Have some of these road trip games ready to play in the car to make any drive more fun. We do a lot of driving and I've found the best way to keep everyone happy is to have a few conversation games and other good road trip games to play at the ready. If bickering begins, I can start one of our favorite games bring back peace to the car ride.
Not only do road trip games keep kids happy, when we play these games we make memories and build connection – one thing I love about traveling. I have nothing against watching a movie or playing a video game sometimes on a long trip, but I value the fun we've had as a family with these more interactive games for the car.
Our Favorite Games to Play on a Road Trip
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Conversation Prompts (asking irresistible questions) – Whether you print a list or just read through a few ideas and remember a handful of them, having some conversation starters at the ready makes for a quick way to end squabbles in the back seat. It's a lot more fun to answer interesting questions than to annoy your siblings.
Battleships on Paper – Bringing games to play in the car that have lots of little pieces makes for a mess, but you can find printable paper Battleship games (or draw your own on graph paper) and enjoy this game that teaches both graphing skills and strategy.
Coloring – So long as you don't leave out crayons to melt (we favor colored pencils while on the road) coloring is a fun activity while driving. You can download some fun coloring pages and a maze in my printable activities pack here.
Mad Libs – This word game leads to lots of laughs and humorously teaches a little grammar along the way.
Take Photos (scavenger hunt) – If your kids have a tablet (my boys each saved up and purchased a Kindle Fire, which we've been happy with), or if you have a kids' camera, it can be fun to ask them to document their journey. You get a unique look into their world when you see what they enjoy photographing. You can turn it into a game by making it a road trip scavenger hunt and giving a list of items to photograph.
Mental Math – Occasionally the kids enjoy answering math challenges such as practicing multiplication facts, calculating gas mileage, or figuring out how long it will take to get to our destination. Take a look at the mental math games here for ideas.
Be the Navigator – There are all sorts of ways to play this. For the younger kids I'll draw a path with squares for each 25 miles we drive – they get to put a sticker on the map for each of those way points. This gives a nice visual of our progress. We got a pack of car stickers for each kid to make the miles pass more quickly on a 600 mile journey we took one summer.
For older kids you can print a Google map of your route, follow the route in an Atlas, or have them find directions on your phone. On short trips around town I'll play the game “How do we get home from here?” and let one of my kids direct our drive as best they can.
I Spy – This is the classic car game. I find the trick when playing with younger kids is to not make it complicated – simply state what you're seeing (shape, colors) let them guess, and take turns. You can also vary it by looking for a specific color. Eboo make Travel Bingo Cards that work well for playing I Spy while you drive.
Alphabet Game – This can be another look-out-the window game if you're trying to spot something starting with each letter of the alphabet, or play it by coming up with a category and then coming up with a word in that category for each letter. We also play a version that let's us talk about our day with our ABC About Your Day game.
New Lyrics – Sometimes we make up silly new lyrics to well known nursery rhymes or songs. I like Mary Had a Little Lamb much better now that we have the “Larry Had a Little Ham” version.
Stickers for Horses – This was a popular game to play in the car when my kids were toddlers. We'd have a stash of stickers along and each time they saw horses they got to put a sticker on the door next to them (of course you could have them put the sticker in a notebook if it'll cause too much mess to put stickers on the car). If you're not in the Southwest where horses are plentiful choose some other common sight to sticker for.
Look for Wildlife – Maybe this isn't exactly a game, but many car rides have been made better by one of us saying, “Hey, guys, have you spotted any elk? or “This area has lots of Big Horn sheep, let's see if we can find one!” It's not a long lasting game, but we certainly have been rewarded with kids who spot wildlife on the go.