The end of the school year may have you thinking of vacation. Perhaps you are headed to the beach. Or a family reunion. Or a national park. Wherever you’re traveling, it’s good to think about how you are going to pass the time in the car, plane, boat or train. (Pestering your little brother doesn’t count.)
Electronics aren’t always allowed or don’t always function well on a trip, so it’s smart to pack a few low-tech entertainment options. We found a batch of new toys, games and books easy to pack and play on the go. We hope they will distract and amuse you enough that you won’t dream of asking, “Are we there yet?”
Fidget toys — the craze of 2017 — come in many shapes and sizes. You may have a spinner, but one cool variation is the Spinbladez (Zing, $9.99). It lights up and can be stacked on top of another spinner to create a mesmerizing double spinner. If you like the spinning concept but want a toy that requires more skill, try Thumb Chucks (Zing, $9.99). The design is simple: two light-up rubber balls attached by a short cord. The trick is twirling them around your fingers. This definitely takes practice. (Check YouTube for tutorials.)
Cube toys are big this year — and small. A tiny version of a classic cube toy is the World’s Smallest Rubik’s (Super Impulse, $11.99). The little puzzle can fit in a pocket (it measures less than an inch), and it moves just like the traditional version. Cube-tastic (Putao, $19.99) is a terrific choice for those who need help (adults included) solving the puzzle. Download the related app, and if you get stuck, you can take a picture of your cube and receive a clue.
IQ Focus ($9.99) is the latest pocket puzzle game from SmartGames. This one features chunks of colored blocks that can fit into a grid to match 120 challenges. There are three levels of difficulty, the lowest of which would be challenging for most 8-year-olds. Younger kids may prefer Jump’In (SmartGames, $14.99), which features adorable rabbits trying to get to their holes safely by jumping over foxes and mushrooms.
Building sets usually involve lots of small parts. One lost piece might mean your model dragon has only half a head. But Playmobil’s new Space Exploration set ($14.99) comes in its own carrying case. Putting together the vehicle and astronaut takes about 15 to 20 minutes. The small size of the rover means that even an airplane tray table can stand in for the moon or Mars. The completed set can fit back in the case with a small adjustment. (If space doesn’t interest you, there’s also new Family Picnic and Pirate Raider carrying cases.)
If you enjoy mazes, quizzes or picture finds, there are several new books worth considering. “Travel Activity Book” (Button Books, $12.99) features puzzles, mazes and drawing challenges based on where you might travel — the shore, the mountains or a big city. Bring a set of colored pencils to decorate postcards in the book and mail them on the road. “The Round the World Quiz Book” (Lonely Planet, $11.99) can entertain the entire family with 500 questions about people, places and things all over the globe. And if you’re looking for a travel companion, there’s an updated “Where’s Waldo? The Totally Essential Travel Collection” (Candlewick, $14.99). The tiny guy in the striped sweater is always getting lost. The picture finds aren’t simple, so after a few you may be surprised how much closer you are to your destination.