Road trip games that will make your car fly

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Are we already there? It’s a refrain that rings out in countless cars every year on long drives on endless highways. But there’s help for families who want to brighten up a long trip with some extra family fun. Try this list of the best road trip games on your next vacation.

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license plate game

This classic road trip game is a great way to talk about geography and different states. Look at the license plates of cars you pass on the road and keep track of the states (and different countries!) you can see. Make a list and see how many you can find. Who found the most unusual license plate? Which license plate comes from the farthest place?

The alphabet game

As you drive, encourage your kids to look out the window at road signs and billboards to find each letter of the alphabet. First, establish some ground rules: do the letters inside the car count? Can you use license plates? This game is ideal to occupy a lot of time during a long trip. And when someone has gone through the whole alphabet, it’s time to start with the numbers! My kids love this game so much that they even play it while we run errands in town.

French road signs while traveling in Quebec

Billboards, traffic signs and writing on vans and trucks – it’s all good for spotting the next letter of the alphabet! Photo by Paul Nicholson.

The Alternate History

A classic game of classrooms and improv troupes everywhere! One family member starts a story with a sentence, then the next person adds their own sentence. You’ll tell a hilarious and absurd story while having a great time together. Ready to take it to the next level? Try a version where each person can only say one word each turn.

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Treasure hunt

Make a list of things you are likely (or unlikely!) to see on your road trip and give it to your kids at the start of your trip. It’s a great game to customize for your destination. Include a prickly pear or red rocks for a trip out west, but swap them out for palm trees on your beach trips.

Bonus: the piece of paper used for the treasure hunt list can also be used as a place to play tic-tac-toe.

bingo in the car

No time for a treasure hunt? bingo in the car does all the work for you! With sliders that let kids mark what they see, these bingo boards are a simple way to make road trips fun. (When my kids were younger, I kept them in the car all the time.) Bingo is great when you need to keep the kids busy with some quiet play. Challenge them to see if they can find each space on their game boards while you drive!

Green color car bingo games for kids to use on car trips

I love these retro style bingo boards because they have no small parts to lose under the back seat. Photo by Christy Nicholson.

List by letter

The list by letter has the advantage of being practically endless. When you find yourself on a long stretch of road with no cars or billboards in sight to help you with the alphabet or license plate games, try choosing a category and asking family members to name something. anything in this category. The problem? You have to go there in alphabetical order. So if the category is “animals”, the first player starts with the letter A and can say “Aardvark”, while the next player can say “Buffalo”, and so on. If you manage to Z, choose a new category and continue!

rock Paper Scissors

How long can two children play rock, paper, scissors? A looooooong time. It’s a simple game, but if your kids need a game with a bit of movement and a bit of competition, then this does the trick. For an added challenge, encourage your kids to come up with alternate versions of the game, like batting, soccer, or surfboard. Do you have a car full of family members? Organize a rock, paper, scissors tournament. The last person left in the game is crowned champion!

Strike Buggy

Punch Buggy is known to traditionally involve lightly punching one of the other players on the arm. How to play: Whenever someone sees a VW Beetle, they shout “Punch Buggy!” then name the color of the car. (I’ll leave it up to parents whether or not to allow contact when “Punch Buggy” is shouted.) Looking out the window to spot cars first can keep kids busy for an incredible amount of time. You can develop your own variant with any vehicle: Amazon trucks, Tesla cars or even school buses.

A red VW bug on the highway during a road trip.  Punch Buggy.

For decades siblings argued over who saw the VW first. Photo by Stefan Widua on Unsplash.

Spy Eye

Eye Spy is a great game to play with young children. They don’t need to be able to identify letters or words, and you can adjust the difficulty to suit your needs. In case you’ve never played, here’s how it works: Begin by saying, “I see, with my little eyes, something that is ____”, inserting the color of the object you have chosen. Your children can then take turns guessing the answer. (I found this game indispensable when I had preschoolers.)

Name this melody

Let’s be honest here. Name That Tune is just an opportunity for music lovers to indoctrinate our children into the music we feel is essential. I will admit it. (If I ask my kids what band is playing, they can guess the Beatles.) Adding music will change the mood of your road trip from boring to joyful, and guessing artists and song titles makes competition fun and friendly. If you’re feeling generous, allow your fellow travelers to play their favorite song or band and you do the guesswork.

crazy libs

Mad Libs is probably our family’s favorite road trip game. We have tons of Mad Libs Books around our house, and my youngest son always catches one before he goes on a trip. Filling the blank spaces in the story with goofy words always results in comedic stories that make everyone laugh. For the little ones, Mad Libs offers a junior version it doesn’t require anyone to know what an adjective is.

Mad Libs games are perfect for long road trips.  Star Wars Mad Libs, Pet Mad Libs and Star Trek Mad Libs.

There are Mad Libs for just about every taste: Star Wars, Stranger Things, Pokemon, and even Godzilla. Photo by Christy Nicholson.

Anecdotes

If you need an easy game to keep the whole family busy, try tossing a car trivia game. Order one question book just for the occasion, or raid your Trivial Pursuit Box for questions and answers. If you are heading towards Disneylandthe Wizarding World of Harry Potteror even a particular statecustomize your trip with questions related to your destination.

Crossword

For a more complex version of the quiz, try crossword. While only one person can complete the puzzle, anyone can help guess the words based on clues. I love doing crosswords as a family because it gives us a goal to work towards together. Due to the attention span required, this game is ideal for older children. My teen and tween only recently started participating.

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twenty questions

Similar to Eye Spy, this guessing game is suitable for older children. Choose an object, then announce if it is an animal, a mineral or a vegetable. (I don’t know why we use these categories. If you change them to something else, I won’t speak.) Then have family members take turns asking Yes or No questions until someone asks. one finds the answer. But once you reach 20 questions, the game is over! It’s time to announce the correct answer and move on to the next round.

five things

It’s a mindfulness exercise disguised as a fun game, and it’s a great way to help kids who are melting after a long car ride. To start the game, have everyone find five things they can see. Then tell them to find four things they can touch (no siblings in touch!). Next are three things they can hear, then two things they can smell. Finally, ask them to find something they can taste – and that’s a great opportunity to hand out gum or a snack.

Create your own game!

Challenge your kids to develop their own car games, then perfect them together until the new games become part of a road trip tradition. Children have magical, limitless imaginations, and they just might develop a game that one day families traveling everywhere will want to play.

There are plenty of options to keep busy on family trips, like reading aloud, watching movies, and telling corny jokes. But there’s nothing like fun travel games to create a family unit and add a good laugh to a long drive. Pick a few family favorites and tackle your next road trip knowing you’ve added an extra dose of fun for everyone.

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Road trip games: the best games for your next vacation

Christy Nicholson is a recovering writer, editor, and perfectionist from Nashville, Tennessee. When she’s not traveling with her family, she spends fun days at home reading, gardening, making music and arguing with two awesome kids. Christy writes at Any-Worth.com about travel and sustainable living.

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