There are dozens of games that are ideal for long bus trips or car rides that can engage the family in fun activities and keep everyone interacting without the use of today’s media devices.
For families or groups taking a road trip by bus or car with young children in tow, the goal is to have fun in ways that foster interaction. While mobile devices and other electronic devices have their place, there’s nothing like getting back to basics with road trip games that bring us closer together in the spirit of having fun.
Although most of the best road trip games have never gone out style in any real way, the problem is that the chain of passing them down from generation to generation has been broken. The best way to renew that tradition is to list the best road trip games that are perfect for bus trips or car trips with young people. There are certainly many more, but here are some of the most popular that we could find and recall.
BEST ROAD TRIP GAMES
Secret Highway Messages
Give everyone a pencil and piece of paper, and then watch for official road signs. Write down the first letter until you have five to seven letters. The object is to use each letter as the first letter in a word that makes up a secret code. The code should make sense.
The Question Game
In this game, you ask each person an open question such as “If you could go anywhere on the planet, name three places that you would go,” and give them time to think of an answer. There are lots of thoughtful questions like this that you could ask that will not only be fun for the kids, but provide some insights into their children for the parents.
In this game, everyone takes a specific color such as blue or red and then challenges each player to spot a certain number of items of this color. The person reaching the desired total first is the winner. The beauty of this game is that you can adapt the target number to their attention spans or the length of the road trip.
This is a great game for a rainy day where each player traces a raindrop down the car window and the first to make it to the bottom wins.
This fantastic visual observation game starts with a member of the road trip choosing an object that they observe that is within view of everyone for at least a minute or two. The chosen player starts the game by providing a clue to what it is that they see such as the color of the object or the first letter of the object, and the other players must guess. Traditionally, the player says, “I spy with my little eye something that (insert clue here).”
Odd or Even
The object of this game is to keep track of the passing license plates and guess how many of the next ten or twenty will be odd or even numbers. You can keep track with a pencil and paper to make it easier.
With this game you choose a name of a person that everyone knows, and using only the first letter, see how many tongue twisters you can create. For example, “Tania talked till Tuesday’s tea party.” The goal is to add as few connector words (words that do not begin with the chosen letter) as possible.
This is a great way to keep the arguments to a minimum during the trip. Just give each child 25 pennies at the start of the trip and take away a penny for every time they squabble or argue with each other. The incentive to not squabble is that whoever makes it through the trip without losing a penny gets their money doubled or even tripled.
This game has a lot of variables that players can choose such as license plate letters that are in alphabetical order with the first player to reach the end of the alphabet the winner. Other methods include finding double or triple letters in order on a single license plate, license plates from different states, and making up coherent phrases that use the letters on the license plate in the exact order that they appear.
This game requires a stop watch or a watch with a second hand to keep track. Each player must talk for sixty seconds without repeating themselves or pausing with one point awarded when you accomplish the goal. You can set a point goal so that the first person to make it to that goal is designated the winner.
Find The Alphabet in Order
This is a variation of the license plate game that allows players to use road signs, advertisements on trucks, billboards or any sign they see to shout out letters on the alphabet in order.
Road Trip Bingo
This game requires a little planning by creating your own bingo cards with items that you might see on a road trip such as barns, cows, churches etc. You can write down the word rather than using a picture. To play, everyone keeps track of what they see out of their window, and when they see an object on their card, they place a penny or some other small object on the card to mark it. When you fill up a row of words across, down or diagonally, you have a winner, who yells out “bingo.”
Slug a Bug
This game went out of vogue as the number of Volkswagen Beetle’s dropped precipitously. However, the Volkswagen Bug is back in a slightly modified bug form so it can now be played again. While the method of playing the game was to spot a Volkswagen Beetle first and “slug” the other player closest to you in the arm, today, parents can keep it non-contact by keeping score.
Who Am I?
Pick a person (real or fictional) that you and all the other travelers know and start giving out clues as to their identity such as hair color or other distinguishing features. The first person to guess their identity is the winner. You can create variables with this game by letting players ask yes or no questions to gain clues and then guess the identity.
Who Are They?
This is another great storytelling game that uses imagination. Players choose a car on the road and create a story for the passengers inside. The more creative the stories become, the more fun the game, so anything from spies to space aliens is fair game.
In My Grandmother’s Chest
In this game, each player must add an item to Grandmother’s chest with each successive item starting with the next letter of the alphabet. A starting example would be “In my Grandmothers chest there was an Arrow.” For each player’s turn, they must remember all of the previous items and add their own, which will start with the next letter in the alphabet.
There are several games that have practical outcomes such as having the children see who can toss small pieces of paper such as gum or candy wrappers into a small wastepaper bag. Then there are others like a five minute silence contest.
In this game, players try to name all 44 American presidents. Use a piece of paper and pencil with one through 44 to keep track of the presidents that are named.
Using the radio is a great way to incorporate music that is currently enjoyed by young people and simple games that keep them occupied. One way is to use the scan feature on the radio and when it stops, the first person to name the artist wins.
