Summer is the season of road trips. However, while getting from Point A to Point B via the wide open road can be enjoyable for some travelers, it can be a bit chaotic for families. Snacks, electronics, frequent bathroom breaks—kids need a lot when on the road. However, even after you supply all of the above plus more, it’s bound to happen: someone will complain that they’re bored.
Beat the long car ride boredom blues with an easy car game that keeps the entire family entertained. From the classics to brand-new games you may have never even heard of, these are 16 excellent games to play on your next road trip — no electronics or tiny moving parts required.
Classic Best Car Games For a Road Trip
You probably played a few of these fun car games as a kid yourself. Now, it’s time you introduced the best road trip games to the next generation.
1. I Spy
One of the easiest car games ever, with no need for more than two people, I Spy can be played in the car, at the rest stop, during your lunch break—wherever the mood strikes (and you may find that the mood strikes pretty often for those of the toddler age).
If you’ve forgotten how this basic game works, it’s simple. The starting player finds an object nearby and says, “I spy with my little eye, something that’s the color [fill in the blank].” You don’t always have to use colors, but colors are easier for younger players to find. You can use letters as your descriptor if you’re playing with older, elementary-age children. Everyone else in the car guesses what the starting player spies and the person who guesses correctly gets to be the next spy.
Just make sure that each person picks an item that’s not whizzing past the car at the moment. Larger items on the side of the road are fair game (think water towers or billboards), but you should probably stay clear of smaller items like road signs.
Do you have kids who need some guidance and suggestions on what to spy? The I Spy travel card game makes it easy for kids ages 4 and up to play, and is even suitable for one player.
2. The Categories Game
The Categories Game is similar but requires a little more brain power, so it’s mostly suitable for elementary-age children and older. As a car, pick a category. This category can be anything: famous people, foods, animals, whatever you and your family know well.
Go around the car and take turns naming things that fit into the category. The first loser is the first person who is unable to think of an answer or accidentally repeats an answer that’s already been said. You can keep going until only one passenger remains victorious.
To make the game harder, you can make a rule that all items must be listed in alphabetical order, similar to The Alphabet Game.
3. The License Plate Game
There are two ways to play the license plate game. You can either look for license plates from different states (someone will need to be the game secretary and write down each state as it’s spotted) or look for license plates that add up to include all the numerical digits or all the letters of the alphabet. The latter method requires much more writing, as you write down each license plate you see and start carving away your list of needed numbers or letters.
This great car game can either be played as a car, with no winners or losers, or you can split people into teams, so long as each team has someone who can write.
4. Who Am I?
A little like Twenty Questions, but a bit more accessible for young kids and fun for the whole family, Who Am I? has one person in the car pick an animal or person and then the other family members in the car can ask “yes” or “no” questions to try to determine who the person or animal is. The first person to guess the person or animal correctly is the winner and gets to answer the questions from the rest of the family next.
5. The Memory Game
Similar to The Categories Game, this travel game asks you to pick a category, and everyone in the family has to take turns naming things in that category, but with a more difficult twist! Each player must also name all of the items previously named during the round before adding their item to the list.
As players mess up, they’re out until only one player is left.
6. Two Truths and a Lie
Get to know your family a little bit better! This road trip game is especially fun for family members who maybe don’t know each other well, like if you’re traveling with the extended family or going on a road trip with your adult kids for the first time in a long while.
Each player makes three statements — two true, one a lie — and the other players have to guess which is the lie.
7. Once Upon a Time
If you have a particularly imaginative crew in your car, you can play this storytelling game that you’ve likely already played with your kids in some form or fashion. Someone starts out telling a story in “Once upon a time, there was…” fashion. Then, going around the car, each person gets to add a sentence to the story. Set a time limit, and the story must be wrapped up.
8. The Song Game
Maybe your family members are more musically-inclined than they are natural-born storytellers. If that’s the case, play The Song Game. One player hums or sings a very short part of a song — think one line of lyrics — and then the rest of the car must guess the song title and artist. The person who guesses correctly gets to sing or hum the next song.
You can make the Song Game as difficult or easy as you like, and it’s a great excuse to introduce the kiddos to some songs from your youth.
9. The Never-Ending Song Game
Another musical game, the Never-Ending Song Game, asks one player to sing one line of lyrics from a song. Then, the next player must sing a different line of lyrics that begins with the last word the last person used in their song lyric. The game continues until all players have come up empty when thinking of a song lyric to sing.
