Road trip car games to pass the time on long drives

Car games! A long-standing road trip tradition. If you’ve already exhausted your family’s tolerance for I Spy and license plate sighting, Jennifer has a couple more road trip games to add to the arsenal:

Game #1: Think of an animal. Have the kids take turns asking questions to try and guess which animal you’re thinking of. (Is it brown? Does it have claws? Does it live in the Jungle?) Questions should be yes or no type questions – but to make things a little easier, you can also offer a little extra information.

Game #2: Call out each letter of the alphabet – think of an animal that starts with that letter. Extra points for picking an unusual animal name. ie. Instead of just “Bear” or “Bat” for “B” – extra points for “Beluga Whale” or “Bengal Tiger”. Can be played so everyone must come up with an animal for every letter – or you can take turns. (If you want some inspiration before the game/trip, try

What are your favorite road trip games?

Related: Tons more road trip tips at Parent Hacks


  1. says

    we play the alphabet game looking for things outside the car that start with the letter. for haard letters like J, X, U, Z we allow pointing out a sign that contains the letter.

  2. mama2etc says

    We have a game called “ketchup” that we have played ever since my oldest was about four (a decade ago). A person calls out “ketchup” and the next person calls out the first food item that comes to mind, like “mustard”. The game keeps going, word-association style, until someone inadvertently says “ketchup” again, ending the game. It’s a silly little game, but everyone we’ve taught it to loves it. They are always amazed at how hard it is NOT to say “ketchup”.

  3. says

    Car games are a must if you are traveling with children. Most kids get sick of I Spy pretty quickly. I love the suggestions.

  4. Anonymous says

    Usborne Books has a fabulous set of dry erase/wipe clean cards called, “100 Things For Little Children to Do on a Trip” They advertise it for kids 6 and up, but my almost 3 y/o can do several of the activities with help.

    They also have another card set called “50 Travel Games and Activities” that’s not dry erase, but still full of great ideas.

  5. says

    Take along a metal cookie sheet and a bag of magnetic letters and have younger children look for letters on signs. When they find one on a sign or a truck, they can put the matching magnetic letter on the cookie sheet until they’ve found the whole alphabet. 2 or more kids could race….

  6. says

    For younger kids again, Gel Gems or other vinyl window clings are also great for travel on a cookie sheet or plastic cutting board. Kids can move them around and create designs or stories. Some kids might be able to reach the window for sticking too.

    NOT for kids who are still into putting things in their mouths.

  7. says

    For school aged children: My brother and I had canvas totes that had simple hand held games (before the age of Game Boys, etc.), activity books, crayons, note pads and small travel games. We only played with these items while on road trips so they held our interest.

    For longer trips, at the ocasional rest stop we would get to unwrap new little trinkets or music tapes that my mom had bought and wrapped ahead of time. Yes they were bribes for good behavior, but they worked! And once we tired of our own games, we would *gasp* share with each other.

  8. says

    Variations on a theme…find the alphabet one letter at a time on signs or find license plates from as many states as possible.

    A favorite is ‘Name the Car.’ You take the three letters on most car license plates and think of a name with those three letters in that order (but not necessarily consecutively. You could expand and just think of interesting words, rather than names.

    Other word games are good too. “I’m going on a trip, and I packed my pillow.” “I’m going on a trip, and I packed my pillow and my iPod.” And so on.

  9. Annette says

    “Would you rather…?” is a good game for older kids and adults. Take turns asking everyone a question that requires a difficult decision and each person answers and gives the reason for their answer. For example, “Would you rather be poor and smart or rich and not so smart?” It really gets everyone thinking about what is important to them!

  10. says

    We play “add on to the story.” Someone starts a story, for example, “Once there was a cat…” Then the next person continues the story, “The cat had an idea …” The next person adds on to that, and so forth. It can get hilarious.

  11. Monera Mason says

    We play the “5 game” which goes something like this. One Person says ” I Like(then names 5 things) birds, cows, green, mud and marbles” Then the others have to remember the items. My kids are still small so 5 is a hard sequence for them. 7 and 9 would be a good sequence for older kids.

    Mad libs were my all time fave car game though.

  12. hmn says

    alphabet game variation: find both upper and lower case alphabets.

    animal/place names: name a place, then the next person has to name a place that starts with the last letter of the previously named place (Ohio…Ottowa…Antarctica…arkansas…)

    word unscramble: give the letters of a 4-8 letter word scrambled and the other person has to figure out the word.

    license plate geography: once we saw a car from Samoa in the middle of Pennsylvania, that has to be our best find.

    There are internet sites with checklists of states/canadian provinces from which to find license plates, as well as checklists of things like cows/silos/junkyards/etc.

    we also use our library for books on CD when we get tired of playing.

    i also recommend the book “Rise Up Singing” which has lyrics to tons of sing along songs.

  13. Alex says

    We play a game where everyone decides on a theme, like animals or movies, or even “things we like.” Then instead of trying to list a bunch that start with the same letter, each word has toi start with the letter that the last ended with. IE,

    Rattle snake

    Eventually you end up making some backup rule for Es and Ss, like you can use the letter before.

    It’s a bit tricky to do with little kids, but kept my friends and me entertained for hours with themes like “80s stuff” when we would drive home for college for holidays.

    I also have seen Road Trip bingo, with squares that say things like “cow.” You could buy or make some.

    Oh! Also, when I was a kid, we would make words/silly phrases out using the letters on license plates. Like, 312 DRH might be an abbreviation for deranged rhino hunters.

  14. plinsky says

    Our favorite game for the car, waiting for our food in a restaurant or whatever is the “word game.” The object is NOT to spell a word of four letters or more.

    One person starts with a letter, the next person adds a letter, etc., until someone ends up spelling a four-letter (or longer) word (at which time that person is out). If a player thinks someone is bluffing a word, they can challenge it. If the previous person declares a valid word, the challenger loses.

    For example, with four players:

    Player 1: T
    Player 2: R
    Player 3: E
    Player 4: (Now this person wouldn’t say E, for instance, because that spells the word TREE. So she says A, hoping that Player 4 will be forced into spelling TREAT.) A
    Player 1: (Doesn’t fall for the bait. He says C, thinking of either TREACHERY or TREACLE.) C
    Player 2: (Knows that if he says H, as in TREACHERY or TREACHEROUS, he won’t get stuck with the word when it comes around.) H
    Player 3: (Can’t think of a way out of getting stuck with TREACHEROUS when it comes around, so goes along with E.) E
    Player 4: (Is having a brain freeze and can’t figure out what in the heck TREACHE would be leading to. Decides to challenge Player 3.) I challenge.
    Player 3: Treachery or treacherous, you doofus!
    Player 4: Oh crap, I hate this game.

    I hope this is clear. If Player 4 hadn’t challenged, it would have gone like this:

    T-R-E-A-C-H-E to Player 4:

    Player 4: R
    Player 1: (If he’s not on the ball and is only thinking of TREACHERY, he would concede, because his saying Y would end the game with his spelling TREACHERY. But he’s clever, he’s going to say O to string the word out to TREACHEROUS.) O
    Player 2: (Breathing a sigh of relief) U
    Player 3: S – you win. :(