Games and Activities for Your Next Family Vacation

Ah, “spring”! While most places in the continental US finally began to experience a reprieve from the frigid weather (assuming they had it in the first place), we Wisconsinites know better than to count on warmth arriving early. Instead, we make vacation plans to leave the snow and Arctic temperatures behind: trading in snow boots for flip-flops and ski goggles for sunglasses. Itineraries are made, packing begins, reservations are booked, travel sites are scoured…and the kids! What about the kids?!? To bring or not to bring?

Ultimately, of course that’s a decision you and your family/vacation partners will have to decide for yourselves. And if you decide that your next spring break trip (or any trip, for that matter) is going to be one with the whole family, kids included, you’re going to want to consider some games and activities along the way to ensure everyone’s entertained and engaged. Here are a few ideas to help make sure your kids won’t have time to complain about cramped seats or long travels.

1. I Spy, the License Plate game, 20 questions, etc.

The classics! Anyone who has been a road trip likely has their own experience and preferences with these mind-benders and puzzles. The Internet is rich with several lists of such games that are appropriate for a variety of ages. Check out this link for a variety of games that require minimal to no materials or equipment (so less clean up for you!)

2. Toys

You know what toys will entertain your kids longest, so pack those along. Consider factors like batteries and small parts that are easily losable. You don’t want to be stuck on an airplane with dead toys or be crawling under seats to retrieve doll accessories. A big thing to remember is to minimize choice.

Introduce one to two toys at a time, and encourage the child to continue playing with it for as long as possible. Keep your toy storage out of reach of the child as feasible. Access to too many toys at once can easily overwhelm a child and also reduce the novelty and excitement. If they can see all the toys they have as an option right away, not only are they going to have difficulty picking one, they’re probably going to be bored more quickly and you’ll be left trying to figure out something to entertain them with.

3. Navigational Assistant

Including your child in the navigation process can not only engage them, but also help develop important directional skills (and maybe some geography, too!). For this, all you need is a type of map or GPS device. Some planes come with electronic maps on the in-seat screens that update the plane’s location live. Here are some questions to help get your future intrepid explorer started:

  • Where are we going?
  • What are we going to pass on the way? (if you’re in the car, you can have them identify a pit stop!)
  • Where are we right now?
  • Where’s the nearest city?
  • How far from home are we?
4. Card Games

Whether it’s a regular deck of cards, or a game like Apples to Apples, a variety of card games exist that are conducive to limited space and travel conditions. The following are games your kids (and you!) may enjoy playing en route to your next vacation:

  • Apples to Apples
  • Spot It!
  • You Gotta be Kidding!
  • Superfight
  • Zombie Dice
  • Coup
5. Board Games

Usually you need a table or reliable surface for board games, but plenty of games have been made with travelers in mind, opting for magnetized pieces and gameplay that can easily be accomplished without need for a table.

  • Zombie Dice
  • Hive
  • Pocket Battleship
  • Travel Guess Who
  • Auto Bingo
  • Mad Libs (not technically a board game, I know.)
6. Electronics

Eventually, there’s going to be a point where even the most well-planned activities and extensive games are going to have a give way to the DVD player/iPad/Switch/etc. And why not? It’s their vacation, too – and these devices are fun! If you’re concerned about the efficacy or value of the games, talk to your kid’s therapist for suggestions. We strongly recognize the value of having fun and attaining functional goals via play. We would be happy to provide insight on apps or games they can play to help them work on key areas while keeping your vacation stress-free.

Safe travels!

Written By:
Ismail Umer, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist