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Great Road Trip Games and Activities
Every year more and more people take to the road to spend the holidays with their families.
This year is expected to break records with an estimated 94.5 million Americans on the road, rails or in the air, according to a study by AAA (TulsaWorld).
With all of this traveling, you now have to consider snacks, clothes, gifts for the family, pets, home security . . . Have you also considered how you’re going to keep everyone entertained in the car, on the train, or in the airplane during the trip?
By thinking ahead and having some great road trip games prepared ahead of time, your family will be better able to cope while sitting relatively still for hours on end, and you’ll have that much less to worry about during the trip.
I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t have room for all of those games in my luggage, and don’t want to have to worry about lost pieces and game boards.” I completely understand.
By no means do I suggest buying all of those prepackaged “road trip games” offered at the store. There’s no reason that you can’t have great, entertaining games and activities without all of the fuss.
Nothing says the holidays like piling your family, your pets, and all of your luggage into the family car and heading out on a long road trip to see family that you haven’t seen all year long. Millions of us do it every year.
Unfortunately, all too often the exhilaration of going on a fun family vacation for the holidays only lasts about as long as it takes to get out of our driveways.
When your kids realize that for the next four hours they will be subjected to the small back seat of your car stuffed full of extra luggage, a small airplane seat, or even a never-ending trip on a train, the stress begins.
Check out some of these great no-fuss road trip games to keep every member of your family happy, and possibly develop some great holiday travel traditions!
What's your favorite road trip game?
This game is a variation on the license plate game, but modified to work any way you travel. Not only will this keep your children on their toes (and I love it as well!), but it will help to teach your children geography at the same time.
All your need is a map of the US for each member that wants to play. It can be a large photocopy, a small handheld map, or any other version you choose.
As your kids spot license plates, stickers on luggage, or my favorite variation requiring them to get to know others they are traveling with and find out where they are from or where they are going (with parent supervision of course), they can color in the appropriate state.
What’s great is that not only can they use any writing utensil, but they can learn their states at the same time, and this one map will likely last each individual for many trips.
They’ll probably want to pick this map back up every time they get in the car again. Offer a fun prize for the first person to finish coloring in the entire map. (It just might take an entire year to fill it all in.)
Name That Song
This is ideal for car trips, but can also work on the train if they are playing music on the intercom.
Just like the name sounds, this game is all about who can name the song and/or artist of each song first, and get the most songs by the end of the game.
This is especially fun when using the SCAN button on your radio for older kids, or playing fun mix CDs with kid songs for younger kids.
Not only does this teach your children memory recall and important critical thinking skills, but it’s a blast in any setting, with any audience.
I don’t think I’d try this on the plane, unless you have plenty of headphones to share and you’re writing your answers. Lol The other passengers may not appreciate all of your fun and excitement, unless you have headphones for them too.
Homemade Trivia Cards
This is great for families as you can include memories from past family get-togethers for your trivia questions, trivia about different family members, and fun questions that only your family would know.
I love this as it’s great for inside jokes, fun trivia from movies you’ve seen together, and even great questions from past homework that give rise to great memories together.
Anything that makes your family laugh is perfect!
Make it a challenge for who can answer questions first and get the most questions correct.
Maybe your children can contribute their own questions, you can include great questions to help them learn, and can really make this game anything you want.
Our game includes plenty of questions from our favorite TV shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory,” along with funny questions about stories we’ve each told involving work and family.
As soon as a question becomes stale and is no longer funny, it’s nixed for something better. We’re always adding to our game to make it that much better!
You’d be surprised how entertaining something as simple as pipe cleaners or bendable straws can be for children.
They’re cheap, they’re easy, and they can be a great deal of fun with a small dose of imagination and creativity.
We’ve seen monsters, sunglasses, bow and arrows, utensils used for picking objects up, and so many more unique creations.
You couldn’t possibly imagine the intricate stories and games that have been created in our back seat using nothing but pipe cleaners and the imagination of a child.
Regardless of where you are traveling, these are great for keeping children entertained and distracted during long traveling trips in the car, on the train, and even on the airplane.
This is great either using a writing pad for each individual, a dry-erase board and markers, or having each individual spell out loud.
I think it’s obvious what skill you are building with this educational road trip game, but it should be fun and challenging as well.
If spellers are calling out their answers, assign a call sign like making a buzzer sound or raising a hand to signal that they have the answer first.
This game is all about challenging the spelling skills and memory of those playing this game.
When your kids are small, start with basic words like colors, animals, and shapes. As they get older, don’t be scared to move into proper nouns and much longer words.
And there’s no reason you even have to be creative on your own when coming up with words for your kids to spell. Pull from your environment to find great words with which to challenge them.
This is a great game for kids and by incorporating this into your road trip game repertoire, you’ll be really impressed with the level of ingenuity your kids will show just to keep this game going.
Be careful though. You’ll want to lay out ground rules, which you’ll discover quickly. Once your children know that this annoys you, they will keep it going forever!
The way this game is played is that anyone playing must take turns asking yes or no questions, which can only be responded to by another question.
The trick is that they are not allowed to say anything at all that isn’t a question during the duration of this game. This is what makes the game so incredibly fun!
Talk about teaching critical thinking! Throughout the game, any player who hesitates, laughs or actually answers a question loses the game entirely.
The object of the game is to see who can hold out the longest. Of course, the best way to win is to get into your opponent's head: "Are we still playing?" "Did you just hesitate?" "Do you think we can pull over soon for a bathroom break?"
Unique Mad Libs
You likely already know about this game, but you don’t actually have to have one of those cute little booklets to play a great Mad Lib.
Be creative and make your own. Even better, have your children come up with the stories.
