15 Fun Things to Do in the Car on Road Trips
Road trips. Either you love them, or tolerate them. Either way, you’ll always search for ways to pass the time as you’re traveling. You may have checked social media a dozen times, listened to your whole audio library, and slept all you can. What’s left? Here are some ideas for games you can play and activities you can do while on a road trip. Pretty much all of them can be — or need to be — done with other people, so get your fellow passengers involved and spend some time having creative fun!
15. Record the trip
This is probably the most constructive as it involves some aspect of work after the trip is over, depending on how you choose to document the trip. You can make selfies at every stop you make, jot down memories in a journal, take a photo or souvenir of each place you visit, or record a home video of the trip. These days travelogs are common and fairly easy to piece together with some basic software. You can also get your photos printed for cheap and create a real-life album to cherish — not just a humdrum Facebook album. You can make a theme — for example, your feet in each location you go, selfies next to state signs, etc. — add paragraphs detailing the trip, and create a scrapbook. Have fun with what you got and how you document this journey. You might want to share it with future generations!
14. License plates
This is an oldie but a goodie. Especially if you’re road-tripping across the US. Over the course of the trip, see how many different state license plates you can spot as you drive along. The more days you drive and the further you go, you’ll be surprised at how many states you can spot. Hotel and tourist attraction parking lots are especially good places to spot a variety. Don’t worry about keeping track, there’s an app for that! The “Plates Free” app will record which plates you spot, giving a cheery “honk honk” for each new find. Get everyone on the trip involved, and hopefully over the course of the adventure, you’ll see more than you expected.
13. Scavenger hunt/car bingo
This is highly customizable. There are many pre-made games of “car bingo” and “road trip scavenger hunt” online, but it’s also fun to create a custom list for your passengers. Young kids can even have their own, easier version of a scavenger hunt, while older kids and adults can have harder lists. Each kid or passenger can even have their own custom list of things to see. Make it even more creative — and competitive — by turning it into a bingo game. If creating you’re own from scratch is daunting, try colors for young children and objects for older people. You can even make it themed with cars, fast food restaurants, road signs, animals, landmarks, or stores. Have as much fun searching or coming up with items for your list as you do crossing them off it.
12. Landmark game
This is also customizable. Have you ever played holding your breath when you drive by a graveyard, or cross a bridge? Have you ever pretended you needed to duck driving under a bridge? This is similar. Have a set list of common road landmarks, such as bridges, graveyards, honks, farms, motorcycles, airplanes, toll booths, etc. Then, set a list of actions you have to perform when you see each one. For example, “duck” under bridges, hum a song when you pass a graveyard, raise a hand when you hear a honk, touch your nose when you see a motorcycle, dance when you pass through a toll booth, etc. Players are out when one forgets to do the action with the landmark. This will be a silly way to pass the time, test your memory, and have some playful competition in the car. The driver can play the judge. Don’t do any dangerous actions if you’re the designated driver!
11. Battle of the bands
If you’re tired of listening to the same old songs, can’t find anything you like on the radio, or cannot decide what to listen to, have a “battle of the bands.” Take turns being the prompter. Have someone come up with a creative, funny, or crazy situation. Give everyone a minute or two to find a song they feel matches the situation perfectly, then take turns playing clips of your choice. Whoever the prompter picks for having the best song gets a point. Continue to an agreed amount of points, or just play for fun! This can get really cool when you find the perfect song from your audio library.
You may be already on top of this, but audiobooks are a great resource as an alternative to reading in the car. Not only is it sometimes too bumpy of a ride to read, but you can also run out of light — or have to struggle with a book light — and can get carsick reading over time. Books also take up room and make suitcases extra-heavy when packing! Audiobooks are a way to “read” without any of the mentioned problems. Audible.com is the most popular website, however there are other sources out there. You can even listen to one together as a family or group and get to experience the same book at the same time. It will give kids a reason to be quiet in the car and give your group something to discuss on your trip.
This is a fun story game that really challenges your imagination and creativity. The first player starts the story with a sentence. The next player adds to the story, alternating “fortunate” and “unfortunate” events. For example:
Player 1: I got a raise at my job.
Player 2: Fortunately, it was an extra $100 a month.
Player 3: Unfortunately, my rent went up $100 a month.
Player 4: Fortunately, it was so my apartment building could build a new pool.
Player 5: Unfortunately, it won’t be done for a year…
Think of some crazy prompts and see where the story goes. Keep circling the story, alternating the fortunate and unfortunate events until someone gets stuck, or there is a conclusion to the story and you start another one. It’s tricky to play “angel” and “devil” and turn the story from good to bad over and over.
8. Sweet and sour, truck horns
These are social experiments for the bold and the brave. “Sweet and Sour” is a social game where you wave to passengers in other vehicles and see if they’re “sweet” and wave back, or “sour” and don’t wave back. You can also get more brave by doing other actions besides waving, such as the peace sign, smiling, dancing or singing, heart hands, etc. Keep it clean though, or you’ll really have some sour customers! And of course, there’s the classic “truck honk” gesture, which is when you signal to an 18-wheel truck driver to toot their horn. Hold your arm at a 90 degree angle, putting your hand in a fist, and pulling it up and down. The cheerful honk is a cute way to bond with other drivers on your road trip. Who knows? You might just make a new temporary friend on the road!
