Games That'll Keep Your Family Busy On A Long Road Trip

"Are we there yet?" When spoken repeatedly, this sentence can get on any parent's nerves, no matter how much they love their children. Whether it's 10 minutes or 10 hours into a road trip, kids (and adults, too) can get restless, especially if they don't have any entertainment. Sitting quietly while bored out of your skull is not for everyone, even if you're catching the most breathtaking views on your road trip route. When you're constantly anticipating the end of an event (such as a road trip), the clock slows to almost a grinding halt. However, if you have amusing distractions, time flies, making the journey much more pleasurable. 

Sure, you can all bury your noses in personal activity, but this is the perfect opportunity to participate in group games and bond with one another. Before you head to your destination, you'll want to be prepared. So, what are some games that'll keep your family busy on a cross-country journey? We'll show you the best activities that'll make the hours in your car whiz by.

I Spy

I Spy is a game anyone can pick up, no matter how young. The best part is that you don't have to pack any tools or equipment to play, which is beneficial when you have limited space in your vehicle and luggage. Plus, this car game is such a classic that there are bound to be family members already familiar with it. If this game is new to you, here are the rules. 

The first player says, "I spy with my little eye something that..." and hints at a thing everyone can see. This works best if the object is distant, as it won't quickly disappear. The other players then take turns guessing the object until someone assumes it correctly. Then, the winner is the next person to start the round. Once you get bored with the classic version of the game, you can switch things up a little. For example, you can try to spy things alphabetically for a challenge. Whatever you choose, I Spy is fantastic for helping little ones develop spelling and grammar skills and logical thinking.

20 Questions

This game is similar to I Spy but gives you more flexibility since you can offer practically anything in the world as answers. Originally a parlor game, 20 Questions is easy to learn since it's a simple yes or no play, making it ideal for all ages. It also lets participants put their thinking caps on since it employs deductive reasoning. And again, you won't need any equipment to play, so you can easily switch between activities.

To start, one person will think of a person, place, or object. The other family members will go around asking questions to narrow things down. As the name suggests, you're limited to 20 questions before making a guess. The fewer questions you use, the more points you get. Want to make 20 Questions less challenging for your loved ones? Then, restrict the game to specific categories. For instance, one round can be people only, or to take it one step further, it can be pop stars only. These variations can keep things interesting, and you'll be at your destination before you know it.

Punch Buggy

You may have played Punch Buggy as a child when your parents took you on long road trips, and it's one that your kids are sure to love. It can be a fantastic bonding experience to teach them a game where they can get away with being slightly naughty. Punch Buggy is ideal for settling sibling rivalries and releasing pent-up energy. Plus, your little ones will concentrate so much that they'll forget to ask, "Are we there yet?" repeatedly.

All your family members have to do is spot Volkswagen Beetles on the road. If someone sees this vehicle, they get to lightly punch the person next to them while shouting out, "Punch Buggy!" They'll also receive a point for a car well spotted. Should someone call out a Beetle that's already been "claimed," then the person next to them can punch them twice as a penalty. They should get a point deducted, too. In addition, punchers can say "no punchbacks" for a devious move. Remember to keep things gentle and to avoid punching the driver for safety reasons. If this isn't possible (for instance, you've got rowdy younger children), stick to only tallying points. Whoever has the most when the car stops wins.

Zitch Dog

Do you like Punch Buggy but aren't seeing many Beetles while driving around? Then, switch to Zitch Dog, which is an almost identical game. You must yell the phrase if you see a dog in another car. You'll get a point after someone else also confirms they've seen the dog. To make it more difficult to score points, consider being more specific, such as going after certain dog breeds, colors, sizes, etc.

Mix things up a little by playing Zitch Dog alternatives. One is The Banana Game, where you yell out "banana" if you see a yellow vehicle and get a point for it. You can use a wide variety of fruits for other colors, such as apple, orange, and blueberry. Also, an exciting nighttime option is Padiddle. Watch the vehicles around yours, and if any has only one working headlight, yell out, "Padiddle!" This gets you a point, and the person with the most wins when the car stops.

