I’ll be honest here: my favorite car game when my brother and I were young was to draw an imaginary line down the center of the back seat and yell, “He’s on my side of the car!” every time he put so much as the tip of a finger across that line. But that was back – I won’t say how far – when staring out the car window was about the only thing to do for entertainment on long road trips.
Now, there’s an entire industry out there creating travel games and activities. Here are a few of our favorites:
The Klutz folks make a number of unique toys, but they also have a wide array of books and games that they call “backseat survival activities.” Several of these are in a clever foldout design that fits nicely in any glove compartment or door pocket. They’re also laminated to thwart sticky fingers and spilled soda. Some of the best are Glove Compartment Games, Backseat Book and Cat’s Cradle Book.
Rand McNally for Kids
As you might expect from a map company, many of Rand McNally’s travel activities for kids involve geography – presented in fun, colorful formats. The TripTracker is popular with kids 8 years and up. It’s a combination travel journal and game book that children can use to plan their trip beforehand, track the journey during the vacation and continue to enjoy the games when they get back home.
Everyone’s Favorite Games, in Travel Size
Name your favorite game: Battleship? Clue? Scrabble? Maybe Yahtzee? Yep, there’s a travel version. Now you can find travel or electronic hand-held versions of just about any game. You’ll find a wide selection in discount or toy chain stores.
A word of warning: some of the travel games, like Chess, have tiny pieces that easily get lost in the car or can be swallowed by small children.
Of course, you don’t have to buy travel activities. There are plenty of tried-and-true games you can play that don’t need anything but your imagination. Games like I Spy, 20 Questions, Hangman and License Plate Bingo have been entertaining kids in cars for decades.
One favorite is the Alphabet, or A to Z Game. It works like this:
Pick a topic…let’s say, animals. The first person says an animal name that begins with the letter “A,” like “alligator.” The next person comes up with an animal name beginning with “B,” the next person has “C,” and the game progresses down the alphabet.
The trick is that each person has to recite all the preceding animal names before adding the newest one to the list. For instance, if it is my turn and we’re up to “Q,” I have to first say all the previously mentioned animal names from “A” to “P,” before I add my “Q” animal name (probably “quail”) to the list.
It may sound easy, but it can be tricky to remember all the animal names that everyone else in the car has mentioned, especially as you get down to the end of the alphabet.
If you mess up, or can’t think of a new animal name beginning with your assigned letter (“X” usually trips you up), you’re out of the game and play continues with those remaining.
In theory, the game ends when only one player is left, but you typically reach the end of the alphabet before that happens. You can either start back at “A” and begin a new list, or declare everyone who made it to “Z” a winner (this latter approach reduces the “I won and you lost” taunting temptation).
With all these travel activity choices, you’re sure to find something that makes the time just fly by as you travel down that open road. Okay, maybe it won’t fly by, but at least it won’t crawl.