Road trips make great family holidays, but let’s be honest – long drives with kids can be a nightmare. Keeping them entertained and away from each other’s throats is an ongoing battle! However, there are fun things you can do in the car together besides each plugging into your own devices. This list is packed with fun games to play in the car with family. We’ve included classic road trip games for kids like I Spy, as well as a few you may not have heard of. Read on to learn the best road trip games to make your next vacation your most fun road trip yet!
This may be a travel board game you can buy, but all you really need to play it is a piece of paper and a pencil. There are a few ways to play: you could give each player a list of all the states and have them check them off each time they see a new state license plate. Or, to test kids’ geography knowledge, you could get them to check off states on a map of the USA. A simpler method is for players just to note down every time they see a license plate from another state. By the end of the trip, count what everyone has noted down and see who spotted plates from most states!
This is one of the most enjoyable games for long car rides or family road trips. Plus, it is enjoyable for older kids and adults too!
2. Alphabet Game
This is another “look out the window and find” game. These make great car games for kids as they keep everyone occupied without getting too chaotic (usually!) This one is a great game for teenagers and older kids on a family road trip, especially if you are passing through lots of small towns. The gameplay is simple – your goal is to find words that start with every letter of the alphabet. You can look at road signs, shop signs, posters and whatever other writing you can see through the car window. You can either play competitively and see who is the first person to spot all the letters or you can play collaboratively and see how quickly you can find the whole alphabet.
Depending on where you’re driving, it is probably a good idea to eliminate the letters Q, X and Z; otherwise, you will never finish!
3. Memory Game
This fun travel game for kids is all about remembering long lists of items and seeing how far you can go before someone messes up. This classic road trip game goes like this: the first person starts by saying, “I’m going to the store and I’m buying (something beginning with A)”. The second person repeats what the first player said and adds something beginning with B. The third person adds something beginning with C and so on. For example, if you are the third person, you might say, “I’m going to the store and I’m buying Apples, Bumblebees and Carrot cake”.
Note that the items do not have to be things that are commonly found at a store – the sillier, the better!
Keep going until someone forgets an item or takes too long to answer. See if you can get through the entire alphabet without someone making a mistake!
Fortunately/Unfortunately also involves storytelling but it allows for a bit more creativity. The first person starts any way they want but should introduce a specific situation. For example, you might start with, “One day, I decided to go for a walk in the forest”. The next person continues the story but from now on, each player has to describe fortunate and unfortunate situations and begin their sentences with “fortunately” or “unfortunately”.
So the story might continue like this: “Unfortunately, it was raining”. “Fortunately, I found a cabin in the woods”. “Unfortunately, the cabin belonged to a witch and she turned me into a frog”. “Fortunately, I found some other frogs and discovered I could communicate with them”. And so on! This is a great car game, as you can play with the whole family. Depending on the age of your kids, you might get some pretty hilarious connections!
5. Car Trip Scavenger Hunt
This one takes a bit of preparation, but it’s a great way to keep the kids entertained while you focus on the road. There are many car trip scavenger hunt free printables available online or you can make your own. The idea is that each child will have a sheet of paper with a list of items to spot. These can be things like a church, a cow, a bridge, a bus, a person wearing a hat and many more. The person who checks all the items off their list first wins!
This is one of the best car games to play with younger kids who can’t read yet. Just choose a printable with clear pictures so they know exactly what each item is. You can also play a fun beach-themed version of this, which you can read about in our article about beach games.
6. Word Association
This one is simple but surprisingly fun. Someone starts with a word – any word. The next person has three seconds to think of a word that is associated with the first one in any way at all. So a word string could be something like “playground”, “slide”, “slip”, “fall”, “leaves”, “tree”, “wood”, “table”… and on and on! If someone takes longer than three seconds to think of a word or the association doesn’t make sense, they are out. The winner is the last man standing!
