When done right, road trips can be fun. Yet packing up for a long road trip is often stressful. Add to that thought of spending hours in a car with a cranky family, and suddenly, this family vacation doesn’t seem like such a great idea. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Our family knows two things very well—road trips and games.
We moved 17 hours away from our family a couple of years ago. As a result, we have now become experts at long car rides.
I grew up playing games, and since that’s my favorite pastime, my kids have grown up with games too. I love family games because they build incredible memories, bring everyone to the same space, and create room for conversation. Road trip games have the same effect.
Once everyone is buckled up, let the road trip games begin! You’ll be at your destination before you know it with a smiling happy family.
1. Car Bingo
Bingo is a classic game. Each player gets a bingo board with a grid. Five rows and five columns. Each square has an item. When you see an item, cross it off or put a sticker over it. The first person to cross off five in a row wins. Bonus tip: create your bingo boards and modify them to fit your family perfectly. If you have kids that aren’t reading yet, pictures will work. The items in the bingo squares can be harder to find if you have older kids. Preparing their bingo sheets is a great activity to keep kids busy while waiting to leave.
2. Don’t Laugh!
Take turns telling knock-knock jokes and trying to get each other to laugh. If your competitive family needs to have a winner, you can keep track of how many times each person laughs. The person with the lowest number wins. Bonus tip: this is the perfect activity when everyone is getting antsy waiting for the next rest stop.
3. License Plate Game
Work as a group to find as many different license plates as possible. This classic game is often used to find other state license plates, but adding different designs within the state could be fun. Bonus tip: mix it up and look for road signs instead.
4. What Am I Thinking
The oldest member of the family starts by thinking about something. They share one clue. “I’m thinking about something we all love to do together.” Everyone else guesses. Another clue gets added. “It’s something we do outside.” Everyone guesses again.
Play continues until someone guesses correctly what the person is thinking. Then, whoever guesses correctly thinks of something and offers a clue. Bonus tip: if you have a family where one or two people tend to guess most of the time, go in order of age instead so everyone gets a turn.
5. Dice Games
Any game that is played with dice will work as long as you have somewhere to roll the dice. For travel games with dice, we’ve used an actual dice tray, a shoebox lid, and a plastic container. They’ve all worked great. One of our favorites is the 10,000 dice game. Bonus tip: try plating this over text with the people you are heading toward as a fun way to connect before arriving.
6. Going on a Trip
This classic car game can be played by all ages. The first player says, “I’m going on a trip. And I’m taking a balloon. The next person repeats the first item and adds one. “I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking a balloon and an apple.” The next person does the same, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking a balloon, an apple, and a suitcase,” and so on until someone can’t complete the series of items correctly.
At this point, they leave the game, and play continues until only one person is left (the winner). Or they ask for a hint, and play continues with everyone working together.
7. And Then…
In this game, everyone works together to create a story. The first person starts by setting up the scene with a sentence or two. They end with “and then…” The following person picks up the story and adds a sentence or two. Again, they end with “and then…” Continue with this process until the story ends. Bonus tip: if you want to lift the cranky mood in the car, add some silly twist to the story on your turn.
8. Alphabet Game
Pick a category (things you see on the road, fruit, games to play, etc.). One person starts with the letter A and names something in the category beginning with A. The following person does the same with the letter B. This process goes on until you’ve hit every letter of the alphabet. Bonus tip: turn this into a memory game by having each player repeat the previous items before sharing their own.
9. Counting Cow Game
This game is played by counting how many cows you see on your road trip. Bonus tip: this can work with any item you expect to see a lot of on your drive. (One year we counted houses with plain white lights while driving around town.)
10. Unfortunately / Fortunately
One person starts with an unfortunate situation. The situation can be real or made up. For instance, “Unfortunately, the boy was late for his game.” Then the next player says a sentence about what happens next, turning it into a positive scenario. For instance, “Fortunately, a rhino standing on the field delayed the game until he got there.”
11. Three Words
Someone chooses three separate, unrelated items. Then, every other person creates a story using those three items.
12. Round-robin Drawing
Someone draws a line on a piece of paper. It can be a straight, curvy, looped, short, or long line. Another person creates a drawing from that line. Bonus tip: this is a great road trip activity for kids who need extra movement, not just conversation.
13. Spelling Bee
Say a word. Other players take turns spelling it out loud, or everyone writes it down and reveals their answer. Bonus tip: everyone can write this down instead of spelling it out loud.
14. Best and Worst
Best and worst is one of our favorite dinner conversation starters. Everyone says what the best thing of the day was and what the worst thing was. This time, get more specific. For example, name the best and worst thing that happened on this car trip so far.
15. Spelling Mastermind
The spelling mastermind thinks of a word and shares how many letters it has. Someone tries to guess the word. The mastermind shares how many letters are correct and in the right spot. Someone guesses again. Bonus tip: write down answers on a whiteboard for little ones.
Rest Stop Games That Get The Wiggles Out Quickly
These super fun games are perfect for getting your passengers moving, whether at a rest stop or on the side of the road. Make each stop count with more laughter and lots of moving.
16. Simon Says
Find a spot close to the bathroom, and those waiting for their turn can move around. One person says, “Simon Says, and then shares an activity. (reach for the sky, run in place, and bend to touch your knees.).”
If the person calling out the activity doesn’t say “Simon Says,” everyone should freeze and not do the activity. Since the goal is to move, if someone misses the direction, they can run to the nearest tree and back and then stay in the game.
Find something to balance on. A curb, a short wall, a line, or a crack. Bonus tip: put chalk in the glove box to draw lines or create a quick obstacle course.
18. Tic Tac Toe
Draw a giant Tic Tac Toe board in the dirt with a stick, or use the chalk from #2. Collect nature items from nearby to use for the markers.
19. Rest Stop Scavenger Hunt
You can create a list of scavenger hunt items before the road trip or shout out ideas at the moment. Then, get everyone climbing over, ducking under, finding something to play catch with, balance on, or photograph.
20. Who Can?
Who can do the most jumping jacks, find the most twigs, and do the most laps? Bonus tip: for a less competitive fun game, change it to how many can we and keep track of a combined score.
21. Relay Race
Set up a quick relay race if the rest stop you’re at has ample enough space to run a long way safely. Have one family member find a starting spot. The kids can find a stick to use as a baton to pass to the next player. Each player runs to the next player, hands the wand, and that player runs. Bonus tip: this can still work with a smaller space. Play it as a balancing relay. Find an object to balance on your forehead. Walk a short distance and hand it off to the next player. How far can you get as a family?
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