13 Travel Games Under $15 For The Kids – Unplugged

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Let’s be honest, traveling with the kids can be daunting.  The amount of time we can go before we hear those dreaded 4 little words, “Are we there yet?”, is a running joke with my husband and me.  Can we make it an hour?  The journey may not all be fun and games, but I promise you happy family memories can be made with some preparation.  And, preparing yourself doesn’t have to break the bank either.  Here is my family’s tried and true list of 13 Travel Games for under $15 to entertain your kids (and you) on your next family trip.

Don’t get me wrong, the iPad is still king in our car, but little eyes can only stare at screens for so long.  These travel games are also handy for those times when we’ve forgotten the iPad charger, which has happened more than once.  The kids actually don’t mind being unplugged…sometimes.  The games are great for upcoming travel to grandma’s house.  Or, save them for the perfect stocking stuffer for the holidays. Just travel prepared people!  That’s all I’m saying.

1.License Plate Game

We love this game from Melissa & Doug, especially when we drive to North Carolina from Florida and are trapped in the car for 12 + hours!  Once we saw 34 different state’s on license plates.  It’s actually entertaining for the driver because it gives them something to do when the ride gets monotonous.  It’s a geography lesson too.  What’s the capital of North Dakota?  And, surprisingly we’ve seen Hawaii!  Still scratching our heads about that.

2.  Travel Bingo

Call me old fashioned but I loved playing this game when I was younger, before iPads and DVD players.  I remember sitting in the back of our station wagon with my sister and desperately searching for a silo or a cow as we drove up I-77.  With no seat belts on.  Why would we wear seat belts?!  It’s still a lot of fun and a great way to get the kids to look out of the window.

3.  Table Topics Kids

Do you ever have this conversation?

Mom: How was your day?

Kid: Good. (End of conversation)

I do all the time.  I like to spring something on my kids called the “art of conversation” while they are captive in the car or dining out.  It’s easier said than done so this travel game of Table Topics is a fantastic way to break the ice and make conversation a game.

4.  UNO

Even a 3 or 4 yr old can play this game.  The younger ones might need a little help but, it’s a great way to pass the time in the car or when you want to savor your meal instead of inhaling it.  And for little hands, this card holder has been a lifesaver.

5.  Hangman

Melissa & Doug have a great assortment of wooden toys that I love.  This Hangman game is always in our travel bag because we can all play.  Even the driver can shout out letters from the front seat.  My only complaint, the blocks can be a little difficult to turn and don’t lose the pen!

6.  Wikki Stix

This is another all-age crowd pleaser.  Wikki Stix are waxy sticks that you can bend and mold into whatever your imagination desires.  They are great to throw in your purse to entertain your kids at dinner too.

7.  Scratch Art

Scratch away and reveal a rainbow of colors and patterns.  It can get a little messy if it’s in your car but if you are traveling by plane, who the heck cares?  It’s entertaining.

8.  Kanoodle

Kanoodle is a 3-D puzzle game that will entertain my kids long enough to enjoy a whole meal and have a glass of wine (or two).  And the best part is, it’s a mind stimulating game.  Yes, the kids are using their brains and they don’t even know it.  Bwhaa haaa (insert evil laugh).

9. Travel Etch-A-Sketch

It’s easy to handle for little hands and it’s a fun way to write secret messages or just doodle.  Travel Etch-A-Sketch, has been a member of our family since age 2.  And it never dies or needs batteries.

10. Checkers

Checkers is a classic game for kids to learn so they can show grandpa how it’s done when you meet him at Cracker Barrel, on the tabletop version.  The little pieces will get lost even though they are magnetic.  Know this in advance and you’ll be fine.

11. D is For Doodles

Learn some clever ways to draw all sorts of animals just starting with a letter of the alphabet.  It’s fun for the whole family and kept us occupied and not fighting in the car for 30+ minutes.  Score!

12. The Coloring Book of Cards and Envelopes NATURE

This is one of those intricate coloring books that’s all the rage these days.  I love this one because you are coloring cards and envelopes.  While you are on your journey you can send a letter to grandma or a pen pal along the way (stamps not included).  Everyone loves getting snail mail.

13. Rubik’s Cube

It’s taken me 25 years and I still can’t master the Rubik’s Cube.  Apparently it can be done and my kids are determined to figure it out.  I love how it keeps their hands and their brain busy.

Thanks to Amazon for having everything I need with a press of a button.  Sanity saved! There are affiliate links in this post.

Safe travels this holiday season!

