I am a big fan of family road trips, though I will say my level of enjoyment for a family road trip has definitely increased as my kids have gotten a little older and more self-sufficient. But with a large family like mine, the economics of driving us all somewhere in our minivan compared to buying 8 plane tickets (even with miles and points) is hard to ignore. Again, a car ride like this was a bit more challenging when my kids were younger, but it has gotten somewhat easier now that I no longer have a toddler and have mostly older kids. One thing that I like to do is have a variety of different road trip games or road trip activities to help pass the time as we drive on a long road trip.
Road trip games to play as a family
Here are a few of my favorite family road trip games:
- The Alphabet Game – this is my all-time favorite way to pass the time. You have to find things outside the car with each successive letter from A to Z. We generally make the rule that the letter has to START the word that you find and not just be in the middle somewhere, though occasionally we will bend the rules for Qs and Xs and other tricky letters. Depending on how bored everyone is or how long you want the game to take, you as the adult can help or just leave it to the kids 🙂
- When I had younger kids, we used to often play the license plate game and try to find license plates from different states and provinces. You can also consider printing out a grid with each state’s license plate on it and give everyone a copy. That way they can check it off the list if they find it. This can also be fun to do while you’re stopped to at a gas station to stretch your legs or at a national park. A national park or other tourist attraction is a great place to play the license plate car game since you have people from all over.
- Another great family road trip activity is a scavenger hunt or road trip bingo. There are many printable road trip scavenger hunt lists. Print one out for each person in the family and see who can collect everything on their list first.
- Memory Game – this is fun road trip game we learned from Scout campouts. You start with A and each person in turn has to say one thing that they’re bringing on the road trip. The next person has something that starts with B, and so on. Each person has to not only say their own thing but everyone else’s in order. Gets a bit challenging by the time you get to Z.
Which road trip travel game you choose will depend on your family and the ages of your children. It’s probably a good idea to have several different family road trip games to keep in mind, especially if you have little ones and have less attention span.
Educational family road trip activities for all ages
Whether you travel a lot or are just on a family cross country road trip, one road trip idea is to mix up with your road trip with educational family road trip activities. Consider stopping at a children’s museum or other national park or historical site. Depending on how many days you are planning for your trip, you can consider mixing in longer stops as just an extended part of your family road trip. Our family has found this to be a great use for miles and points by stretching out our longer road trips into multiple shorter days mixed in with stops along the way. We can use points for a hotel stay and just make the trip part of the vacation itself.
Quiet road trip activities for families
One thing that I like to keep in mind is that not everything during the road trip has to be educational. We have tried to be fairly conservative with screen time in our family, but our philosophy is that when you’re traveling, all screen time rules go out the window. If it takes 10 hours of screen time to have a pleasant family trip, then don’t beat yourself up over it. While we wouldn’t let our kids play on their phones or other screens all day when we’re at home, I’m much more chill about it if we’re driving all day.
A busy bag or bringing books to read are other ways to have a quiet game for your kid during your trip.
Resources for planning stops during your road trip
As I mentioned before, I enjoy turning the actual road trip into part of the vacation. There are a few resources that I like to use to try to make a road trip plan with interesting stops along the way. One is a site called Roadtrippers. With Roadtrippers, you can put in the path of your trip and it will suggest interesting things (like a fun roadside attraction) that are not too far off your route.
(SEE ALSO: Roadtrippers.com – a way to find unique destinations on your road trip)
Atlas Obscura is another road trip planner site with interesting road trip stop ideas. I mean how else would I have found the Uranus Fudge Factory (motto: “the best fudge comes from Uranus”). I enjoy road trip planning and finding interesting things along the way to make the trip more enjoyable.
You can even just pull up a Google Map of your trip and see what is around. I usually don’t do a whole lot of planning of where to stop for gas or food – instead, technology has made it pretty easy to find gas stations and restaurants along the trip. I usually just use Google Maps when I start noticing we’re low on gas or getting hungry. The only time I would do more planning than that is if we were driving somewhere out West where services are further apart.
The Bottom Line
Finding the best family road trip games will depend on the size and composition of your family. Classic road trip car games like the Alphabet Game, Memory Game, scavenger hunts and the License Plate Game are all good to occupy your kids for at least a little bit. But also don’t be afraid to use technology like phones, tablets and personal video game consoles (just be sure to remember sufficient chargers!). Another great idea is to break up any long road trips into multiple days, stopping at various sites along the way to make the journey part of the vacation itself.
What are some of your best family road trip games and activities? Leave them in the comments.
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We played the license plate game when we’d go to national parks. We could usually get up to 45 on a week long trip. A few like Hawaii, Maine and Delaware were really hard to get. For a few years we had a military service neighbor who had Hawaii plates so we could cross that off first. Otherwise, it was difficult. District of Columbia was also very hard to get out west but it isn’t a state so we counted that more as a bonus. It got so we could tell license plates from many states from some distance just based on the color schemes. The state that was pretty easy to find that one might think would be difficult was Alaska.