If you’ve ever taken a family road trip – driven any distance with multiple kids in one vehicle – you may be familiar with the apparent law of the universe that says fighting must increase exponentially for every minute a family is on the road. A smart TravelingMom will find that having a bevy of road trip games in her arsenal not only keeps the children entertained, it also passes the time for the grown-ups riding with them. Check out these great road trip games for all age groups!
Why Brush Up on Road Trip Games?
Those who know me well know we almost never drive anywhere for a family vacation if we can fly. Between our three kids bickering in the backseat before we get out of the neighborhood, four of of us being very prone to carsickness, and at least one of us being short on patience when
I we just want to get to my our destination, it’s definitely not our first choice.
Sometimes though, for closer trips or when flight prices just don’t make sense for a family of five, we find ourselves setting out on a bit of a road trip. When faced with such a predicament (she says, as she imagines several people completely baffled because they just love driving across the country together…), I know that our best chance of arriving in one piece is by having plenty to do to fight off the choruses of “I’m so booooooored,” and “Are we there yet?!” Besides – playing games as a family leads to great conversations and memory-making, even before the vacation really begins.
Many people know the old standby road trip games like Twenty Questions, License Plate Scavenger Hunt, I Spy, or any version of an alphabet game, but let’s be honest – sometimes those aren’t enough to maintain the family’s sanity for a several hour trip. We’ve got you covered, with some that might be new to you!
TravelingMom tip: In addition to helping in the car, these travel games – by their very nature – are great for keeping kids entertained just about anywhere. We go straight to a few of them when in lines at our local theme parks, sitting in waiting rooms, and even at the dinner table! Many of them make excellent conversation starters.
Read More: Where are the Best Road Trips in the USA?
Games for Families and Kids of All Ages… even the Toddlers!
For all of these games – and really for road trip games in general – the rules can be pretty flexible. This makes them especially useful if you have young kids!
You can kick someone out if they break the streak and play until one player remains, give a certain number of “strikes” before someone is out, or work as a family to see how much you can accomplish together. Each of these can be played by just about anyone – from toddlers to grandparents!
Category ABCs – Basic
First, someone chooses a category and names something that fits, which begins with the letter A. The next person answers something still in the category beginning with B, and so on, until someone is stumped.
Example, for the category “Famous People”:
Category ABCs – Before and After
The variation we play most often involves (just a little) more strategy. Once again, the first person has to name something that fits a category – this time beginning with any letter they choose. The following person continues in the same category, naming something that begins with the last letter of the previous word.
Example, for the category “Animated Movies”:
“Nightmare before Christmas’
In My Suitcase
A popular camp game (perhaps known as “I’m going on a picnic…”), this one is actually good for working on your memory skills, too!
The first person starts by saying, “I’m going on a vacation, and I packed… [an item that begins with the letter A]”. The second person repeats the sentence, repeats what the first person is bringing, and adds an object starting with the letter B. This continues with everyone repeating all of the previous items, before adding an item that begins with the next letter of the alphabet. See if you can get all the way from A to Z, or who forgets an item the quickest!
“I’m going on vacation, and I packed an apple.”
“I’m going on vacation, and I packed an apple and a baseball.”
“I’m going on vacation, and I packed an apple, a baseball, and a cookie.”
What am I Counting?
This guessing game is a new suggestion to me, and I can’t wait to try it out with my family! One person starts counting something out loud as they see it… but they don’t tell anyone what they are counting. Are they counting quickly as they pass car after car on the highway? Is the counting consistently spread out, like they may be counting exit signs or traffic lights? The rest of the players have to figure out what they are counting. It sounds like a variation on I Spy, and I think my kids will love it!
Car Trip Scavenger Hunt
Make a list ahead of time, or check out this adorable card version of a classic scavenger hunt – taken on the road!
Road Trip Games for School Age Kids
Name the Most!
Similar to Category ABCs (above) and a bit like “Name that Tune” (in structure), this version of the family game takes things a step or two further. It’s also a bit more competitive, for the family members who only like games with winners and losers!
Someone (feel free to take turns, or rope in someone who doesn’t necessarily want to play…) begins by naming a category. The remaining players then have to wager how many items in the category they can name. Once one player feels like they couldn’t outdo the other, they challenge their opponent to, “Name them!”
The opponent then has to do just that; you can decide whether to time the responses (I suggest 5 seconds per attempted response). If the player is successful, award that person the same number of points as the number of responses they gave. If they fail to reach their goal, nobody receives any points! Don’t know where to start? How about the fifty states, US Presidents, African countries, works of Shakespeare, Star Wars or Disney characters from a particular movie, or names of stars in our galaxy?
20 Math Questions
I admit, this one may take a little more persuasion if your kids don’t love math. Mine do though (they come by it naturally…), so I’m including it.
Have a parent or other adult think of a number between 1 and 100. The kid(s) then ask math-related, yes or no questions such as, “Is your number odd? Is it a multiple of 5? Is it greater than 50? etc” to figure out your number. Feel free to give them a paper and pen so they can keep track… but no calculators!
The License Plate Game – and Variations
You may already play what we call simply, “The License Plate Game,” where you see how many different United States license plates you can “collect” on a road trip, during a summer, or during a calendar year. There are other fun variations you can also try!
