Classic Road-Trip Games

family road trip gamesIn the course of logging about what seems like 50 billion travel miles with my kids in the past 17 years, I’ve found that most complaints from the backseat can be tempered with simple solutions that can actually make it fun to travel as a family. A good game, for example, makes the miles fly by.

In addition to games, I’ve developed many activities and strategies designed to amuse the most bored backseat passengers like:

  • Audiotapes for the road
  • Car-ride treats
  • Getting-to-know-you games
  • Inventing
  • Finding and counting games
    Scavenger hunt for the car
  • Scavenger hunt for the plane
  • Tray-top games and the ultimate travel activity bag

I hope they’ll help smooth your own family’s journey.


The Classics

For generations of family travelers, playing 20 Questions and Geography is as much a part of a road trip as filling up the gas tank or stopping for ice cream. The following games are especially fun for parents who remember playing them as kids.

Counting Cows

Play as individuals or teams. First, decide on a destination where you will stop counting. Then, count the cows on your side of the road. The goal is to have the highest number when the destination is reached. Pass a cemetery on your side and you have to start over again. If there aren’t any cows on your route, try counting red cars, mailboxes or phone booths.

Twenty Questions

20 questionsOne player thinks of a famous person, place or thing. Everyone else gets to ask the player 20 questions, which must be answered “yes” or “no.” For example, “Does it know how to read?” is a valid question, but “What’s its favorite book?” is not. Whoever guesses correctly gets a turn to think up something.


Start with any place in the world–Kansas, for example. The next person has to think of a place that begins with the last letter of “Kansas,” such as “South Africa.” Whoever goes next needs a place that starts with an A. You may not use the same place twice in a game–and it has to be a real place.

A is for Armadillo

Starting with A, each person tries to be the first to spot and name three items beginning with that letter. For example, the first to see and announce “armadillo, auto and apple” gets to choose the next letter.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Two players each put one hand behind their backs. Each person turns that hand into a scissors, using the index and middle fingers; or paper, by holding the hand flat with the fingers straight; or a rock, by making a fist. Both players say “One, two, three,” and show their hands. The scissors beats paper because it cuts paper. Paper wins over rock because it can wrap up the rock. And rock beats scissors because it makes them blunt.

license plate idLicense Plate ID

See how many different states you can identify on license plates.

License Plate Lingo

The goal of this game is to come up with a phrase using the letters on another car’s plate. So if you see the plate LMT 823, the first person to call out a somewhat logical phrase such as “Love me tender” or “Lost my tooth” earns a point.

Odds & Evens

Two players pick either “odds” or “evens.” Then they make a fist, shake it, say, “One, two, three…shoot,” and stick out one or two fingers. If the total is an odd number, the player who picked odds wins. Same goes for evens.

I really hope that some of these games make your family car journeys more enjoyable and you all get there in one piece!