Nothing helps pass the time like playing a few road trip games. When you can take your mind off the miles and focus on spotting curiosities along the road or making mental lists of random things, your road trip will really start to fly by. In fact, you may even find yourself a little disappointed when you reach your destination before your latest game has concluded.
Now, you probably know about the many older road trip games that have been passed down through the decades. You'll recall some of them from your childhood. Even so, these games often receive new twists as the years go by. And then there are the newer games - the ones our current generation of highway travelers is making up each year.
We want to give you the best of both worlds. So, we'll start by outlining some of the classic road trip games you may have forgotten about, and then go on to add the games we've developed ourselves.
These old-school road trip games will really get the kids' eyes off their handheld games and onto the open road:
Scavenger Hunt. Mom or Dad starts it off by making a list of things to look for. The kids (or adults, frankly) then call out when they see these items. Once the family has found everything on the list, the game is over and whomever found the most items wins. If it's a long list, you may want to consider writing or printing it out for the players.
The trick here is for the referee to think of items that will be hard enough to find to make the game challenging, but easy enough that the players are likely to find them all before you pull into Wichita for the night. Examples: horse trailer, motorcycle, broken-down car, Denny's restaurant, rest stop, hitchhiker, barn, cow, brush fire, lake or pond, purple car.
I Spy. This one is most fun with little kids. A parent says, "I spy with my little eye, something that. . ." and then finishes the sentence with a clue. The players then have to guess at what the item is.
The item should be something that will remain on the horizon for at least a couple minutes, and the clues can relate to the item's color, size, shape, spelling, or other attributes. Example: "I spy with my little eye, something that has two arms." The kids are looking for a person, but you just pulled into the desert and you're actually looking at a Saguaro cactus. Devious!
License Plate Bingo. License plates are full of seemingly nonsensical patterns of numbers and letters. Go with it. Give each of the players a pencil and pad of paper. Call out "alphabet bingo," and have the players start looking for the letters of the alphabet, in order, on other cars' license plates. Each time a player spots the next letter, he or she should call it out and write it on the pad.
Once you reach the end of the alphabet, count up each player's letters and declare a winner. For a shorter game, you can use numbers 0 thru 9. Or, the object of the game can be to spot out-of-state license plates. While you're not going to see all 50 in one day, you could declare that the winner will be the one who sees the most before the next rest stop in an hour.
These road trip games are a little different, and will probably work best with an older crowd. Try them out on your next drive, and add in your own variations to make them more fun.
Tailpipe. For this game, all players will need a working knowledge of how improv comedy works. (If you've ever seen "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" you'll know.)
The first player spots an item out the window and makes a statement to start out an improv dialogue. (Example: "I can't believe I actually painted my car hot pink.") The second player then has to respond to this statement in a way that will keep the conversation going.
The two players will go back and forth for as long as they can until one of them feels the thread of conversation has gotten completely ridiculous and shouts, "Tailpipe!" That player should then start a new dialogue by making a new opening comment.
Remember that in good improv, each player should aim not to disagree with the other player and redirect the conversation, but instead, to build on what they said in a way that keeps things moving forward.
This game doesn't really have a winner - it's just a fun way to pass the time. Unless you're a professional comedian, in which case it will probably feel like work.
Poetry Jam. For another improv-related game, try having a poetry jam. One player starts off by stating the first line of a made-up poem - ideally based on something she saw out the window. The second player then has to add the next line.
This is harder if you follow some kind of rhyming scheme, but can be even more fun with free-form poetry if the players happen to be sarcastic types who don't actually like poetry and spend the whole game trying to make up the most pretentious poem they can.
Road Sign Storytelling. You're going to pass a lot of green road signs on your journey. Why not use them to make up stories? The best signs are the ones in cities that list the names of several exits.
The first player should begin the story based on a word seen on a sign. The second player should then jump in and continue the story whenever they spot a word on a subsequent sign that triggers a good idea.
This is another game that doesn't have clear winners and losers, but it's amazing to see where stories can end up based on a few road signs.
Try these road trip games on your next trip. They'll either work well for you or inspire you to make up even better games of your own.