3 Road Trip Games to Keep Your Kids Busy During The Ride

Are your kids easily bored in the car?

Does the thought of driving anywhere without fully charged iPads make your blood run cold?

Are you looking for ideas to keep your kids occupied while on the road?

Read on for the solution to the car trip crazies.

In this article, I’ll show you 3 games that your family can play in the car to beat the boredom of a long trip (or even a short one).

Discover 3 road trip games that will provide unique opportunities for you to connect as family and keep active kids occupied.

Let’s be honest, it’s a challenge to keep active kids occupied in the car, even for the most patient among us.

What are we to do?

Having three boys who can go from being angelic to diabolical within seconds of strapping on their seat belts, I can sympathize with every parent out there who has experienced the same, like the poor parents of the kids in this video.

No one wants to experience this on a long car trip!

Not only is it unnerving to have a car full of screaming, fighting, bored kids but it can also be distracting and dangerous.

Given how stressful it can be to keep kids entertained in the car, I can understand the temptation to wire them into their electronic devices right up until you park the car in the garage at night.

The thing is, though, car trips don’t have to be nightmarish experiences. In fact, we recently found that car trips can provide a unique opportunity for you to connect as family. Here’s how…

Enjoy this music from a famous movie road trip while you read.

Recently, my kids and I traveled 3000km (1800 miles) across Eastern Australia, and while we did have the iPads and laptops with us, I made it a priority to engage the kids with games we could play together.

I went in search of the best activities to keep kids occupied in the car and I’ll share them here with you.

The 3 games below will keep your family occupied for several hours, and also provide opportunities to talk, laugh and play together.

I realize, of course, that a long car trip gives you time to really get into a game but these ideas can be implemented during any car trip. With very little preparation you’ll enjoy a peaceful ride, long or short.

So let’s play!

Game #1: Spot It!

This classic car game will keep the kids occupied throughout your trip and ensure that they notice the landscape you’re driving through.

What You’ll Need

  • A printout of the questions
  • Pencils or pens
  • Something hard for them to write on and to keep the pages together (like a clipboard)
  • Erasers (in case of mistakes)

Step 1: Download and customize the questions.

The object of the game is to spot items on your list during the car ride and to be the first to check off all of the items.

Download the basic list here (PDF).

questions to ask

Customize your questions for each child.

I recommend that you customize the lists so they’re different for each child.

I have a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old and an 8-year-old, whose interests and needs vary greatly. I wanted to adjust the difficulty of the lists to level the playing field and make sure the younger ones had a fighting chance of finishing first.

You can make the questions or items as obscure as you like; however, it would be wise to keep it fairly simple for younger players and make the list more challenging for older kids. Items on our lists included things like:

  • A blue mailbox
  • A person walking a dog
  • The ocean
  • A cloud that looks like an animal
  • Each of the kids had different obscure-colored cars to spot as well

Separate lists also give the children different objects to spot en route so that they won’t compete or fight over the same objects.

spot it

On the road, ready to try out the Spot it! car game.

You could also download an app to play Spot it! (or Auto Bingo). There are several, but they don’t typically allow you to customize for different-aged players during the same game, so I recommend that you play the more flexible paper version on your car trip.

Step 2: Establish the rules of play.

When you hand out the questions, be sure to review some basic rules, such as: No using the Internet to find objects on the list. No sabotaging others, etc.

Step 3: Hand out the questionnaires.

Give each player his or her own list and a pen or pencil to check off the items as they’re found.

Clipboards or small, portable whiteboards would be a wise investment for this.


Use a clipboard or mini-whiteboard for writing down answers to questions in the car.

Not only will they give your kids a hard surface to write on, but they’ll help keep their pages clean and organized and prevent the loss of pencils (as you can attach them to the clipboard).

Step 4: Play the game.

Spot it! is a game that can be enjoyed throughout your car trip.

be organized

Use a clipboard to keep your game pages clean and organized.

I was surprised at how much my boys liked this game. And as a parent, I found that it’s fun to help with the game as you drive.

I knew what everyone was looking for, so I was able to keep an eye out too. We talked about the things we were looking for along the way. If I spotted a pink car, I’d yell it out and if I spotted a person walking a dog, I’d let them know.

Game #2: Count the Colored Cars

This is another game that can be played for a long stretch of time in the car.

