Schools out and youre dying to get to the beach, the mountains or Grandmas house. But getting there can seem as long as the school year.
Dont wait for Mom or Dad to dream up ways to entertain you. As you make your packing list, jot down a few of the toys, games and apps on this page. Promise that you will play quietly and take turns with your little brother. (So hard, we know.) Your parents know that a few distractions will go a long way toward making the trip enjoyable for the whole family.
Heres our picks of the best travel toys, games and applications. (All toys are available at Amazon.com unless otherwise noted. Android app available at Google Play and Amazon.com.)
Toys and games
Star Wars building set
Lego. Ages 6 to 10. $9.99.
For the kid who loves to build, three new Lego sets have just enough pieces to be interesting but not overwhelming in the car or plane. The TIE Interceptor, Sebulbas Podracer and Naboo Starfighter come with a standard-size figure, a small ship and a platform for the two. The 56- to 80-piece sets store neatly inside a planet – or a mini Death Star – that can be hung from the ceiling of your room after the trip.
Ages 8 and older. Two or more players. $9.99.
Fans of Scrabble and Boggle will like this word game, which is small enough to fit in your pocket. Flip two to five of the 26 tiles, and the first person to make a word with all of them wins those tiles. (Thankfully, you dont have to use all the letters if you turn over two tricky ones: Q and X words, anyone?) The player with the most tiles wins. This game could work on an airplane tray or a lap desk in the car.
Crafty kids will love this travel container for creating those colorful bracelets. Theres a clip at the top for holding one end of the bracelet and several pegs at the other to keep the threads from getting tangled. A drawer below holds 10 colors of thread. And instructions are provided for those who have never made a friendship bracelet.
Spot It! On the Road
BlueOrange. Ages 7 and older. Two to eight players. $12.99.
Whats a car ride without the classic game of I Spy? This version, the latest in a series of Spot It games, is packaged in a little tin with pictures of things commonly seen out the car window. Flip a card from the pile, and the first one to spot it wins that card.
Smart Games. Ages 6 and older. $9.99. Available at www.smarttangoes.com.
You might have played a similar game called IQ Twist, but this one has an added challenge: The pieces are three-dimensional. So when you pick a challenge and place a few colored pieces in the slots according to a picture, its no easy feat to finish the puzzle. The compact game offers 120 challenges – from starter to wizard levels – and the tremendous satisfaction of being able to stump your parents.
Workman Publishing. Ages 6 to 11. Free for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad; $2.99 for full app for Nook, free content by clicking on the paid app and selecting free trial version.
BrainQuest, a travel-ready series of question-and-answer cards for kids, has been around for 20 years. The free iPod Touch, iPad and iPhone app, for grades 1 through 5, takes players through a series of adventures with timed quizzes about science, social studies, math and other topics. Additional adventures can be unlocked for $2.99. The paid Nook app contains all the adventures for one grade level. This is a fun app for kids who like trivia, but the Nook version can get expensive for families with several kids.
Dan Russell-Pinson. Ages 8 and older. 99 cents through the end of July for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.
The creator of the fun geography app Stack the States has designed a challenging app for kids who like to build things. Each player becomes a monster that tries to build a machine of wood or metal with wheels, wings, propellers or rockets. You can accept a mission to get your monster over a ramp or through a minefield. Or you can use your imagination and parts to build something unique. Its colorful, fun and requires creative thinking.
Marble Math Jr.
Artgig Apps. Ages 5 to 12. $1.99 for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
Choose a marble and roll or drag it through a maze. But you have to perform a task or answer a question to make it out the other side. You can collect bonus points, but watch out for ghosts, slime and banana peels along the way. Each app offers three levels of difficulty, so when you take a break, your little sister might want a try.
Kids Doodle –
Movie Your Drawing
Bejoy Mobile. Ages 6 and older. Free for Android, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. (A version without ads is 99 cents.)
Who doesnt like to doodle? Yes, there are dozens of drawing and painting apps out there, but this one has more than a dozen neon-glow brush strokes (including dots, circles, thick and thin lines) and a neat feature that replays how you created your masterpiece. Every time you lift your brush, the strokes change color. You can import vacation photos and then draw on top. (Perhaps some bunny ears for Mom?) Save your doodles in the gallery to enjoy long after the trip is over.