Whether you’re hitting the road for the holidays or embarking on a multi-week journey to the other side of the world, traveling with kids is always an adventure. It’s gotten a bit easier thanks to electronic devices, but nobody wants their kids staring at devices for hours on end. 

So to keep everybody entertained and engaged on your next trip without relying solely on devices, try some of these unplugged travel games.

Air Puppets

For some impromptu in-flight entertainment, an airsickness bag makes a great puppet (unused of course!). All you need is a crayon. Turn the bag over and draw a face on the bottom. Slip your hand in and the folded part acts like a mouth. Use it to put on a puppet show or to talk to your kids to tell them to quit playing with the in-flight phone or to stop kicking the seat in front of them.

Pipe Cleaners or Wicki Stixs

Pack a new bag of multi colored pipe cleaners or wicki stixs and let their creativity run wild. They can make letters, flowers, animals, chains, jewelry, twist ties in their hair, practice braiding, and by the end, just balls of many colors

Felt Boards

These are fun, and you can even make your own. Use a large piece of felt for the background mounted on a sheet of cardboard, and cut out characters and shapes of rainforest animals, safari animals or things that you might see on your trips from different colored pieces of felt. Then you and your child can tell stories of what you will see and learn on your trip. Let your child manipulate the pieces.

Stained Glass Window Picture

Make a fancy picture using only a piece of paper and crayons. Materials: Fold a piece of paper at an angle and then unfold it, making a nice crease. Fold the paper again and unfold. Repeat this until you have a page with several sections. Color in each shape with a different color crayon to make it look like a stained glass window! Try and design the Maya or Egyptian ruins or some of the architecture that you have or will see on your trip.

Travel Collage

Directions: Wouldn’t it be convenient to have a “getting there” and “getting home” picture record, all on one sheet of paper? Your child will only need art supplies and a piece of paper-the largest that can be conveniently used while en route. Have your child look out the window and find something interesting: an unusual house or building or car, a cloud formation that looks like an animal, or a mountain, beach, lake, or pasture. He or she then draws it in on one small area of the paper. When the scenery changes, your child adds another drawing near the first one. So the travel collage might start off showing your city or town, change to airport, and then gradually show the new country, the mountains, rainforest or the savannahs. Culminate with a trip highlight.

If several artists have created collages, when you get home, you can tape the pieces of paper together and create a wall display. Now that will really capture the trip in a way no camera could ever do!

Play with String

Show your child how to make a cat’s cradle with a long piece of yarn or string and then set him or her loose to discover how many other pictures and tangles he or she can create.

The Animal Game

Play it sort of like 20 Questions. Take turns thinking of an animal and giving everyone else clues about it until they can guess it. “I’m thinking of an animal that has a long neck and eats leaves”, or “I’m thinking of an animal with sharp teeth, a long tail and spots…”. Tailor it to fit all ages of kids or to your local environment.

Name the Clouds

What do they look like? Find as many different shapes as you can.

Coin Game

Start with ten coins. Person who is “It” conceals several coins in right hand and places hand on table. Everyone guesses how many coins he/she has. No one can guess the same number as anyone else. Person who guesses correctly gets one point and becomes “It.” Use local currency and learn it’s value as well.

Fooler, Fooler

State three facts about yourself. The trick is that one  of the facts, are not fact at all. The challenge is who can discriminate fact from fiction. Take turns being the “fooler.” The players who stump everyone are the winners.

Would you rather?

First select a category…Food for instance. Then each other questions phrased like this: “Would you rather eat  bugs or French fries? French Fries or ice cream? Ice cream with whipped cream or nuts…and so on. Topics can be serious or silly.   Use local foods, or encounters with wildlife as a way to incorporate your new knowledge from your trip.

Build a Story

“Once upon a time there lived . . . .”  Finish the sentence… Then the rest of the family continues the story one or two sentences at a time. Include your guides, the local villages and environments in your story or try to use a word or two of the local language.

I’m Going on a Trip

The first player says, “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to see. . . ,” finishing the sentence with the name of something that begins with the letter A. The second player repeats what the first player has said and adds the name of another item starting with B. The third player repeats everything that has been said so far and adds something that begins with C. And so on throughout the alphabet. Anyone who skips or remembers an item incorrectly is out.

Counting Wildlife

Play as individuals or teams. First, decide on a destination where you will stop counting. Then, count a certain type of wildlife your side of the road. The goal is to have the highest number when the destination is reached. Pass a cemetery on your side and you have to start over again.


Start with your departure state. The next person has to think of a place that begins with the last letter of “Kansas,” such as “South Africa.” Whoever goes next needs a place that starts with an A. You may not use the same place twice in a game—and it has to be a real place. Include cities and places that you will see on your trip. 

Who is Next Door?

If you are stuck in a traffic jam, older children with a good sense of humor and imagination may enjoy making up stories about the people in the car nearby, i.e. what their names are, what they do, what their hobbies are, what pets they have, what their house is like.

Say Cheese

Put your kids in charge of the photography. Provide them with a high-quality camera. You’ll be amazed at their creativity! Invite them to share photos of their trip with friends back home. It’s easy to find Web access in Internet cafés and even in your own hotel.

In-Flight Map Game

With a little imagination and a pencil, the route map in your complimentary airline magazine can become a whole package of games and puzzles. Try engaging your child with these games:

  • Connect the dots:  Trace selected route lines to create a picture of an animal, person, or thing.  
  • How NOT to get there:  Devise the longest route imaginable to travel from one city to another.
  • Alphabet tally:  Count all the places on the map whose names begin with the same letter.
  • You can’t get there from here:  Find the two cities that would require the most flight changes to get from one to the other.

High-Flying Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are always a lot of fun, but it’s impossible to have one on an airplane. Or is it?

Your children can go on an exciting scavenger hunt without ever leaving their seats simply by using the complimentary airline magazines and in-flight catalogs stowed in the seat-back pocket in front of you.

Scan through the magazine and catalog ahead of time and make a list of scavenger-hunt treasure pictures. Pick photographs that lend themselves to interesting clues. A picture of a pool float in a catalog, for example, could be described as “something to keep your head above water,” and the clue for a picture of a sandy beach could be “bring a towel and watch out for sea gulls.” 

Family Adventures with Journeys International

Ready for your family’s next adventure? How about Costa Rica, Belize, Tanzania, or maybe China? Journeys has handcrafted itineraries designed specifically for families with kids of all ages. Let us know you’re ready to learn more and we’ll be in touch to answer all your questions.

I’m ready for a family adventure