37 Road Trip Games & Activities the Whole Fam Will Love

37 Road Trip Games & Activities the Whole Fam Will Love
Image: makenamedia/Twenty20

Kids happily sit in the backseat of a car

School's out and summer's here, which means those long-awaited family vacations are so close the kids can practically taste 'em. But if we're being honest, it also means that parents everywhere are about to bravely set off on well-intentioned family road trips, where they will inevitably lose their damn minds five minutes into the journey. (Don't deny it!) Maybe it'll happen when "Baby Shark" plays for the umpteenth time. Or maybe Mom and Dad will snap after the third kid shouts, Are we there yet?? in the span of 30 seconds. Whatever the case, it's no secret that family road trips can test a parent's patience like no other -- and they definitely test a kid's ability to sit still for hours at a time. Still, there are ways to get to get the fam from Point A to Point B without anyone losing their cool, and actually have some fun. I'm talking about road trip games, people!

Road trip games and activities can cut through those endless hours of boredom kids so often complain about. They're also a great way to add some old-school fun back into the mix, and ditch the screens for a little while. (No screen time? What a concept!) From Car Bingo to Name That Tune, kids might just surprise themselves with how fun some of these games can be. But most of all, Mom and Dad might be surprised with how much fun they're having, too. Who knows, before long everyone might forget they've been stuck inside a minivan for hours as Dad cruises the open road. (That is, until someone has to go pee.) For those who want to up the ante, have one person keep track of who's won the most games. Just make sure to reserve a worthy prize for whoever's crowned the road trip game master by the end. That'll keep the kids entertained, for sure!

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  • I Spy

    Boy smiles while looking out car window

    We all know this one from childhood, and it still stands the test of time. One player begins by saying, “I spy with my little eye … " before describing something they spot on the side of the road or off in the distance. The goal is to describe it in a general way, giving players a hint without giving it all away -- whether that's the color, the shape, or some other telltale feature. Players then take turns guessing until someone lands on the right answer.

  • The Movie Game

    Family of four smiles as they take a selfie in the car

    There are lots of different ways to play The Movie Game, and guess what? They're all fun! One popular way of playing is for the first player to say the name of an actor out loud. Then the next player has to think of a movie that actor has been in, and the player after that names another actor in that same movie -- and so on.

    Another way to play (though it requires a pretty good memory) is for each player to recite a line from a movie and see who guesses the character and movie fast enough.

  • Car Bingo

    Two kids smile as they ride in their car seats

    For this one, a little prep work is required, starting with printing out blank Bingo cards and hand them out in the car, along with markers or pens. Let everyone fill in each box with things they expect to see along the way -- an RV, a dog with its head out the window, a gas station ... you name it. Or, you can pre-fill the cards out before the trip starts, but re-order the boxes. Either way, the first person to check off all their boxes, wins.

  • License Plate Game

    Cars driving over bridge

    There's multiple ways to play this one, too, but perhaps the most popular is one where everyone in the car tries to spot a license plate from a different state along the ride. Whoever spots the most by the end of the trip wins.

    Another way, for older players, involves spotting letters on a license plate and making up acronyms to go along with them. (For example: "PAS" could mean Pandas Are Sweet.)

  • Rhyming Game

    Kids in backseat of car eat lunch

    This one's fun for literally everyone. The first player thinks of a word, and the second has to rhyme another word to it -- and so on and so on, until the final player is stumped, and gets nixed from the game. whoever's left standing in the end is the victor.

  • The Quiet Game

    Kids play with Slinkys in the backseat of a car.

    Here's a fun game that'll end just as quickly as it began: The "Quiet" Game challenges everyone in the car to stay silent for as long as they can -- whoever breaks first, loses! (Good luck making it that far with young kids in the car. Unless of course someone falls asleep.)

  • Rock, Paper, Scissors

    Car full of young girls laughs

    This game's as old as the hills -- and with good reason! A rousing game of Rock, Paper, Scissors can go on much longer than you might expect, and will get everyone laughing in the process.

