If you've ever been on a lengthy car ride with a group, you're probably familiar with the moment where all the passengers space out listening to their own music and browsing on their phones. Road trips are more fun when you connect with the people you're going on an adventure with. You can use the idle time as a bonding opportunity that may later become some of your happiest shared memories.
Whether you're planning to amuse young children or hang out with your friends, keep reading to pick up some ideas for road trip games.
Fun Road Trip Game Ideas for Kids
Playing games with the kids is a great way to keep them entertained on long drives, no matter their ages. Adult-led activities provide young children with structure and fun. Older kids are more independent and might even enjoy playing games with each other. If you're going to be on the road for a while, they'll eventually feel like looking up from their devices, and you might as well settle their anticipation with some bonding time.
These road trip games will make the journey feel more like a weekend game night. Some of the below family road trip game ideas might even make them forget how long they've been in the car:
The Alphabet Memory Game
The first player begins by selecting an imaginary item to bring on the trip, starting with either the letter A. Their item might be something you actually have on hand, like an apple, or something practical, like an atlas. They could also say they are going to bring something silly or dangerous, like a pet anaconda.
The second player follows by adding something to the chain beginning with the letter that comes next in the alphabet. Before each player contributes to the list, they have to remember what the other items are and say them out loud. A player loses when they forget something on the list.
You can host a more focused version of this memorization challenge by picking a category to make a list from, such as groceries or animals. Each player has to think of something that belongs on the list, going in alphabetical order.
If two or more players reach the end of the memory game and are able to name everything on the list, you would simply start over. There are no tie-breakers. Players keep the game going by returning to the first letter in the series and listing more items in their rotation.
Category Alphabet Game
This game is similar to the previous but without the memory challenge. Begin the game by selecting a category like food, animals or celebrities. After you start by thinking of something from the category that begins with the letter A, the next player adds something that begins with the letter B, and so on. A player loses when they are stumped and has to sit out for the remainder of the game.
To make it more interesting, have each player list something starting with the letter the previous word ended with. So, if the category is food, instead of going from "apple" to "banana," you could go from "apple" to "eggplant" to "tangerine" and so on. This gives the kids less time to react because other players' answers are unexpected.
Another way to play is to have everyone on the trip think of something from the category starting with the same letter before you can move on to the next. This version is always challenging because players have to make multiple connections between the starting letter and the category in case someone else takes their first choice. It's hardest for the players guessing last.
To level the playing field, let your group answer going clockwise for the first round, counterclockwise for the second round and so on. Switching the rotation will give everyone a fair chance.
The Color Guessing Game
To play the classic version of this game, think of a color and start listing off random things that come to your mind in that color. The kids then guess what color you're thinking of. If they guess incorrectly, add more items to your list until they realize what the color is. This is a great game for younger children who are learning about colors in preschool or kindergarten.
You can make it harder for older kids by using a category other than a color. Then they would have to guess what characteristic everything on your list shares, turning this into more of a riddle game. Say you're thinking of an emotion and start listing off anything that connects metaphorically. For the emotion "cheerful," you can list "sunny days, a smile and a hug." Older kids can play with each other, customizing the game based on video game lore, cartoon trivia or pop culture references.
This is another game that can be played without any materials, but you could purchase or print your own I Spy travel card game. Start the game by examining the scenery around you until you find something for the children to seek. When someone spots the target, they get to lead the next round.
The cards will give the kids directions about what to spy for to keep them from making obvious choices, like "a tree" when you're driving through a wooded area. Guidance will also help prevent them from seeking anything too difficult to find, like "a dog" when you're out on the interstate. The cards also give kids a chance to work on developing their reading skills.
The License Plate Game
The object of this game is to watch for license plates until you have found vehicles from all 50 states. The only thing you need to provide for your family to play is a notebook. The kids can write down license plate numbers beside corresponding states on a pre-made list or simply check off that they've seen the plate.
Passengers can work together to collect license plates by keeping a single log, or they can work in competition with one another. This game is easier to play when you are going on a road trip to an area that sees a lot of tourism.
