Summer is here and you’re ready to hit the road in your favorite car for a nice long road trip. You’ve been imagining the wind in your hair, burgers at old-fashioned diners, pit stops for ice cream, and the joy of driving far, far away from your day job.
The only problem? How to entertain the kids so you’re road trip dreams aren’t squashed by “Are we there yet?,” “I’m hungry!,” and “How many more miles?” whines coming from the back seat.
These twelve games are here to rescue you from road trip hell and help you sail smoothly down the highway in between ice cream stops.
- License Plate Spotting. Make a list of all fifty states and print one for each traveler. Hand them out with a pen at the beginning of the trip and challenge everyone to mark down as many license plates as they see from different states. The person who spots the most different states by the end of the trip is the winner! (And maybe that person even gets a little prize like an inexpensive U.S. map to mark future trips on or a candy bar.)
- I’m Going On A Picnic. This alphabet-based game is great for older kids and adults. The rules are simple, but the memory component of the game is tough. The first person starts out by saying “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing _____.” That person fills in the blank with something that starts with the letter A like animal crackers. The next person would add to the list with something that starts with the letter B like a baseball, so that person would say “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing animal crackers and a baseball.” Play continues like this with more and more items added until you reach the end of the alphabet or only one person is left in the game. If you forget any items, you’re out!
- Spelling Bee. Learning, fun, and a little competition come together with a pre-planned spelling bee. Before you leave, prepare a list of age appropriate words for the kids to spell. Moderate the spelling bee on your drive, challenging each kid in turn until they spell a word wrong. The kid who doesn’t misspell a word is the winner.
- Where Are We?/Are We There Yet? Let your kids keep track of this themselves. If they follow along on their own map, they won’t have to ask. Print your kids a map and turn-by-turn directions. Add some fun landmarks that you’ll pass along your route. Then give them some crayons or markers and have them track where you’re going and what you’ve already seen as you drive.
- Sing-along. Easy and fun a sing-along can happen spontaneously or you can plan it ahead of time. Just turn on the radio and start singing. The crazier the better – if you can make your kids laugh the time will pass that much more quickly.
- Mad Libs. Books of Mad Libs and some pencils are easy to find and to pack. Throw a few books in the car and take turns recording the verbs, nouns, and adjectives your travel-mates throw out at you. Then read the stories aloud. Laugh often and loudly.
- 20 Questions. An easy game for everybody. One person chooses a person, place, or thing but doesn’t tell anyone else what it is. The other people in the car can ask up to 20 questions until someone guesses what the first person was thinking of. If no on guesses, then the person who chose the item wins that round. Play just for fun or award points for guessing the right think and keep track until the first person reaches 20 points and wins.
- I Spy. This easy game encourages the best past time for a car ride: looking out the window. The first person starts the game by saying “I spy with my little eye_______.” The blank is for a clue like “something green” or “something with ears.” Then everyone else starts asking what it could possibly be like “Is it an exit sign?” or “Is it a raccoon?” until someone guesses right. Then that person starts again, “I spy with my little eye _______.”
- Name That Tune. Play or sing the first few seconds of a song and make everyone guess. Take turns singing and guessing. If you want to make it a little more competitive, keep score and have a prize for the winner.
- Count the… Kids like making lists so if you notice boredom creeping in, ask them to keep track of something. Examples include counting the number of miles you’ve traveled, the number of VW Bugs you see, how many birds you spot, different animal species, or how many times someone asks “Are we there yet?”
- Hold Your Breath in the Tunnel. If you’re traveling through lots of tunnels this can be a fun way to wake every one up and get them laughing at each other. See who can hold his or her breath the longest while going through a tunnel – the longer the tunnel, the more fun this game is as you watch everyone struggle.
- Scavenger Hunt. Before you leave, make up a list of things you’ll see on your trip. The list could include cities and towns, wildlife you might see, fast food restaurants, types of cars, and much more. Print a copy for each traveler. Challenge everyone to finish the scavenger hunt – the first one to find all the items wins! (If there are a lot of you and/or you’re traveling in two or more cars you could also divide into teams instead of competing individually.)