  • Read Short Stories Aloud

    Boy reads book in car

    All gamed out? Try reading aloud. You can either pick one reader, or switch from person to person with a reader for each page or new paragraph. Bring along a book of short stories that'll have everyone invested, or try a book of engaging poems, like something written by Shel Silverstein.

  • Name That Tune

    Kids happily sit in backseat of car

    This one's simple: Have one player hum the tune to a popular song and see who can guess the song correctly the quickest! Chances are, it'll get everyone singing.

  • Rule Book

    Boy laughs while eating ice cream

    Grant everyone in the car the ability to make up one ridiculous rule that others must abide by for the length of the trip. (For example, everyone has to quack like a duck if you see a yellow car, or break out into a Britney Spears song when you drive over a bridge.) This game doesn't exactly have a winner, but it can be played simultaneously with other games, and will definitely bring on the laughter.

  • Road Trip Scavenger Hunt

    Boy looks out window of car

    Similar to Car Bingo, this one's about players keeping their eyes peeled while looking out the window. Before the trip starts, draft up a list of things you might see along the way, and hand a copy to each player. Whoever spots the most things on the list the quickest, wins.

  • I'm Going on a Picnic ... 

    Girls in winter coats in backseat of car

    Everyone loves a memory game! I'm Going on a Picnic tests those cognitive skills big time, by having each player recite the line, "I'm going on a picnic and I am going to bring ... " before adding on a new item they'll bring. The challenge? Also remembering what everyone else will bring, and reciting those first, too.

  • Don't Say the Word

    Three kids in car

    This one works similarly to the rule game -- prior to the trip, everyone can pick one word that absolutely under no circumstances should be said. But once players start to inevitably slip, and use the off-limits words in conversation, they get a point. Unlike most games though, the player with the fewest points at the end of the trip wins.

  • Guess Who?

    Two women in a car laugh while driving

    One player thinks of a person, animal, or celebrity, and answers questions while other players try to guess their identity. Whoever "unmasks" the player by the end wins. (Hint: With older players, try this with reality TV celebs -- so fun!)

  • The Alphabet Game

    Kids peer out car window

    For this one, give kids a blank sheet of paper and have them write out the letters of the alphabet before the car ride. Then, while you cruise the highway, have them look for a person, place, or thing that begins with each letter. Whoever finds an item to match each letter first, wins.

  • Car Color Game

    Little girl in sunglasses looking out car window

    Before the trip, jot down a list of possible car colors (avoiding some common colors like black). Then once the drive begins, see who can spot the most colors the fastest. To prolong the game, you could also have each player tally up how many cars of each color they saw, and see who got the most by the end.

    Another version of this is sometimes called the "Banana Game," which involves players yelling out "banana!" every time they see a yellow car.

  • Popcorn Storytelling

    Three kids sit in backseat on a road trip

    Have the first player begin by telling a story, but only the first sentence. Then, have the second player add another sentence, and take the story in a whole new direction. Carry on this way until the story is finished, and you might be surprised where it ends.

  • Two Truths & a Lie

    Family laughs as Dad packs the back of the minivan

    Nobody likes a fibber! This game encourages a little white lie every now and then, though. Each player begins by stating three facts about themselves -- two that are real, and one that is false. The other players have to guess which one's a white lie, which can honestly be more fun than it sounds.

  • Interactive Travel Diary


    If car games are getting too loud and distracting, this interactive activity book can keep older kids busy (and relatively quiet) for hours. It comes chock-full of thought-starters and activity prompts to encourage kids to spot cool things along the way, and capture new things they do or people they meet while on your trip. Inside, there are adventure badges to earn, fun stickers, places to keep photos and other treasures, and even postcards to send friends and family from the road.

