Family Road Trip Tips: Fun Games to Play in the Car

When you were a kid, how did you and your siblings pass the time during a road trip? If you grew up pre-Internet, you probably remember sitting in the back, staring out the window as the scenery rushed by, maybe teasing your siblings and, of course, asking “Are we there yet?” approximately every 15 minutes.

That is, until Mom or Dad suggested some fun games to play in the car. Even if you rolled your eyes and proclaimed road trip activities lame (as many a teenager has been known to do), you probably secretly had some fun nonetheless — and likely cherish those memories of time spent together with your family.

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Now, you’ve got a family of your own and you’re heading out on the road. No doubt your kids would be happy spending hours on their smartphone, tablet, gaming system or other electronic device…but where’s the family fun in that?

Nope, as a mom it’s your duty to stick to your guns, impose screen time limits and brush up on these classic road trip games!

I Spy

This is a good game if you have very little ones who want to practice their alphabet or colors. Players take turns choosing an object and using one descriptor as a clue: “I spy, with my little eye, something that is yellow” or “something that starts with a B.” Just make sure to choose an item that is inside the car, so you don’t drive past it while others are still guessing!

The License Plate Game

The object of this car game is to “collect” a license plate from every province or U.S. state, depending on the route your road trip takes you on.
Have someone jot down the provinces on a piece of paper, or make a list in advance and cross each one off in turn.

You can also print off a map before you leave and give a copy to each kid, along with colored pencils or crayons, and have them color the province or state as you see a license plate from it.

20 Questions

Another classic way to pass the time is by playing 20 Questions. One player picks — well, anything, really — and another asks a series of questions designed to help identify what the person or object in question is.

This is deductive reasoning, plain and simple, and it provides kids with a really good lesson in logic. If your child is on the young side, help him or her by suggesting a few questions that will narrow down the possibilities and guide the next inquiry.

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Backseat Bingo

Make (or print) bingo cards in advance. For extra fun, snag some real bingo dabbers for the kids to use, too. You can find these cheap at dollar stores.

The squares should include common travel sights: speed limit signs, various types or colors of vehicles, truck stops or gas stations, hotel or fast-food chains, billboards, etc. If you’re driving on back roads, you can get a bit more creative and include wildlife, plants, trees and features of small towns.

First and Last Letter

This game tests your knowledge of cities — or any other category of item you decide to play with. One player begins by naming a city. The next person takes the last letter of that name, and thinks of another city that starts with that letter.

For example, the first player might say “Cleveland.” The next would say “Detroit.” Then a player could name “Tallahassee.” Keep everyone on their toes by playing this game as fast as you can. When you run out of items or all players get stumped, switch to a new category.

Fortunately and Unfortunately

Are your kids inventive storytellers? Can you think on your feet? Test your skills by playing this collaborative story game. The first person begins a story by saying “Unfortunately…” and adding a sentence. The next sentence must begin with “Fortunately,” and therefore, pushes the narrative in a new direction.

Keep going, alternating the beginning of each development, until everyone is laughing so hard they can hardly talk!

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Surviving — and Enjoying — a Family Road Trip

The key to a road trip that is truly fun? Making sure you have all the essentials. That includes snacks to nibble on, travel games, new toys or trinkets to pull out when boredom reaches its peak, some good tunes or podcasts to listen to, a travel trailer warranty so you don’t get stranded, plenty of change for rest-area vending machines, an old-fashioned paper map that kids can trace your route on and, perhaps most important of all, a sense of humor.

Do you remember playing these classic games on road trips with your family? Are there any fun games to play in the car that I forgot to list, that your children love? Leave a comment and let me know!

3 thoughts on “Family Road Trip Tips: Fun Games to Play in the Car”

  1. Thanks for games to play in the car. We usually play I Spy but that can get hard on long trips in the prairies.

  2. I love road trip games ! We played all of them as a kid , I always loved the first and last letter game , we always make up travel bags with stuff to do and snacks , we have travel board games we bought for 2 dollars that are magnetic , sticker books are great to , i try to give them a theme if we are going certain places to get them excited as well!

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