Family-Friendly Road Trip Games

Best Road Trip Games

Traveling can be such an exciting adventure for families. It’s a wonderful way to see the country and all it has to offer. Unfortunately, there may be long distances between points of interest that can get pretty boring, especially for young children. Playing travel games can help families get through these periods without whining or fighting. It can also be a great way to get kids to look out the window rather than play video games or watch movies. Who knows? It might even be educational, but the best of all these games will create wonderful family memories.

Imagine… a family Road Trip with fun and laughter coming from the back seat instead of arguing and “are we there yet“?

Every trip I’ve been on where we made the effort to have some kind of road trip game going on was a blast. It really takes the whole thing to the next level. If you’re in a rush and sticking to the highways trying to get there in time, an ongoing game or a couple of different games will make the miles fly by.

Road trip games also get everyone involved, keeping each person from going off in their own little corner of the car with their iPhone or iPod. When you’re all playing a game and getting a little friendly competition going, you become a real unit and your road trip becomes a bonding experience.

Treasure Hunt

Treasure Hunt is a fun and very competitive game that’s all about what’s inside your car and figuring out what’s “treasure”. 

Treasure Hunt is the perfect road trip game for a long road trip because it incorporates every stop along the way and really engages everyone. You’ll want at least three players to make it interesting. Only play this game if you’re stopping a lot along the way to check out sights. If you’re just doing a long haul down a highway, forget it. As the driver can’t truly play other than being the one hiding the treasure (without crashing!), make sure you’re switching off drivers so that they get a chance to play, too.

This game can get crazy, with people running around like spies when they’re the Treasure Hider while everyone else is on their trail trying to catch them and figure it out before the game starts!

  • Minimum number of players (passengers): 3
  • What you’ll need: Pair of dice and notepad to keep score

Rules of the Game

Start this road trip game before you start your engines. Everyone, including the driver, rolls the dice. Whoever gets the highest roll gets to start the game by becoming the Treasure Hider (TH) and wins 20 points. This is the only “roll and win” part of the game. The TH also will be responsible for keeping score for that round on a notepad. If the TH is the driver, they can appoint a passenger to keep score.

The driver can only play rounds if they are the TH as they can answer questions about the object and still drive safely. Obviously, you don’t want your driver craning his/her head around looking in the back seat for the treasure!

At the first pit stop/sight, the TH has to select an item that is either in the car already (visible, though, not underneath a pile of things) or introduce something new from the pit stop/sight and place it in view of all passengers.

The TH should try to do this while the other passengers are doing something else so that they don’t see what the item is. If all the passengers are around, it’s best for the TH to simply select something already in view and already in the car. Of course, I’ve seen Treasure Hiders be very sneaky and casually get something at our pit-stop or sight that no one thinks is the treasure, like Kleenex that they use to blow their nose.

Once on the road, the road trip game begins. All players should look around first and then may ask the TH yes or no questions about the selected “treasure”. The TH may only answer “yes” or “no”. When a player thinks they’ve figured it out, they can ask directly if the suspected item is the treasure.

Beware! If you are wrong, you lose 10 points! You can have a negative score, so try to be sure you’re right. If you guess correctly, you win 20 points and become the TH/scorekeeper for the next round.

I encourage you to play this game on the entire road trip. Overnight stays at your accommodations can be really fun as the TH has tons of opportunities to hide the treasure and everyone else is trying to catch the TH in the act! This is usually when the TH is the most creative, too.

A word of advice to the TH: don’t choose something edible. One TH thought he was being really smart and decided to make the half dozen doughnuts he picked up on the way out of the motel the “treasure” thinking there would be at least one donut left. When they were all eaten within the first five minutes of the drive, he had to admit defeat!

Trivia Wiz

Test your trivia knowledge and win a fun prize at the end of the day. 

Get ready to test your trivia knowledge and get a great competition started. To make this road trip game even more exciting, figure out something the winner gets (that everyone wants) at the end of each day. All the people who didn’t win have to pay for the prize – you’ll probably want to make it realistic for your budgets while still being fun for the winner. Figure out what it will be before you get started.

Unlike Cash Cab, the driver will not be able to play (unless they can memorize a bunch of trivia questions and answers – that depends on the driver).

  • Minimum number of players: 2
  • What you’ll need:
    • A pair of dice
    • a notepad for keeping score
    • trivia source (book, Trivial Pursuit cards, download from internet, etc.)

Rules of the game

Select your source of trivia and roll the dice. Whoever rolls highest gets to answer a question first. Whoever rolls lowest asks the question.

No matter what you’re using, ask questions consecutively from your source, rather than trying to pick a question – no matter how hard or easy that question is. This keeps it fair as anyone can get an easy or hard question.

For instance, if you’re using Trivial Pursuit cards, take one question from each category consecutively (in the Genus edition, that would be Geology first, Entertainment second, History third, and so on). With Trivial Pursuit cards, pull a fresh card each time so that no one has seen the answer. If you’re using a book or printed online material, turn to a fresh page each time and use the first question on that page.

