Parent Friendly Travel Games

Several years ago I gave a friend who was driving around Australia a set of travel games. After she got back, she thanked me very kindly and gave me the set of cards back (each card had a different travel game suggestion printed on it). I thought she must have misunderstood that they were a present for her to keep, but I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, so we kept them.

Last month we went on a family camping trip which involved a four hour car journey. I finally remembered  these travel games and brought them along. Well, all I can say is that they made Monopoly look like a fun family game. I know this verges on the heretical, but as educational as alphabetical order may be, it is not fun. Repeatedly playing travel games based entirely on variations of alphabetical ordering are enough to make any parent ask “are we there yet?” Needless to say, these travel “games” are “accidentally” going in the recycling bin.

Instead I plan to make copious notes from the most amazing author. This has to be the ultimate travel book for dealing with the endless waiting and queuing and long flights and long car drives. All I can say is, not worthy.[amtap amazon:asin=1561452637] 

Carol Baicker-McKee has the most wonderful imaginative strategies for boredom busters. While the book’s title says it’s for preschoolers and the target age is 3 and 4 year olds, many of the ideas appeal to older kids as well. You’re not going to get much buy in from teenagers but that’s why God invented ipods. She has a gorgeous blog which has nothing to do with travel but is a fabulous read.

My current cunning plan is to use Evernote


to make quick outline notes of the games she suggests. That way I’ll be able to refer to them quickly. Unfortunately I went through and bookmarked all of the pages I wanted to make notes on and it was almost the entire book *sigh*. I think I’ll have to re-read it several times before we go.

A good Atlas is hard to find

In “The Island of Lost Maps” [amtap amazon:asin=0767908260] Miles Harvey documents both the history of maps and the ever increasing value of cartographic collections today. I’m sure the publishers of Atlases have taken this to heart and consider their books as collectors items. Unlike our favourite book of road maps, an Atlas isn’t something you want to upgrade every year. When I was growing up my parents had a beautiful Reader’s Digest Atlas complete with illustrations of space and amazing pictures of the sea floor. Naturally the first place I went to look for an Atlas was Reader’s Digest . Well, it turns out you can’t view the pages online. I weighed up receiving junk mail from Reader’s Digest for the next 50 years and decided surely somebody else must produce a decent Atlas? 

It was at this point my obsession with Atlases became almost like the characters in Harvey’s novel. I scoured bookshops and map shops trying to find the perfect Atlas. I used the South Island of New Zealand as my test case to measure the level of detail in each Atlas. Nothing under $200 seemed to match what I had in mind. Do not even get me started on the whole which “Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World” edition is best debate.[amtap amazon:asin=0007157207]

While we were looking at atlases in a map shop, I suddenly realised that what we wanted was not a World Atlas but simply a road atlas for Europe. For a fraction of the price we could get the required level of detail for route planning, including travel times! In the end we went with the Insight Travel Atlas, which is very similar to both the Michelin and Frommer’s versions. [amtap amazon:asin=2067129953][amtap amazon:asin=0764557823]

A short time after buying the road atlas, I came across a beautiful 1982 edition of the Reader’s Digest Atlas of the World in an Op shop for $5. It has a fairly good close up of the South Island in NZ and the pictures of space and the ocean floor. Admittedly it still has West and East Germany, but that in itself is a fascinating historical detail. If you want to see just how far we have come with maps and Atlases, another fascinating book is [amtap amazon:asin=1582974640]