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15 Screen-Free Road Trip Games to Keep Kids Entertained in the Car

Summer is here — and that means it’s time for your annual family road trip.

While homeschoolers often have the flexibility to travel year-round, vacations during the summer are a quintessential family memory for many of us.

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of loading up the car, stopping at the gas station to stock up on coffee and snacks, turning on your favorite playlist or podcast, and hitting the road.

One thing that can suck the fun out of a scenic drive: a constant barrage of kids asking, “Are we there yet??” When kids are bored, they’re quick to let everyone around them know it. And when you’re stuck in the close confines of a moving vehicle for hours on end, that gets old really fast.

Two smiling children in a car.

How can you keep kids happy and entertained on your next family vacation? Road trip games and travel activities for kids, of course.

Bonus — no screens required!

Below, we’re sharing 15 road trip games to make car rides (nearly!) as much fun as the end destination.

15 Road Trip Games For Your Next Family Vacation

1. Scavenger Hunt

This a fun game that can be played by kids — and grownups! — of any age. You come up with a list of items (picture lists work well for younger kids) that one might see on a road trip. The first person to complete the list is the winner.

2. Twenty Questions

Another road trip favorite, Twenty Questions is a simple game the whole family can play together. One passenger chooses a person, place, or thing and the rest of the group gets to ask twenty questions (each) to try to figure out the answer.

This game is awesome to play with kids because they come up with the most creative and out-of-left-field questions.

3. The License Plate Game

The License Plate Game is easy to play and requires very little prep. Each rider gets a printed map of the USA and as you pass cars on the road, take a minute to check out their license plates — when you see license plates from various states, color them in on the map. The one with the most states colored in at the end of the trip wins the game.

4. I Spy

Pretty much everyone is familiar with this classic car game. The rules of I Spy are simple. The first person chooses an item and says, “I spy with my little eye something that…” You can use the color as a clue, or the first letter it starts with. Then everyone else takes turns guessing until someone gets it right. Then the next person takes a turn and on and on the game goes.

5. Name That Tune

The designated music player opens up a music streaming service and plays the first 5 seconds of any song. The rest of the family then tries to name that tune — as the name of the game implies. You can keep score…or not. Whatever floats your boat.

To make this game fun for kids, try to choose a genre of music they’re familiar with (Disney soundtracks, anyone?).

6. Triple Threat

Not nearly as scary as its name, Triple Threat is a silly car game that will have your whole family rolling with laughter as you play. The grownup directing the game will choose three nouns — related or not — and the kids need to take turns crafting a story that includes all of the selected words.

As an example, you might choose the words ‘plane, box, and crayon’ and your child will need to incorporate all three into their story. This game is perfect for encouraging creativity and imagination.

7. The Grocery Game

Similar to Twenty Questions or I Spy, The Grocery Game is a game of guesswork and following the clues. The first person chooses an item you can buy at the grocery store and the rest of the family takes turns asking questions and trying to figure out the answer.

Can you find it in the produce section? Is it a food item or a non-food item? Does it need to be kept cold? Try to narrow down the options and make the winning guess.

8. Would You Rather?

Another easy game that will have the whole car giggling, Would You Rather? is a game where the person asking the questions comes up with two equally unappealing or outlandish scenarios and the person on the receiving end of the questions has to choose. There’s no third option.

An example might be, “Would you rather walk on shards of broken glass or swim in hot lava?” Yikes! What would you choose?

9. The Name Game

Like the options above, this is a game that kids and grownups can enjoy together. The person starting out the game would choose a category (ex. food) and then name something within that category. Then, the next person would come up with another word using the last letter of the previous word.

Using the given example, the first person might say “tacos” and then the next person might say “sourdough bread” and on and on it goes.

10. Count The…

Choose an item (cows, blue cars, motorcycles, 18-wheelers, etc) and tell the kids to count how many they see along the way. They can tally their totals and the person with the most at the end is the winner.

If you want to up the ante, choose two or three items to keep track of. It’ll keep everyone focused on looking out the windows and not at the clock.

11. Story Starter

From “once upon a time” to “the end” there is so much that can happen in a story. That’s what makes this game so fun. One person begins telling a story. It can be about anything. But after the first few sentences, they stop and the next person picks up and continues with the story, taking it in any direction they please.

This continues on as each person adds their contribution. Who knows where it will end up?

12. Categories

This game is as simple as it sounds. One person chooses a category — animals, states, food, vehicles, etc — and each rider takes a turn naming as many things in that category as they can think of. For added difficulty, set a time limit.

The person who comes up with the most words in the chosen category is the winner of that round.

13. Rhyme Time

Perfect for developing readers, this game involves coming up with rhyming words. Someone chooses a word and the whole car takes turns coming up with words that rhyme. The first person might say “boat” and then the next person might say “note” and on it goes around the car until everyone has had a turn or no one can think of any more rhyming words.

Alternatively, you can let each family member take a turn coming up with as many rhyming words as they can think of and the one with the most words wins.

14. Spelling Bee

Another way to incorporate schooling into your family vacation, take some time to play Spelling Bee with your kids. You can work from your current list of spelling words or choose words at random. This is roadschooling at its finest.

Mom and Dad can get in on the action too. Let the kids quiz your spelling skills!

15. Word Association

One person in the car chooses a random word and the next person says a word that is associated with the first word. Everyone takes turns and the game ends when someone repeats a previously said word, says a word that isn’t associated with the previous word, or can’t come up with a word.

Here’s an example. The first person says kitchen. Then the next words said are cheese, pizza, movie night, couch, blanket, sleep, snore, lawn mower, summer, etc. See how it works?

The Wrap-Up

It can be challenging to keep kids entertained in the car, especially on a long drive. Your first instinct might be to hand them a screen and hope they let you listen to the radio in peace. While there’s nothing wrong with strategically using screen time to keep kids occupied on a trip, you might want some other tricks up your sleeve for when devices die or you feel like it’s time for a screen time break.

The games above will keep the whole family engaged and having old-fashioned fun. Bonus, there’s no better bonding time than in the car on a family road trip. Especially when everyone is talking and laughing together.

For homeschooling families, road trips can be a way to extend learning in an environment different than home. Educational opportunities abound when you’re on vacation. Make productive use of car time and throw in some games that allow you to review previous lessons or even learn something new.

What are your favorite road trip games? Share in the comments below!

Road trip games for kids - 15 screen-free ways to keep kids entertained in the car.



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