Work as a team or against one another to find the numbers 0-9 and/or letters A-Z in order – either on license plates, or anywhere outside the vehicle (including road signs, etc).
This classic word game gets its name much like the basketball trick shot game called “HORSE.” A person earns a letter (G-H-O-S and then T) by losing a round of game play. Scoring “GHOST” eliminates that player, or “turns them into a ghost”.
To begin, one person says any letter. The next player adds a letter that does not make a 2-letter word, but is a fragment of an actual word. (For example, a round cannot start “Z” and then “F”, since “Z-F” is not the beginning of any real word in the English language.)
Each person in turn adds a letter, being careful not to actually complete any word. In order for game play to really work, a minimum is established before play of what word length must be reached before a player is “awarded” a letter. We typically say that a three-letter word does not give a player a letter, but anything larger does. So for example, if the letters in play are C-A-R, the player who added the R to form “car” is not out. The fourth letter however, should not be “D”, “E”, or “T”, because those form card, care, and cart, all complete, 4-letter words. The player could instead say “R”, thinking of perhaps “carriage” or “carrot”.
If a player cannot think of a letter that does not complete a word – or says a letter that the group agrees cannot be part of a valid word – that player loses the round and gets awarded a letter. Play continues until one champion is left standing.
Great Road Trip Games for Tweens, Teens, and Adults
These games require just a little bit more knowledge than the alphabet and counting games. I think they’re even cool enough road trip games for tweens and teens to get involved!
Hum That Tune
One player starts the game by humming a well-known song. The first person to guess the tune correctly gets to be the next “hummer”. It sounds super simple, but it’s often trickier than it seems!
This is another great one for a family of music lovers! First, one person sings (yes, sings!) a line of a song. Where they leave off, the next person has to connect it with another song lyric. Play continues until someone messes up or is stuck.
“it’s a small world after all…”
“All of me loves all of you…”
“You make me feel like a natural woman…”
Six Degrees of Movie Fun
To begin this one, one family member names any actor. The next person names a movie the actor was in. The following person names someone else in that movie that hasn’t already been said, and so on – going back and forth between movie titles and actors until someone is unable to answer.
Collaborative Activities and Other Ways to Pass the Time on your Car Trip
These are activities that are less of a competition and more of a time-filler. They’re lots of fun though, and great ways to pass the time on your drive!
Miles of Smiles
From a fun road trip book of the same name, Miles of Smiles is simple. Everyone in the car smiles his or her biggest, cheesiest smile at passing drivers; keep track of how many smile back. Waving is allowed, but no silly faces!
Would You Rather…?
A simple question asks what someone would choose given two options… and often starts a lively discussion. You can purchase “Would You Rather” game cards with preprinted scenarios, or make up your own!
- Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
- Would you rather speak every language in the world or play every instrument?
- Would you rather have feet for hands or hands for feet?
This old improv game has provided plenty of laughs for our family. One person starts the story with a simple opening sentence. The next person builds on the story by saying, “Fortunately…. [something fortunate happened].” Person 3 follows by saying something unfortunate that could occur in the previous situation. Moving person-to-person, switch between fortunate and unfortunate situations. Be warned though, the stories can get pretty silly, pretty quickly!
I got a new puppy!
Unfortunately, he chewed a big hole in our carpet.
Fortunately, the hole revealed a hidden treasure map.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t read it.
Build Anticipation about your Destination
If your passengers don’t get car sick while reading, books about the place you’re traveling can help raise excitement while getting to your destination. Find books with great pictures for non-readers, books set in a particular destination or biographies of people from the area for school age kids, and “grown up” guide books or tees and teens. Alternatively, watching movies (on your built-in or after market DVD player) set in the place you’re going can make it seem more real and build anticipation.
Record Your Journey
There are lots of great travel journals available, for kids of all ages – and kids at heart. Traveling gives plenty of opportunities to write down experiences, memories, or even life lessons. Even those of us who don’t usually journal might take the opportunity to do so when away from home!
Listen to Audiobooks and Podcasts
Just about every time we’re in the car, my kids and I listen to audiobooks or podcasts. Not only does the time seem to pass more quickly without as many whines of, “Are we there yet?” but it’s usually pretty quiet if they’re engaged in the story. And, the whole family experiences new books, classic novels, learns something on a podcast, and more. Win-win-win!
Mad Libs and Other Puzzle Games
Mad Libs are a classic, dare I say All-American way to pass time as a family. The books come in countless varieties, on just about any topic you could want. They even help kids reinforce their parts of speech, so they’re learning – perhaps without even noticing!
If you’re playing with younger kids who are not yet familiar with basic parts of speech, explain them in a different way, or give examples from which the child can choose.
When I was growing up, we used to play what we simply called “the scan game” just about every time we were in the car, no matter how short or long the drive. We’d hit the scan button on the radio, and as it scrolled through stations we’d try to name the title and/or artist of a song, seeing how many we could get before it got back around to the starting channel.
That seems like an unlikely scenario anymore, since most people are listening to music on something other than a radio. Thankfully, we have a whole new list of ideas to keep us entertained; these are just a handful of them.
And you know what? Most of the time, it keeps the fighting at bay for like… a whole 20 minutes! Maybe, just maybe, this will even turn out to be your best road trip ever.