Car ride-induced boredom, not knowing how to patiently wait for food 2-3 times a day in a restaurant, bickering from boredom (child), bickering from frustration (parent), children who do not know how to keep themselves occupied while you check emails that I (shouldn't be checking anyway because.... oh dear, it is our family vacation and I am the worst model in the world...
First, I have to put my smartphone or tablet down or close my laptop and think about what I want to remember from this trip. (I am so wired that I sneak-read emails in the bathroom sometimes- how pathetic) When I make myself take some perspective, I realize that I want our vacations to be memories of listening to my kids laugh and watching my husband de-stress. We will do that with the planned activities on the trip but those in-between moments when we are waiting for our food, when we are waiting for someone to get ready, when we are locked indoors because it is raining... those very moments always end up being the mental snapshots I remember from my family vacations.
|Can you believe this Mindware game (Qwirkle) is being played on a Mindware game (Imaginets)? For games that require scoring, you can use things like this to keep your pieces (Imaginets' case closes and locks) and keep a magnetic dry erase marker to keep score. All of this can happen in a car. You just have to be a bit flexible with rules.|
How my two boys get along with each other are also major mental notes and most memorable things are the changes in their skills and interests. Thus, for the past few vacations, I have been bringing books and games to my vacations because I realized that we can not be busy every single moment of the day. There will be downtime. We will need the downtime. If you think you might need some too, check out Part I of my top travel games coverage . This one has games for all ages but mostly fitting to older elementary school age kids.
Top Travel Games- Part 1
First Read My Code: Y=YES; N=NO; S= Sorta takes some maneuvering *Please read this part of the story with a grain of salt. Everyone is different. Sometimes I go a bit out of my way to make something work as a travel game.
|Way smaller and way lighter than the Original Qwirkle|
Being Opportunistic: Qwirkle Travel Size
$14.95 Ages (ages: 6+)
Car: S Plane: N Restaurant: N Hotel Room: Table/Floor
MENSA award-winning Qwirkle, with its colorful stars and circles, doesn't look like a sassy game that encourages you to make the most out of your move but that is exactly what it does. It rewards players for thinking ahead, taking a bit of a risk, and also for looking out for yourself. I've outlined the benefits in reviews for Qwirkle and Travel Qwirkle but if you are in a hurry, think Scrabble without the letters. Pattern-thinkers will like Qwirkle so will the uber-competitive people like #1 Son and myself... shhhh. don't tell anyone, ok?
|1/2" Magnetic tape cut into squares fit easily behind a Travel Qwirkle piece. Round magnets with adhesive backs will work too! It doesn't add too much weight to the game and yet it will help you lose less pieces over time. Play on the door of your hotel room- lots of space there!|
Qwirkle Travel isn't necessarily a car game but if you are able to attach magnets to the back, you can play Qwirkle on any metal surface! But, avoid hot car doors, okay? Instead bring a magnetic dry-erase board or even a flat cookie pan! What? The cookie pan won't be big enough? Then, just consider the borders a true limitation for scoring to make it even trickier!
Code-Cracking Intimacy: Mastermind Travel Size
$9.99 (ages: 8+)
Car: N Plane: S Restaurant: Y Hotel Room: Table/Floor
|My little one loves Mastermind! He's terrible at it now but he's only six.... he adores the travel size.|
Mastermind is an awesome game that makes for an awesome travel game too. The object of the game is to break the code of the codemaker. This game sharpens their logical reasoning skills, (if not this, then maybe it's that, but it can't be this..) I am going to be writing a more extensive review on Mastermind soon (with help from Dr. Gayle Herman) but I wanted to make sure you knew that the travel edition is great because not only does it have the cutest pegs but the travel size is very lightweight and it locks very tight so you don't have to worry about dozens of little pegs swimming around your bag. Note: Travel Mastermind has eight rows (chances for deducing) whereas the original has ten rows.
Of equal importance is that Mastermind is a two-player game. You can not mastermind yourself in any way. It's very intimate and that is not a bad thing when feeling close and bonding are part of most family vacation goals.
Negotiating Space: IQ Twist [or go younger with IQ Fit (ages: 5+)]
$9.99 (ages: 8+)
Car: Y but you'll need your lap Plane: Y Restaurant: Y Hotel: Table/Floor/Bed
|How do you teach spatial reasoning during summer vacation? How about packing your stuff before and after your holiday. It's a good lesson for the kids. There's an added challenge if shopping is a vacation activity for you.|
IQ Twist and IQ Fit are not particularly travel-sized games but they are actually quite small in size anyway. However, only the size is small because solving all 100 puzzles in either game is no small feat. Basically, you are given a scenario and you must complete the puzzle by fitting all the pieces back onto the board but twisting and turning things. What I love about this game is the design. The puzzle and its cover is very sturdy. The pieces are made of a durable and smooth plastic that shine as much as the day I first got them. If you are a logic puzzle superstar, go for IQ Twist.
|I think IQ Fit travels better than IQ Twist because the absence of pegs but IQ Twist is quite the classic.|
If you are not sure that you are, go for IQ Fit which happens to be a super favorite in Number 7's family. I love IQ Fit too. The pieces are so cute, I kind of want to wear them or carry them around in my hands. IQ Fit has lots of puzzles that appear to be in the same level of difficulty. That makes things very playable! But be forewarned, IQ Twist can whip your butt! Number 2 likes IQ Twist. He's my kid but I kinda want to kick him when he gets a puzzle really fast. (Psst.. IQ Fit was part of Toys are Tools Best of 2012)
Mental Acrobatics: Swish
$12.99 (ages: 8+)
Car: N Plane: N Restaurant: N Hotel: Table/Floor/Bed/Poolside
|Seriously, two math teachers came up with this idea. I wish Swish could be part of the state tests. Such standards may not be "common" but you can definitely consider them "core" math skills. Am I right or am I right?|
Why is this a travel game when you can't play in a car or restaurant? Well, how about the fact that they are waterproof? While I am not sure if it was purposely designed for that but this is one game that you can play near the pool and not worry that someone will start dripping pool water on your game. You can read more about Swish here but just know that any game that satisfies my kid's need to do acrobatics in his mind is a true winner in our house. It's not just about math. To me, doing mental gymnastics will help him finish visualizing anything he wants to do. I know he has good visual-spatial skills but they have to keep up with his imagination and that appears to be no small feat. The fact that it is a portable lightweight sturdy stack of cards that come in a drawstring bag makes them a front runner for family getaways.