If you get a question right, you get 10 points and get to go again. You can get quite a “roll” going sometimes and win lots of points! If you get it wrong, you don’t get any points and take over the role of the questioner to the next person. The order of play is determined by the roll of the dice: highest first, next highest next, and so on all the way to lowest roll.

If someone who is not supposed to be answering says the answer, that person loses 20 points, so be careful! I admit I have trouble with this rule, but it keeps the game rolling if you don’t constantly have other people answering the questions. Plus, if you’re the one that’s in the answering role, it can really tick you off when everyone else is answering the questions before you do and taking away your chance to win.

Play this road trip game any way you want. You can select a maximum score to stop the game at a certain point, or you can just play all day. I recommend that if you’re playing this road trip game for more than one day, that you wipe the slate clean and start fresh each day, giving everyone a chance to win. If someone had a huge score from the previous day, it could prevent others from winning. You’ll also want to select a new prize for the winner before you start a new game.

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt is definitely a card game that can run for an entire road trip and the larger your group, the more entertaining it will be. Detailed tips are given for selecting your list, tailoring it to your trip so that it becomes “yours”. This is a team game and it’s excellent for building even closer friendships with your gang.

There is nothing like a scavenger hunt to get people really involved and a road trip, believe it or not, is perfect for this game! This road trip game will depend on your being on a trip that has lots of stops along the way, so if this is a long haul, skip this game as you won’t have a chance to “scavenge”.

Adding a prize really ups the ante!

  • Minimum number of players: 4
  • What you’ll need
    • A list of items to collect – more details on this list and suggestions below
    • Print or write a list for each team.

Rules of the game

Before you hit the road, you’ll need to do a little prep-work. First, select teams. All team-mates must be in the same car if you’re doing a caravan trip. Your time in the car will be necessary to plot with your team-mate on how you’re going to get the items on your list at your next stop, so make sure you’re sitting next to each other so you can “huddle” and strategize. Code your teams with a color or a name, like the Blue Team or the FBI.

Next, come up with your list of items. You can do this as a group or have one person brainstorm the whole list. You will want a minimum of 20 things so that the game lasts at least one day. If it runs over, let it! It will be that much more fun once you’re settled in your hotel or campground and your team can run around getting more of the items on the list.

Your items for this road trip game should be selected with your trip in mind. If you’re going to a famous sight, add a cheap souvenir from that place; if you’re going to be in an area that has a seasonal harvest at that time, take that into account. For example, if you’re traveling through the Northeast in the fall, add a local apple to the list.

You should also have items that involve strangers. What? Am I crazy? No – really! You could add an item like a business card or a breath mint or you could have them take a picture of you. The point is that you have to go up to a stranger and ask them for something without revealing that you’re involved in a scavenger hunt. This makes the game tougher and much more interesting. Plus, you meet people, and who knows? They could be pretty nice!

I recommend that you also add items that belong to the other team. This can be really fun as the other team knows what you want and will stop at nothing to keep you from getting it! These items should be distributed evenly so that each team has the same number of things to try to get from the opposing team. Put the team who is responsible for getting the item in parentheses next to the item like this: Suzie’s Favorite Jeans (Blue Team).

Here are some ideas for your list:

  • A matchbook from one of the restaurants you go to.
  • A keychain from one of your sights along the way.
  • A team-mate’s toothbrush.
  • A borrowed pen from a stranger.
  • A flower from the roadside if it’s spring or summer. A maple leaf in the fall.
  • A shower cap from one of your hotels. To make this road trip game hilarious, make one of the team-mates wear the shower cap in the car (they don’t have to wear it outside of the car, but imagine all of the stares from other cars and pedestrians when they’re sitting there with a shower cap on their head!).
  • Something theme to your trip – traveling through the Southwest? Add something made with turquoise to your list. Southeast? How about Spanish moss?
  • How about something themed to the time of year? If it’s Halloween, you could add one of those mini-pumpkins to your list.

You can go in any direction with your list – the possibilities are endless with this road trip game.

So you have your list and teams selected? All you need to do is start the game once you hit the road. Teammates can plan their attack while driving and race off to collect their items at every stop. One note, be fair! If the driver is filling the tank, everyone must wait until he or she is done to start searching. Also, if you’re at a sight you’re excited to see, declare a certain period of time off-limits so that you can relax, enjoy, and check everything out.

Whichever team collects all of the items on the list first, wins. If you’re up for another game, just create a new list and select a new prize. I recommend you keep your original teams – you’ll really become a unit and practically read each other’s minds!

Silly Words

Every time you enter a new state, have the group select a silly word that must be used in every sentence that you speak while you’re in that state. You can theme this game to your trip by selecting items that have to do with the state you’re in – such as potatoes in Idaho or Hollywood in California.

