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Family Travel Games – Keep the Kids Entertained!

It never fails. Exactly 12 minutes into your multi-hour car (or plane) ride, a chorus of “I’m bored” echoes up from the back seat. Luckily for your sanity, you can leave boredom at home by using this list of fun-filled travel games! Whether you’re driving to a campground or off to Grandma’s house, sometimes the long roads seem even longer when you have nothing to pass the time. We’ve come up with a few solutions that might help! Next time your kids start to get restless in the car…

Note: If you have motion sickness-prone kids, we recommend the suggestions with an asterisk (*).

No Supplies Needed

  • CAR-tegories*: Select a category (animals, vegetables, places, etc) then take turns coming up with a word that fits. Start with A and make your way through the whole alphabet.
  • Nosey Neighbors*: As you pass a car in another lane, take a look at the passengers and the car. Take turns adding words to create a story about your neighbors and where they are headed.
  • Don’t Grin and Bear It: With two people in the back seat, take turns trying to keep a straight face while the other makes crazy faces. Only two rules – no touching and no closing your eyes. See who can last the longest without cracking a smile.
  • Car Composers*: All you need is an ear for rhyming to create your very own theme song! Alternate creating the first line and creating a rhyming second line to complete each stanza. Example: We’re going to visit Grandma’s house; Mom didn’t let me bring my mouse. I guess I’ll just have to play; with dear Grandma’s cat all day.
  • Crafty Characters*: Take turns brainstorming characters from your favorite books, movies, TV shows and games. Each person must choose a name that begins with the last letter of the character chosen previously. Example: Frankie > Eleanor > Roger Rabbit > Tigger…
  • Spelling Sleuth*: Go around the car and let everyone add a letter to a word. The first person to complete a word loses! But don’t choose just any letter; if you select a strange letter your fellow riders can challenge you to find out what word you have in mind. No answer? You lose.
  • 20 Questions*: A car-ride classic! Pick anything in the world, then answer up to 20 yes/no questions from your partners as they try to figure out what you’re thinking.
  • Tree Tracker*: Pick a tree in the distance and guess how far away it is. Then, use the odometer to find out the exact distance. Closest guess wins!
  • Three-Letter Lingo*: Have one person think of a three letter word. Everyone else takes turns guessing three letter words while the person tells them how many letters correspond to their word choice.
  • Pack that Memory*: Start with the sentence “I’m on my way to ___ and I brought a ___” then fill in objects you might have packed starting with the letter A. Each person must recite the objects already named before adding their own. See who can remember the most objects without a mistake! Example: I’m going to Kentucky and I brought an artichoke and a blanket and a creature…

Supplies Needed

  • Edible Jewelry: Use string licorice and fruit loops to make a whole new look for yourself. Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll have snacks handy for the rest of the ride!
  • Radio Stars*: Hand the kids a tape recorder and let them create their own radio variety show! Speed up or slow down the voices on playback for extra laughs.
  • A Present an Hour*: Stop by the dollar store before you hit the road and pick up a selection of small gifts for the kids. Hand them out every hour.
  • Pipe Cleaner Craze: Let kids twist the travelin’ time away with a pack of pipe cleaners. Bend them, braid them and bring to life a new animal. Or turn the back seat into the hippest beauty salon around by creating new do’s with the pipe cleaners.
  • Car Color Quest*: Cut up a variety of different colored strips of paper and place them in a paper bag. Take turns selecting a colored strip (no peeking!). First person to find a car the same color as their strip wins! For additional rounds, hunt for objects other than cars.
  • Journey Journal: Give the kids an empty notebook, a set of crayons and a Polaroid or disposable camera and let them document your travels. You’ll get some adorable keepsakes in the process.

Other ideas for fun-filled car games are

License plate fun. Have the little ones see who can find all of the letters in alphabetical order on the license plates that go by. Or, give them a list of all 50 states and see how many of them they can find. For a shorter game, have them try to make phrases out of the license plates they see. For example, “BYSB 7845” could be “big yellow school bus.”

Map your journey.Showing your kids where you are on a map will help the miles fly by, and it’s a great opportunity to teach them a little geography. If you bring a road map for each child, they can trace your trip in pen or crayon and draw landmarks on the map themselves. When they ask you how far away you are from the next stop, show them how to determine distance using the legend.

