It’s the question that every parent dreads hearing when on a road trip: “Are we there yet?”
Whether you’re traveling across the state or across the country, at some point, you’ll be faced with this situation: kids who are getting antsy, bored with being in the car, and in need of some distraction.
This is when having a selection of road trip games can save the day. We’ve pulled together a list of 10 fun activities, many of which can be tailored to the age of the participants and all suitable for on-the-road fun. (At Great Wolf Lodge’s website, you can print out game sheets for activities such as The License Plate Game, Road Trip Scavenger Hunt, and Car Color Search.)
Looking for ways for the kids to burn off excess energy at rest stops? Check out Love Life Abroad, where you’ll find activities such as Climb the Rope (all you need is a 50-foot rope with knots and an incline) or Scavenger Hunt (make a simple list of items for kids to find).
Another version of Scavenger Hunt comes from Wheels.ca, where points are earned by being the first to spot an item on the list. (The site also lists kid-suitable apps for your phone or tablet, such as Battleship or Road-Trip Bingo).
And don’t forget that old standby — tag. We Are Teachers has 30 variations!
Not sure which games to buy? This post from Very Well Family rates games based on three criteria: easy to play, few loose parts, and suitable for various ages.
Here are ten road trip games for kids.
10 Road-Trip Games
1. “I’m Going to a Picnic”
This is a fun memory game that uses the letters of the alphabet in order. The first person says, “I’m going to a picnic, and I brought an apple” (or something that starts with the letter A). The next person repeats that sentence, then adds an item starting with the letter B, and so on. A variation is “I’m going on a trip, and in my suitcase, I packed…” naming an item beginning with the letter A, and so on.
2. Road Trip Bingo
Using travel bingo cards, players slide the cover over each window when they spot that item. The first person to create a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line is the winner.
3. Once Upon a Time
This is a fun game to spark creativity and imagination. The first person starts a story by saying, “Once upon a time…” and adds a bit to complete the sentence. Using that sentence as a starting point, the next person adds another sentence, and so on. For example, the first person says, “Once upon a time, I saw a mouse that was as big as an elephant.” The next person says, “The mouse was hungry, so he went to a cheese factory in search of a giant chunk of Cheddar.”
4. Name Game
First, choose a category — food, for instance — and the first player names an item that belongs in the category, such as apple. The next player has to come up with an item that fits that category and starts with the last letter of the previous word, such as “eggs” and so on.
5. Triple Threat
The first player chooses three nouns (and they don’t have to be related to each other), and the other participants have to come up with a story that uses all three words. Depending on the age of the players, you can have a very short story or one that is longer and more involved.
6. 20 Questions
The first player chooses an item (preferably one that all the players would be familiar with!), and the other players get 20 questions each to figure out what the item is. For younger players, you can provide a hint: “I’m thinking of an item that is stored in the refrigerator” (or another location) to keep it doable.
7. Card games
These work best if each player has a solid surface, such as a tray, or if it’s played at a rest stop. Games include Go Fish, Old Maid, Crazy Eights, and War. (Not sure how to play? This site has the rules!)
8. License Plate Game
Create a checklist of the 50 states for each child and have them mark off the license plates from those states as they spot them. The one with all (or the most by the designated stopping time) wins that round. (At The Zebra.com, you can download printable games, including a map of all 50 states, along with useful checklists for the grownups.)
9. Animal Discovery
Make a list of six to twelve words from the dictionary — the longer or more unusual, the better. Then, have each child pick a word, pretend it’s a newly discovered animal, and describe it: what it looks like, what it likes to eat, what kind of noises it makes, and so on. Some words to get you started are anachronistic, balderdash, formaldehyde, gutta-percha, Naugahyde, Petersham, Silurian, and zeitgeist.
10. Name That Color
Each child takes turns with this game. The first one chooses a color and then, without saying what the color is, starts naming items that are that shade. For example, if the color is red, the child might say apple, stop sign, fire hydrant, cherries, etc. Whoever picks the correct color is the winner and gets to pick the next color.
One bonus idea: A Travel Journal.
While technically not a game, it might keep the kids occupied either in the car or at the campsite.
Provide each child with a journal or notebook, and encourage them to make a list of interesting things they saw or experiences they had while on the road. Little ones who aren’t yet ready to write can dictate it to a grownup or draw a picture that represents what they are thinking of.
Date the picture or entry, and label it with the location. It’s a great way to encourage them to pay attention to where they are and increase their writing and drawing skills.