8 Classic Car Games That Can Save Your Next Road Trip

Kids playing rock, paper, scissors game in the car.

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Family road trips don't have to slide into backseat squabbling and a chorus of "Are we there yet?" The trick is to fight boredom and keep kids engaged, whether it involves printable games, toys, or other types of travel games. When the going gets cranky, and you want the kids to put down their electronics, try these eight classic travel games that have saved the day for generations of families.

  • 01 of 08
    Two sisters pointing out the window in the car.
    gradyreese/Getty Images

    Best for: Age 2 and up

    Preschoolers and young school-age kids love this simple guessing game that can be played on car trips, airport layovers, train rides, city strolls, nature hikes, and in countless other situations.

    How to play: Two or more people can play this game. Player 1 spies something but keeps it a secret. The item should be something everyone can see, and it's best to not have something that will disappear, such as a motorcycle zooming past. Player 1 says, "I spy, with my little eye, something that..." and ends with a clue, such as "is red" or "starts with the letter H." Players take turns asking one question each. Player 1 can only answer "yes" or "no." The person who guesses correctly then is It.

  • 02 of 08

    Sound Effects Story

    Best for: Age 3 and up

    This silly storytelling game is guaranteed to give little ones the giggles. All you need is several people and some creative sound effect skills.

    How to play: Player 1 begins a short story, replacing key nouns and verbs with sounds. For example, "Once upon a time on a farm, a [moo] was [munch munch] grass when along came a [woof woof] and a [meow]." Player 2 then picks up the story, "The [meow] jumped on the [woof woof]'s back and invited the [moo] to join them on a picnic." Player 3 continues, "The three friends found a meadow then suddenly they heard a [buzz buzz]." And so on. There is no "winner" to this game, but players should encourage each other to make the storylines crazier and more inventive.

  • 03 of 08

    20 Questions

    Best for: Age 4 and up

    This simple guessing game requires deductive reasoning. It's free and can be played anywhere, so it's perfect for road trips and plane rides.

    How to play: Player 1 thinks up an object that can be classified as animal, vegetable, or mineral. The other players take turns guessing what the object is by posing questions that can be answered with a "yes" or a "no." Keep asking questions until 20 questions have been asked and answered. At any time, the players can guess what the object is. The player who guesses correctly then becomes the person thinking up the object in the next round. If nobody guesses correctly after 20 questions, Player 1 wins and thinks up another object in the next round.

  • 04 of 08

    The Alphabet Game

    Best for: Age 5 and up

    This non-competitive group search game is great for kids who know their ABCs. It's a good bet for a long road trip because it's guaranteed to take up a fair amount of time.

    How to play: Player 1 looks around to find something that begins with the letter A. For example, "automobile." Player 2 then searches for something visible to everyone that begins with B, such as "bridge." The game continues until you've gone through the entire alphabet. Note: for tricky letters, such as Q and Z, feel free to spy license plates containing the letters.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Best for: Age 5 and up

    This alphabet-based categorizing memory game is great for kids 5 and up, or for slightly younger kids who have learned their ABCs. It's perfect for long car rides, train trips and, of course, picnics.

    How to play: Player 1 says, "I'm going on a picnic, and I'm bringing..." followed by something you can eat that starts with the letter A. Player 2 repeats what Player 1 is bringing and adds a food that begins with B. The game continues with the letters of the alphabet. The last player to recite all the food correctly wins. Younger kids might want to partner with an adult, or you can have them eliminate the memory part and just make it an alphabet game.

  • 06 of 08

    Rock Paper Scissors

    RockPaperScissors_FCC_AndyHay.jpg
    Andy Hay/Flickr Creative Commons

    Best for: Age 5 and up

    This classic two-player hand game can keep family members of all ages entertained while in a car, on a train or bus, waiting in line at an attraction, or just about anywhere.

    How to play: Agree upon three primes "1-2-3," which will launch each round. On the count of 3, each player executes a hand throw of either rock, paper or scissors.

    • Rock is represented by a closed fist, knuckles up.
    • Scissors is delivered with a mainly closed fist, with the exception that the index and middle fingers are fully extended toward the opposing player.
    • Paper is represented by a hand positioned horizontally so that all fingers including the thumb are fully extended and facing the opposing player.

    Each throw wins against one other throw and loses against the third throw. Rock crushes scissors. Scissors cuts paper. Paper covers rock. If both players choose the same throw, the round is a stalemate.

  • 07 of 08

    Best for: Age 6 and up

    This fun category game is great for all ages, and particularly for younger school-age kids who have learned to read and can spell a large variety of words. You can make this game easier or harder by choosing different categories.

    How to play: Decide on a category, such as animals, cities, states, TV shows, food, or any other topic. If the topic is food, Player 1 says a food, such as "Pizza." Player 2 must think of a food that begins with the last letter of the previous word so in this case, A. The game continues back and forth among the players. Each person has 60 seconds to answer. No item can be repeated. Younger children might want to partner with an adult.

  • 08 of 08

    Who Am I?

    Best for: Age 6 and up

    This guessing game is great to play with kids who are school-age or older because it requires some knowledge of famous people and a healthy dose of deductive reasoning.

    How to play: The group thinks up a category of people (celebrities, athletes, literary characters, or whatever you like). Player 1 thinks up the name of a famous person within the agreed category and asks "Who am I?" The other players take turns asking yes-or-no questions to narrow down the options and get to the correct person. For example: "Are you male or female?" "Are you dead or alive?" "Are you famous for your career or an event?" and so on. Player 1 may have to remind the others to stick to yes-or-no questions. A player may use his turn to ask a question or guess the correct answer, but encourage younger kids to ask good questions and narrow down possibilities before guessing.

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