You can write them down, they can write them down, or you can even use a handheld computer to record their stories.
Then someone knowledgeable can omit certain words in the story, replacing them with the type of word that should go there.
Turn the story back over to the child who created it, or even another child in the car to make it funny with their own words.
Another great option would be to create a story as a family that everyone can participate in making even better with their own Mad Libs words.
Road Trip Bingo
This game requires bingo cards to make it great. Why not save yourself some room and print these on the back of your US maps from the first activity we discussed?
Each time you play, these can be erased and used again. Include great items that would work for just about any kind of traveling trip, being car, plane or even train.
Have your kids on the lookout for a family with more than three kids, a car with luggage strapped on top, a guy carrying a purse for his wife, and the like.
You can make this a blast by including some of the funniest items you’ve seen on other trips in future BINGO games.
Let your kids create these on the computer before you leave for your trip, or have them write the funny items into the BINGO cards before you leave.
These games are for YOUR family. Make them fun and personal for them!
This is a famous activity for any family trying to entertain their kids, but it’s a tried and true game that can be fun for everyone and help pass the time on a long trip.
To play one person starts the story. It really doesn’t matter how it starts, whether you’d like it to start in a haunted house, on a campground with tons of Cub Scouts, or even in the middle of the ocean.
Just make sure it’s always appropriate for the ages in the car participating.
The story continues as the next person in the car adds their part of the story. Not only is it different each time, but everyone feels like their contribution is exciting and important.
Depending on your family and the level of excitement, this game could go on for hours on end, making your trip fun, memorable and much shorter than expected.
To make the game more challenging and fun, make a rule that all of the lines have to rhyme. This is a great way to work on rhyming with younger kids and teach critical thinking.
Once you've reached your destination, your kids could write and illustrate the story you all made as a memory of the adventure.
This is a great game that I suggest playing every time you get in the car, and not just on your long distance trips.
The object of this activity is coming up with a positive comment for every negative comment said.
For instance, if someone says, “This trip is boring,” someone else could say, “Fortunately we have plenty of time to catch up on all of our reading.”
Granted, it doesn’t just have to be for negative comments that come up. To make the game really fun, individuals in the car can be creative in making up fun but unfortunate happenings to challenge the rest to make it positive.
Like, “Unfortunately, there may be an earthquake which could swallow the car whole.” And someone else could be inventive in coming up with a positive like “Fortunately I’ve always wanted to see the inside of the Earth” or something similar.
The more exaggerated and silly the statements are the better!
This teaches children to think positively. You could extend this game to any situation that comes up when someone is being negative by coming up with a silly Fortunately statement.
Long traveling trips make people cranky, tired, hungry, and stiff. There are so many great opportunities for your family members to be negative, but you can turn them all into positives!
Like every other traveling game, make this one your own.
“I wonder where that car is going?”
My husband and I have always played this game wherever we’ve gone. This doesn’t have to be just a travel game.
When sitting waiting on an airplane, enjoying dinner in a restaurant, or any other people watching opportunity, we always try to make up stories about the people we see, guessing what they could possibly be doing, where they could possibly be going, and even what they are saying to each other.
This is a quick way to turn a boring trip into something much more exciting. We are never trying to make fun of anyone, or be negative in any way.
It’s just fun to use our imaginations, and even more fun when the people we are talking about act appropriately with the story we are making for them.
Sometimes these stories turn into great conversations about other topics, and can spark amazing learning opportunities, like about the way cars work, the way airlines work their security systems, etc.
These fun stories often bring back memories about similar situations as well, that are fun to recall and share with others.
Ride and Read
As a former educator, it’s hard for me to write about activities for kids without including something educational. Lol
This may be hard if you have children that get carsick, but that’s nothing some Dramamine can’t fix. (I have to take it too!)
Bring a good stack of books along (or a Kindle) that your kids can read in the car. As they are reading, ask them about the story.
This is my educator coming out! Ask them about their favorite part of the story. Ask them to come up with a new ending to the story.
Have them compare characters, stories, authors, etc. Encourage them to read out loud while you are driving to improve their vocabulary and allow you to ask questions about the story along the way.
This may sound totally boring and way out of your league, but what you are really doing is teaching your kids to think about the stories, the characters, and even their own lives while they are reading.
By asking them great questions, they will automatically start comparing their own lives to the story and themselves to the characters. They’ll start asking more questions of their own and be more inquisitive about why the characters or even the author made the decisions they did.
What a great skill to have! And what you are doing is giving your children a leg up in life by making them avid readers with bigger brain capacities, a stronger ability for creativity, imagination and critical thinking, and a larger vocabulary from the very beginning.
Kudos to you for giving your child such an awesome opportunity!
Not every activity is going to work for every family or for every child. Gauge what works for your and yours and make adjustments where needed to make them work for you.
I’m hoping that at the very least, some of these activities will inspire you to create others on your own.
I have a few warnings for you to keep your traveling trips fun rather than stressful, especially with small children involved.
Make sure not to make these fun game ideas so strict or unnatural that you create temper tantrums rather than excitement. A little competition is fun, but too much and simply be, well, too much. Keeping it silly and casual should keep a long trip from seeming even longer.
Don’t push a game forward that has lost its vigor. If everyone is no longer interested, it’s time to switch it up and do something else. These games are intended to be fun, not hard work.
And finally, don’t be afraid to make these your own. You may discover a completely new and improved road trip game that’s never been discovered before. And the only thing kids love more than playing games is playing games that they've had a hand in inventing!
Have fun and be safe on your trip!
Check out some of my other articles on Preparing Your Home for a Vacation, Keeping Your Family Safe While Traveling, and even Tips for Protecting Your Home During the Holidays to make your holidays that much easier!
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness