When you’re taking a road trip with kids, a large part of your planning is figuring out how to keep them entertained. This is never more important than when you’re going to be riding in a car for hours.
Taking a road trip with more than one kid can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, they have someone to talk to and play with. On the other hand, they have someone to talk to and poke at and torment when they start getting really bored. Head boredom off at the pass with travel games kids can play in the car – and do it without spending a dime!
8 Free Travel Games To Play with Kids on Road Trips:
1. I SPY - “I spy, with my little eye, something… green!” Hopefully you’re already familiar with the wonders of the I SPY guessing game. If not, the rules are simple to learn – and teach. Basically, one of you starts describing something you can see (hence the phrase “I spy with my little eye”) and everyone else in the car guesses until someone guesses the mystery item correctly. This is especially fun with a preschooler her describes Mommy’s shirt every. single. time.
2. The license plate game – When I was a kid we used to mentally keep track of all of the different states we would see license plates for on our road trips. Now that make books especially designed for The License Plate Game. The books come with stickers and pictures and actually teach your kids stuff while keeping them entertained in the backseat. Brilliant! (This still counts because you CAN play it for free, just like we did when we were kids.)
3. 20 Questions - Surely you’ve heard of 20 questions. As a parent, you’re basically playing this game all day, every day, without the beautiful finish line that an actual game provides. 20 Questions is similar to I SPY except that you’re not limited to using objects you can see – which is nice if you’ve got slow guessers and a fast scenery. You think of an object, the guessers have to try to figure out what you’re thinking of by asking up to 20 yes or no questions. Yep, that’s it.
4. Name That Tune - My husband and I actually play this game in the car whether we have kids or not. Because we are just that cool. It works best if you have satellite radio, a large play list on an mp3 player, or a monster collection of CDs to draw from. You basically see how quickly you can guess the song. Bonus points for getting it before the lyrics start. Bonus, Extra, AWESOME points if you can get the name of the song and the artist. Negative 100 points if you actually keep track of points.
5. Scavenger Hunt – This is a game you have to plan for ahead of time. Print off a list of different things you might see along the drive and have the kids check them off as they see them. For added fun, come up with a little prize for the person who completes their list first. (And of course, you’re probably going to want a consolation prize for everyone else. Unless you like crying fits over something as silly as a made up Scavenger Hunt.) Here’s a sample scavenger hunt list to get you started.
6. Tic Tac Toe - This requires nothing more than two travelers and a paper and pen. My nine year old can play this game for hours and never get bored.
7. Lines and Dots – Speaking of pen and paper games, do you remember playing lines and dots over and over again at lunch in junior high? No? Was that just a weird thing the girls at my school did? Anyway - lines and dots is another game where you can make your own game board from any sheet of paper. You make a grid of dots and take turns connecting two dots at a time with a line in an effort to make boxes. You get a point for each box you complete. Sound familiar now? No? If you’ve never played lines and dots, you can find detailed rules here.
8. Hangman – Is there no limit to the games that you can play on the back of a hotel receipt print out? Not yet! Hangman is like Do It Yourself Wheel Of Fortune. It’s also a great way for your kids to practice their spelling and language skills. You can play Hangman with a beginner reader by using simple words like their name and the names of other people they know.
And one travel game that is not free but I am including because it is my favorite….
Travel Yahtzee – You can get just about every classic board game in a travel version. Travel Yahtzee was my absolute favorite as a kid because there weren’t a million little pieces to lose, and I could play it by myself if my siblings were being pains in the butt. (There is nothing wrong with a kid playing Yahtzee with themselves to beat their own previous high scores. Totally normal.)