Best Games for Family Vacation Fortunately, there is a universe of options to choose from, and I have been enjoying discovering the many varieties of games available for families. I consider good family games to be relatively fast-paced, with opportunities for creativity and humor and appropriate for multiple levels of skill. There is a lot of research pointing on the many benefits of playing games together. From developing character by creating opportunities to become good losers, practicing academic skills such as basic math, spelling or geography, to creating a productive way to release stress and focus energy, games can impact almost every aspect of development. But most importantly they are plain old fun. I have put together a brief list of some of our tried and true’s that are appropriate for family travel. The links in bold take you to videos with rules and tips about how to play. Car Games Name Game: This could also be called the Alphabet Game and could have many versions. One person starts by saying the name of a famous person- first and last- and the next person has to say another famous name that starts with the first letter of the previous person’s last name. Other versions could use any category- states, vegetables, etc. I have been surprised by how much fun we’ve had with this game on car rides, and the kids usually want to play far longer than we do. Twenty Questions: I had to include this, though most people are familiar, and some may groan with memories of tedious family road trips. Our family continues to get a ton of fun, and, surprisingly, education, out of this classic. The trick, we have found, is to be VERY creative with your target- for example “a cloud”, “a bolt of lightning”, “an idea”, are all 20 question examples we’ve had a riotous- and sometimes maddening- time with. Fortunately, Unfortunately: I love storytelling and improv games, and this is probably the simplest format with the most potential for silliness. Players simply take turns saying a line to a story, alternating with the preface “Fortunately” or “Unfortunately” For example- The first player might say “One day, I bought a new car”. Then next one could say, “Unfortunately, it was stolen” And the next. “Fortunately, I found it the next day with $100 bill and two cruise tickets inside” Outdoor Games Most of these you can make or take with you when traveling, or don’t require any specialized equipment. Ladder Toss: Probably our favorite game at the beach and while visiting relatives. Also called Bola or Ladder Golf, the games consist of two 4ft tall plastic ladders with three rungs, and 8 bolas- which are short ropes with golf-sized balls attached to either end. Players(or teams) take turns tossing the bolas and receive 1, 2 or 3points depending on which rung it hits (or if it hits). The rope will wrap around the rung with the right amount of force. You could also use a household ladder if you don’t want to travel with the plastic ones, or if want to go totally DIY, you can make your own ladders and bolas. Kubb We love playing this game at home, but it is so portable and easy to learn that it makes the perfect travel/party game. It consists of 10 wooden blocks about 4 inches tall called Kubbs, 8 wooden batons, and a “king”, a carved wooden piece about 6 inches tall. The kubbs are arranged in opposing lines a set distance apart and players or teams take a turn trying to hit the opposing sides kubbs with their batons. The knocked over kubbs are then moved to the opposite players “field” and have to hit once more by each team before being removed (see link for details). When a teams kubbs are all out, they have one chance per turn to hit the king. This game is great for developing coordination and aim. The link also includes instructions for making your own set- a relatively simple project for a crafty person with basic construction tools. Bocce: A classic lawn game, our whole family enjoys a good game of bocce. Because it consists of balls rolled on the ground as opposed to objects being tossed, it is somewhat less intimidating for the oldest and youngest members of the family. The goal is to hit the “pea”, a small ball usually about the size of a large marble, with any of three larger balls, rolled in each turn. If no one hits it, the point goes to whoever gets closest to the pea. I’m not sure about making your own set, but we have definitely improvised with marbles and golf balls, or whatever we can find around. Table Top Games Mancala: Considered to be one of the oldest games still played today, this fast-paced strategy game has endured for good reason. Actually a generic name for a category of games, it can be played with a collection of any small object such as pebbles or dry beans, and a board with shallow pits carved into it- or, if you want to go truly old school, you can just dig the pits into sand or dirt, the traditional method in parts of Africa and the Middle East. The game is played by distributing the “beans” between the pits during each turn, and, depending on the version, capturing the opposing player’s beans based on how you land. The goal is to end with more beans in the mancala- the special pit at the end of the board- than your opponent. Though only a two-player game, it is also a fun spectator sport. If you want to go the simple route and purchase a set, they are affordable and available anywhere from Amazon to your local thrift store. Battle Sheep: Though we have taken a break recently, our family was slightly obsessed with this game for a number of years. It may be the perfect family tabletop game, requiring 2-4 players and being in the “easy to learn, hard to master” category. It is similar to a simplified version of the classic Chinese strategy game “Go”, in that the goal is to populate your “pastures” with as many of your sheep as possible, without having them isolated by other players. It has just the right mix of strategy and fun to attract serious gamers as well as fair-weather players. Suspend: This is a completely unique game that involves hanging specialized metal rods onto other rods that are in turn suspended from a small stand. Like Jenga, it requires a steady touch and immense control, and the players will be in suspense as well as the rods, which come crashing down with the wrong touch. Say Anything: Our family always gets a lot of laughs during this game, which is similar in some ways to Apples 2 Apples (which we also enjoy). In Say Anything, each player gets a small erase board and marker, and on their turn draws a question such as “What is the worst thing to do on a bicycle?”, or “What movie prop would you (meaning the reader) most want to own”?. The others have to answer the question the way they think the “judge”, or one who drew the card, would.