Hot Road Trips

Genius List of Road Trip Car Games for kids

Road trips are not just about the destination - family car games will make the long drive fun too

Road trips are one of our favorite ways to explore the country on a budget (it’s sooo much cheaper than flying, especially for a big family like ours). However, what lots of parents don’t realize is that the “road trip” part itself can make or break your family vacation. And that is where car games for kids can be a real life saver.

Let me explain.

If you expect to just throw your kids in the car for a four, six, eight or ten hour drive and have them behave well the entire time, you are kidding yourself. Even my kids (who are experienced and have been on a 60-day, 8,000 mile US road trip) can be difficult just driving to Target – let alone driving for several hours straight.

You must be prepared with fun games to play in the car with kids so that your road trip starts off on the right foot. It’s a simple equation:

(boredom + confined space) X many hours = cranky-a$$ kids

Now, the only part of this equation that you might have any measure of control over is the “boredom” part. I mean, maybe you could rent a bigger vehicle and break up your road trip with lots of stops. Or you can cross your fingers that they sleep most of the drive. But ultimately this is where you will want to focus your energy – and road trip car games can help.

In this article, we present a list of our all-time favorite, best travel games for kids on road trips that will help keep boredom at bay and cure the “backseat blues”. What is different about our list is that it is comprehensive, it is travel-tested, and it is organized by age group.

We highlight the top car games for young kids (4-9y), and top road trip games for older kids (10-15y). We also explain whether the game is suitable for 1, 2, or 3+ players in the car, so you can quickly find the perfect road trip activity for your next family trip easily.

Related Post: List of the Best Toddler Toys for Car Rides

You can jump ahead by clicking a category in the table below.

Here’s what’s in this article

Solo kid car games

  • Where’s Waldo?
  • Joke books
  • Magic Eye Illusions
  • Drawing boards

Simple road trip games for two

  • Tic-tac-toe
  • Hangman
  • Rock Paper Scissors
  • Staring contest

Multi-player car games

  • Head Banz game (Our Top Choice!)
  • Scavenger hunt travel game
  • Popular magnetic games for travel
  • Would you rather?
  • I spy
  • 20 questions
  • Pass the Category
  • Alphabet game
  • Chocolate melt game
  • Telephone

Solo activities for older kids

  • Rubix cube
  • Phone/Tablet Apps & Games (list)
  • Travel journaling

Multi-player games for older kids

  • Mad libs
  • Head Banz
  • Apples to Apples
  • Not Parent Approved
  • Battleship travel edition

This post may contain compensated links. You can read more in our disclaimer.

Road Trip Games for Younger Kids

Car Games for 1

Where’s Waldo

Martin Handford’s classic visual search game.

Trust me, kids delight in searching for Waldo on every new page. With brilliant artwork that makes it such a challenge to find Waldo, this game will keep the kids busy for hours. My favorite Where’s Waldo game for road trips is the Travel Collection.

Joke Books

Compilations of creative Knock Knock jokes and more!

My kids love learning new jokes and making mom and dad crack a smile. Joke books can keep them amused for quite a while, and they can be interactive because your kids will want to share their favorites with you. I recommend Rob Elliott’s kid-friendly Laugh-out-Loud series of books, which have sold more than 2.5 millions copies. There is even a road trip version, listed below!

Magic Eye Illusions

Random 2D patterns turn to 3D before your very eyes!

Ok, who remembers these from when you were a kid!? I remember being frustrated trying to see the hidden object, but also remember the magic of the fleeting 3D images when I finally did focus my eyes just right. They still sell these books for pretty cheap on Amazon, and I think they would make a great companion for your kids (of any age, really) for your next car trip. I haven’t tried the newer Harry Potter version listed below, but I bet your kids will love it!

Drawing Boards

Convenient boards to draw, erase, and try again (and again)!

My kids love to draw, especially my daughter, and drawing boards are a great road trip activity for kids to do on their own (or together as part of a game like hangman). While you can get by with blank sheets of paper and pencil, I think it is smart to invest in a travel friendly device like the popular 8.5in Boogie Board, which has an LCD screen and stylus that enables fine drawing as well as a simple erase function with a button press that erases completely every time. Other popular options include the etch-a-sketch, magnetic drawing boards (for young children), and free drawing apps on your phone or tablet device.

Car Games for 2

Tic-Tac-Toe

An easy-to-play, classic game for all ages

I don’t think I need to explain how to play tic-tac-toe (everybody knows that). To play tic-tac-toe in the car, you just need to keep a pad of paper and pen/pencil in there. Or, you can buy a magnetic tic-tac-toe game set which has colorful magnetic pieces that won’t slip around while you’re driving. This particular magnetic tic-tac-toe set below gets good reviews on Amazon and seems like an appropriate size for children in the car.