The License Plate Game

To play The License Plate Game, you'll have to pick up a few sets of colored pencils or markers to share with family members. You'll also need to go online to find a nicely labeled map with states or countries outlined in black, then print multiple copies. Make sure to have extras, as you'll probably want to play multiple rounds on your road trip. This is an excellent game to play if your family is on the quiet side. They'll color in each state when they see a license plate corresponding with it.

Put on relaxing music, and it'll create a soothing atmosphere for checking out the surroundings, especially if your road trip allows you to bask in the beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery. Coloring is always a good activity to keep the kids busy, and it'll also help with their motor skills. And if you're visiting new states or countries, they'll have the opportunity to expand their knowledge of geography. They can even frame the colored-in maps at home to remember the road trip fondly.

The Picnic Game

The Picnic Game is guaranteed to keep everyone amused during car journeys. If part of your road trip is camping alongside a large lake or anywhere else, let this game inspire what you pack in your picnic basket. The beauty of this activity is that there are two versions, so if your little ones find the first one too difficult, you can jump to the other. No matter which you choose, players must make this statement: "I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing..."

The more challenging version of The Picnic Game is to take turns listing picnic items alphabetically. The first player states an item starting with "A"; the second player repeats it and mentions a "B" item; the third player parrots both of the players' items and states their picnic item starting with "C," and so it continues. As the sentence grows longer, it'll test the boundaries of their memory. If someone forgets an item or misremembers it, then they're out. The game continues until all players are eliminated but one.

The easier version is similar to 20 Questions. One player thinks of a theme for the picnic objects, such as a certain letter or color. The others will guess the theme, and with every wrong answer, the original player will add to their picnic items. To bump the difficulty level, you can use patterns as the theme, such as items that increase in weight.

Mad Libs

This word template game has been around for decades, and there's a decent chance you've played it as a child yourself. It's wonderful for exercising your imagination since the blanks you fill out can quickly turn wild and wacky. If you don't have experience with Mad Libs, it's basically a book with pages of creative stories with chunks taken out. You can then fill out the blanks according to the type of word they ask for, such as nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc. Depending on your preference, you can either create stories together as a family or pass out books for each person to work on individually, then read them out loud later.

What's great is that an extensive collection of Mad Libs books is available for purchase. You can even download Mad Libs apps to save money, space, and the environment. If you have time and writing talent, you can also type up and print your own versions before the trip.

Team storytelling

Do you like the concept of Mad Libs but find it too restricting? Then, try team storytelling. This game gives you more freedom and flexibility since you're not limited to stories already written for you. Instead, the world's your oyster and your loved ones can throw in plot twists to keep everyone on their toes. You'll start the story by saying something like, "Once upon a time..." After you're finished with your sentence, the next person adds another. Or you can each add one word instead of a sentence to have a rapid-fire story going on. 

In any case, team storytelling can occupy an extensive period of time before you conclude the story. And once you're done, you can start all over again with a completely different tale. To hold onto these memories, you can take voice notes or type the story down on a laptop as you go. Print it out when you get home, and you'll have a memento from this road trip. The kids will beg you to read it to them during bedtime to reflect on the positive experience.

Road scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunts usually involve people running around to discover clues, but that's not doable while you're inside a moving vehicle. However, that doesn't mean you can't still have some fun pinpointing certain things while on the road. And here's where a printable road trip scavenger hunt page comes in handy. Free printables are available online for kids of all ages — toddlers through teens. There will be colorful pictures for the little ones to help them identify the objects; teens can receive simple checklists. 

