trip tips and you have the recipe for a fantastic family vacation.
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Road Trip Activities & Car Games for Families
One of the most important keys to family vacation success is to have a pile of family road trip activities prepared and ready to go when needed. Whether you use printable road trip games or purchase some travel activities for tweens and teens (and their families, of course), they’re a great way to create fun family vacation memories on the road.
Along with packing enough road trip food, packing enough family road trip games is essential for travel sanity. Whether single person puzzles or whole-family games, a variety of fun things to do on a road trip can make the difference between a great day in the car and a rotten one. We have 3 requirements for any games we play in the car:
- Quiet. Anything that repeatedly beeps, buzzes, dings, or plays music doesn’t make the cut. We make enough noise on our own to add constant beeping to such a small space for such a long time.
- Contained. If hitting a pothole can send 27 pieces flying into the air, it stays at home. We sometimes make exceptions for 1 of these to play at the destination, but not in the car itself.
- Limited Electronics. We’re not totally bananas, electronics can be a definite boredom-buster on a long car ride. However, we try to keep them to times when everyone is starting to get cranky or someone else wants to sleep.
Printable Road Trip Games
2am the night before you leave? No problem. Printable travel games are a great way to instantly get a huge variety of options at low or no cost. Simply download and print as many as you need for your family, then add to a large manila envelope or travel binder. All your top childhood road trip choices are available in printable form. Our road trip activities library is a great place to start finding printable road trip games for the car trip in your future.
Plus, printable road trip games have the added bonus of being easy to store and transport. They also take up minimal space and can be stashed just about anywhere.
Traditional Road Trip Car Games
In the traditional category, there are enough travel game choices to fill the entire car with those alone.
While these road trip activities are usually bulkier and take up more space, they are great for keeping hands and minds busy. With puzzles to manipulate, stories to create, and take-along versions of classic family games, there is something for every interest. Later, they can also double as rainy or evening activities at your destination.
Road Trip Activities for Tweens
Just beyond being kids and not quite teens, tweens get the best of both travel game worlds. They may still enjoy classic kids road trip car games and activities, but are also old enough to join in with older siblings and parents. Tweens have longer attention spans for playing along with teen road trip games, and can have a better understanding of the jokes that often happen when older passengers play.
Bonus: they’re past the “knock knock. Who’s there? Potato” *hysterical laughter* stage of car travel jokes.
When choosing road trip activities for tweens, there’s a bit more flexibility in the choices. At this age, they can handle keeping track of more pieces, and can pick up anything that drops onto the floor of the car. Our favorite options:
- Travel Zoob. – Yes, there are pieces (and a small base to build on), but they click together. And if one drops into the abyss, the play still goes on.
- Travel Spirograph. – They’ll have creative fun making different designs. Plus the whole picture isn’t ruined if the car hits a pothole the size of Delaware.
- Travel Journal. – Tweens are the perfect age for travel journaling. There is a journal for every style, from the budding photographer to the story writer, and the shy introvert to the people-meeting go-getter.
Road Trip Games for Teens
When you’re road tripping with teenagers, it’s a totally different story. Sure, you’re no longer twisting yourself into a pretzel trying to reach behind the seat,blindly grabbing for a dropped marker. Hooray for independence! On the other hand, teenagers are more likely to want to bury their heads in their phones for 9 hours. It can be a struggle to get them to join in the goofy family travel games. Boo for independence! If your family has been playing road trip games for years already, you’re a step ahead since nostalgia and tradition are on your side.
Non-electronic travel games for teens usually fall into one of these categories:
- Family Tradition. – These are the old favorites, like scavenger hunts, travel bingo, license plate game, and the dot game. Memories of fun times on previous vacation trips keep these old family favorites going. In addition, the longer you play, the more family inside-jokes you create to keep the fun going over the years. Now, not only to we expect to play our favorites, we look forward to them every trip. Printables are an easy way to collect a variety of different options for this age group, but there are also a few options available to purchase in physical form.
- Question Games. – Designed to get everyone talking together, question games can be a funny, low-competition way to pass the time. Loaded Questions and Game of Things both have travel versions. Even classic Mad-Libs can be hilarious when everyone is participating. They may even forget it’s their family they’re having fun with!
- Independent Travel Games and Activities. – This category includes single-player puzzles, crafts and games that teens can play in the car. These give our older children some personal space and playing time without having to be immersed in a device. Some great options include Kanoodle or IQ brand brain teasers, and _____. Crafts are also a fantastic road trip activity, especially knitting (or loom knitting) and crochet. All you need is a bag of yarn and a lap.
Travel Games for Kids
Finding travel games for kids isn’t difficult, but choosing the best fit for your children takes a bit more work. First, start with the type of toys and games your kids play with most often, and look for take-along versions. Parents’ Magazine has a great category list of travel games for kids to narrow down the search. Then, if some of your children’s favorites can be taken along, fantastic! Saving money is a great added bonus.
If you’re looking for more travel activities to add to your collection, here are our top 3 “can’t-miss” favorite road trip games for kids:
- Melissa and Doug travel games. – These sturdy wood travel games for kids are easy to manipulate with small fingers. There are also no pieces to drop (or have to stretch to reach for!).
- Color Wonder or Aqua Doodle. – All the drawing fun, none of the mess of traditional markers or the melt of crayons left in a hot car.
- Find It! – There are levels of difficulty and themed tubes, or you can make one yourself using items around the house. If you have more than one version, kids can trade for more entertainment.
How to organize travel activities:
In order to keep travel games in easy reach and not strewn about the car, some organization is essential. Older kids are usually able to take care of their own travel activity bags and binders, but the younger ones may need some help from mom or dad. You can use:
- Individual activity bags. Each family member packs and keeps track of their own bag of trip activities. Scavenger hunts and printable games, drawing paper and colored pencils, headphones, cards, and electronics are all together and within arm’s reach of the person who needs it. Games the whole family plays together can be split among the bags as well.
- Travel Binders. With tabs for printable travel games, plain paper, and envelopes for tickets or other paper memorabilia, it’s the ultimate in type A organization. If everyone has their own binder, it doubles as a hard surface for writing. Kids can make their own creative binder covers like this travel binder project from Carla Schauer Studio.
- Seat-back organizer. Not just for tissues and hand wipes, these organizers make great spots for stowing decks of cards, story cubes, pens, and other small accessories.
This classic family vacation has both good points and bad. Yes, it can be a long trip enclosed with your closest family members. But it can also be a hilarious bonding experience the whole family will tell stories about for years. What are your favorite family road trip car games and activities?
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