Classic Pastimes for Summer Road Trips

Well, it’s almost summer, which inevitably means it’s time for road trips.  Usually about this time, we pull together some travel tips for families with kids.  This time around, we thought we’d mix it up a little bit.  Or maybe we’re just feeling a little bit nostalgic.  But, our best tip for traveling with kids this summer is to revive some of the road trip games you remember playing as a child.  That’s right, folks! Have everyone put away the devices!  And for even more fun, have the whole family join in and create some memories of your drive alongside the ones you’ll make once you get to your destination.

Here are a few to get you started:

License Plate Game

This one is my personal favorite!  Make a list of all the states and check them off as you spot them along the road.  If you check them ALL off, you’ll know you’re on one heck of road trip!  This game is one that you can play through your whole trip, even while you’re busy playing others.  You can even add a little bit of competition to the mix.  When someone spots a new state, write their initials next to it on your paper.  The person that has the most at the end of the trip is the winner.

Eye Spy

This one is a classic and is great for the young kids, too.  One person silently chooses an object that everyone can see.  (The object can be inside or outside of the car.)  That player then uses the first letter of that object as a clue and the other players try to guess the object.  For example, “I spy with my little eye, something that begins with R” when you are thinking of the word “road”.  The person who correctly guesses the item gets to choose the next item.

Going on a Trip

This one can take some thought and is one that can keep the kids guessing for a while.  One of the adults (mom, let’s say) says “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring macaroni.  If you would like to go, too, tell me what you’d bring?”  “Mom” has selected an item that begins with the same letter of her name, so she can go.  Any object that doesn’t begin with “M” for “Mom” doesn’t get to go.  Then the kids each take a turn guessing.  Unless they guess an object that begins with the first letter of their name, they are excluded from the imaginary trip. When the guessing comes around again to Mom, she brings another “M” object. “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to bring a movie ticket.”  The kids will be baffled as to why Mom gets to bring such silly things on the trip.  Eventually, someone (Dad, perhaps) will figure out the pattern and begin to play along.  Sam can bring his sunscreen.  Elizabeth can bring an elephant. Etc. etc.  It will take a while for everyone to figure it out, especially if the children are small or you have a lot of players, but once they do, it’s obviously a one-time-through game.  But, you can revive the game by coming up with something else unique to each individual.  For instance, maybe this time I can bring 39 pairs of socks or 39 tubes of lipstick – the unique thing here being age.  The kids might figure this one out quicker. 😉

Car Spotting

Have everyone agree on a make of car – Honda, Ford, Toyota, etc. – or more specifically a model –Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Flex – or even something along the landscape – wind turbine, oil well, hay bale (Can you tell we’re from the Midwest?  Your examples might be different.)  Once the car or other item is agreed upon, everyone keeps an eye open for it.  The first person to see each one shouts it out and earns a point.  At the end of the trip (or whenever you’ve had enough of the game) the person with the most points wins.  You can change up the items every now and then, too.

20 Questions

Goodness, this classic is timeless.  And seriously, since kids ask about a billion questions all the time, you might as well make it into a game, right?  So, have one person think of a person, place or thing, and all the other players begin to ask questions about that thing in order to make guesses as to what it is.  The questions need to be ones where a simple yes or no is sufficient.  Players can guess after each answered question.  Play continues until they have made an accurate guess.

Family Story Time

This one can be done the old-fashioned way or might be the reason to bring out a device.  Everyone loves a good story and some books are really great for the whole family – the Harry Potter books, Little House on the Prairie or Charlotte’s Web.  Choose one or two books ahead of time and either bring them along or download them on your device.  One person can read aloud to the car or you can take turns by chapter (depending on the ages of your children and the difficulty of the book).  Or, if you want to save your voice, find an audio book version and play it over the car stereo.


Just think of all the fun memories you’ll make with your children.  Twenty years from now, they won’t remember whatever game they’re playing on their phones or tablets, but they will remember the silly times they had trying to be the first to spot the next wind turbine along the Interstate!


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