    Go!: A Kids' Interactive Travel Journal and Diary ($15, Amazon)

  • Hypothetical Question Game

    Little blonde-haired girl looks out the window of a car

    Ask a person what they would do with a million dollars, and everyone has a different answer -- which is all part of the fun of asking. This game is basically just what it sounds: Go from person to person asking things like, "If you could snap your fingers and go anywhere in the world, where would it be?" or, "If you could suddenly have a superpower, what would it be and why?"

  • Telephone

    Kids happily whisper into each other's ears while playing Telephone

    Oh, Telephone -- doesn't it just instantly bring back childhood memories from sleepovers and camping trips? Gear up for some nostalgia, as players pass a message from person to person by whispering it into the next one's ear -- only for the last person to repeat it out loud and inevitably wind up with something hilariously different than what it originally was.

  • TV Theme Show Game

    Kid holding remote while watching TV

    Similar to Name That Tune, this one involves each player humming the tune to a different song while others guess what it is. But instead of songs from the radio, these tunes are all theme songs from favorite TV shows, which is somehow way more fun. (Better brush up on humming those Full House and Family Matters songs!)

  • Spelling Bee

    Family smiles as they embark on a road trip.

    If the kids are old enough to flex their spelling skills, draft up a list of words and hold an impromptu spelling bee that will challenge them. Start with some easy ones and move into trickier words that'll really up the competition.

  • Pictionary

    Kid getting ready to draw on notepad

    Let's face it, Pictionary is always fun, no matter how old the players are. Bring along a notepad and some colored pencils, and be sure to jot down topics and phrases beforehand on tiny pieces of paper. Toss them in a hat, have players pick one, and watch as they try to sketch the phrase while everyone tosses in their best guesses.

  • Play an Audiobook or Kid-Friendly Podcast

    Three children sit in car seats in the back of a car.

    If everyone's getting a little pooped from all the games -- but you don't want to turn on a movie or hand them an iPad -- why not try an audiobook or podcast for kids? In the same way adults can get lost in thought while listening to a well-told story, so will kids. (And best of all, it might just put them to sleep!)

  • Read Jokes Aloud From a Joke Book

    Kids wear hats and laugh in the backseat of a car

    Buy a book of kid-friendly jokes before the trip to read aloud (or have the kids read aloud) as you drive. Then, prepare to belly laugh.

    (Check out Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids ($5, Amazon) which has over 4,000 positive reviews from parents on Amazon.)

  • Play a Card Game

    Kids play a game with a deck of cards

    Go Fish, Spit, Old Maid ... Create some old-school fun with a deck of cards that'll bring on some healthy competition in the back seat!

  • Play Paper Games

    Mom and daughter play a game in the car

    Speaking of old-school fun ... why not start a rousing game of Hangman? Or Connect the Dots? Or Tic-Tac-Toe? (Believe me, they're still as fun as they were when we were kids!)

  • Draw With Crayons or Colored Pencils

    Young girl colors in the back of a car

    Got a budding artiste in the family? Pack colored pencils, crayons, coloring books, and blank sheets of paper for the kids to sketch things they see along the way. This low-key activity is perfect when Mom and Dad want a little quiet time, or are only traveling with one kid.

  • Counting Games

    Young girl looks out window of car

    Help little kids practice their math skills by counting buses or RVs or campers along the way. This one is not so much about a winner as it is about keeping them engaged and on alert while they keep track of what they see.

  • Fun Facts

    family of four laughs inside car

    This one might take a bit of pre-planning, but it'll be worth it. If the fam is headed to an interesting destination, jot down fun facts about the place and its history before the road trip starts, and read them off throughout the journey. Add in fun facts about towns, cities, and places along the way, too, to make things even more interesting.

  • The Animal Game

    Three kids in a backseat laugh and joke around

    Similar to "Guess Who?" this game is centered all around animals, with the player pretending to be one herself. Start by thinking of an animal, and then sharing one sentence that gives clues as to what it is. (Example: "I have a big long nose, am gray, and love to eat peanuts!")