Go-To Travel Games with Kids

By Shellie Bailey-Shah of KidTripster

I recently read the book The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler.  It’s a kind of parent playbook that suggests research-based, family-tested strategies for dealing with everything from letting kids pick their own punishments to injecting more fun into family life.


As a travel writer and editor, I especially was interested in the chapter concerning making family travel more enjoyable.

To get ideas for new and better family travel games, Feiler visited Zynga, a leading developer of the world’s most popular social games.  Perhaps you’ve played a few of their creations:  FarmVille, Zynga Poker or Words with Friends.

The team at Zynga explained to Feiler that good games need to:

  • Set a clear goal
  • Establish rules
  • Give feedback, like scoring
  • Be voluntary

Zynga gamers then shared their ideas for successful travel games:

Road Trip

“I’m thinking of a time when…”

This game is a different take on 20 Questions.  One player thinks of a specific moment on a shared family trip, and the others try to guess that moment.  The beauty of this game is that it allows families to relive shared experiences.  “Remember the time your brother threw up at that Wendy’s restaurant in Utah?”  “Remember the time when the RV overheated on our way to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park?”  “Remember the time when Dad broke the record at that soccer golf place in Thailand?”  My boys love this game, and we often play it while waiting at a restaurant or in the car.

Let’s Tell a Story

In this game, players create a new world.  One person starts by telling a story.  After a few lines, the story passes to the next player, who continues the story.  See how long and how elaborate the story can become.  You can also assign points to people, based on how well their passages fit into the overall tale.

Airport Layover

Mission Impossible

Send the kids off on a mission:  “You have to collect three straws from Starbucks and two luggage tags.  Then you need to introduce yourself to one new person in this row of seats and get his or her business card.  Complete the mission and you get five points.”  Then you can escalate the game:  “Ok, it took you 15 steps to walk to the drinking fountain.  Cut your steps in half and earn five extra points.”  When the players earn enough points, they receive a reward.

“Tell me about her…”

Choose one of your fellow waiting passengers.  Then challenge your kids to (quietly) create that person’s story.  How well can they use clues like (1) what she’s wearing, (2) what she packed or (3) what they overheard her saying to her neighbor to put the pieces together?  This game is a great way for your kids to use their imagination.


Amazing Race

This game is more elaborate and takes some creativity on the part of the game maker.  During your entire trip, you play a game similar to the one on television’s Amazing Race.  There’s a structure and rhythm with different challenges designed to play to different people’s strengths.  You can create teams, perhaps between the siblings that are always fighting and are now bonded together in a new alliance.  The tasks are both easy and difficult, so there’s a mix of success and failure.  For example, if you’re in Amsterdam, challenge your kids to climb all the letters in the I amsterdam sign in under three minutes.  (See video inspiration here.)  At the end of the game, the winner could receive something as simple as $10 to spend at the gift shop or an ice cream sundae.  They won’t remember the prize; they’ll remember the fun that they had engaging with their new surroundings and each other.

For more parenting tips, read The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler.

This post originally appeared on KidTripster and was republished with permission. For tips on how to pack lightly even with kids in tow, click here.

Shellie Bailey-Shah
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