Whichever ones you choose, your children will be on the lookout for items such as stop signs, bridges, lakes, and more. This will allow them to appreciate their surroundings and notice differences compared to their hometown. Up the ante by requiring your kids to take photos as proof they've found items on the list — the child who crosses off the most items on their paper wins. Consider giving out candy as a prize, especially if they're a rare treat. If you're going camping later on, this can be useful, as hard candy is great for a long hike.

Swear jar

This isn't a game, per se, but it can certainly be. If you've got older teenagers who won't stop swearing, this can be a fun exercise in curbing the habit. Mom and Dad can join in to make it a group effort. The objective is simple: Try not to swear; if you do, you need to put a specified amount of money into the swear jar. Plus, you have to tally up everyone's swear totals. We know cash isn't used much nowadays, so if you don't have much on hand, you can keep a tally. Also, if you have younger children who don't swear (yet), you can pick a taboo word instead.

When you reach your destination, see who has the highest tally for the swear jar. They'll be responsible for the amount in there and will have to buy dessert at the next meal. If you're not playing with cash, the person with the highest tally is the loser, and the game starts again when you get back on the road.

Would You Rather?

You may know Would You Rather? from your college days, and while those questions are too risque for a family setting, you can always tweak the game. Truth be told, it's a simple play at its core, but the possibilities are endless as to where discussions might lead. As a result, you can spark creativity, silliness, and deep thought with this game. Get the game started by posing A-slash-B questions to the entire family. 

For example, ask, "Would you rather fight a duck or a goose?" This may inspire other questions from your loved ones, such as, "How big are the animals?"; "How long is the fight?"; "Where would the fight take place?" You might be surprised at how your family members answer such questions, and you'll definitely learn more about one another. If you're afraid you'll get stuck on questions, come prepared. There are online lists you can print out. Feel free to put these lists in a document file and type additional questions if you think of some genius ones.

Two Truths and a Lie

This is another game often played in college, yet it can be adapted for family-friendly entertainment. Admittedly, this is better played with older kids since they'll have more life experiences and are more independent. Despite that, younger children can still participate in innocent lies. Two Truths and a Lie is played exactly how it sounds: Players take turns telling two truths and one lie, and others have to pinpoint which statement is untrue. Right guesses earn you points, while incorrect ones lead to point deductions. Of course, the person with the most points is crowned the winner at the end of the road trip.

This game can put your lying skills to the test, which can have you all bursting with laughter. In addition, you'll see how well your loved ones know you. And, as a bonus, you may find out things that may have remained secrets without the aid of this game.

Name That Song

Those who are musically inclined will definitely enjoy Name That Song. This game puts your musical knowledge to the test, and there are a few ways to play it. Several methods don't require any preparation or outside resources, so they're easy to play in a pinch. The first is to hum a few seconds of a song. It can be a free-for-all where every family member makes guesses until someone gets it right. If everyone's stumped, you can hum a little more of the tune to see if that rings a bell. The second is to recite lyrics from a bar or two, then more if your loved ones need more hints.

Another way to play Name That Song is to just switch to your car radio's different channels. For a bigger challenge, switch the radio off after five seconds. If no one agrees that there's a correct answer, utilize Shazam on your smartphone to confirm what's playing. This game will take you down memory lane, and you'll have an outstanding time discussing these fond memories.

Nintendo Switch games

All the suggestions in this story are excellent for getting your family away from screens and unplugging from the internet. However, if you want to make the minutes fly by, some screentime can be a game-changer on unbearably long road trips. Your children probably already have their own Nintendo Switches, so take full advantage of that. But you shouldn't let them put in their earbuds and play games as a solitary activity. Instead, have them bond with their siblings (parents, too, if you guys are gamers) over local wireless multiplayer games, which, luckily, Nintendo has tons of. 

You can witness some healthy competition with a few rounds of "Mario Kart" or "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate," or encourage teamwork with a session of "Minecraft" or "Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate." Just make sure your kids download all the titles they're interested in before leaving the house, especially if you won't get a reliable internet connection while traveling. Plus, this ensures they can game as soon as they get in the car.