the best road trip games for kids and parents alike
Look no further. This is the only list you'll ever need to stay sane on the road: The best road trip games for kids, for their sanity and yours.
This master list of car games is for you, if you are:
- Eager to get on the road but tired of singing yet another Wheels on the Bus
- Desperate to get your kids off the iPad and looking for some screen-free car games
- Worried about your daughter who gets car sick easily (like mine) and not sure how to keep her busy without upsetting her wobbly tummy
It includes 1000+ kids activities, with templates and sorted by category. You'll find talking games for kids who suffer from travel sickness, road trip bingo templates and other travel activities with free printables. Some can be played alone while others are more fun if all passengers join in.
And because we all could do with a little less time glued to our phones and iPads, I've limited them to screen-free activities only.
PS Don't forget to take the Travel Habits Quiz to see if you're a Rookie or a Rockstar 🙂
This post takes inspiration from all those amazing mummies and daddies sharing their favourite games to play in the car. Click images and links for more detailed instructions and free printables and don't forget to download the printable version to keep in the car.
BRAIN GAMES (no materials needed)
These brain games don't require any preparation or materials, so it doesn't get any easier than this. They are especially suitable for children prone to travel sickness (like my daughter), because they can keep their eyes on the road while playing.
Noise annoys an oyster but a noisy noise annoys an oyster most. Tongue twisters are hilarious and encourage pronunciation and articulation. Get some great ones here:
2. I'm going on holiday and bringing...
A fun memory game. The first player starts by saying: I'm going on holiday and bringing... my suitcase (any item of choice). The second player repeats the mentioned packing list and adds 1 item: I'm going on holiday and bringing my suitcase and my blue beach towel. Every next player keeps repeating the full packing list and adds 1 item. Who can remember the most items??
One child is IT and the others invent a phrase for him. Any phrase, try “the cat’s tail”. He must then answer every question they ask him with that phrase, and try not laugh.
- What your favorite breakfast food? the cat’s tail
- What do you use to brush your hair? the cat’s tail
- What would you hold onto if you wanted to make friends with an angry cat? the cat’s tail
- What instrument do you write with? the cat’s tail
The player who makes him laugh is IT for the next round.
~Annette/Tips from a Typical Mom
4. Rhyming game
Say a word out loud and all other players need to find a rhyming word. Allow your kids to throw in some of their own nonsense words to increase the fun.
Make up sentences or phrases from the letters on license plates you spot. BPG becomes Big Pink Giraffe or Barry Pooped Gummi bears.
A very popular game with endless variations. Choose a topic, for example animals, food, girl's names. The first player shouts out a word starting with the A (ant/apple/Ann), the next player with B (bear/banana/Beatrice) and so on.
7. The silence game
Keep this one for when you need a little game break and you'd like to enjoy the scenery. My son taught me this game, apparently they play it in school regularly (clever teacher), he loves it and so do I! It's extremely simple: Who can be silent for the longest? No noises allowed, including laughter but players are definitely allowed to try to get the others to talk.
Ask each other crazy, funny and weird questions and get to know your family during the car journey. Pick and print your favourite list below, or browse more free printables here.
9. What/who would?
Think up an open question like “Who would do their job at midnight?” and see who can come up with the most answers.
Simply choose an animal and have your kids guess what you are with Yes/No Questions:
- Can you fly/swim/climb trees?
- Do you live on the farm/on the African Savannah/in the forest?
- Are you an insect/bird/fish?
Once they guess the right animal, it's their turn to pick one and to be questioned.
STORY TELLING GAMES
Stimulate imagination and improvisation by making up stories using the structure Somebody Wanted But So:
The first player calls out a main character – it can be any person or animal real or imagined. “An Alligator named Beatrice”
The second player repeats the character name and adds what the character wanted.
“An Alligator named Beatrice wanted to learn to sing.”
The third player repeats the Somebody Wanted details and adds a conflict or challenge of some
“An Alligator named Beatrice wanted to learn to sing, but she had a sore throat.”
The fourth player repeats everything so far and adds a final result to the story.
“An Alligator named Beatrice wanted to learn to sing, but she had a sore throat, so she went to the doctor instead.”
~Heather/Books and Giggles
13. Round Robin Stories
In a round robin, everyone tells a part of the tale. Each person in the car, in turn, has a certain length of time in which to develop the story: a minute or two for younger children and 5 minutes for older children. Start the story with something seen along the way. When the first storyteller reaches his time, the next one picks up where he left off, and so on.
~Annette/Tips from a Typical Mom
14. Mysterious driver
Make up a life story about the driver in the car next to you. Invent a name, job, family, hobbies. Discuss where he/she is driving today and why. And why does the driver look happy, grumpy or sad?
15. Clap the rhythm
One player claps a short rhythm and all others need to repeat the same.
16. Crazy lyrics
Instead of singing along to your favourite songs, make up your own lyrics. Easiest to do, is to only change the last few words of each sentence.
17. Guess the melody
Start humming a song and every player who recognises the song, joins in until everybody is humming. You can also change the humming into clapping, this makes the game dramatically more difficult.
ROAD TRIP ACTIVITIES
To enjoy these car games, you will need to get some materials beforehand (all available at home or the dollar store) and print out some of the templates provided. Advantage is that they can be played individually, in silence and without your active participation.
ROAD TRIP BINGO
A fun road trip game that motivates kids to observe their environment and to have eye for detail. It's also a great eye exercise because you need to switch focus between nearby and far away. This strengthens the muscles in the eyes over time and improves vision overall. Amazing, right?
18. Car brands
19. Road signs
20. I spy
21. Alphabet I spy
OTHER CAR GAMES FOR KIDS
22. License plate game
23. 50 States coloring game
24. Window art
Let out their inner artist and encourage them to create some window art. You only need some dry erase markers, double check you haven't packed permanent markers!
25. Activity tray
Get some cookie sheets at the local dollar store and turn them into fun travel trays.
26. Road trip countdown
To avoid a continuous Are we there yet?, help the kids keeping track of the journey with this fun visual aid. Create cards with important landmarks, cities or stops and hang them up in the car with string and pegs.
27. DIY Magnetic travel game
Making your materials magnetic is the way to go! Avoid the backseat mess with one of these clever DIY car games for kids. More magnetic games here.
28. DIY Busy bags
29. Dry erase travel map
An interesting challenge for older kids, while stimulating their navigation skills.
30. CARD GAMES
No master list of kids games would be complete without it. All you need is a deck of cards.
31. Travel puzzles
These puzzles will challenge your kids brain, definitely more difficult than they look.
32. LEGO Travel kit
PEN AND PAPER GAMES
If you don't have the time to prepare a travel activity kit, these pen and paper games are quick and easy options.
When your children are old enough to read and write, keep them busy with these word games. They only involve printing some of the templates and don't need your participation. Take advantage and enjoy the scenery!
33. Word search challenge
MORE PEN AND PAPER ACTIVITIES
36. Four in a row
37. Dot to dot
38. Tic Tac Toe
41. Drawing prompts
I love this kids game: a fun twist on the traditional colouring activity that stimulates your child's creativity and imagination.
If you'd like to use the time on the road to practice mathematical skills, you'll love these kids games and printables.
42. Math card games
44. Math skill games
45. Math colouring puzzles
This is a good colouring option for the older kids, a bit like sudoku with colours. It will challenge their math skills and critical thinking.
ARE WE THERE YET?
Yes, we are! We have arrived!
Well done, you have survived another long drive!
You managed to stay sane and even enjoy the ride. You got some quality family time in, enjoyed the scenery, had some great laughs and maybe even managed a little snooze, while the kids where happily playing in the backseat. Everybody jumped out of the car smiling.
You might even want to do it again...
Road trips are fun as long as we keep the backseat boredom at bay. Please share this list of road trip games with anybody who could use a little help and don't forget to download below, so you can have a printable version in the car for those spontaneous trips.
Road trip anyone?
Karin Louzado is a family travel expert who supports others parents taking the effort out of travelling. A Dutch expat mum of 2 toddlers, she explored over 50 countries without losing her mind, wallet or kids. Download your free guide The Zen of Toddler travel and learn how to simplify family travel.