Dolphin dive

Islamorada – Get Away to the Florida Keys – Part 2

Islamorada Part 2!  It’s such a glorious place that I just couldn’t bring myself to squeeze all of my tips into one post.  So, now that you’ve read my last post about Islamorada and where to stay, you can get into the business of planning things to do and where to eat.  And the kind of eating I’m talking about is the kind where you don’t have to prepare anything or even clean up – I know, it’s crazy!

Theater of the Sea

The Florida Keys have some of the best fishing and snorkeling in the world.  See my last Florida Keys post about snorkeling.  If you are more of a land-lubber then go explore some of the marine life that can be found in its waters.

Theater of the Sea
Theater of the Sea!

We reserved an afternoon to check out the Theater of the Sea, just a short drive north of our hotel. The Theater bills itself as a safe place for marine animals and an educational opportunity for us humans to learn more about conservation and environmentalism to protect the animals.  What it boils down to is a really fun way to interact with dolphins, sea lions and see some fish and reptiles closer than you would ever get, or want to get, in the wild.   We saw parrot fish, barracuda, green turtles, parrots, nurse sharks, tarpon, alligators and crocodiles.  My favorite feature of the Theater is they have 3 rotations of continuous animal shows throughout the day.  So, no matter what time you show up you won’t miss seeing anything.  They give you plenty of time to walk between the lush waterways and even stop and admire the orchids before the next showtime.  And, you don’t have to feel guilty about having to duck out with a child who just can’t sit still.  Our favorites were the dolphin and sea lion show because the animals were so entertaining and the trainers did a great job interacting with the guests.

All in all, it was super-educational and a fun way to take a break from the sun for an afternoon.  The admission price wasn’t too high either.  They have more personal interaction opportunities with mammals like the dolphin, but we thought it was a little steep – a 30 min swim was $195/pp.  Maybe a special birthday gift for your future marine biologist perhaps?  The biggest takeaways for us:

Parrots – Look pretty, are annoying
  • Alligators and crocodiles have huge jaws and have really big teeth.  Never get close to them.
  • Parrots do not make good pets, even though they are pretty.  It’s like owning a toddler who never grows up and will probably outlive you.
  • Dolphins are adorable and super smart!
  • Sea lions can be really funny if you feed them lots of fish.
  • Take care of the environment by not leaving trash at the beach and eat sustainable seafood.

    Nurse Sharks
    This is not an up close picture of tadpoles they are Nurse sharks and they are HUGE.
Dolphin pose
The dolphin show was our favorite by far! Lots of fun and minimal splashing.
Dolphin jump
The dolphin trainers took the show to new heights!

Tips for Theater of the Seas:

  1. Any of the local coupon books have a few dollars off the entrance fee to Theater of the Seas.  Grab one!
  2. Bring a bathing suit and towel if you want to check out the “beach” or swim with the dolphins, sea lions, rays or sharks.
  3. They have snack food, ice cream and hot dogs at Nicky’s Grille for a fair price.  You cannot bring in food or drinks so plan on bringing some money for beverages, especially if it is a hot day.
  4. The gift shop is large and has some cute beachy merchandise in addition to local crafts and artwork.
  5. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Dining Out in Islamorada

There are so many delicious places to eat in Islamorada and many are kid friendly because of the laid-back vibe in the Keys.  These are our favorites:

Green Turtle Inn
Get a side of grits with those eggs

Green Turtle Inn – They serve meals all day, but we really loved their breakfast.  And take it from a Southern girl, their grits are legit.  They have a sticky bun that is so sweet and sticky that you’ll have to (and want to) lick your fingers.

Hungry Tarpon – Located at Robbie’s marina, it’s a “must do” stop with the kids.  And, bonus if you eat at the Hungry Tarpon you don’t have to pay the $1 fee to go on the

Tarpon feeding
Grab some bait for the Tarpon and watch those fingers at Robbie’s Marina.

dock to look at the hundreds of hungry tarpon just waiting to be fed.  If you want to start your day by slowing it way down, go for the Trailer Trash Bloody Mary and enjoy a liquid breakfast with beef jerky and candied bacon.  The restaurant gets busy throughout the day so it may be best to go with kids earlier so you don’t have to explain why the clientele is so rowdy.

OO-Tray Restaurant – Sit outside and enjoy the music and sip a cocktail from the whisky bar.  Look over the farm to table menu, but promise me you will order the eggplant fries with honey rosemary.  And enjoy any of their local seafood dishes.  You will be smiling and tapping your toe in no time.

Lazy Days – If views of the water is what you’re after, head on over to Lazy Days for a dizzing aray of seafood options.  It ain’t fancy but it’s good and the beer is cold.


Helpful web sites

Cheeca Lodge

Theater of the Sea

Green Turtle Inn

Hungry Tarpon

OO-Tray Restaurant

Lazy Days

Islamorada “The Scoop”

Sustainable/responsible seafood