Hangman

It’s not as gruesome as it sounds

Again, most people know the rules of hangman so I won’t waste your time. I highly recommend Melissa and Doug’s Flip to Win Hangman game that is PERFECT for car trips because there are NO LOOSE PIECES. You heard that right, all of the letters and body parts can rotate easily as your teammate guesses letters, and then rotate them all back to reset the game board. As a bonus, it comes with a pen and erasable whiteboard on the bottom to keep track of letters.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

No purchase necessary for this car-friendly game

It is amazing how well this game is able to settle minor disputes, and how long this game is able to entertain kids in the car! Game rules:

  • Count down “rock, paper, scissors, shoot” out loud
  • Each player quickly throws a hand sign
  • clenched fist is rock, peace sign is scissors, flat hand is paper
  • Rock beats Scissors, Scissors beats Paper, Paper beats Rock
  • If you throw the same sign, go again

Staring Contest

I think this game is weird, but kids seem to like it

I love, love, LOVE that this is such a quiet game. And it always induces some giggles and keeps the car in a good mood for a while. Game rules are really simple:

  • Two players say “GO” and stare at each others’ eyes
  • The first person to blink loses

Multi-player Car Games (2+)

Hed Banz Game

This game is hilarious and fun for everyone

We love playing Hed Banz. This game is ingenious and designed in a way that makes it car trip-friendly right out of the box. Each player wears a plastic head band that looks ridiculous, and when it is your turn you have to place a card (without peeking) on your head band facing the other players. Your goal is to guess “What am I?” by asking a series of yes or no questions. For example, “Do I have legs?”, “Do I have feathers?”, etc. You can be either a type of animal, food or object. You get to ask questions until the sand clock timer runs out, and if you guess correctly then you get a yellow token placed on your headband. Typically the first person to win 3 tokens is the winner. HedBanz is a riot and you can thank me later for buying this game for your next family road trip.

Scavenger Hunt Card Game

Everyone likes a scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunt games for the car are fun to play for kids and adults, as long as your kids are big enough to look out the windows and search for different road-side objects. Each player gets a set of cards and the goal is to be the first to find each one in your set. For example, find a red car, a stop sign, etc. This particular game by Briarpatch is highly-rated on Amazon and is designed for kids 7 and up on car trips.

Magnetic Games for Travel

The magnets ensure that pieces stay affixed to the game boards

There are a variety of magnetic games for the car to choose from, and Play Monster is a reputable company that makes the popular Take N’ Play series of travel-friendly games for kids (click to see Bingo below, and then click on Play Monster to see the rest of their games). They make magnetic Bingo, checkers, tic-tac-toe, etc. Also, Hasbro makes a magnetic version of Battleship (remember that game!) that would be super fun for kids on a long car trip. Remember, if a game does not have magnetic pieces (or pieces that are affixed to the game board), then don’t even think about using it in the car. It won’t turn out well!

Would you Rather?

We play the travel edition of this game ALL THE TIME

Would you rather is a classic game that you can teach to kids as young as 4. We like to play the travel edition where we say things like: “Would you rather spend a week in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, or would you rather spend a week in Iceland to see the Northern Lights?” You can learn a lot about your kids playing this game with them, and it is usually good for some giggles if it gets raunchy. Game rules are really simple:

  • Each person takes turns asking other players a question
  • Would you rather do this, or would you rather do that?
  • Players give their answers and explain why

I Spy

with my little eye…something…

“Would you rather?” is a classic game that you can teach to kids as young as 4. We like to play the travel edition where we say things like: “Would you rather spend a week in Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, or would you rather spend a week in Iceland to see the Northern Lights?” You can learn a lot about your kids playing this game, and it is usually good for some giggles, especially if it gets raunchy. Game rules are really simple:

  • Each person takes turns asking other players a question
  • Would you rather do this, or would you rather do that?
  • Players give their answers and explain why

Pass the Category

This game tests your memory for random categories

I am not sure the official name for this game, but we call it “Pass the Category” here at home. The idea is simply to pick a category like Netflix shows or Disney Villains, and then take turns saying a member of that category. You are out of the game if you repeat an item that you or someone else already said. It is called “Pass” the category because we usually have a small ball or soft object that we pass from person to person following each answer. Here are some categories that the kids enjoy:

  • Fast food restaurants
  • Disney movies
  • YouTube channels
  • Animals that live in the sea, jungle, etc.
  • States in America

Alphabet Game

A is for Aardvark, B is for Bee…

The way we play this game is to pick a category and then we take turns coming up with an object of that category that starts with a particular letter, starting with A and progressing to Z. Here are some categories that the kids enjoy:

  • Animals
  • Food Items
  • Places in the World
  • Historical Figures/Events

Chocolate Melt Game

It is NOT just an excuse to eat chocolate (or is it!?)

The chocolate melt game is fun and satisfying for kids. It is also a quiet game that can last a while. It is simple to play as long as you have some pieces of chocolate (or M&Ms work well). Basically, you see who can keep the piece of chocolate in their mouth the longest without melting. You prove there is still chocolate by opening your mouth to show the brown lump on your tongue. When the chocolate is gone, you lose!