What You’ll Need

  • Your handy-dandy clipboard
  • A sheet of paper featuring a grid of different-colored cars
  • A pencil

In this game, the kids look for different-colored cars and keep a tally on a grid. Whoever finds the most by the end of the car trip wins the game.

pink car

Did anyone in your group spot a pink car? Make up a story about an unusual car you see and the person who drives it. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Download the grid for this game here (PDF) (and be sure to print it in landscape format).

car color grid

Use this grid to keep track of cars you see.

When my family played, it was interesting to see which colors were the most popular for cars.

The game helped kickstart a conversation about why people buy white cars more often than other colors and what would possess someone to buy a pink car.

I honestly thought this game wouldn’t be all that popular, but in actual fact, it kept my kids amused for hours! Hours!

Go figure!

Play this game on your next car trip. You may be surprised at how much fun it is for your family, too.

Game #3: Reverse Telephone

This game is a classic with a reverse twist. It goes by many different names: Telephone… Operator… Tell it like it isn’t… Here in Australia it’s called Chinese Whispers. Whatever you call it, it’s a fun way to keep the family engaged with each other as you pass time in the car.

What You’ll Need

  • Four players preferably
  • Good whispering voices

How the game is played.

If you ever played Telephone (or Operator, or Chinese Whispers) as a kid, you know how easy it is for the original message to become something else entirely as it’s passed from one person to the next.

In Reverse Telephone, the object of the game is not to convey the message correctly, but to try to end up with an entirely different message than you started with.

The Player #1 should think of a phrase. It can be anything at all, maybe, “The clouds are white and fluffy.”

The first player must whisper the phrase to the second player. The receiver can ask for it to be repeated, but it should be whispered so that no one else hears.

Player #2 should change the message to make it as difficult as possible for the next person to understand the message. It may become, “The cows are tight and buffy.”

playing chinese whispers

Silly Telephone is about getting the message wrong, not right.

The Player #3 should pass a new version of the message to the next player—maybe, “The trousers are too tight on my tummy”—and so on until the message returns to the originator.

Silly, right?

It helps develop creativity and thinking on the fly, but don’t mention that to the kids. They just think its giggly fun!

When play gets back to the Player #1, he or she should say the final message aloud and also tell everyone what the original message was. Comparing the two will give everyone a big laugh.

Choose a new person to start with a new phrase and play again. “Peanuts are yummy! nom, nom, nom!” may turn into “I’m a rabbit, yum, yum, yum” and then who knows what?

Safety tip: When it’s the driver’s turn, be sure to keep your eyes on the road and your seatbelts on at all times. The driver should not try to pass on a message to anyone other than the person in the front passenger seat. And the passenger should be the one to lean over and hear the message. If the other person can’t hear you properly, that’s okay… they’re meant to get the message wrong!

Our messages had us all in giggles for the duration of our car trip. I’m sure your family will have a lot of fun, too.

Some final thoughts

There are many more games and activities that can turn a boring car trip full of pleas for video games or movies into something fun for the family to share. We played quite a few rounds of that ol’ stalwart, I Spy, on our trip as well.

I hope I’ve shown you with these three games that with just a little bit of preparation, you won’t need iPads and video screens to keep your kids happy in the car. Make the effort! The rewards, laughter and connection you’ll make with your kids are definitely worth it.

What do you think? What are some games your family likes to play in the car? I’d love to see a picture from one of your road trips. Please post comments and photos below.

Image from iStockPhoto.

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About the Author, Cas McCullough

Cas McCullough is founder of Content Marketing Cardiology and co-founder of The Likeability Co. She helps small businesses and organizations build active, fun and profitable brands through powerful inbound marketing. Other posts by »


  1. EmilyQuestions says:

    I love count the colored cars. That’s an easy one to play even if you aren’t on a long trip with kids! Thanks, Cas, for sharing such great ideas!

  2. Thanks, Cas! I’ll be adding these to my bag of tricks to pull out when the “Backseat Boys” get antsy. On our last long trip, we tracked how many different license plates we saw and found almost all 50 US states plus a few states/provinces in Canada and Mexico. It’s always good to have some games to play together. (And now I’ll always be on the lookout for pink cars, lol!)

  3. You’re welcome! The count the cars game and the spot it game were ideas a teacher friend shared with me before we went on our trip. So glad she did!

  4. Oh, I’m seeing pink cars all the time now! The license plate game sounds like a winner! Will have to try that one next road trip! Thanks for commenting!

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