It may seem hard to believe but back before the Dawn of Digital, parents kept their kids entertained on long drives to Disney, Yellowstone, Ocean City, and Sesame Place without the assistance of built-in DVD players, cell phones, iPads, video game consoles, and the like. Impossible, you say?
It’s not only possible (after all, our parents and their parents managed well enough), but we highly encourage it as a way to unplug from the constant electronic stimulation in our lives and engage with loved ones.
Why not use your vacation trek as an opportunity to spend some quality time with your family – instead of as isolated icebergs who just happen to all be sharing a vehicle?
Here are 10 ideas to keep your kids occupied en route to your destination – no electricity required.
- I Spy: So simple, yet so entertaining. One person picks something from their surroundings and the other people in the car has to guess what that thing is. The person picking the object says to the group “I spy with my little eye something” that’s a certain color (e.g. “I spy something with my little eye something that is blue”). Whoever correctly guesses what the other person spies gets to go next. You can limit the items to what’s in the vehicle or make things a bit harder and play I Spied, selecting items that you’ve already passed.
- The Car Next Door: Take turns inventing stories about the people in the car next to yours. Where are they from and where are they going? What do they do for a living? What’s their favorite food? Get really specific, giving them names, hobbies, pets, and so on. Take a vote on whose story is most fascinating.
- License Plate Bingo: Every passenger gets a bingo card with different state license plates (check Pinterest for some free templates). Players cross off a square when they pass a state license plate; whoever gets 5 in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally first wins the round.
- 20 Questions: One player thinks of a famous person, place, or thing (you can pick a theme for the group if you like, e.g. famous rock stars). Everyone else getsto ask the player 20 questions, which the player can only respond “Yes” or “No” to. Whoever guesses correctly gets to go next.
- Hum that Tune: One person hums the tune to a song of their choice, and the rest of the group has to guess what that song is. If you guess the song correctly, the turn passes to you.
- GHOST: Player 1 says a letter out loud, followed by Player 2, Player 3, and so on, alternating letters to spell out a word (for instance, Player 1: C, Player 2: L, Player 3: 0, Player 1: S, Player 2: E). Whoever cannot avoid finishing off the word (Player 2 in the above scenario) gets a “G”, followed by an “H”, and so forth. The player that spells out “GHOST” first loses.
- Alphabet Game: Players try to see if they can find letters from highway signs (excluding license plates). Whoever can complete the alphabet first wins.
- I’m Going on a Picnic: This alphabet-based memory game starts when the first player says “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…” followed by something that begins with the letter “A” (e.g. apples). The second player must repeat what Player 1 said and then add something that begins with a “B”. The game continues through the alphabet with each person repeating everything that has been said in order alphabetically. If someone forgets, they are out. The game ends when the alphabet is completed.
- Spot the Car: This is a fun version of a scavenger hunt for families with older kids. Instead of looking for different license plates, see if you can spot different car models. You can find a printable game sheet here.
- Journey Journal: Buy cheap journals (or use plain notebooks or create your own journal easily using construction paper, a hole punch, and yarn) and have your kids draw pictures of what they see on the drive toward your destination. You can even bring along some magazines, glue, and scissors, and let them cut and paste pictures into their journals illustrating what they’ve seen along the way (e.g. cars, horses, trees, etc).
So pack your cooler with some yummy snacks, load your luggage, strap your kiddos in, and take this list of fun road games with you. You’ll be in vacation paradise before you know it!