Travel Activities for Kids

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Stuck in traffic with restless kids? We've got ideas to save the day!

Traveling can be enough of a hassle by itself. Toss kids into the mix, and you’ve got an additional challenge. Sure, plenty of kids are well behaved and won’t present too much of a challenge on a trip, but why take the risk? It never hurts to have a bag of tricks at the ready for those moments when boredom sets in. Heck, even if the kids are already entertained, you might need something to do yourself. These travel activities for kids might just get you started!

Stick to classic road trip games

Remember what made traveling fun for you as kid? Kids these days may have their noses buried in an iPad instead of a book, but when it comes down to it they aren’t all that different. So, give some of your favorite childhood road trip activities a try. If they’re young enough, something as simple as eye spy or the license plate game (where you collect license plates from as many states as possible) might just do the trick.

Or give an ageless choice a try — like drawing. Art supplies like colored pencil and papers are easy to pack and can provide hours of enjoyment for everyone. Encourage kids to let their imagination run wild or, if they get stuck, give them a fun challenge specific to your trip. For many kids, the fun of travel is in seeing new and totally different places. They could try drawing all the animals and wildlife that you pass along the way. You might even have time to stop and sketch a still life if something catches your eye.

Use tech to your advantage with this scavenger hunt for the car!

We spend a lot of time on the road, this weekend traveling to Birmingham, Alabama for a three day weekend with our son in college. To pass the time, we play car games, lots and lots of car games. This trip, we came up with a great new scavenger hunt for the car!

This easy game starts by making a list of items to find. We included 12 items on our list, with each of us contributing three. Some we knew would be easy to find, while others required a patient search. The list can be customized for any trip (especially if parents know some cool landmarks to watch for). Here’s ours for a trip from Atlanta to Birmingham:

  • construction sign
  • American flag
  • McDonald’s golden arches
  • water tower
  • Alabama state flag
  • Pepsi sign
  • helicopter
  • Blue “H” hospital sign
  • miles to Birmingham sign
  • church steeple
  • water tower
  • motorcycle

Here’s how we played Car Scavenger Hunt, though the rules can be modified to make it more competitive. Once we made our list, we all looked for the items, working cooperatively. Whenever someone found an item, they pointed it out so we could take a picture. (YAY for smartphone technology!) To make it easier for our youngest, she was assigned some of the easier items to search for one at a time: the McDonald’s arches and American flag.

The goal was to find and photograph each item before reaching our destination. We didn’t complete the list, but we found most of them. Even nicer, when I told the kids to pack up their car stuff, they were shocked to learn we were only five miles from our hotel. I truly think it was our easiest and “quickest” car trip ever! Car Scavenger Hunt will definitely stay on the travel activities list!

Have you ever played this game?

Recharge your batteries

Travel activities for kids these days often include electronics, but be ready for those times when the juice runs out. Use this time to focus on something that brings everyone together. Listen to a book on tape or make a playlist where everyone gets to select a few songs (no complaining about others’ choices!).

Get creative! Simple word games like Would You Rather or 20 Questions are easy and fun. Kick it up a notch and make your own travel bingo checklist  or turn your car trip or flight into a big scavenger hunt. Who doesn’t like a little friendly competition?

If you’re going to be stuck together, you might as well enjoy it!

Tailor travel activities for kids to your environment 

Find the fun of wherever you are at that moment. If you’re stuck in a car, plan it out ahead of time to be as comfy as possible. One of the most exciting travel activities for kids is something they don’t normally get to do… How about window markers? Say yes instead of no!

Or maybe you’re stuck in a plane. Let yourself and the kids be totally in awe of this cool method of travel-buy a book on airplanes to read while you fly. Or maybe every time you reach a new milestone, figure out how long it would have taken you in a car. Whatever the case, don’t forget that for all its inconveniences, planes are a pretty amazing convenience!

Bring fun stuff… But not too much! 

Thoughtfully consider the stuff you bring with you. Is it special? REALLY special? Is it unique? Will it tap into your kids’ creative imaginations? Buy a few small surprises and let kids unwrap them like a present at certain points in your trip. Everybody draw and share their favorite animal and then pass out some gummy bears to celebrate. The best travel activities for kids make the trip fun for the whole family!

Not sure what to bring? Fun items include:

-Coloring and puzzle pages

-Secret or unexpected treats, like a new stuffed animal or their favorite TV show on the laptop

-Small, fun crafty things like pipe cleaners or Silly Bandz

-Things that can be used at breaks and pit-stops like bubbles or a ball for catch-just make sure you know where these are once you’re back on the go!

Whether you spend the whole time gabbing as a family, quietly sketching the sites out your window, or discovering a new favorite toy, the well-prepared traveler has the chance to really prove that the journey is just as important as the destination!