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When you’re heading out for a family road trip, it’s easy to bring along an iPad or other electronic device and headphones so the kids can play some games and watch videos. But most parents also want some travel-friendly, creative games and toys to give kids a break from the electronics. And it’s also smart to have back-up entertainment for when the device is on the fritz or the battery runs out.
The best options for portable toys are ones that keep kids entertained, without being too noisy, messy or bulky. An added bonus is when the game appeals to kids of different ages and can be fun for the entire family. Depending on your kids’ ages and interests, you may have to pack several different items to make everyone happy. But you’re sure to find some fun and stimulating options on this list of best family road trip toys and games.
Best Overall: Travel Bingo
Kids of all ages love bingo, so these Travel Bingo boards are perfect if you’re looking for a fun, affordable and travel-friendly game for your entire brood. The miles fly by when kids are studying the scenery as they try to win a round. When they spot various items such as a truck, stop sign or mailbox, they simply slide the window over a space to mark it. The first person to get five spaces in a row wins. If a child wants to play alone, he can create challenges for himself, such as attempting to fill up the entire board. The set comes with two durable auto bingo and two interstate bingo cards that can be reused over and over again. There’s a great mix of city and rural items, so this game is perfect for wherever your family is headed.
Best Budget: Mad Libs on the Road
A favorite of kids and adults, Mad Libs is classic road trip fun, providing families with hours of laughs and entertainment during long car rides. With this road trip version of the popular word game, kids can help create car songs, describe historical sites, and tell funny stories about vacations, all while writing and learning (without realizing!) about sentence structure and parts of speech. Mad Libs is perfect for families with a wide range of ages. And these fun-filled pads are so inexpensive that you may even want to stock up and also pack Summer Fun and Vacation Fun themed ones.
Best Creative Art Toy: Wikki Stix
Wikki Stix are bendable sticks made of yarn and wax that inspire imagination as kids shape them into flat or 3-D creations. They’re perfect for road trip art because they’re mess-free and don’t require parental help. Suitable for kids ages three and up, Wikki Stix don’t contain any toxins, latex, gluten or allergens. Younger kids can use them to learn basic shapes, letters and numbers, while older kids can get creative making more intricate designs. The package comes with 48 Wikki Stix in six different colors. They’re endlessly reusable, compact and portable. When kids are done creating, you can simply put the Wikki Stix back in the resealable package and stick them in the seat pocket or toss them in your purse or bag.
Best for Sibling Play: Take ‘N’ Play Anywhere Games
Go old school with these classic kids’ games in magnetic, travel-size boards. Siblings can play checkers, hangman and tic-tac-toe together in the backseat, and then the whole family can continue the fun once you get to your destination. With three different games to choose from, kids can switch it up when they start to get bored. The games feature magnetic pieces that stick to the boards, so you don’t have to worry them sliding off or getting lost. You can easily stash the tin cases in your purse or backpack and all the pieces fit inside, making clean-up a cinch. These games are recommended for kids ages five and up.
Best Family Game: Scavenger Hunt for Kids Game
The whole family can compete as they all try to spot objects listed on these Scavenger Hunt for Kids cards. In addition to cards with objects such as "red car" or "license plate with the letter Z", some special “Hear It”, “Feel It” and “Smell It” cards encourage kids to use all their senses to explore their surroundings. Family members can team up, so even the driver can play along. The 54 cards are durable and high-quality, so they’ll hold up for countless games and hours of fun.
Best for Ages 3 to 5: Crayola Color Wonder Markers and Coloring Pads
Most kids love getting creative with markers, but parents worry about them staining their skin, clothes, and any fabric they’re coloring near. That’s where these no-mess Crayola Color Wonder Markers and Coloring Pads come in. The markers work only on the special Color Wonder paper, so you don’t have to fret about kids marking up the upholstery when they’re coloring in the backseat. The durable storage case doubles as a lap desk, so it’s easy for your little ones to color in the car and then tote the markers and paper into a roadside restaurant when you stop for a meal. There’s a huge variety of coloring book themes to choose from, so kids won’t get bored.
Best for Ages 4 to 7: Melissa & Doug Travel Memory Game
Known for their creative and well-made toys, Melissa & Doug provides a clever way for kids to play the classic memory matching game on the go. This sturdy Travel Memory Game features 24 wooden tiles attached to the board with bungee cords, so they can be flipped up, but still stay on. Kids can choose from fourteen different fun themes, slide one of the laminated cards into the board and then start flipping up the tiles to look for matches. They can play alone or challenge someone else. The built-in numbered scoreboard lets them keep track of their matches. There are no loose pieces and everything conveniently stores in the board, so this game is perfect for travel.
Best for Ages 8 to 12: Puzzle Cube Set
Your tweens will be motivated to put down their electronics to try and solve these fun and intriguing puzzles. The set comes with a classic 3 x 3 x 3 cube, a 2 x 2 x 2-speed cube, as well as a pyramid puzzle. They’re very smooth and easy to manipulate, even for small hands. With three puzzles with different degrees of difficulty to choose from, kids can keep rotating and not get frustrated or bored.