The following post is by editor Kara Fleck. It has been updated for 2011.
Like many families at this time of year, the Flecks have been hitting the road, visiting relatives for the holidays. We’re fortunate that the majority of our extended family lives with a day’s drive for us so we can travel to visit our loved ones on a regular basis.
Our kids travel fairly well in the car, in fact my middle two will usually sleep once we get on the road. We’ll see how the baby does, but so far she travels pretty easily for a four month old.
But, for my oldest, who doesn’t nap, a long trip can be tedious. Even kids who travel well can sometimes get bored and antsy during a long road trip. We have a few travel games that we like to play as a family to help to pass the time.
A few of our favorite travel games …
The License Plate Game
I can remember playing this while going on road trips with my grandparents as a kid. They had a set of cardboard game boards with a license plate for every state. You moved the red plastic slider up when you found a new state’s plate. (I wonder what happened to those?)
Today, I have a license plate app on my smartphone that lets us play this game when we travel. But, you can still find travel game boards, like this one from Melissa & Doug.
You can print some car maps from Alicia at Magical Childhood The website Mom’s MiniVan has a printable checklist you can use, too. Not Inadequate has a license plate game and also printable graphs for things like slug bugs and construction equipment.
Mad Libs are a family favorite, providing silly fun and grammar practice at the same time. The small size of the tablets makes them perfect for travel but you don’t have to purchase the tablets, you can print some sheets for free from the web. Attach them to a clip board and grab a pencil, and you’re all set.
This is another game borrowed from my own childhood. My mom made up a set of index cards with drawings of different items for us to find while we were on road trips. Mom would divide the cards among us at the start of our trip and we would turn in the cards to her as we found them.
You could expand on this idea but including things you feel, hear, and even smell (my kids think the “skunk smell” card is a riot … unless we actually come across that one).
A few ideas for a road trip scavenger hunt:
- a red barn
- a dog
- a man wearing a hat
- a woman wearing a hat
- a railroad crossing sign
- a big bump (a “feeling” card)
- a rainbow
- an airplane
- a green car
- a taxi
- a semi-truck horn (a “hearing” card)
- a fire truck
- a mail truck
- a police car
- a skunk (a “smelling” card)
A few holiday themed items:
- blue Christmas lights
- green Christmas lights
- someone wearing a Santa hat
- a vehicle with a wreath on it
- a snowman
- inflatable yard decor
You can also play a variation of this using the letters of the alphabet: try finding each letter of the alphabet, in order, on the road signs that you pass.
I Spy Bags
Fun for younger kids, I Spy bags are fabric bags with a clear window and tiny objects inside to “spy” – a little like hide and seek or a scavenger hunt on a much smaller scale. Our family’s I Spy bags were purchased from an etsy seller, but you could also make your own version.
What are your family’s favorite travel games?