Under the guise of vacation, it’s only when we reach adulthood that we fully understand a road trip is a real-life social studies lesson with undertones of cartography. Road maps and GPS-assisted navigation aside, one way to prep kids with pre-trip geography skills is travel themed board games; and included in the mix are games worth packing in the car, bringing into the restaurant, or keeping in your hotel room.
Travel Themed Board Games
Designed to inspire, educate, and entertain, here are some of our favorites:
Bringing the United States to life, The Scrambled States of America incorporates reading, math, and spatial awareness. The game is intended for ages eight and up, but our first and second graders have no problems when an adult is also playing. Inspired by the book, Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller the game version uses characters from the story on the 50 state playing cards. The type of game you keep as a standard birthday party gift, we may just hang on to our own copy until grand kids come along.
Similar to The Scrambled States of America, the DestiNation USA game is big on geography and getting from Point A to Point B; picking up chips along the way to destinations scattered across the state. Recommended for ages eight and up, the only kid in our family patient enough to play this game by the rules was our second grader. Consulting the rules at first, we quickly got the gist and played well beyond the stopping point.
Splitting the country into twelve geographical regions that double as playing cards, United States Bingo requires matching, reading, and even teamwork. Identifying 72 industries (like lumber, mining, technology, and even tourism), the first person to place six industry tiles on their board is a winner. Recommended for ages five and up, even our kindergartener has assumed the role of official tile reader with this one. Modifying and making up rules (as kids do), this is a game they want to pull out and play with their friends.
First discovered at a toy store in Leawood, Kansas, we knew Spot it! was our kind of game. Packaged in a tin canister small enough to fit in a purse, backpack, or glove box, Spot it! is perfect for passing time in waiting rooms and restaurants. Marked for seven to adult, age does not seem to be a factor in finding the matching image between the 55 circular cards—our canister was travel themed, but other varieties include sports, animals, and random assortment of a bunch of things. Resulting in moments of competitive behavior, undisputed ties were resolved with a round of rock-paper-scissors.
Designed to keep kids looking out the window on a road trip, Travel Bingo comes with travel themed bingo cards in four differently colored pads of paper. Marked on as players spot traffic signs, geography, stores, and automobiles, the game can be played with any number of passengers (although the game comes with four wooden pencils). Playing both with the same color and different colors, the kids (all five and up) worked together to fill the entire card. Trying our best, we found everything but a tollgate in Northern Wisconsin (but, the squares for cow and tractor didn’t last long).
For a family that cannot achieve even one round of “The Quiet Game,” Travel Blurt is right up our alley! With a simple objective of blurting out the correct answer to one of six clues on 75 double-sided cards, the travel-sized tin uses a magnetic score board for four players or four teams. Recommended for ages 10 to adult, our future first-grader embraced the concept with the most enthusiasm (and volume).