20 Car Games for Your Road Trip

kids riding in a car laughing
Adventure lies around every corner as you begin your road trip. Whether you are driving to grandma’s house or planning a cross-country quest, proper planning can make or break the experience. Here are just a few game ideas to bring some fun to your journey. 

  1. Necessity is the Mother of Invention - Using objects found in the car (think tissue boxes, rubber bands, napkins, pens, etc.), players must create or describe a new “invention” with the objects available to them. Award the most creative participant some candy.
  2. Story Starters - Catch a glimpse of the passengers in another car as you drive by (the driver can keep her eyes on the road of course). Then take turns making up stories about their lives and future destinations. Could they be a group of snake charmers, plastic surgeons or child prodigies?
  3. Would You Rather? - It’s often quite amazing (and hilarious) to witness how much family members will struggle with hypothetical scenarios such as “Would you rather be able to fly or be super strong?” Genius Tip: Try these 100 would you rather questions.
  4. The Movie Game - This game is similar to 20 questions, but the object is to guess a movie title. You begin with only the number of words in its title. Whoever guesses correctly gets the next turn.
  5. Create a Contest - Depending on your traveling companions’ skill sets, consider a spelling bee, movie trivia or bubble gum blowing contest. Up the stakes with a prize — maybe spending money for the next gas station stop or a chance to pick the car playlist for the next hour.

Plan a family reunion with an online sign up. SAMPLE

  1. While You Were Sleeping - Someone fall asleep during the drive? Work with all the alert car riders to make up a plausible but funny story to tell the person about what happened during his nap. See how long it takes them to catch on to your tale.
  2. Traveling Time - Car mates must guess the exact time — down to the minute — you will arrive at a variety of stops, including restroom breaks, restaurants and your final destination. Give prizes to the players who come closest without going over the actual time.
  3. Guess the Flavor - This game works best with any small treat that comes in multiple flavors such as fruit snacks, jellybeans or gummy bears. Place a flavored treat in your car mate’s mouth with their eyes closed. They must then guess its flavor and/or color.
  4. Band Battle - Great for older children who have their own smart devices. Pick two people at a time and give them a song category — for instance, “heartbreak” or “teen angst.” They must pick a song and play for their car audience. The rest of the car votes on their favorite song. Keep a tally of who earns the most votes.
  5. License Plate Games - Try some variations of this classic game: See how many different states you can spot, how many plates begin with a chosen letter (give a time limit) or who can find the funniest vanity plate during the trip.
  1. Wacky Travel Log - This activity will work better for longer trips with multiple stops. See which family member can add the most unusual items to the trip journal. Consider entries such as joke of the hour, weirdest road sign, strangest souvenir or most embarrassing photo. Seashells, pressed flowers or road stop stickers are also great additions.
  2. Forbidden Word - Choose any common word your car buddies may often use (think words related to your travel destination such as “beach”) and challenge participants not to use that word for the duration of the car trip.  Each time a person is caught saying the forbidden word, he must pay the person who noticed. Be sure to be provide participants with items for payment beforehand such as coins, pieces of candy or small prizes.
  3. The Alphabet Game - This old favorite involves picking a letter and a topic. On each turn, a player must name an item that fits. Prepare topics of interest such as TV characters’ names that begin with the letter “B” or historical figures whose names start with “P.”
  4. Truth or Fiction - Did that really happen? One person either tells a true story about a crazy event in their own life — or makes one up. Participants must decide whether it’s true or false. Kids might be surprised to learn some interesting facts about their parents.
  5. Roadside Poker - Take advantage of all those fields you’re passing on the highway by playing this game of “poker” where you assign each animal type a different value. For instance, a cow is worth five points, while a dog is worth 50 points. Passengers on the driver’s side of the car will scan that side of the road while the passenger’s side will play the other. Make it even tougher: If there is a cemetery on the opposite team’s side and your team notices it before they do, your opponent loses 100 points. First team to 400 wins.

Plan a holiday weekend party with an online sign up. SAMPLE

  1. Sweet and Sour - This game requires waving at passengers in passing cars.  If it’s your turn, you get one point for “sweet” if they wave back. If no wave is returned, “sour” receives zero points. Award bonus points if the other car does something funny like make faces at you.
  2. Name That Tune - This classic never fails to bring a laugh, especially with car riders of different ages. Trying to recognize songs being hummed off-key by your kids just never gets old. You can also create a playlist on your smartphone or device beforehand to keep things moving quickly.
  3. Quick Draw - Using a sketch pad or dry erase board, players must try to be the first to name objects that are quickly drawn. If there are enough people in the car for teams, use a timer and tally points for each team.
  4. Word Races - See how many times players can find a designated word in a 10-minute period. For example, players may look for the word “driver” or “calm” on billboards/road signs and bumper stickers.
  5. Car Bingo - Search for free printable cards that players can use to mark off different types of vehicles they see on the road. (Convertibles, pick-up trucks, 18-wheelers, dump trucks, etc.)
Road trips are an excellent way to explore the open road and disconnect from the everyday hustle and bustle. Don’t miss out on the opportunity they offer to enjoy precious time with your family and friends.

Laura Jackson is a freelance writer based in Hilton Head, S.C. with her husband and two teenagers.

Additional Resources

50 Trivia Questions for Kids

Road Trip Essentials Checklist

Tips for a Stress-free Family Vacation