Places with more out-of-state travelers make this road trip game fun, but it's unlikely that the kids will ever catch every state on the busiest roadway. One thing you can do to make the game more interesting is assign point categories to each state. If kids compete against each other from opposite windows, they will know who's winning the game by the time you make a rest stop.
You can come up with your own point categories that you find logical. For example, you can award five points for each in-state plate, 10 points for adjacent state plates and an extra five points for additional distance.
For more fun, give the kids a country map that will help them visualize the competition and stay on task. They can learn geographical details like the capitals of each state as they play.
Counting Guessing Game
To start a round of this game, look for something around you to count, but keep what it is a secret. As you count out loud, the other players have to try to guess what you're focusing on.
A round of this game can be really easy depending on what you pick out. Passengers will probably guess that you're counting cars right off the bat. It can get challenging, though, when you pick background objects since your perception differs from that of others in the car. You might not be able to count some things quickly enough, like bushes, making for a hilarious round if no one can figure it out.
This game is perfect for little ones who never seem to run out of questions. Think of something tangible and let everyone ask closed-ended questions about the details until they figure out what it is. Your secret can be any person, place or thing that you can physically touch.
You win if no one guesses the right answer after 20 questions. Players are permitted to ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no in the original version of the game. Play the classic version by not allowing probing questions that you would need to give detailed answers to.
Want to get your small children to entertain themselves on the road? Let them have some age-appropriate travel bingo cards to use as they experience the sights. Create your own before the trip to customize the game based on what you're likely to see. Pack crayons or markers so kids can keep track of what they've seen, or use stickers to keep things mess-free.
Fun Road Trip Game Ideas for Adults
Adults get bored on long car rides, too, but chatting and playing games can easily remedy that. Party games on a road trip with friends are great for passing the time. Below are some games for mature kids and grown-ups who are traveling child-free:
20 Open-Ended Questions
This is the more challenging version of 20 questions. The idea is to allow open-ended questions only, which take longer to think of and must be responded to in detail. Kids might have trouble grasping the difference between closed-ended questions, which you can say either yes or no to, and open-ended questions, which require more thought. This makes the game better for adults.
Here's a rundown of how it works. Asking if you like the person, place or thing you're imagining is a banned question. A player could instead ask who or what gets along well with it, and you would have to respond by making references or drawing on your own knowledge. Players can get silly by asking about hypothetical situations, like what would happen if your person, place or thing was placed in rice.
Guess the Lyrics
To test your group's taste in music, shuffle your playlist and start a rapid-fire song challenge. On each player's turn, randomly play the first few lines of a song before stopping the beat. The player then has to finish the lyrics from memory. If a player sings the correct line, they stay in the game for another round. You could also require players to sing at least two lines or more. Lyrics made up on the spot can sound hilarious, so losing just makes the game more fun.
Truth or Car
Playing this classic party game in a vehicle is just like playing it anywhere else, with some specific safety rules. Players should think of dares that can be performed safely and legally without getting too over the top. Truth or car can be a very fun game to play on a road trip with these limitations. Here are some quick rules you can use:
- The driver must obey all traffic laws.
- The players must avoid distracting the driver.
- The players must stay inside the vehicle while it is in motion.
- The players must keep the game inside the vehicle, including all objects.
- Everyone must be respectful of personal boundaries.
Ask Me Anything
You have probably spent time getting to know new friends by asking about their families, jobs or their lives in general. You can make getting to know your friends on a deeper level into a question-and-answer game. It's a great way to pass the time while you're on the road. Play casually or keep score, allowing players to pass on a question they aren't fully comfortable with.
To make things a little more structured, players can choose from categories such as work life, hobbies or pets. The other players can then ask related questions. What you learn might surprise you! Even friends you have known for years have some news things to share about themselves.
Travel Bingo For Adults
If you want to play an adult version of the kid-friendly travel bingo game, make travel bingo cards with things on the road adults would be more likely to spot. Certain car makes and models or traffic violations made by other drivers can be great additions to bingo for an older audience.
