Road Trip Games for the Whole Family

There are two kinds of family road trips. One involves continual sibling squabbling in the back seat, frequent restroom breaks, and a constant temptation to just turn the car around and go home. The other is a more laid-back affair, with laughing and sightseeing and general merriment. Even better, it doesn’t have to be a myth. With a little planning and foresight, it’s entirely possible to have a good family road trip. The key is to have realistic expectations of you and your family.

One important expectation to minimize is the expectation that your kids will be able to entertain themselves for the entire trip. Next week we’ll talk about helping them pack their bags for maximum in-car sanity, but even if you do a perfect job, they’re going to get bored at some point. That’s why it’s important to also have road trip games to play as a family. Road trip games make being on the road a little bit more interesting while also encouraging your children to look up from their media once in a while and observe the world around them.

If you’re looking for some good road trip games, we recommend packing an A5 notebook. This will help whoever’s in the passenger seat keep score throughout the road trip. You can even offer a prize to the winner!

Ready for our favorite road trip games? Here they are:

I Spy

If you have younger kids, classic I Spy can help them work on their descriptive skills and their deductive reasoning skills. As the parent, you should go first to get them used to how it works. Describe something fairly far off, like an upcoming road sign that they have some time to guess before you pass, and then describe it: “I Spy with My Little Eye Something Yellow.” As they guess (“Is it a bird?”) you can give more hints (“No. This Yellow Item is a Triangle.”) The great thing about this game is that it works on some of the skills they’re learning in school, but they’ll have so much fun waiting for their turn to give a clue that they won’t realize they’re learning.

The License Plate Game

The license plate game is great for long road trips, and it’s perfect once your kids are old enough to read. As you travel, you as a family point out whenever you see a new providence, state, or country represented on a license plate. Collect them together. At first, it will be easy to get your home area and a few areas near you, and as you travel, you’ll run into more license plates for the areas you’re moving into. The most fun is when you see a license plate you weren’t expecting. Our family is still on the look-out for a Hawaii plate on the road!

Would You Rather?

Prep this game ahead of time by putting some age-appropriate would-you-rather questions in your road trip notebook, such as “Would you rather be friends with Moana or Merida?” Mix in some silly questions to get your kids laughing, such as “Would you rather have a bumpily, warty witch nose or have to kiss a frog?” and suddenly they won’t mind you asking the getting-to-know you questions they’re so reluctant to answer on a weekly basis (i.e. “Would you rather be in math class or in history class?”).

As you get further into the game, let them come up with questions to ask you, too. Not only is this a great way to get to know your kids, and for them to get to know you, but it can help them develop their creativity and their empathy as they begin to learn that not everyone answers these questions the same way.

One way to score this is to award one point if they answer a question with one of the two options (rather than by saying “Neither!” or “Both!”), and two points if they can tell you why they chose what they did.