7. Questions only, alphabet story
These are harder than they sound! They’re another fun way to tell stories and challenge creativity. Both these require you or a prompter to think of a prompt or situation to start. In “Questions Only,” take turns talking about the situation, prompt, or continuing the first sentence in questions only! For example, say the prompt is “Where should we eat lunch.” The play may go:
Player 1: Are you guys hungry?
Player 2: Does anyone want to eat now?
Player 3: How does pizza sound?
Player 4: What about hamburgers? …etc.!
The first one who gets stuck or can’t think of anything in a reasonable amount of time is out. Continue until a winner remains or the story is concluded! In “Alphabet Story,” you’ll need another prompt or situation to begin. Then, continue talking about the situation or story with sentences that start with the next letter in the alphabet. For example, say the prompt is “We went to the circus.” Play might continue as such:
Player 1: Are there going to be clowns?
Player 2: Because I love the clown show!
Player 3: Clowns can be a little scary sometimes though.
Player 4: Don’t be afraid, scary clowns won’t be at the circus! …etc.!
See if you can come up with other creative ways to take turns continuing the stories, such as one-word answers, song titles, singing your sentence, doing a different voice each turn, etc. Once you get the ball rolling with a list of good prompts, you’ll find even crazier ways to tell tales.
6. Chain words
Yet another word game that sounds more simple than it is. Chain words, (the simple version, read on for an advanced version,) is when you think of words (or, story sentences if you like,) and the next player needs to say something that starts with the last letter of what the last person said. Start by picking a word, and let the chain grow. For example, car. The next word must start with “R.” Red. Then, doughnut…tree…egg…grass…and so forth! If anyone gets stuck or repeats a word, they’re out! This is also another way to tell a tale, like in the “Questions Only” and “Alphabet Story” games above. If you want a more advanced method of “chain words,” try it with word associations. The least amount of connections or degrees, the better. Begin with two random starting words and think of links between the two words. For example, if the words are “box,” and “yellow,” you can think of “box, juice, apple, fruit, banana, yellow.” Or, “box, TV, The Simpsons, yellow.” Winner!
5. A my name is Alice
This is a classic childhood game that is fun to play with children. You can also add addition elements to make it more complex to play with a grown-up crowd. In the basic version, the first player starts with, “A my name is (name that starts with A), I live in (place that starts with A), and I sell (something you can sell that starts with A). You can incorporate other challenges, such as your significant other’s name, your favorite dish, your favorite color, and more. The more elements you add, the longer the game play, and the more time you’ll pass! It’s fun to imagine the characters, where they live, what they do, and even what they might look like.
4. Alphabet on signs
Another alphabet game, but this one is best when driving on the open road! Read road signs you pass and try to find every letter of the alphabet, in order. This can be made easier by allowing use of license plates, or made more strict with no license plates allowed or by having to find a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet. You can also find the numbers zero through nine, spot each color of the rainbow, or try finding the alphabet backwards. Don’t worry, X’s are easy — there are exits everywhere. The hardest ones tend to be J, K, and Q!
3. Riddles/mystery stories
If you’re looking for something more challenging or cerebral, try taking turns telling riddles or reading short mystery stories — such as “Five Minute Mysteries” — and figure out answers as a group. It’ll give everyone something to think and talk to each other about, besides just staring out the window, sleeping, or toying with their smart phone. Get the mind going as you try to solve situations and sharpen your deductive skills. It may be just what you need after zoning out, driving on the road all day.
2. Card and other games
Besides verbal games, there are some physical games that you can bring and play in the car with relative ease — just nothing with too many small pieces! Keep decks in secure rubber bands or Ziploc bags, and make sure you have them all at the end of the trip. Some are designed specifically for the car, such as road trip activity books or the road trip card game “Rubberneckers” — which is somewhat similar to scavenger hunt/bingo. Other games like magnetic, travel chess or checkers, Mad Libs, crosswords, the “Heads Up” app game — among many other collaborative app games — are all possibilities. Other card games include Bring Your Own Book — where you find the perfect answer to a prompt in a book, magazine, or even a road sign or billboard — Man Bites Dog — where you create zany newspaper headlines — or Camera Roll — where you find photos on your phone that match a given mood or prompt — and Buzzword — answer clues with the same buzzword. These games all contain just a deck of cards and no other pieces. And you won’t necessarily need a table to play on.
1. DVD player (no wifi needed!)
Sounds like going backwards technology-wise, doesn’t it? However, downloading movies on the new feature on Netflix — onto a phone or ideally a tablet for larger screen — bringing a laptop, or investing in a portable DVD player will offer a way to spend idle time watching movies and shows on the go — wherever you go, with NO wifi or data usage! Use a CD case for easy storage of DVD choices and take turns picking. Share with a bigger screen than a smartphone and headphone-splitters. Your passengers — and your phone battery and data plan) — will thank you for the entertainment.
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