Family Games on Road Trips

Photo Credit: Parityytirap CC Lic.

These are suggestions of games for long road trips and they actually came from several sources:

  • Games I played as a child
  • Games or printables I found online and wished I had known about when my children were younger
  • Games from a Travel book when my children were young

An internet search for car games for kids will bring up a million computer type games for purchase or download.  Those are NOT what I was trying to do with my kids all those years.  I was looking for interactive…family orie10259708_757905987567166_6039741453846557731_nnted…games.  That’s what I’ve listed here.

Basic supplies:  The beauty of these is that they don’t require you to bring a huge tote.  I bought:

  • 3×5 spiral notebooks….one per child –I purchase these in multi-packs at the local discounter (Big Lots often has them)
  • pencils and a handheld sharpener (preferably one that ‘contains’ all the shavings)
  • Printable pages if you want them
  • A clipboard may come in handy for the pencil/paper games??

With this list, you’re set!!


Idea From Pinterest:  If you need dice for a game, put them in a small clear container.  It can be shaken and the die “read” while staying contained in the container…no getting  lost or flying all over the car.

  • Car tags:  This is one I grew up playing – as did my kids.  We do this on EVERY vacation!!!  We list all the states we find on car tags throughout the vacation…The goal is to get all 50.  Here’s a printable checklist of the 50 states.  Print one for the family or one for each child.      Our Twist on This:  At the beginning of the vacation, everyone chooses the state they DON’T expect us to find.  From that point on, everyone is trying to find the states picked by others…the person who successfully chooses the “unfound” state is the winner.  What do they win?  Absolutely NOTHING but bragging rights.  🙂  Hint:  The person who chooses Hawaii or Alaska almost ALWAYS loses!!!  Shocked?  I’m telling the truth!!!
  • Car Bingo.  This is the game my kids had when they were young.

    Photo Credit: Dory Kornfeld on Flickr CC Lic.

    Here’s a printed version:   Car Bingo printout
    Another variation:  Scavenger

  • One Minute of Words  Use the 3×5 spiral notebooks for this one.  Pick a letter of the alphabet, set your phone timer while players write as many words as they can starting with that letter.  The winner is the person with the most legitimate words after 1 minute….
  • Make Me Laugh:  One person is the “jester” and the rest are “stonefaces”  The “jester” tries to make the “stonefaces” laugh or smile.  The jester can make faces, funny noises, tell jokes, do anything BUT touch (or tickle) the stonefaces.  The last stoneface to hold out is the next jester.  (My kids LOVED this game when they were 7-8-9 yrs old!  ha)
  • Word Stretch:  Choose a phrase like “Are we there yet?” or any phrase your kids use frequently  (“How many more miles” was a popular one at our house…).  Everyone makes as many words as they can from the letters in that phrase.
  • I Spy:  This game is fairly short-lived as you’re limited to items IN the car. (Outside scenery is constantly changing)  However, young children (ages 4-7) typically love this game and it’s good for about 20 min. of play.   The person chosen as “it” chooses an object, and says “I spy with my little eye something red.” Players guess what it is.  The one who guesses correctly gets the next turn.
  • Name That Tune: Players take turns humming songs….first with only 3 notes….then with 4…or 5+  until someone can

    Photo Credit: J_Alvez on

    “Name that Tune”. The one who answers correctly gets to hum the next song.

  • Tic Tac Toe:  This is a timeless game…and until kids figure out that it’s almost impossible to win, they really like to play (Shhhh…that’s our little secret)  Perhaps a printout is a little silly, but if you’re interested, it’s here:  Tic tac toe Boards
  • Rochambeau:  We probably all played this as kid…it’s the old “Rock, Paper. Scissors”.  All players clap fists together to the beat of Ro-Sham-Bo  and on “bo”, each player forms either rock, paper, or scissors.  (Form a “rock” with a fist; “paper” with a flat hand; “scissors” with first 2 fingers shaped like scissors).  Rules to determine the winner:  Paper covers rock.  Rock breaks scissors. Scissors cut paper.    We keep score to determine the winner.  🙂
  • The House on the Hill:   Make up stories about the people in the houses you pass.  Where do they work?  What are their pets and their names?  What are they having for supper tonight?  Where do they go on vacation? The better the imagination and the more details, the more fun/funnier the game is.
  • Lyrics for silly songs!  Only get this out if you’re ready for LOTS of giggles!!  🙂  Here are lyrics for several of these paradies:  Silly Songs for the Car.   Here’s some lyrics of some real songs that kids love to sing too:    Why not have the kids try their own hand at writing (or rewriting) their own lyrics to a song…get the creative skills flowing.  🙂
  • Thumb Wrestling  Boys love active competition games….but “active” in the backseat can go sour very quickly.  Thumb wrestling helps with the competitive spirit while still keeping things manageable.  🙂  Players hook the four fingers of their right hands together so both right thumbs are sticking straight up. The object is to pin down your opponent’s right thumb using your own thumb.
  • Color Safari This game works well for all ages!  Choose a basic color then list as  many items as possible of that color.  Variation:  Give each child a different color…
  • Lines and Dots:  This game is “old” but always a winner.  You can make your own sheets of dots or print one of these.   There’s one for the “big” kids and one for the “little” kids.  Lines and Dots Game  Take turns connecting 2 dots.  The person who ‘completes’ the square gets to put their initial in the box.  The one with the most boxes wins
  • City Train:  This was one of our favorites – it’s fun AND educational.  Take a ride on the ‘City Train’.  Start by naming a city

    Photo Credit: AMProSoftDesign on CC Lic.

    (expand this to include other places/locations):    Example:  Houston   The next person thinks of a place that begins with the last letter of Houston, – “N” New York….which would be followed by a “K” – Kansas City and so on.  Any player who can’t come up with a city has to get off the train.

  • Secret Highway Messages   Using the 3×5 spiral notebook write down the first letter from each of the  first 5-6-7 road signs you see.  Crack the code of those letters.   Each letter stands for a word. Example:  letters D, S, C, S, and A  stands for the secret message “Drive slowly, construction starts ahead.” Of course, someone else might come up with  “Dad, stop candy store ahead.”
  • Creative Competitions and Games:  With a little creativity, games can be created from just about anything.  If you need to get rid of the trash in the car, see who can smash it into the smallest paper ball, then throw it away.  If you want quiet time, hold a 5 minute quiet game.  If you need the back seat to be “cleaned up’ before the afternoon stop, race to see who can clean their section the quickest.   Children love competitions…use that to your advantage.


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