New-to-You Car Games
Want a car game that’s not going to be just the same ol’ same ol’ for Mom and Dad? Try one of these newer car games that you may not have played in the past. You might find that you’re getting into it as much as the kids!
10. Don’t Say It
This fun game is easy for everyone to play and could even be played in conjunction with another car game on this list. Before you head out on your trip, pick a handful of words that are the “forbidden” words for a particular time frame, say until your first bathroom break or gas stop, or just for the first hour of driving. Then, a scorekeeper keeps count of how many times each person in the car messes up and says one of the forbidden words, and the person with the lowest score wins and gets to pick the forbidden words for the next leg of the trip.
11. The Word Trail Game
This road trip game is a good choice if you have a child learning their reading skills or expanding their vocabulary. The Word Trail Game asks you to start with a compound word or phrase. Then, as you go around the car, the next player must also name a compound word or phrase, but their word or phrase must begin with the last person’s ending word.
It sounds a little complicated, but it’s not. Let’s say the first player said “campground.” The next person could say “groundwork.” The third person could say “workout,” and the fourth person could say “outdoor.”
The game continues until all players are out and can’t think of a word during their turn.
12. Finger Notes
A bit like the game Telephone, but easier to play in the car, Finger Notes is only suitable for children who’ve learned to spell basic words but can be very educational if they’re still fine-tuning those spelling and reading skills.
One person starts by “writing” a word on the next player’s shoulder using their fingertip, going one letter at a time. The second player then writes what they think the word is on the shoulder of the third player and so on until the word has gone through every person in the car. (It’s probably best to start your writing circle so that the driver only needs to “write” on the arm of the person in the front passenger seat.)
After the last person has been “written” on, they announce to the car what they think the word is — often ensuing in some giggles over how much the word changed from beginning to end.
13. Counting Cows
Another road trip activity, much like Don’t Say It, that can be played while you play other games in the car, Counting Cows is simple. You count cows (or horses or dogs, or whatever animal you choose) along your route. The first person to spot a cow (or group of cows) gets the point. The person with the most points at the end of the trip wins.
14. Twenty One
For a rapid-fire car game that takes some deductive reasoning and quick logic, try Twenty One. Everyone in the car works together to count to 21. Each player can say between one and three numbers during their turn, but the goal is not to be the person that ends up saying “21.”
15. The Movie Game
This game can be played in one of two ways. The starting player can either say a quote from a movie, or they can describe a movie plot in one sentence, as poorly as possible. Whichever way you go, the rest of the car must guess the movie and the first person to do so correctly wins and gets to pick the next movie for the rest of the car to guess.
16. Fortunately Unfortunately
This is a fun new take on the Once Upon a Time story game. One person starts out telling a story that begins with “Fortunately…” Then, the next person in line must add a sentence that starts with “Unfortunately.” The pattern continues, with the story building upon itself in a mix of problems occurring and then being solved.
For example, your story could start with, “Fortunately, I drank enough coffee before this road trip that now I’m wide awake.” The second person could say, “Unfortunately, that means I now need to take a lot of bathroom breaks.” The third person might say, “Fortunately, there are a lot of rest areas along our route.” The following person could then say, “Unfortunately, they’re all closed.”
As the story continues, you’ll find your family needing to come up with more and more creative additions to keep things going while not contradicting the existing story.
Need a Little Help?
Need to keep your eyes on the road, so you can’t exactly play referee for your kids’ classic road trip games? Or maybe you want to catch up on some much-needed shut-eye during the family road trip?
If you don’t plan on participating in your family’s shenanigans over the long road trip, you can employ a few handy tools to help keep the kids entertained while still not giving over the tablets for unneeded screen time.
A Scavenger Hunt for Kids card game is easy enough for kids ages 7 and up to play on their own and asks them to find a range of objects along your drive, from tow trucks to motorcycles. Or, try Games on the Go for creative play on car trips. Whatever you choose to try, we know that everyone in your vehicle will be entertained when they play one of these car games on your next road trip.
You might also be interested in: How To Plan A Family Vacation [In 11 Easy Steps]
Best Car Games For a Road Trip:
- I Spy
- The Categories Game
- The License Plate Game
- Who Am I?
- The Memory Game
- Two Truths and a Lie
- Once Upon a Time
- The Song Game
- The Never-Ending Song Game
- Don’t Say It
- The Word Trail Game
- Finger Notes
- Counting Cows
- Twenty One
- The Movie Game
- Fortunately Unfortunately