≡ Menu

Fun in the Car: Surviving the Family Road Trip

Additional contributors: Tara Tarbet, Molly Christensen, Kristen Chevrier, Cheri Schulzke, Julie Ransom

Here are some great ideas for staying sane on a family road trip. Check out these books, activities, games, songs, and snacks. And don’t forget a good batch of supplies.

Activities and Books


20 Questions

On person thinks of a secret noun. Everyone else takes turns asking the person a single “yes” or “no” question. After each answer, the questioner can take one guess about the secret noun. The person who guesses correctly gets to the next turn to choose the secret noun.

Alphabet Game

Each person tries to find every letter of the alphabet, consecutively, in billboards, signs, license plates anywhere that letters appear.


Count together, starting at one. When you get to any number that is divisible by seven or has a seven in it, say “buzz” instead of the number. If one person forgets to say “buzz,” everyone has to start over. For greater difficulty, play Fuzz Buzz. Say “fuzz” for every number with a three in it or that’s divisible by three, and “buzz” for every number with a seven in it or that’s divisible by seven.

Color Car

One person chooses a color. Everyone looks for a car of that color. When someone sees it, s/he calls out “[color] car!” The winner gets to choose the next color. You can also look for any item of the named color.

Counting Cows

Determine either a destination or mile marker at which the game will end. Car is divided into teams depending on which side ead person is sitting. Each person or team counts cows (or animals, phone booths, mailboxes, hotels) on the side of the road closest to their seat. If the car passes a cemetery (or gas station or other predetermined item), the team on the same side as the item must start counting again at zero.

Creature Feature

Fold a piece of paper into thirds. One person draws the head, the next the body, the next the legs all without seeing what the others have drawn. Open to reveal your crazy beast!

Dots & Boxes

Draw 100 dots on a piece of papger in a 10 x 10 grid. Each player takes turns drawing either a horizontal or vertical line between two adjacent dots. If the line drawn completes one or more squares, that player writes their initial inside the completed box(es) and takes another turn. Play continues until there are no more unconnected dots. The person who has the most completed squares is the winner.


On person chooses a dictionary word or phrase and draws a series of dashes, one dash per letter in the chosen word. A “gallows” is drawn above the dashed line. Players take turns guessing the letters in the word. Each correct letter is drawn in place on the dashed line. Each incorrect guess adds a body part to a stick figure on the gallows, beginning with the head.

License Lingo

When a car passes you, note the letters on the plate. Then everyone tries to use those letters as an acronym for a logical phrase. For example 869 TAH might stand for “Take a hike” or “Tigers are happy.”

License Plate Game

Try to be the person who can find the highest number of different license plates, whether from states, provinces, or countries.


Draw 16 lines on a piece of paper in a pyramid configuration: seven on the bottom row; five on the second row; three on the third row; one on top. Two players take turns crossing off any chosen number of lines in any one single row. Player who is forced to cross off the last line loses. Alternately the one who crosses off the last line wins. Also try different numbers of items in each line. This can also be played with matches, coins, or other objects that are removed from the table.


Draw a bunch of dots on a page. Players take turns drawing a line (straight or curved) between any two dots, as long as neither of the dots already has four lines running to it. (A line through a dot counts as two lines.) Once the line is drawn the person places a new dot in the middle of the new line. The last person able to draw a line is the winner.

Tic Tac Toe

Draw a pound sign. One player is assigned to X the other to O. Players take turns placing their symbol in an empty space on the grid. The first person to have three of their shape in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally wins.

Quiet Game

See who can go the longest without making a sound. This might just be a good time to break out a special treat or toy to bribe ?er ?award the winner.

Visual Scavenger Hunt

Make lists of things, depending on the venue, that your children should look for. Give each child an age-appropriate list and let them be on the lookout.

Word Builder

The first person says any letter of their choice. The next person thinks of a word that begins with that letter and ads another letter to the word. Play continued around the group. Each player must think of an actual word that includes the letter they ad, without completing the word. If someone believes the last person to ad a letter doesn’t have a real word in mind, they can challenge. If the person being challenged cannot say an uncompleted word that included the letters given thus far, they are out for the remainder of the round. If they can give a word, the challenger is out for the round. Last person left wins.


Everyone scans the road for any sign of a car with that hideous, imitation, wood-grain paneling glued to its sides. (Which begs the question: Who thought making a care look like it was made of wood would be a selling point?) The first one to spot one, gets a point. First person to five points wins.

Word Wizard

The timer call out a letter of the alphabet and each player gets one minute to write down as many words as they can in one minute. When time is up, each person take a turn reading his words. When someone else has the same word, everyone with that word crosses it of their list. The person with the most, legitimate, unique words, wins.


Try to be the first one who sees the green mileage marker (a zip) on the road. You get points for each one but lose a point if you misidentify something from a distance that turns out not to be a zip when you get closer.

Snack Bags

  • Banana chips
  • Beef jerky
  • Cheese/cracker packs
  • Fruit rolls
  • Granola bars
  • Licorice
  • Suckers
  • Trail mix
  • Water bottles


  • 99 Bottles of Beer
  • The Ants Go Marching
  • Clementine
  • Cockels and Mussels
  • Flea, Fly
  • Found a Peanut
  • Frere Jacques
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
  • Home on the Range
  • Horse and Buggy
  • Hymns
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
  • John Jacob Jinglehiemer Smith
  • O Susannah
  • On Top of Spaghetti
  • Old MacDonald
  • Patriotic Songs
  • Primary Songs
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
  • Sippin’ Cider
  • Sweet Betsey from Pike
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • Waddley Ah Cha
  • Yellow Rose of Texas
  • Young Women/Boy Scout Camp Songs


  • Baby wipes
  • Back pack for each child
  • Blanket
  • Extra set of clothes for each younger child
  • Garbage bag
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Masking tape
  • Paper towel
  • Pillow
  • Pocket knife
  • Rubbermaid container with lid to hold supplies
  • Scissors
  • Shelf-liners (non-adhesive, non-slip)
  • String
  • Toilet tissue
  • Zip-loc bags
{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Michelle D July 2, 2009, 11:26 pm

    What a comprehensive list! We’re planning on using a lot of these ideas when we move in 2 weeks, but I also found some new ones on this list. Thanks for sharing – it’s going to help make our move a little easier. (the actual driving part, anyway…)

  • Alison Moore Smith July 3, 2009, 12:06 am

    Thanks, Michelle. It was an ages old post from the old site and I pulled it over for someone who needed the info.

    Glad it is helpful to you.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge