Packing your family into a truck and hauling on down the road for a camping trip can be lots of fun! It can also be frustrating when kids get bored and the grownups are out of ways to entertain them.
With a little bit of preparation and a child’s imagination, though, you can fight boredom and make road trips a lot more fun for your whole family. Even your older children will get into these games!
We’ve compiled this list carefully so that you don’t need to pack messy game boards or small pieces. When you’re traveling with kids, a mess is going to happen anyway, right?
Road Trip Scavenger Hunt
This game is just as simple as it sounds. Everyone gets the scavenger hunt list with things they might see through the car windows, and when you spot one of the items, you point it out and check it off your list.
Want to make it a competitive scavenger hunt? Here are the rules:
- The first person to point out the list item gets to mark their list. After an item is marked off your list, you can’t be the first person to point it out again.
- No fighting! The driver gets to settle any disputes and nobody can argue with the driver’s decision.
- The first person to mark off their whole list gets a special prize at the next stop.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a competition. You can all cooperate and complete the scavenger hunt as a family! Whoever is in the passenger seat gets to be in charge of marking things off the list.
A quick Google search yields lots and lots of printable scavenger hunt lists. Make your own if you’d like, or just use a printable that someone else already designed.
Silly Stories in Sentences
When your kids are old enough, you can play the Silly Stories game to come up with hilarious stories as a family. Here’s how it works:
- One person starts the story by finishing the sentence, “Once upon a time…”
- The next person gets to add just 1 sentence to the story. It has to make sense, so this is better for kids that have outgrown the nonsense story stage.
- Keep going around the car adding 1 sentence at a time to complete the story.
- See how far you can take it!
This game gets everyone in the car involved, and everyone has to pay attention to what’s already going on. It’s also handy because you don’t need any paper, pens, or supplies to play. Just get everyone thinking together, and there are bound to be some laughs.
Here’s an example of how it might go:
Person 1: Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack.
Person 2: He wanted more than anything to be a police officer.
Person 3: But Jack was born with an extra leg.
Person 4: His extra leg made him run really fast!
Person 1: And he always had trouble buying shoes because shoes come in sets of 2, and he always needed 3.
And on, and on, and on!
The License Plate Game
This is similar to the scavenger hunt, but instead of looking for specific sights, you’re looking for license plate states.
If your kids are a little older, you can give each a piece of paper, a clipboard, and a pencil, and let them write down each state they see. With a little bit of preparation, you can also give them a list of states (or even a map!) so that they can cross off each state they spot.
Using a map helps kids learn a little bit of US geography, and when you spot out of state plates, it gives you a chance to talk about how far that car had to travel to get where it is now.
With older kids (or car enthusiasts) you can switch it up and look for specific makes and models of cars, too. The car hounds in your family will love that variation.
I’m Going on a Picnic
“I’m Going on a Picnic” is an alphabet and memory game that you can play with no need for supplies. Here’s how it works.
The first player has the letter A. He or she announces, “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing -” and then names a food or item that starts with the letter A, like asparagus. The full sentence would be: “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing asparagus.”
The next person has the letter B, and they have to add to the list. They might say, “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing asparagus and beets.”
Keep going down the alphabet and adding items to the list. If someone forgets a list item, they’re out! The last person standing wins.
Tips for Family Harmony
When your kids are different ages, or if they have different temperaments, it can be difficult to find road trip games that suit everybody. The whole point of playing car games is to keep everyone happy and engaged, not to cause frustration and fights!
You know your family better than anyone. Allow your introverted kids (or spouses) quiet time, and give them ways to retreat when needed. A set of noise cancelling headphones and a music player or smartphone can go a long way towards maintaining peace and calm.
It’s okay to have some designated quiet time for everybody if that’s what you need at the moment. Don’t feel like you have to have quality family time every second of your drive.
You can also buy age appropriate road trip games and toys so that different aged children can do their own things.
Take lots of breaks to let everyone out of the car, and remember that your family trip is supposed to be fun for everyone! You’re going to have a great time, even if there are some bumps in the road.