Every time you use the silly word in a sentence, you get a point. Gather twenty points and you get to select a new word. Say a sentence without including the selected word and you lose two points. You can have a minus score. Even one-word sentences or replies (like yes or no) must include the word.

The fun of this is how really silly this can get and you can end up laughing hysterically! This is a great game for kids – they love the silliness – but even adults have a great time with this one.

Storytelling Circle

Tell a story as a group. Select someone to start the game – anyone who wants to go first is fine. Each player says one or two sentences and then leaves the story off on a cliffhanger like: “But then she was surprised by a big…” or “He was tied to the train tracks and thought all was lost when…”

The next person (decide which order you will play in – clockwise or counter-clockwise according to your seating in the car and stick with it) finish that sentence and adds one to two more of their own before adding their own cliffhanger. Make sure the story is told by/added to by all the players at least twice before ending it. Anyone after that can end it.

This is great because it really gets your creative juices flowing! Play the game as many times you feel like it – no need to keep score.

Signs and Sights

Select signs (for example: stop sign, yield sign, speed limit sign) and sights (for example farm silo, pay telephones, general stores) for your game. Select gestures for every sign and a point value for every sight.

Every time anyone in the car sees a sign they have to make the approved gesture (you could put your hand up in the stop signal or do something silly). The last person to make the gesture loses points (select your own penalties and rewards).

Every time you see one of the sights, whoever yells it out first gets a point (or points). If you yell it out at the same time as someone else, neither of you wins the points. If you yell it out and you’re wrong (you yelled a little too fast) you lose points. Whoever gets the most points at the end of the day wins.

This is a perfect game for a road trip as it makes sure you pay attention to everything on your trip (instead of spacing out) and it contains a silliness/fun element when you’re making all the gestures.

License Plate Sayings

This is a game that can be fun to play if there are a lot of vehicles on the road with you. Typically there are three letters on every license plate that goes by. The group picks a license plate letter combo (e.g. ‘AWT’) and everyone shouts out three-word sayings that start with those letters (e.g. ‘All Whales Talk!’). These can be total nonsense – and many times those are the funniest. You continue on until you tire of those three letters or run out of sayings. This game requires everyone to at least know what letters words start with, but doesn’t mean they know yet how to read. It can be quite fun with smaller kids who sometimes come up with the funniest sayings.

Bingo

Bingo can be really fun in the car when you use items you will spot out the window, rather than numbers and letters. Each player gets a game card with things such as road signs, red cars, or traffic lights listed in rows. As the player sees these items along the road, they can mark them off. The first one to get five items in a row either up, down or diagonal will win. You can create your own game cards, or find premade ones online to print.

Alphabet Game

The alphabet game can be very educational for children learning their letters. Each player gets a piece of paper to write down letters they spot on road signs, billboards, or license plates. The first to find enough letters to complete their alphabet in order wins. This is a classic game that I have played my entire life. The nice thing about this game is that you can even play it by yourself for something to do while driving or riding. It requires that all players know how to read. There are many variations, I’m sure, but these are the ‘rules’ that we always play:

Objective of the Game: Starting with the letter ‘A’, find words on road signs, billboards, or business signs that include that letter and call it out (e.g. ‘A’, highway!). The first one to find it and call it out gets it. No one else can use that sign. That person is now on letter ‘B’ while everyone else is still looking for letter ‘A’. First one to get to through the entire alphabet (through ‘Z’) wins the game. You can continue playing until everyone gets through it or start a new game after the first person gets through. License plates and words on vehicles can not be used. The hardest letters are J and Q. Oftentimes, these are ‘catchup’ letters to even out where everyone is! Sometimes roads don’t have enough signs to play this game. It’s a judgement call whether or not you have to give up on the game and try something else.

Name Game

The name game is great for the older kids, as it is a little more complex. The first player states a name. Use a theme to keep everyone on track, such as movie stars or sports figures. The second player has to use the first letter of that one’s last name and state a celebrity whose first name begins with it. For example, if the first player says Justin Beiber, the next player could use Bob Dylan. Players drop out if they mess up. The last one left is the winner.

Spot the Yellow Car

A very easy game that even the preschoolers can enjoy is Spot the Yellow Car. It doesn’t have to be yellow. Any color will do. Whoever is the first to spot ten of them will win. This game goes fast and can be played over and over without becoming frustrating.

All of these games can make a road trip fun for the kids and more relaxing for the adults. By using small pieces of candy or cookies as prizes, it can become even more exciting for the children.

Would You Rather?

This is a game that is best done with the deck of cards for this game, but can also be played by just making things up. Usually, you pick two very challenging or disgusting things and ask everyone else if they would rather do ‘X’ or ‘Y’. The more challenging or disgusting, the funnier it is what people say to reason out what they would choose. E.g. Would you rather eat your own boogers or a live centipede? People have to pick – otherwise, it’s not a fun game.

These are just a few of the games we like to play! Have you played these? What are your favorites?

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