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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

My Favorite Road Trip Games

The kids with mom - dad taking the picture - on a road trip

The kids with mom – dad taking the picture – on a road trip

I love playing games on road trips. You see, back in my day, we didn’t have fancy DVD players or Game Boys to keep us occupied. We had to play games with our parents and siblings while in the car and like it, or sit there bored out of our minds. I spent a great many hours doing just that – bored out of my mind – or forced into taking a nap on the back bench of our old Ford van. But my greatest memories while in the car were spent playing games while enjoying a little quality family time.

Here are some of my favorites…

The Alphabet Game

This is easy enough. Or at least it should be, so long as you can find a Dairy Queen sign so you can get beyond the letter “Q,” or find another car’s license plate with the letter “Z.” If you can’t, well, you’re stuck while your opponent races ahead or catches up from behind.

Driving north on Highway 385

Driving north on Highway 385

The rules are simple: find each letter in order of the alphabet, from A to Z, anywhere outside of your car. When you spot it, point at the letter and say it and where you see it. For instance, an easy one is “N” in “North.” Whoever finds the “Z” first, after gathering all of the other letters, wins.

A Variation of the Alphabet Game

I learned this version recently, only a couple of months ago while on a short drive to see my grandfather in northern Minnesota. But unlike the previous alphabet game, it isn’t a competition. This one is a game where you work with the other participants to find all of letters, just not in the same manner. Instead of spotting them on signs, it’s a sort of I Spy game where you find things that begin with the letter.

Finding green grass along the road

Finding green grass along the road

For instance, if you’re driving by lush green fields somewhere, you could point out the window and say, “’G’ is for ‘green grass’!” Then one of the next participants is responsible for finding something that would begin with the letter “H,” like maybe a helicopter flying in the sky. Of course, as the game goes on, things can get tricky and be open for interpretation, since you’re unlikely to see a Xylophone or a Zebra sitting alongside the road.

I Spy

Just like the variation in the first alphabet game, I Spy is another good one that isn’t a competition game. Instead you simply give a clue for something you see. Then it is up to the other participants to guess what you see. For instance, to go back to the previous game’s example, you’d say, “I spy something that begins with the letter ‘G’!” Then the other members would ask, in their turn, if it’s a “ghost,” or a “galloping horse,” or maybe just the “green grass.”

The License Plate Game

This is, without a doubt, my favorite road trip game, and one I still play on long drives of my own. I’ll print out a map of the United States and Canada, one that shows the shapes of all of the states, provinces, and territories. So things stay nice and neat, I’ll put it on a clipboard, and then highlight the outlined shape when I spot a license plate on a car from that place. For instance, if I’m fortunate enough to see a license plate from Hawaii, I’d highlight the islands just as I would the Canadian province of Quebec if I saw a plate on a car from there. It’s an educational game, and one that can last the whole road trip.

Finding license plates

Finding license plates

Travel Board Games

Regardless of Game Boys and DVD players, travel board games are still made. I see them in the store all the time. And, in my opinion, they’re better for everyone in the vehicle than any electronic device because they’re exactly what a family vacation should be about – quality time. Yeah, I know, I get it, some quiet time watching movies or whatever is also necessary for everyone’s sanity. But don’t forget why you most likely are traveling together, and that is to spend time with each other. So pack up some small travel board games or a deck of cards, and enjoy some checkers or Go Fish while on the road.

In addition to the alphabet variation I just learned, these were my favorite road trip games as a kid. What are some of yours? Share your favorite games and give a brief understanding of the rules, keeping in mind they’re always open to interpretation based on the players.

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6 Comments on “My Favorite Road Trip Games”

  1. salsachica April 3, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    When I was a kid, we’d play spot the bug. It’s basically this, whenever one spots a volkswagon beetle they’d shout out and get to smack the others who don’t..hmm kinda violent but it was fun 😀

    • Jason's Travels April 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

      Funny. I did that one in high school, but with car headlights – if you saw one burnt out before your buddy, you’d shout it out and smack ’em. It was the same for tail lights, which always gave a distinct advantage to the driver with the rear view mirror.

      • salsachica April 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

        I guess it’s the opportunity to smack that made such a game a hit hahaha

  2. Tom April 8, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Cool article. My favorite game is a number plate game, where we’d make words out of the letters. So, if it was DNY, it could be dragonfly or dainty. The more insane or longer the word, the funnier it was.

    • Jason's Travels April 8, 2013 at 10:42 am #

      That sounds like a great game, Tom. I’ll have to try that on an upcoming road trip!

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  1. Popular Car Games for Children - May 8, 2013

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