One of the best parts of a road trip with your family is the time spent together in the car. Instead of watching movies or playing video games on handheld or mobile devices, go old-school on your next road trip and play some car games together. It’ll make the ride to your vacation rental even more unforgettable. Whether you spy something with your little eye, start looking for out-of-state license plates, or pull out bingo cards, you can find plenty of fun family games to keep everyone happy. Take a look at a few classics and some fresh ideas as well.
1. The License Plate Game(s)
This game is a classic, and it’s probably one you played as a kid. Carry on the tradition by teaching it to your kids, and keep it going through your whole road trip, even while other games are in play. To play the traditional license plate game, you just use a map or checklist to keep track of all the state license plates you see. This game works especially well if you’re in the New England area or driving along the eastern seaboard, where states are closer together; it may be less fun out west. In that case, substitute other license plate games. Take turns making up sentences that start with the letters on each plate — For instance, EIN could be “Eat Insects Now” and ATH could be “All the Happiness.”
2. Play Virtual Hide and Seek
This game gets your kids’ imaginations going. Pick a place you all know well — usually it’s a great idea to start with your own home. One family member “hides,” and the others ask questions to try to figure out where the virtual hider is tucked away. If you visit the same vacation rental every year, you can choose that as another location, or pick another favorite vacation destination, such as a theme park.
3. “A is for Apple”
Play one version of the Alphabet Game when your kids are little and still learning their ABCs, and graduate to new versions as they grow. When you’re driving through a city, one great version involves looking out the window to spot words that begin with the letters of the alphabet, A to Z (and yes, that “RR Xing” sign definitely counts for the letter X!). Another version is to pick a category and name items from that category as you work your way to Z. Choose anything from your favorite bands, types of food, or even Harry Potter characters.
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4. Play Counting Games
Again, if you have younger kids, the mere act of counting can be an exciting way to show off their newly developed skills. Have each person in the car pick something interesting to count — cows, red cars, fire trucks, stop signs, you name it. Whoever wins the game gets to choose where to stop for lunch, or maybe they get to choose the next game.
5. Write a Story
Have one person start a story by saying “Once upon a time” and adding a sentence, and then go around the car with each person adding one or two more sentences. This game can get pretty wacky quickly. If you’re okay with that, it’s fine, but if anyone in your family wants to finish the story, add some rules to the game. Specify the characters first, or pick a location first. Decide whether you want to end the story at your next rest stop or when you find a great ending.
6. Travel Bingo
Sure, you could buy a set of travel bingo cards, but why would you do that when you can custom-design bingo for your trip. Fill the squares with words or pictures that represent things you’re likely to see along the way, or have your kids design their own bingo boards. Make copies of them so you can play multiple times.
7. Play Favorites
This game is a good choice if you’re traveling with another family because it lets you get to know one another better. Pick a category — favorite flavor of ice cream, favorite car, favorite color, favorite fast food item, favorite animal — and go around the car with everyone picking a favorite and explaining why. Once you’ve checked out of your vacation rental and you’re on your way home, you can pick your favorite moments (or restaurants or photo opportunities) of your vacation.
8. Have a Spelling Bee
Your kids might not even realize they’re learning something when you turn a spelling bee into a game. Choose words appropriate for your children’s grade levels, and pick out things associated with your trip. You can come up with words spontaneously as you drive, or plan a list of words ahead of time. Make sure someone has a dictionary (an online one will do) to settle any disputes.
9. “I Spy With My Little Eye”
“I Spy” is a fun game at home, and it’s even more fun when you’re on the road. In this game, one person picks something that’s within view, and then everyone else asks questions to guess the answer. Make sure you settle the rules about whether items inside the car count or not before you start. This game is best played when you’re stuck in traffic or moving slowly, since you don’t want the object in question to disappear as you race past it.
10. Have a Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt doesn’t have to involve going door to door asking neighbors for odd things. Instead, plan a visual scavenger hunt that can keep you busy through your whole trip. All you need is a pad and paper for everyone to write down the items they see, and you can plan the hunt while you’re traveling, though it might be more fun if you come up with a long list of things to find before you leave. Plan your scavenger list around the places you expect to go on your trip, and include everything from different types of birds or animals to unusual buildings and landmarks.
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