15 Road-Trip Games You Can Play With the Whole Family
Taking a road trip with your kids may seem like the best idea ever at first — cheaper travel costs, no security line, and no frustrated strangers — until you're actually in the car with hours and hours between you and your destination and the question "Are we there yet?" has already been asked hundred of times.
If podcasts and audiobooks won't entertain them, there are plenty of ways to make the trip enjoyable with road-trip games. This entire genre of activities is dedicated to fun games you can play in the car. From classics like I Spy to the more challenging Quiet Game, read through for 15 road-trip games for kids — that involve nothing but their minds and senses — to make your family road trip a fun and whine-free one.
— Additional reporting by Melanie Whyte
There are no shortage of license-plate games out there that will keep kiddos busy for hours (OK, minutes, but it's something!). Print out a list of the 50 states for each child and see who can mark off the most states during the trip. Have them go through the alphabet in order (one letter of the alphabet per license plate to add some difficulty), ask them if they can find their initials on a plate (bonus points for all three initials), or even look for birthdays.
I Spy With My Little Eye . . .
We've all played this one before. Have your little ones look for something that is a certain color, a license plate with a certain number, a particular car model, or something inside the car — first person to guess correctly is the next spy.
I'm Going on a Picnic
This game can be played using basically any topic of interest but is usually played with food names. The first player would say the little introduction, "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing . . . " and then name a food beginning with A (for example, apples). Player two repeats the introduction, the first food player one named, then chooses one with B (e.g. "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing apples and bananas"), and so on until someone misses or forgets a part of the sequence. If you get tired of naming foods, cities, movies, and athletes are also great categories to try.
Alphabet Continuation Game
This game could go on forever and ever, and it stays fun for a very long time. First, players choose a theme. If the theme is song names, for example, player one would name any song ("Say Something"), and the following player must name a song beginning with the last letter of the previous song (so for this example, it would be a song beginning with G — "Genie in a Bottle," then E, and so on). To make it more difficult, limit the song names to a particular genre or artist. Other fun themes include countries, celebrities, and names in general.
The Movie/Celebrity Continuation Game
Similar to the alphabet continuation game, this one revolves around movies, TV shows, and celebrities. The first player has to name a movie ("Mrs. Doubtfire"), the second player names a celebrity in that movie (Robin Williams), and the next player names a movie or TV show that that celebrity is also in ("Good Will Hunting"). It's a great way for teenagers to show off their movie knowledge (and will justify all of those hours you let them sit in front of movies).
A fun game for even the littlest of kiddos, 20 Questions starts with one person thinking of a person, place, or thing and continues with the other player asking yes or no questions to try to figure out what they're thinking. To play with more than two children, the ones guessing could either split the 20 questions between them, or to make it easier, they can each use 20 questions and whoever guesses the correct answer first wins the round.
For this one, create a list of things kids can "find" while you're driving — car colors and models, license-plate states and letters or numbers, types of road signs, etc. — and print them out for the ride. First child to find everything on their list wins! This game will take a little longer and keep kiddos a bit quieter while it's being played.
Hold an age-appropriate spelling bee right in your car. What kid wouldn't brag about being family spelling champ for the rest of the trip?
Would You Rather
This is a popular sleepover game for a reason; kids will love making up silly hypotheticals for you to choose from. Lead the way with a few examples like, "Would you rather have super strength or know how to fly?" If you're worried about coming up with age-appropriate scenarios, the "Would You Rather Game Book: Jokes and Silly Scenarios For Children" ($8) is perfect for kids 6 to 12 years old. And with more than 3,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, you can't go wrong.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
While the driver won't be able to participate in this game, the rest of the car can enjoy a small tournament among themselves. Rules are simple: chant "rock, paper, scissors" before forming your hand into a fist (rock), index and middle finger (scissors), or a flat palm (paper). Rock crushes scissors, scissors cut paper, and paper covers rock.
All you need is your imagination for this game. Someone starts the story, then the next person picks up where they left off. Each takes a turn to add to the tale. No one knows how it will end.
Another classic, telephone is played by one person whispering a phrase into the ear of the person next to them who then whispers it to the next person. When it gets to the driver, they get to shout out what they heard. You'd be surprised how it gets twisted and is always a good laugh.
Count the blue cars, count the Toyotas, count the cars with two people in them, count the speed-limit signs — count anything. First person to 10 (or 20, or more) wins, and then you can count something else!
"99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall"
If you want a PG version of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall," just swap out the word "beer" for "milk" to create this kid-friendly sing-along. With each round, subtract a bottle of milk until you're down to just one bottle.
You may want to try out this game after belting out "99 Bottles of Milk on the Wall" for the third time. The rules of the Quiet Game are simple: whoever makes a peep first loses until the last person standing. It's a good way to get some peace and quiet, even if it's only for a minute before someone bursts out laughing.
If you'd rather rely on tried and true board games that are perfect for the car, you can't go wrong with Mad Libs on the Road ($5). For additional ideas, books like "The Best Ever Back Seat Games" ($10) are filled with hundreds of the latest games to play in the car with family and highly rated on Amazon.