Telephone Game

This game is best with 4+ players

OK, if you have a full minivan then this is a fun game to play in the car. The first player whispers a statement in the ear of the person nearest (without repeating), and then that person whispers what they heard to the person nearest them until you go all the way through the car (you may not want to include the driver in this). At the end you compare what the first person said to what the last person heard, which is usually very different as long as your whispers are faint enough. Telephone Game is best with bigger groups (more than 3).

Road Trip Activities for Older Kids

Car Activities for 1

Rubik’s Cube

Classic game to impress you friends – if you can figure it out!

The Rubik’s Cube game is love/hate, unless you are really good at it. Either way, it can keep older kids occupied for quite a long time. Younger kids might get frustrated too quickly, which is why I recommend the Rubik’s Cube as a good game for older kids on a car trip or road trip.

Phone/Tablet

We bought the Samsung Galaxy a10e as a cheap wifi phone with apps

Perhaps the most important thing to bring on a road trip with kids is a phone or tablet stocked with apps and games that the kids like to play, and that can be played without wifi. As a quick side note: Our kids wanted phones but we did not want to pay a monthly fee for cell phone service (nor did we think they were ready for their own phones). One solution we found was to buy the Samsung Galaxy a10e for less than $200. It is a fast phone that has complete functionality over wifi, and it plays all of their games well. They love their phones and it was only a one-time price for us to buy the phone outright. No matter the age of your kids, don’t forget to bring devices on a long car trip!

Travel Journal

Keep a travel journal to remember how you felt on your trips

It is a good idea to keep a travel journal in the car, especially for long road trip vacations. My daughter loves her travel journal, whether she’s doodling in it or writing down memories of places we just visited. You can go cheap and just buy a composition book for less than a dollar…but a leather bound travel journal is a special item that will make journaling more exciting for your kids.

Multi-player Car Games (2+)

Mad Libs

The classic (and hilarious) game that teaches language

I put Mad Libs under the older kids category, even though my 8 year old daughter absolutely LOVES doing Mad Libs. I just don’t see most kids under 8 being able to think of good adjectives, nouns, and adverbs on the fly. Anyhow, if you are unfamiliar with Mad Libs, it is a two-player game (or more) where the Mad Libs book shows a story with particular words left blank, and it is up to the other people in the car to think of creative nouns and adjectives to fill in the blanks. At the end, the person writing down in the book gets to read to unexpected, and typically funny, story.

Hed Banz Game

This game is awesome for ANY AGE

We love this game in the car, or anywhere, really. We already recommended Hed Banz. above for younger kids, but older kids really like this game too. Each player wears a plastic head band that looks ridiculous, and when it is your turn you have to place a card (without peeking) on your head band facing the other players. Your goal is to guess “What am I?” by asking a series of yes or no questions. For example, “Do I have legs?”, “Do I have feathers?”, etc. You can be either a type of animal, food or object. You get to ask questions until the sand clock timer runs out. It is super fun, trust me 🙂

Apples to Apples

This game is fun and educational for kids

We play Apples to Apples all the time at home with our kids, so why not play it in the car!? Each player holds 7 red cards in their hand with nouns like “Albert Einstein” or “Choir Boys”, and players will alternate pulling a green card which lists an adjective like “Chunky”. Each player (except the green card puller) gets to pick a card that matches the adjective, or usually, they pick a card that will make others laugh (e.g. the opposite). Anyhow, it is a fun and easy game that I have found to be educational for my younger kids because they encounter cards with people they don’t know and adjectives they’ve never heard before, and it is a teachable moment to explain it to them. They also have an Apples to Apples Jr. for kids 4-8.

Not Parent Approved: Card Game

It’s Cards against Humanity…for kids

I am sure you have heard of Cards against Humanity, so this is a very similar game but with more kid appropriate cards. Think funny cards about substitute teachers, classrooms, farts, etc. Some reviewers complain that some of the cards might be inappropriate for their kids, so you can read the reviews and make that judgement for yourself. For us, this game is right on point!

Battleship: Travel Edition

This classic game is still around, and still fun

Raise your hand if you played Battleship as a kid. I know I did, as did most people my age. Well the game is still around and the Grab & Go travel edition of Battleship is a great kid’s game for car trips. The pieces all store in these two lockable cases, and the only frustrating thing might be if the case tips over and spills little pieces everywhere. This game is not recommended if you have a toddler or newborn in the car, but otherwise, I would recommend you give it a try on your next road trip.

That’s a Wrap

There you have it, I hope you found my list helpful for preparing for your next road trip with kids. These car games will have your family connecting, laughing, and having fun while the miles of road roll by. Let me know if I missed a great car trip game for kids and what you think of my list!

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Genius List of Kids Games for Car Trips
Author

I am a busy mama with 3 delicious babies and a serious itch for travel and writing (when I am not bartending, that is)! After graduating from Cal State San Marcos with a B.A. in Communications, I decided to start a family and pursue a career in freelance writing. I created HotMamaTravel as an outlet to do what I love while sharing useful travel tips and inspiration with others. Our mission is to show parents how to master travel with kids, while keeping your Saturday-night selves. We call it "Family travel...with a twist".

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