Every summer when I was young, my family drove from New Mexico to California to spend a couple of weeks visiting relatives. To a child, having to sit fairly still in a 3′ x 5′ area for three days is close to torture. But my creative mom had a few tricks up her sleeve. Road trip games probably saved her sanity.
One very bright idea she implemented was to give us a small present at the end of each driving day if we were “good”. If we were misbehaving, she would threaten to withhold the gift. That straightened my brother and me right up. Actually, it was usually my younger brother who got into trouble. I seem to remember being nothing but angelic, as long as my brother stayed on his side of the back seat.
The best way of entertaining us kids, though, was to play road trip games. These games required nothing more than a creative mind, and we could play these games for hours. Here are some of my favorite road trip games.
This is an easy to play but hard to win road trip game. To this day, sometimes I entertain myself with this game while driving along. Basically, each player finds the letters of the alphabet in order from A to Z. You can put up whatever parameters – or none – as you like. For example, you can say that license plates are off limits or conversely, that license plates are the only source for letters.
2. I Spy
“I spy something …” The player fills in the blank with a color, the first letter of the “spied” object, or any description. For example, you might say “I spy something blue.” If it is a landmark you are thinking of, make sure that will be within view for awhile (like a mountain).
No fair spying a red car whizzing by and then saying, “I spy something red.” Other players must be able to see the object as they are guessing what it is. Players are allowed to ask yes or no questions only. I loved this game. By the way, play these road trip games with your children. It’s always more fun when mom plays, too. Let dad concentrate on driving.
3. 20 Questions
Here’s another one of my favorite road trip games. One person goes first and thinks of something. Other players must guess what they are thinking of within 20 questions. The first question is usually “Is it animal, vegetable, or mineral?” After that first question, only yes or no questions are allowed. Players continue asking yes or no questions until someone gets it right. Then it is the winner’s turn to think of something.
A variation of this road trip game is “Who Am I?” One person thinks of someone all the players would know – a relative, friend, animated character, and so on. Then that player gives one clue at a time such as hair or eye color, whether or not they wear glasses, what clothing they usually like to wear, and so on until a player guesses who they are.
4. Name That Tune
In this road trip game, one person picks a song and sings the song one note at a time until someone guesses it. This can be difficult for adults, who may not know Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber songs. Once all I had to sing was one single note, and my companion guessed the song. No fair being psychic in this road trip game.
5. Never-Ending Story
I used to run a summer camp and this imaginative game was very popular among the kids. One person starts off (preferably an adult), and begins by saying, “Once upon a time there was…” Then make up something. It could be a boy who lived in a castle, a pirate who had no ship – whatever your imagination can come up with. Develop the story for about a minute or so.
Then, when you are finished and want to “pass” the story to the next person, you say, “annnnnd…” and look at the person you are passing it to. For example, after developing the story for awhile, you might say something like, “Then the boy turned the corner and saw a big black bear — annnnnd…” The next person has to continue the story at that point, develop the story, and then pass it to someone else. This can go on for hours.
6. Word Hunt
In this road trip game players are given a letter and then try to find things that begin with that letter. When you see something that begins with the chosen letter, shout it out and “claim” it. No one else can use that word again.
For example, the letter “R” might yield road, restaurant, redwood tree, rock, and so on. Synonyms are important and perfectly legal. A car can also be an automobile or a vehicle, for example. The first person to claim 20 words that begin with the chosen letter wins. Use a pencil and pap
7. One, Two, Three
Players look for multiples of items, beginning with one. For example, someone might say, “I see one road sign.” Then another person might say, “I see two birds.” Next might be, “I see three clouds,” and so on up to ten. Objects must be counted in the natural order of the numbers in this road trip game.
8. Biggest, Smallest
The object of this road trip game is to find the biggest and smallest of everything you see on the road – for example, signs, buildings, houses, cars, trucks, and so on. Whoever sees the biggest or smallest of an item calls out, “Biggest house, right over there!” Other players have to see it, too, in order for it to count. Then the challenge is to find something even bigger (or smaller) in that category.
9. Word Web
Somewhat similar to the Never-Ending Story, this road trip game is done with one word at a time. The first player says a word, then the next player must add a word that might come next in a sentence, and so on. For example, the first player might say, “The”, then the next player says, “cow”, then the next player says, “jumped”, and so on. The words added must make sense and must form one long sentence. Keep going until someone can’t think of the next word to use in the sentence.
10. Grocery Game
Starting with the letter A, in this road trip game each player in turn names something they could buy at the grocery store that begins with that letter. For example, A could be apples. B could be bread, and so on. Each successive person has to repeat the entire “grocery” list from the beginning before adding an item of their own, so this road trip game is a good exercise for your memory. If you mess up remembering the list, you’re “out” until just one player remains.
Planning a road trip with your children involves more than just planning on what to pack. In order to keep kids entertained in a small area where they can’t run and jump and play, think ahead and have some road trip games ready for everyone to play. Your sanity will thank you.