5 Family Friendly Vacation Games

Happy family riding in a car


Pass the Time with Kid-Friendly Boredom Busters

Rainy days, traffic jams and long layovers are an unfortunate but unavoidable reality of modern travel. You could try explaining that to your cranky kids next time they start whining with boredom. A better bet? Arm yourself with a variety of games that will appeal to kids, and adults, of all ages.

1. Twenty Questions

Give this classic game a trip-specific twist next time you're stuck in traffic or on a long flight. Think of something related to your vacation and encourage the kids to ask yes or no questions to get clues about what you're picturing. So if you're headed to Cape Cod, you might think of a lobster. Questions like "Is it a person?," "Is it an animal?" and "Does it live in the sea?" should help the kiddos get close. The goal is to guess the secret word with 20 questions or less, and whoever guesses first goes next.

2. Scavenger Hunt

Plan a scavenger hunt carefully and your kids might learn something educational without even realizing it. First, do some research on your vacation destination. Figure out a few public landmarks, museums and attractions that you plan to take the kids to, and create a list of 15 to 30 sights or objects that they have to find during the trip.

If you're going to Los Angeles and intending to check out the Hollywood sign, one item on the list might be "nine letters that are taller than a building." If you're going to a history museum, you might include "a piece of paper than is more than 300 years old." You can also make specific lists of things to find on the airplane, in the hotel or in a restaurant. If you make different lists for each kid, even toddlers can play. Create more challenging lists for older kids.

3. Memory

Memory is a perfect travel game because it requires just a few small, portable pieces. Plus, you can create the pieces yourself to make it specific to your vacation. Do it by printing pairs of photos related to your trip (think bathing suits and sand toys if you're going to the beach, or walking shoes and traffic lights if you're going to a city) and laminating them. Stash the pieces in a plastic bag and pull them out on a plane, hotel room or restaurant.

The game's simple. Arrange the cards face-down. Each player turns over two cards, looking for a match. If they find a match, they keep both cards and go again. If they don't, they turn the cards back over and the next player gets a turn. Whoever finds the most matches wins.

4. The Map Game

Entertain kids and teach them the dying art of reading maps at the same time. Print maps of the city or neighborhood you'll be visiting on vacation, or grab paper copies from your hotel when you arrive. Once you're settled into your hotel and ready to explore, let the kids pick a nearby point and plot a path to get there from where you are. Then pretend you're explorers and set out to follow the route and see where you end up. Pick a new point and start again.

5. Photo Challenges

Bring a stuffed animal, a small plastic dinosaur or some other portable item from home, or pick one up once you get to your destination. Then, at each point of interest that you visit, challenge the kids to stage a funny scene involving the item and snap a photo. You might give them prompts, like "Pretend you dropped your ice cream" or "Show me what a laughing monkey looks like." You'll capture the kids being silly and creative and all of the locations you visited. When you get home, arrange the photos in a book to keep as a memento.