Counting games. Road trips provide lots of opportunities to practice counting. Assign each child a side of the car and see who can count the most cows, horses, billboards, or sheep. If you have one child, you can compete or see how fast your child can make it to 100 items. Try switching items every once in a while to ward off boredom.

Aluminum foil sculptures. Aluminum foil is an easy, cheap, and non-messy modeling medium. Bring a roll of foil along for the ride, and let your children make jewelry, crowns, silly hats, masks, and more.

Breathless. When you go through the tunnel, see which passengers can hold their breath all the way until the end. Another classic variation is holding your breath whenever you pass a cemetery. Some families include wish-making in this game: Successfully hold your breath until the end of the landmark, and your wish will come true.

Sock Puppets. You can pull them off your feet if you like, but we recommend bringing a few pairs of inexpensive socks, a permanent marker, fuzzy pipe cleaners, and pre-cut pieces of felt. Simply slide your hand into the sock, and you instantly have a very basic puppet. Use the pipe cleaners to make ears, a fuzzy nose or necklaces for the puppet. The felt and permanent marker can be used to add silly details like buggy eyes or a droopy tongue. Then take turns creating stories with the puppets.

Bottle of Treasure. Before you leave on your trip, construct this fool-proof and quiet game for your kids. Fill a dry, empty water bottle with colorful sand or rice. Drop in about 20 small but identifiable objects like beads, buttons, safety pins, and tiny figurines into the bottle. (Make sure you create a list of everything you put in the bottle.) Secure the lid and shake the bottle until the objects are well dispersed throughout the sand. Now, give the bottle of treasures and treasure map ( the list of hidden objects) to your child, and challenge them to find all the hidden objects by shaking and shifting the sand around in the bottle, without removing the lid.

Alphabet Race. The goal of this game is to find each letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order, on the road signs you see throughout your journey. This game may seem easy, but just wait till you get to letters such as “Q” or “X”! See how fast you can accomplish this feat.

Hug Bug.You might have played this game a little differently when you were growing up, but we are making it much less…painful. If you see a Volkswagen Beetle or “Bug” you get to give one other person in the car a hug or blow them a kiss!

The Frankie Game. In this game, the word “Frankie”, as in our lovable mascot, is substituted for a verb. To play, one person picks a secret verb like “swim”. Then everyone else asks questions using “Frankie” in place of the verb. “Can you Frankie in the ocean?” “Can you Frankie in the house?” The person who correctly guesses the secret verb gets to choose the next one.

Your Ideal Car. This game requires your family to use their imaginations! Pick a car on the road -even yours- and have each person say one thing that they would want to add onto the car to make it into the car of their dreams. For example, you could say, “I would add on a frozen yogurt machine to the car, so I could have frozen yogurt whenever I wanted!” Keep going until your family thinks they have created their ideal car!

The Teacher’s Dog. We at JumpStart love learning, so this game is perfect if you want to build up your child’s vocabulary on the road! In this game you will go through the alphabet using words to describe the teacher’s dog, the first letter of the descriptive word corresponding to the letter of the alphabet you are on. For example you could say, “The teacher’s dog is an Angry dog.” Then the next person would say, “The teacher’s dog is a Boring dog.” See if your family can find adjectives to describe the teacher’s dog from A-Z!

Question Game. In this game, you are only allowed to speak in questions to everyone in the car. For example one person could ask, “When are we going to get there?” The next person would ask, “Do you have a watch?” The next person would ask, “Did you take it?” If you do not answer in a question, you are out. The winner of the game is the person who can carry on the conversation in questions the longest!

Sweet and Sour. A true classic. When you’re on the road, wave to kids in other cars. If they wave back, they’re sweet! If they don’t, then they’re sour. Try to get as many sweets as possible!

Jello. Another car game classic! When you’re packed in the backseat like sardines, what better way to make the best out of the situation than to play a game of Jello? As the driver turns, pretend that you’re made out of Jello and move when the car moves – for once, the person in the middle will be glad to be in the middle!

The Stuck in Traffic Song. When you’re stuck in traffic, take turns singing along to the radio while substituting your own words in place of the real words. Make your lyrics about the traffic – it’s a great way to get a laugh out of sitting in a jam and it’s a sure way to make the delay seem shorter!

Popcorn Storytelling. Have one person start a story with a sentence, then go around the car and have everybody add on a sentence. Agree on a set amount of times you’ll go around before ending the story. Then enjoy the twists and turns as the story unfolds!

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