Before Your Family Travels – Teach Geography with a Game!


My working knowledge of geography is limited — in school I’d memorize enough to get an ‘A’ on the test, then let it go. Having 3 boys who seem to soak up country, city, mountain, and water body names like sponges, though, has increased my interest in the subject. And now, searching for hotel family rooms in foreign locales for has doubled my newfound geography enthusiasm.

A while back, wanting to buy a game that fit my kids’ fascination with factoids on lands and peoples, I bought a used Take Off board game. It has airplane pieces you move from one destination to another, hopefully faster than your opponents, by rolling the dice and answering questions from info cards.

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Though it’s a winner of parent awards, it didn’t really ‘take off’ as a favorite pastime at our house. Perhaps it is more suitable for younger kids. 2-6 players can play together. Unfortunately, it’s not available through

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This one through is expensive, probably because it’s not being made anymore, but one can likely be purchased used elsewhere for less expense:

This one from may be a good substitute:

Kept looking — Still attracted to the idea of the 5 of us regularly playing a board game, however, I want one that has an educational component about places where we may travel, and that is well designed and challenging enough for my middle and high school aged kids. So I researched a bit and found three games reportedly enjoyed by some as young as 8, but that have logic and strategy aspects that keep grown-ups playing frequently, even without kids. Here they are, and you can click or to read more about them:

10 Days in Europe — With luck and planning, outpace your opponents in traveling to multiple cities in Europe via modes of transportation. Amazon reviewers said it teaches modern geography and includes country facts. Families report playing it repeatedly and other editions such as Asia and Africa can be attached or played as stand alone games. Of the three, it sounds like it has the most ‘luck’ involved and thereby less strategy. 2-4 players

Ticket to Ride: Europe — Visit great cities of turn-of-the-century Europe with a map, cards and game pieces. Amazon reviewers said it helps everyone learn European geography. Most concurred that it’s a great family game but ‘gamers’ like it too. They warned that the instructions sound complicated but the game is actually easy to undertake. There is also a Marklin Edition that narrows the focus to Germany and incorporates a variety of Marklin model trains. And, there is a Nordic Countries edition, and a Switzerland expansion which requires possession of one of the full editions, USA or Europe. 2-5 players

Catan Geographies, Germany — Modeled after the hugely popular Settlers of Catan (over 15 million games in the Catan series have been sold in thirty languages), this version provides a setting including German landmarks, history, and resources. Players roll dice and trade to gain items to build cities and roads. Reviewers say the instruction booklet is lengthy but that the game is easy to understand once played through. 3-4 players

The Germany version is no longer available from, but this may be a good substitute:

Note: Catan, from the original Settlers of Catan game, is an invented place, but in addition to the Germany edition, there are other versions based on actual regions and historical periods. Two are expansion packs requiring possession of the original game — Historical Scenarios I: Alexander and Cheops, about ancient Greece and Egypt, and Historical Scenarios II: Troy and Great Wall, about China and the Trojan war. In The Catan Histories series are three stand alone versions of the game set in ancient lands — one about Israel, one about the Stone Age, and one called Struggle for Rome, about the Roman Empire.

A fascinating article by Andrew Curry on describes German-style board games, and the designing of the Catan series in particular, where “players win without having to destroy” an opponent, and play is balanced, meaning that each player can maintain chances for a good outcome to the end. The author reports that all players, both kids and adults, remain interested and involved in these “intellectually rewarding” games.

Now to choose…I will have to weigh the benefits of trying the highly acclaimed Catan Geographies game where only up to 4 in our family can play at once, against the pleasure of our entire family of 5 being able to play the Ticket to Ride game.


Travel Games with Toddlers and Kids – Keep Them Entertained

Sandy Nielsen


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