Remember those long road trips to visit family in another state? Before the mid-’90s, before Gameboys and Tablets, families had to be their own entertainment. Want to disconnect from the devices and reconnect with the fam? Already ran out of fun facts to impress the kids with? Try these “old school” road trip pass times.
1. The License Plate Game
Can you find a plate from every state? Why are they designed the way they are? Bonus: Don’t forget to call out any vanity plates and have fun deciphering the messages together.
“I spy with my little eye something white.”
“Please stop picking clouds!”
3. Mile Marker Math
If the hotel is off exit 64 and you’re at mile marker 392, how many more miles do you have to go? For bigger kids: If we’re traveling 70 miles an hour, how long will it take to get there? Try this with billboards for roadside attractions, too. Going north in Florida, the big attraction is the free orange juice at the Florida Welcome Center. When you start seeing ads with exit numbers, start asking for the math. First person to answer, gets to be first in life for OJ.
4. Count Everything
In Montana, cows outnumber people. So, how many cows can you count on your way to Yellowstone? What about alligators along Alligator Alley? Barn quilts along the Ohio Turnpike?
5. Punch Buggy
With the VW Bug slowly going out of style (again), this game has become a little more like Where’s Waldo and less like an episode of WWE RAW. That’s probably a good thing.
6. 20 Questions
Who/What am I? Consider sticking with a theme to narrow things down a bit. Going to Universal? Choose Harry Potter characters.
7. Story Dice
They sell story dice pretty much anywhere and it’s a great way to foster your kids’ imaginations. Each side of the dice (there are usually 6-8 in a set) has a word or idea that needs to be incorporated into a story. Consider letting each person in the car take a roll and tell their own story. Or, let each person roll to continue the story someone else started.
8. The Alphabet Game
Each person starts with A and works their way through the alphabet, using signs to find their letters at the beginning of words in billboards or exit signs. See a cemetery? The first person to spot it remains on their spot in the alphabet, while everyone else goes back to the letter A.
9. The Other Alphabet Game
Using things you spot on the side of the road (or just things you can think of, depending on who you’re playing with), take turns naming things that start with each letter of the alphabet. The person who follows, must list everything from previous players.
Mom: “A is for apple.”
Kiddo 1: “A is for apple. B is for bus.”
Kiddo 2: “A is for apple. B is for bus. C is for crows on a wire.”
How many vehicles with burnt out headlights can you spot?
11. Would You Rather?
How well do you know your travel buddies? Would they rather fight one horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? This game is especially fun with little kids because you never know where their brains will take them.
12. Radio Tag
Put the radio on “scan” and see who can guess each song the fastest.
13. Human Jukebox singing game
One person starts with the line of a song. The next person much use the last word in that line to start a new song.
Kid: “Hey, I just met you and this is crazy…”
Dad: “Crazy, crazy, crazy for you baby.”
Kid: “Baby beluga, baby beluga. Is the water warm? Is your mama…”
Dad: “Mama! Just killed a man…”
14. The Name Game
The driver will name a famous person, like Adam Levine. The next person has to use the first letter of that person’s last name to name another celebrity. (Luke Bryan) The next person continues the pattern. (Bill Clinton) Repeat until someone stumbles.
15. Going On a Picnic
One person says, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring…” and names something they’d bring on their picnic. The next person repeats the phrase, lists the first item and then adds their own. This continues, growing the list with each turn, until someone messes up.
16. Six Degrees of Separation
Pick any two people and try to connect them in six people or less. This is especially fun if one person is a celebrity and the other isn’t. Think, “Mom and Robert Downey Jr.” Robert Downey Jr. was in Iron Man with Jon Favreau. Jon Favreau starred in “Chef” alongside John Leguizamo Dad met John Leguizamo when he was doing stand-up. Dad obviously knows Mom.”
17. The Quiet Game
Good for getting the kids to take a nap.
“Most Likely to Succeed” is the obvious superlative. But, who in your car is most likely to take a trip to Mars? Who is most likely to own a pet squirrel? If you’re traveling with adults: Who is most likely to end up in jail or hook-up with a rock star? Everyone has to agree.
Got a notebook handy? Play hangman with the gang. Consider using words connected to your destination.
20. My Cows!
Any time you pass a farm, the first person to yell, “My Cows!” gets points for however many estimated cows that farm appears to have. Add a more urgent sense of competition by using bridges or cemeteries to take points away from a selected player. The first person to notice the cemetery or bridge can pick a player to sabotage by saying, “…’s cows got away.” That person loses all their points and has to start over.
21. License Plate Stories
Use the letters on a passerby’s license plate to begin a story. (ex: CWB 0078, “Claire was beautiful, but…” then tell a quick story, bonus points if it’s silly and you can make your fellow travelers laugh.)
22. Getting To Know You
Use your phone to research or find a book full of questions to ask someone to get to know them. Take turns asking and answering questions. You might be surprised by some of your friends’ and family’s answers.
23. Compliment Game
Go through the alphabet and use each letter to give a compliment to someone else in the car. (A is for how awesome Chris is at fixing my computer. B is for Tommy making the best carrots in the world. C is for Rachel’s pretty curly hair.)
24. Explain A Movie Plot Badly
This is one for slightly older travelers but is based on the popular hashtag. How poorly can you explain your favorite movie? Think, Top Gun. “He was inverted. Then his best friend dies.” Or Frozen might be, “Her sister just wanted to build a snowman.”
24. Opportunity Corner
Every time you make a tight turn, bellow “opportunity corner” and use the force of the turn to push you into a cuddle with your seat buddy. Just make sure everyone is on board for this, so you don’t run into any complaints about someone touching someone else.
If you have the time and money, toy stores sell tons of travel-sized and spill-proof versions of favorite games, too. However, a few rounds of each of these ought to keep things entertaining for several hours.