You can also use the scan feature where each player has a turn to use the automatic scan feature to find a song they like. When they find one, everyone listens to the song all the way through. If the player does not find a song that they like, they lose their turn and it moves to the next player.
Another game with the radio is to have everyone choose a word while the radio is off. When the radio is turned on, the first one to hear their word spoken or sung is the winner. You can also play a game where you only use titles or words of songs to carry on a conversation. This usually ends up in laughter because of the wacky conversations that are crafted.
Passengers take turns picking out four words from road signs and the other players must turn the four words into a four line poem that rhymes using one of the four words per each line of the poem.
This is another great observational guessing game where a member of the bus trip chooses an object that they see and let’s everyone know if the object is animal, vegetable, or mineral in composition. The rest of the players can then ask up to 20 questions that can be answered by yes or no to figure out the object. The winner is then able to start a new round with a new object.
What’s That Sound?
This can be a fun and funny game to play where someone makes a sound that everyone is familiar with (horn, car, etc.) and the others must guess what it is.
Would You Rather
Players challenge each other to choose between two options so they can ask the other players to choose between two unpleasant, scary or embarrassing choices or two wonderful or exciting choices.
There are a number of fun road trip games that are fun and subtly educational as well. Games like 50 Nifty where passengers are challenged to come up with all fifty states. Keep track on a piece of paper and when you reach your goal, start with state capitals.
One at a time, each player is given a word to spell, and if they spell it correctly, they stay in the game. This game can go on until players get bored, or you can set a time limit to get a winner that is the spelling champion. Keep in mind that words must be age appropriate so that everyone has a fair chance.
This is a great game that challenges your children to see how many words they can create with the letters in the words from a common phrase like “Are we there yet?”
In this game, each player adds an ingredient that begins with each successive letter of the alphabet from A to Z. For instance, the first person could add “artichokes to their casserole and the next person would need an ingredient starting with the letter “B.” The object is to get to all the way through the alphabet to Z.
Eating an Alphabet
In this game, players attempt to work their way through the alphabet by naming a food (or other item) and saying the phrase “I’m so hungry I could eat an Apple” as an example. Each successive player must not only recite the items that came before, but also add their own item starting with the next letter of the alphabet. Since the game is not limited to foods, it can get pretty funny by the time you get to the letter Z.
Listen and Draw
Give each passenger paper and a pencil and then choose one person to draw a quick picture that they keep to themselves. The drawer then describes their picture to the other players and they must complete their version of the drawing. The winner is the person whose drawing resembles the original drawing the most.
There is nothing like games that use the imagination to keep a road trip interesting, and team storytelling is a great one. You can start a story conventionally with something like “Once upon a time,” or make up your own beginning storyline. Each member must add to the story one line at a time. You can make the game more challenging by making it a rule that each line must rhyme.
Odd Colored Car
Players choose an unusual car color at the beginning of the road trip and gain points for spotting their chosen color car during the trip. You can modify the game so that if a player spots another player’s car color first, they steal the points for themselves.
In this game, everyone works as a team with each player taking turns counting to one hundred. Each time you reach a number that can be divided by seven (7, 14, 21 etc.) or includes a seven (17, 27 etc.) you say the word “Buzz” instead of the number. If anyone forgets to say buzz instead of the number, the team must start all over again from zero. You can make the game easier by saying buzz with a number that is divisible by five or harder by using a number divisible by three.
Thumb wrestling is an old game that is tried and true. Two players that are sitting next to each other hook the four fingers of their right hands together with their thumbs sticking straight up. The players then attempt to pin the other player’s thumb down with their thumb.
Rock Paper Scissors
In this classic game two players at a time simultaneously make a fist, and saying the phrase, “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” they swing down their fist at the utterance of each of the three words. They bring down their fist for a fourth time and choose to mimic the shape of the Rock (maintaining a fist), Scissors (extending the first two fingers of the hand), or paper (palm face down and flat). In the game a rock can destroy a pair of scissors, so rock beats scissors. Scissors cut paper, so scissors beat paper. Since paper can cover a rock, paper beats rock. Consequently, the player with the gesture that beats the other player’s gesture is the winner. If they choose the same gesture, it is a tie.
Speak in Song
This is a fun game where the players carry on a conversation using only song titles or song lyrics. It’s usually best to refrain from singing in the game.
All of these great road trip games have stood the test of time and are still great for bus and car trips with youngsters. Some are more appropriate for very young players while others can engage older children. The point is that road trips by bus or car can be fun and memorable if you put a little forethought into it and draw from this list. The beauty of these games is that they are fun, require no gadgets, and keep everyone interacting.
The time you spend with family on the road can allow everyone to retreat into their own world or be a great opportunity to bond and have fun together. Why not set aside the technology for a while and have some fun together in a way that makes the trip more fun and the time fly by. Buy a used bus today and get on the road with your family tomorrow!