Look at the bottom of the article in this link to find a 12-card Swish puzzle that can be done as long as you have sufficient space (and patience). Don't look at the answers until you've given it a shot. Me, I can't even set up the puzzle (you have to identify these 12 cards out of a deck of 60). My working memory is horrendous but one day, I will beat you, you big Swish bully!
Recognizing Satisfaction: Kaleidograph (Crystal and Flora)
$14.95 Each (many sell for $12.99) (ages: 3+ basically, this works for all ages including yours!)
Car: Y Plane: Y Restaurant: Y but no greasy fingers please Hotel: Anywhere but the pool
The first time I played with Kaleidograph, it was online and I think it was 1 AM. I was tired but curious and it was so fun to make these beautiful images, just by placing one plate over another. Forty-five minutes later, my sleepy eyes turned into intensely alert eyes. I couldn't stop. It was oddly addictive and so I asked to see it right away. (Stay tuned for review with Petra Pankow) The great thing about open-ended toys is that there is no wrong answer. You can just keep going and going and going. We stretch limits with such toys just as we do during our vacations but stopping to see what you've got and being in the moment is something that Kaleidograph can let your child practice over and over again.
The great thing is that kind of mindfulness is useful during these dreamy vacations aren't they? Do you really need to eat ice cream three times a day? Must you go for another dip in the pool again? You look soooo tired! Should we really spend another twenty bucks in the hotel arcade? No, right? Yeah mom, you're right, so you are not going to buy that game in the gift shop, right, we brought enough from home, didn't we?
Tuning Brain-Body Frequency: TENZI
$14.95 (each box contains four set of ten same-color dice and scroll of the TENZI story with game suggestions) (ages: 7+ but I don't believe it should be that high)
Car: N Plane: Difficult but possible Restaurant: Y Hotel Room: Table/Floor/Bed/Poolside
|TENZI has been quite popular with TAT readers! I love the TENZI story!|
Here's another game that is not a travel game but still, you'll love traveling with it. It's the kind of game that you can play 10 rounds in fifteen minutes. I feel that fast-paced games are good for quick breaks in-between activities. Making amends after a vacation-induced argument (stress from trying to have too much fun) can also be achieved via these fast-paced games where if you sulk, you'll lose! I don't want to make this a betting thing but I'd be tempted to bet some ice cream on winning (of course, if I won, they'll still get some but no topping!) You can read more about TENZI from my review but just know this, It is great to be able to play games where you can just start playing right away and if you are in the hotel lobby because your little brother is taking a nap then you can bring your TENZI and watch your child make fast friends. At the very least you'll get some interested peekers.
|If grandparents are included in your vacation, TENZI will be really fun for the whole group.|
Either way, it's an icebreaker and as your kids get older, the one thing you can't be for them on vacation is another 9 year old boy. Keeping company with a same-age peer can be fun for my son but let's speak the truth- it's liberating for me, even if it is just for a couple of hours.
Word Retrieval- Spelling with Spatial Skills?: Mini-Mouth
$7.99 (ages: 8+, definitely can be modified for younger ages)
Car: N Plane: Y Restaurant: Y Hotel Room: Table/Floor/Bed/Poolside
|Use two tiles to make it easy- use five to make it crazy|
One of the major things that prevents me from talking a lot is word retrieval. I find that in new situations, I am slow to speak to my kids. We are so ingrained in our daily scheduled lives that even our vocabulary becomes somewhat stagnant. This is why I like Mini-Mouth. I feel like it is encouraging a child in a very pressured but positive way to come up with words that use the letters that were flipped over. I find Mini-Mouth really interesting also because Number 1 dislikes sounding out words and isn't so hot on spelling either but whenever we play letter/word games with not only a tactile component but also a time pressure element, he is having a blast. I don't know what exactly is going on with this game but for sure, I think that letter tiles have a place in the upper grades, don't you... I mean come on.. is the Scrabble champion of the world a kindergartener? NOT!
|What scene will you remember most from your family vacation? Downtime scenes like this is what I remember.|
Okay everyone, here is the Skills Should Travel Outside of School Giveaway! It's a $100 value (Telestrations Bendy Men are actually not sold in stores) and only one person can win it all! This is way too much fun. If you don't try out, I'll be mad at you!
|Playing games during your vacation will increase the likelyhood that Family Game Night will make a regular appearance on your calendar during the next school year. These Telestrations Bendy Men are here to remind all of us to keep on playing even after the vacation is over and that a Telestrations review is coming to Toys are Tools soon- we are playing with all of these games as fast as we can and as much as we can for you... I just write really slow.|
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If you are Amazonian and want to support me when you shop travel games, check out my links and thanks in advance. Also note that many of these games are available in your neighborhood specialty toy store for which I am grateful because it is so fun to buy travel games from real stores, isn't it?
Disclosure: Toys are Tools has not been compensated by the manufacturers of the mentioned products for the publication of this review. Review units were submitted to testers and experts to facilitate a review. Reviews are never promised.