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7 quiet road trip games for kids to keep them busy in the car

Can’t wait to hit the road again? You’re not alone. Family road trips are an amazing way to spend quality time and have a super-fun vacation any time of the year. The only problem is that the kiddos usually don’t enjoy the time in the car quite as much as parents do, and when that happens, parents aren’t happy, either.

Thankfully, the key is to keep the kids occupied. Of course, there are electronic diversions like iPads and streaming movies or listening to podcasts, but part of the fun of a road trip is car games. Remember those road -rip games when you were a kid? Road-trip games for kids are a perfect pick to help pass the time as the miles roll by and get them more invested in looking out the window to get a glimpse of the areas you’re passing through. Sure, a rousing game of punch buggy is exciting, but the contact part will lead to tears and arguments.

Quiet games are better, and they don’t annoy the driver. Here are seven cool games to play in the car with the kids when your family heads out on the road. They’re great for long or short trips.

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I spy

This timeless classic is a road-trip game the entire car can get in on. Play it in between movies or when you hit a stretch of the highway kids are unfamiliar with. The rules haven’t changed since parents were kids. Someone spies something with their “little eye,” and the rest of the passengers need to guess what it is.

Category ABCs

This alphabet game is another one that spans the ages. One person chooses a category like sports or famous people and starts off the game with naming something or someone in the category beginning with the letter A. The next person names something in the category with B, and so it goes through the alphabet until a player gets stuck. For example, if the category is food, the first person starts off with “apple,” and the next player says “banana.”

In my suitcase

Sometimes knows as I’m going on a picnic, in my suitcase is a memory game the entire family can get involved in. The starting player begins by saying, “I’m going on vacation, and I packed an apron.” Person two must add on and repeat the previous things packed in the suitcase. For example, “I’m going on vacation, and I packed an apron and a bandana.”

Family posing for a selfie on a road trip
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Car-trip scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunts are super popular, and when you’re heading on a family road trip, make up a scavenger-hunt list for everyone to check off. Have a list for each passenger to eliminate shouting out when an item is located. First one to check off all the items on the list is the winner. Give older kids incentive to play by awarding the winner the choice for the next movie night or an activity during the vacation. Car trip scavenger-hunt item suggestions include:

  • Tall building
  • Bridge
  • Lake
  • Pond
  • Creek
  • River
  • RV
  • Van
  • Red car
  • Dog
  • Cat
  • Squirrel
  • Barn
  • Bus
  • Person wearing a cap
  • Motorcycle
  • Tree
  • House
  • Gas station
  • Person on a cell phone
  • Convertible
  • Truck
  • Train
  • Airplane

License plate game

There are a lot of variations of this classic car game, but in its most basic form, all the passengers in the car collect or make a list of how many license plates from different states they see during the road trip. Having the players write down the states they see in list form eliminates arguments and yelling when a plate is spotted. The person who has the most when you reach your destination is declared the winner. Winner gets to choose a vacation activity or where to eat (within reason, of course).

Would you rather

This is an across-the-ages game that even adults will enjoy. Questions can be straightforward, silly, or even gross. The basic premise is for players to take turns asking everyone “would you rather” questions. All the participants have to choose between the two options regardless of how yucky or ridiculous. Would you rather is often used as a classroom or workshop icebreaker. Here are a few would you rather questions for your next road trip:

  • Would you rather be able to fly or have super speed?
  • Would you rather swim or fly around the world?
  • Would you rather go to Australia or Hawaii?
  • Would you rather eat a lemon or an onion?
  • Would you rather have X-ray vision or be invisible?

Six degrees of …

If you’re traveling with teens, six degrees is a fun game to play and it gets everyone thinking about connections. Categories can be movies, famous people, TV shows, or athletes. An example, with actors, name one and a movie they were in. The next person must name a person in that movie and another movie he or she starred in, and so on. For example, Tom Hanks — A League of Their Own, then Rosie O’Donnell — Sleepless in Seattle.

Part of the fun of a road trip is the process, but a lot of time in the car can be draining, especially for kids. Before you head on the road for your next trip, be sure to prepare one or more of these seven road-trip games for the kiddos and adults, too.

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Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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