The starting player begins telling a story, and each player takes turns adding more information until you have created a plot as a group. Turns can last for a few lines or as little as a single word. Stories that stop making sense quickly turn into some of the funniest of all and might just keep you chuckling for days afterward.
Would You Rather?
The object of this game is to come up with two scenarios that are equally undesirable and ask another player what they would rather do. You can use this road trip game as an interesting way to get to know people better. Each player can explain in detail why they would make a particular choice, even when they would actually choose neither.
If you want to think of more questions to ask, consider browsing for possibilities online or picking up a card deck. To get the driver involved, someone can draw for them and read their card out loud.
Six Degrees of Separation
The concept behind this game is that you can connect any two people in the world based on their distant social ties. The best people to play with are interested in celebrity culture. Start by coming up with two living famous people who lack any obvious connections. To avoid making subconscious connections right away, have two players individually write down the names and then do a reveal of who they each selected.
Each player should then contribute the name of someone who came into contact with one person you started with. Contact can be defined as simply as a handshake or starring in the same show or movie. Your group should keep going until you have made a bridge of six or fewer connections.
This game is similar to the card game Mao, only it has the potential to create even more chaos. The only rule is that all players can add a rule at any point in the game. The rules can be simple or utterly ridiculous. For example, a rule could be to say the phrase, "I was abducted by a UFO once," every time someone spots birds flying overhead.
The trick is that players need to figure out these rules as they play — don't explain why you're saying or doing something in particular. To keep track of the score, one player can serve as the game master and enforce the rules. The game master would be responsible for telling other players when they have lost a point without explaining why. It's possible to gain negative points too, making mistakes even funnier.
Each player thinks of a celebrity and responds to questions in character until someone guesses who they are. Players earn points by guessing correctly or by stumping the group. Create cards with celebrity names beforehand to have passengers draw from.
You can play this simple game of trivia with just about any topic in popular culture that your group is interested in, like books, movies or shows. One player names an actor, singer or writer, and the next has to respond by naming a movie they starred in or a piece they created. Players who are stumped have to sit out. The last player standing wins the game and the title of most culture savvy.
You can customize this game by playing with different topics than the usual. For a food-related trivia challenge, a player can name an ingredient, and the rest can respond with recipes that ingredient is used in. This makes trivia a fun road trip game idea when you have a diverse group of players interested in different topics. You can keep everyone playing for hours if you mix up the subjects enough.
While You Were Sleeping
Someone always falls asleep on a road trip. Whether you have that one person who's always sleeping or you take turns while someone drives, the remaining awake passengers can have fun while your friend gets some shut-eye.
While You Were Sleeping starts when you notice someone or multiple passengers have fallen asleep. Passengers who are still awake have to come up with a ridiculous story together to relay to the sleepers when they wake up. You can make this story as outlandish as you would like — the real challenge comes when they wake. Once they're awake, the remaining passengers have to convince them that your story really happened. This requires passengers to stick to details and put on their best poker face.
While you can play this game just for fun, you can make it competitive by assigning points to players. Each person has the opportunity to win one point. If the awake passengers successfully convince others and pull off their story, then each storyteller gets one point. If the sleeper realizes it's a prank, they win a point. If anyone breaks character or gives the game away, they lose a point. You can keep track of points throughout your trip and see who wins when you arrive.
High School Superlatives
This game will take you back to getting your high school yearbooks. Each player comes up with a superlative about the person sitting next to them. You could use actual lines from your yearbook like, "Most likely to succeed," or you could get a little funnier.
To make this game last longer, set up an alphabet rule. In the alphabet version, each player has to come up with a superlative that contains at least one word starting with a certain letter. For example, you could say, "Best asymmetrical hairstyle," for the letter A.
Have one player act as the judge and the rest participate in the game. The judge will search for words online and check the spelling as the other players take turns competing. Make sure the words are difficult enough to challenge the players and look out for sneaky cheating.
For a fun twist on this road trip game idea, theme the spelling bee around a popular series or fandom everyone enjoys. You can get creative with your theme based on common interests shared by the group.
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