21 Fun Games to Play in the Car

Planning to spend a few hours in the car? These (completely free!) road trip games will keep your kids entertained on long drives.

Little Girl Sitting In Car Seat with Teddy Bear
Photo: Priscilla Gragg

Road trips with your children don't have to be difficult ordeals punctuated with a repeated "Are we there yet?" To keep your entire crew entertained, try out some of these fun car games for kids.

1. The License Plate Game

Make a group effort to spot tags from all 50 states. Whoever calls out a state's license plate first gets a point. (Bonus points for the first person to spy a Canadian plate!) The family member with the most points at the end of the drive wins.

2. Trivia Questions

Before the car ride, prepare a list of trivia questions about your kids' specific interests, whether it's Disney characters or American history. Ask them throughout the drive to get their brain pumping!

3. Story Time

Get creative inventing a family fairy tale! The first person starts with "Once upon a time..." and offers a complete sentence, then the second person adds to the story with their own sentence. This continues with each person until the story reaches a conclusion. You can either set a time limit (15 minutes) or wrap it up after each person has a chance to say three sentences. Consider recording the story on your phone and having someone transcribe it afterward, so you'll always remember this quirky road trip car game!

4. Questions

There aren't many distractions in the car, so it's the perfect opportunity to bond with your children. Get them talking by asking some fun "get-to know-you" questions: What is the craziest thing you've ever eaten? What do you like daydreaming about? What are three things you want to do this summer? Find more ideas here.

5. The Alphabet Game

One person chooses the right-hand side of the road, and someone else the left. Each player looks for letters of the alphabet that appear on signs or license plates on their side. The object of the game is to point out all the letters of the alphabet in order, from A to Z. The first person to spot the entire alphabet wins!

6. The Animal Name Game

To start this road trip game, one person names an animal. Then each person in order has to name another animal (no repeating!) that starts with the last letter of the previous animal named—for example, elephant, tiger, raccoon, newt. There are no winners or losers in this game. With older children, try the game with TV shows, or geographical categories such as cities or countries.

7. Twenty Questions

One person secretly thinks of either a person, place, or thing. The other players then take turns asking yes-or-no questions, such as "Can it fly?" or "Does it grow in the ground?" After the players have asked 20 questions, each player gets a chance to make a guess.

8. Telephone

A child whispers a story to someone else in the car. That person whispers the same story—as close to a word-for-word recount as possible—to a third person, and so on. The last person to hear the story repeats it out loud so everyone can hear. Invariably, some of the story will have been lost in the translation, and the resulting garbled message usually inspires a good laugh.

9. The Theme Song Game

One person hums the tune to a favorite TV show, and everyone else tries to name the show as fast as possible. The first person to guess correctly hums the next song.

10. Name That Song

Here's another song-inspired car ride game. Take turns singing a lyric to a song. Everyone else in the car can guess the singer or title—bonus points if they get both! This travel game works best for older children and teens.

11. Scavenger Hunt

You'll need some advanced planning for this cool car game! Before the trip, make a list of items you're likely to see on the road—a blue billboard, cows, a motorcycle, etc. Your kids can be on the lookout for these items, keeping track of what they see. If they find everything on the scavenger hunt, they win a prize. (Perhaps some candy at the next rest stop?)

12. Memory Test

The first person says "A is for —," filling in the blank with any word beginning with the letter A, such as "apple." The second person comes up with a word for the letter B, such as "book," but must also repeat the "A" word: "A is for apple, B is for book." Continue through the alphabet, each person taking several turns and reciting more letters and words. By the time you reach the letter Z, that player will recite the whole alphabet and its corresponding words. However, if you're playing with younger kids, you may want to choose an earlier letter than "Z" to be the final one.

13. Secret Place Race

One person looks at a road map and finds a small town, village, river, etc. That person announces the name of the place they have chosen. A second player has 60 seconds to look at the map and try to find the secret place.

14. Restaurant Race

Each player chooses a restaurant, such as Burger King, Taco Bell, McDonalds, etc. Players earn points by spotting their restaurant off the road, on a billboard, on exit markers, on Food/Fuel signs, or by hearing it mentioned on the radio. Impose a time limit—say, 20 minutes—and then add up the points.

15. Healthy Competition

Though not exactly a "car" game, this activity is perfect for lengthy road trips. To offset the day's sedentary nature, have kids compete in athletic challenges at rest stops. See who can do the most sprints, push-ups, or jumping jacks in a minute.

16. Would You Rather?

Looking for silly travel games for kids? Start a round of "Would You Rather?" with everyone taking turns asking far-fetched questions to the family. For example, would you rather eat chocolate or pizza for an entire day? Would you rather have the ability to fly or become invisible?

17. Categories

Choose a broad category, such as cities, movie titles, boy/girl names, dinner foods, etc. Then have players take turns naming items within the chosen category in alphabetical order. For example, if you choose boy names, you could say Arnold, Bennett, Cameron, David, Ernie, etc. If a player doesn't state their answer within 10 seconds—or doesn't travel down the alphabet correctly—they automatically lose the game.

18. Word Association

This fun car game is perfect for word masters! The first player states a random word aloud. The next player quickly says another word associated with the first one. These steps repeat, cycling through all of the players. (Here's an example: mustard, hot dog, barbecue, Fourth of July, fireworks). The game ends if someone takes too long to answer, provides an answer without a clear association, or repeats a word.

19. Watch Your Mouth!

Before the road trip, choose words or phrases that are "off-limits" in the car—for example, the first names of family members or "are we there yet?" If someone says one of the off-limits words, they get a point. Whoever has the least amount of points at the end of the drive wins the game!

20. Counting Cows

This car game is surprisingly simple. Whenever you pass a cow, yell out "cow!" or "moo!" The first person to spot the cow gets a point (no repeats!), and whoever racks up the most points is declared the winner.

21. Roadtrip Riff-Off

The first player starts by singing a few lines of a song. Another person jumps in to connect the lyrics with another song (essentially, the last lyrics Player One sings should be the first lyrics Player Two sings). Here's an example: "Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you…." "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy…" "Happy birthday to you!"

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