Road trips are as integral to summer as barbecues, camp and swimming. But if a long car drive is all about getting from Point A to Point B, why not plan your next family road trip as a road journey instead?
A journey suggests new experiences, exploration and learning, all of which are possible during family travel. Kristin Townsend, a mom and educational consultant from Burke, Virginia, shares her motivation for using time in the car for creative games: “Not only do they get our minds moving, but they start a lot of interesting discussions and help my husband and me clue in on what our kids are thinking about these days.”
Use any of these creative car games or curiosity questions to make your next journey more enjoyable without having to pack any extra supplies!
“That’s not something we see every day!” Karen Burkhart, a mother of two elementary school-age boys who travels regularly between the United States and Canada, plays this game every time they visit her family and friends in Canada. Alpacas, French-language signs and ferry crossings have been among the creative things the Burkhart family has spotted during long car journeys. Burkhart comments, “We have some good laughs!” Try this activity either as a game you play the entire time you are in the car, or as a speed game to see who can spot the most unusual or out-of-the-ordinary item during a set time interval.
“I wonder where that car is going?” A fun game to play with very young children. Choose interesting vehicles and make up stories, such as a grandma visiting her grandkids, a family traveling to go camping, or a big rig operator and what’s in his haul. Another way to make this game educational is to look at the state on the car’s license plate and determine if the car is going toward or away from the state.
Category ABCs. Pick a category such as fruits and vegetables, first names or even PBS KIDS characters and go through each letter of the alphabet, taking turns coming up with items beginning with the letter. For an extra challenge, go backward through the alphabet.
The Alphabet Hunt. For younger children, instead of trying to think of words that start with a certain letter, encourage letter recognition by working your way through the alphabet visually, suggests Anna Grashorn, mom to a young son in Columbus, Ohio. She encourages using signs, billboards, license plates or anything else outside your car to work your way through the ABCs.
The License Plate Game. Make a list of all the different states’ license plates you find on your route. To make the game more interesting, have goals and prizes, such as a special snack when you find 10 states or a prize for the first person to find a license plate from a state with a certain letter, such as N, in its name.
“Let’s Google It!” If you have access to a smartphone, you can Google interesting town names, historical markers or other items that catch your family’s attention, suggests Townsend. Alternatively, make a list of some of the most unusual signs or town names you see and Google them once you return home as a way to relive the fun of your vacation.
Curiosity Questions. Most children love to talk about themselves, so this game is a natural winner. Here’s a list of questions we’ve used in my own family to get you started, but chances are you will begin to think of your own questions to use. Have each family member answer each question, and be surprised at some of the answers you discover.
o What makes you happy?
o What is your favorite sport to play?
o What are your three favorite vegetables?
o Where is one place you’ve never been that you would like to go?
o What do you like best about your friend _________?
o If we could open a zoo in our backyard, what five animals would you choose?
o If you could choose your meals for one day, what would you choose?
o What is your favorite season? Why?
o What do you think our next family car should be like?
o If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would you choose?
All of these games have been used successfully by young families, perhaps even your own! Don’t forget other classic games such as I-Spy and Twenty Questions. With these ideas in your back pocket, your next road journey will end with you not only reaching your destination but also having gained some fun memories along the way.
More fun activities while in the car:
DIY Travel Games for Kids
Science While Riding the Car
Reading Activities in the Car
Eye Spy Rainbow Bottle