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Are we there yet? It’s a refrain that echoes in countless cars on long road trips on endless highways every year. But there is help for families wanting to liven up a long journey with extra family fun. Try this list of the best road trip games on your next vacation.
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The 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 which 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 came 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. Set some ground rules first: Do letters inside the car count? Can you use license plates? This game is great for filling a lot of time on a long trip. And when someone makes it all the way through the alphabet, it’s time to start with numbers! My kids love this game so much that they play it even while we run errands around town.
The Alternating Story
A classic game of classrooms and improv troupes everywhere! A family member starts a story with one sentence, and then the next person adds on with their own sentence. You’ll spin a tale that is hilarious and nonsensical while having a good time together. Ready to take it to the next level? Try a version where each person only gets to say one word for each turn.
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Make a list of things you are likely (or unlikely!) to see on your road trip, and give it to your kids when your trip begins. This is a great game to customize for your destination. Include a prickly-pear cactus or red rocks for a western trip but swap them for palm trees during journeys to the beach.
No time to make a scavenger hunt? Car bingo does all the work for you! With sliders that allow kids to mark off what they see, these bingo boards are a no-brainer way to make car travel fun. (When my kids were younger, I kept these in the car all the time.) Bingo is ideal for when you need to keep kiddos busy with a quiet game. Challenge them to see if they can find every square on their game boards as you drive!
List by Letter
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 with the alphabet or license plate games, try picking a category and having family members name something in that category. The catch? You have to go in alphabetical order. So if the category is “animals,” the first player starts with the letter A and might say “Aardvark,” while the next player might say “Buffalo,” and so on. If you make it all the way to Z, then pick a new category and keep going!
Rock, Paper, Scissors
How long can two kids 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 fits the bill. For an extra challenge, encourage your kids to come up with alternative versions of the game, like bat, football, or surfboard. Got a car load of family members? Host a rock, paper, scissors tournament. The last person left in the game gets crowned champion!
Punch Buggy is known for traditionally involving a light punch on the arm to one of the other players. How to play: Whenever someone sees a VW Beetle, they yell “Punch Buggy!” and then name the color of the car. (I’ll leave it up to parents to decide whether to allow contact when “Punch Buggy” is yelled.) Watching out the window to spot cars first can keep kids occupied for an amazing amount of time. You can develop your own variation with any vehicle you want: Amazon trucks, Tesla cars, or even school buses.
Eye Spy is an excellent game to play with younger kids. They don’t have to be able to identify letters or words, and you can adapt the difficulty as needed. In case you’ve never played, here’s how it goes: Start by saying “I spy, with my little eyes, something that is ____,” inserting the color of the object that you’ve picked. Your kiddos can then take turns guessing the answer. ( I found this game indispensable when I had preschoolers.)
Name That Tune
Let’s be honest here. Name That Tune is just an opportunity for music lovers to indoctrinate our children into the music we think is essential. I’ll admit it. (If I ask my kids which band is playing, they know to guess the Beatles.) Adding music will change your car trip atmosphere from boring to cheery, and guessing artists and song titles makes for fun, friendly competition. If you’re feeling generous, allow your fellow passengers to play their favorite song or band and have you do the guessing.
Mad Libs is probably our family’s current favorite road trip game. We have tons of Mad Libs books around our house, and my youngest son always grabs one before we leave on a trip. Filling out the blank spots in the story with zany words always results in comical stories that make everybody laugh. For little kids, Mad Libs offers a junior version that doesn’t require anyone to know what an adjective is.
If you need an easy game to keep the whole family occupied, try running a car trivia game. Order a trivia book just for the occasion, or raid your Trivial Pursuit box for questions and answers. If you’re headed to Disneyland, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, or even a particular state, customize your trip with questions related to your destination.
For a more complex version of trivia, try crossword puzzles. While only one person can fill out the puzzle, everyone can help guess the words based on clues. I love doing crosswords as a family because it gives us a goal to work toward together. Due to the attention span required, this game is best for older children. My teen and tween have only recently begun to participate.
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Similar to Eye Spy, this guessing game is good for older kids. Pick an object, and then announce whether it is an animal, mineral, or vegetable. (I don’t know why we use those categories. If you change them to something else, I won’t tattle.) Then have family members take turns asking Yes or No questions until someone figures out the answer. But once you hit 20 questions, the game is over! Time to announce the right answer and move on to the next turn.
Are we there yet? To liven up a long journey with extra family fun, try this list of the best road trip games on your next vacation.
This is a mindfulness exercise disguised as a fun game, and it’s a good way to help children who are melting down over a long car ride. To start the game, ask everyone to find five things they can see. Next, tell them to find four things they can touch (no touching siblings!). Then comes three things they can hear, and then two things they can smell. Finally, ask them to find one thing they can taste – and that’s a great opportunity to hand out gum or a snack.
Make Up Your Own Game!
Challenge your kids to develop their own car games, then refine them together until the new games become part of a road trip tradition. Children have magical, boundless imaginations, and they just might develop a game that someday traveling families everywhere will want to play.
There are plenty of options for staying busy on family road trips, like reading out loud, watching movies, and telling corny jokes. But there’s nothing like fun road trip games to build family togetherness 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 entertainment for all.
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