This game can get surprisingly intense when you are left with only two players. It is also hilarious when someone panics and shouts something nonsensical. This is also a fun game to play with young kids as they make very creative associations!
It’s a good idea to give the little ones a few “misses” before they are out to give them a fair chance.
7. Animal Name Game
This game is similar to word association, except instead of thinking of word associations, you just have to think of a different animal name every time. If someone can’t think of an animal name in three seconds or they say an animal that has already been said before, they are out. If you want to make it harder, you can play in alphabetical order, so each new animal must begin with the next letter in the alphabet. If you do it this way, though, you may want to give people more than three seconds!
This game has endless variations – start with animals, then move on to places, famous people, foods or any other category you like. You can adjust the rules depending on the ages and abilities of different family members to make it fair or just to suit your family – the possibilities are endless!
8. I’m Going On A Picnic
I’m Going On a Picnic is an awesome game to play on road trips with older kids. Here’s how it works: one player starts by saying, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…”. They name two items which have something in common. For example, they might both include double letters, both be yellow or both be things you can write on. This is the secret rule that the other players must try to guess. If the player used the double letter rule, a game could sound something like this:
Player 1: “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing cheese and strawberries”.
Player 2: “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing a book”.
Player 1: “Yes, you can bring a book”.
Player 3: “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing bacon”.
Player 1: “No, you can’t bring bacon”.
The gameplay continues until one player guesses the rule and then it’s their turn!
9. I Spy
Why not play I Spy for a little old-fashioned fun? This is one of the most classic road trip games in existence. While you may have played it so many times that you became sick of it, if you haven’t played it in a while, it is actually lots of fun. One player begins the game by saying, “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ___” and the other players take turns guessing what the answer might be.
Different families often have different house rules for the way they play I Spy. For example, it is up to you how many clue questions each person is allowed to ask before they must make a guess or whether they can only ask yes or no questions. Either way, this is a great guessing game to make the time pass a little faster on your road trip.
10. Tic Tac Toe
Tic Tac Toe is a classic two-player game and all you need to play is some paper and a pencil or pen. First, draw a six-square grid on your piece of paper. The first player places an “X” somewhere on the grid and the second writes an “O”. Players take turns writing an X or an O until one player gets a row of three of their letters across, whether vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Several kids in the car? No problem, make it a Tic Tac Toe tournament! However, as the game involves writing on paper, it is best reserved for smooth roads and kids who don’t get carsick easily. See here for the top games like Tic Tac Toe.
It’s a good idea to keep a board or large, flat hardcover book and a supply of paper in the car to use as a surface for games that involve writing or drawing.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can do all kinds of things with your family in the car. There are lots of fun car games that only require a pen and paper or nothing at all. Some of the latter include I Spy, I’m Going on a Picnic and Fortunately/Unfortunately. If you want something more exciting, you can even find car-friendly board games!
Games to play on a road trip with kids include the License Plate Game and the Alphabet Game. Both involve looking out the window and trying to spot things – in the former, you’re looking for license plates from different states and in the latter, words that begin with each letter of the alphabet.
You entertain your kids on a long drive by playing fun games like the road games described in the list above. However, if the drive is very long, chances are the adults will get tired of the travel games at some point! So make sure to bring along some headphones and kids’ audiobooks so they have some extra entertainment.
You entertain a 4-year-old on a long car ride by planning lots of different and varied activities. Prepare a list of road trip games to play, download some kids’ audiobooks and videos (but skip the videos if your kid gets carsick!) and make sure you have enough snacks for the road.
You can keep your toddler amused in the car by playing games. Even toddlers can play things like scavenger hunting and naming animals, although you will probably need to modify the rules somewhat. If you’re going on a long drive, it might also be one of those times when you need to suspend the screen time rules temporarily!
Hopefully, you now have lots of ideas for road trip games to play in the car with family! There are so many fun car games out there and we have barely scratched the surface. However, it’s okay to let them have a bit of iPad or audiobook time, too – we can’t play games forever!