This article was originally published August 12, 2020 and updated July 19, 2021 to reflect current product prices.
On a summer like this, road trips are becoming a way of getting some travel done. So there will come a time when all of your passengers have scrolled through their phones long enough to be ready for some fun games. First off, in the style of the ever-popular I Spy, a few options that don’t require purchase – just a little bit of imagination. Then some screen-free selections (some louder than others) that get lots of laughs and make the whole car reminisce. And finally, a tech toy section for miles of entertainment. Whether you’re traveling with friends or family, young or old, these delightful games may not only make the trip seem a little shorter, but may also make it one of the highlights of your summer adventures.
No purchase required
Name this dog
OK, not exactly a classic road trip game, but my friends and I enjoy playing this game on shorter trips too. It’s great for all ages, and it’s pretty simple: you spot a dog trotting along and you come up with a name for it. Does this adorable Dalmatian look like a Henry? A holly? A Hank? A cucumber? Verily, you decide! If you want a little more structure, you can pronounce all of your new names from the age of three and the player with the best new name for the cute dog wins a point. If you’re on the freeway with minimal dogs, keep an eye out for fields with cows that look like they could use a new name. Or crows or deer or elk or bears. The possibilities are endless.
This is a go-to stop for many road tripers looking for a game to liven up a long drive. It’s great for all ages and can be played with just two people. It’s super easy; a person thinks of a person, a place or a thing and lets their fellow players know which category they come from. The rest of the passengers have to guess what (or who) it is and only ask questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” and of course only 20 questions. If you guess it, you can choose the mystery object in the next round.
Playing with movie titles
A great game for the onboard cinephiles, this one is easy to play and very versatile. Just name a movie and the next player has to name a title that starts with the last letter of the previous title. For example, it might look like this: The Lion King> Goonies> Saturday Night Fever. It’s a game for movie fans, but it can easily be played with TV shows, book titles, song titles, or countries or cities if you want to get a little more educational!
Who is the bigger Instagram following?
As the name suggests, all you have to do is guess which celebrity (or any public figure) has more Instagram followers. Zendaya or Reese? Harry Styles or Timothée Chalamet? Oprah or Gayle? It’s a game of constant surprise! The player who guesses correctly gets to choose the next accounts to inspect. The first person to score 15 is a pretty quick game and will help pass the time on those long stretches of highway.
Scattergories is a popular party game or take away game when you are at the kitchen table with your family. It’s a super engaging word game that is easy to play and is suitable for most age groups – no wonder it’s so popular. Of course, this one can be bought, but it’s also one that passengers can only play with with pen and paper. To play, everyone but the driver must make a list of categories (e.g. type of dog, color, animal, vehicle, etc.) and write them down on their paper in the same order. And then, just have someone in the vehicle pick a letter and then each player has to use a timer (which comes in handy on your phone) to find words that fit the categories that start with the selected letter in a minute. If you’ve never played this game, it sounds super easy, but the added pressure of the timer makes it harder to find words. Players get one point for every word they can think of unless someone else thought of that word – then it’s pointless. Whoever has the most points after a set number of rounds wins. Or, you can award the game to the first person to get a certain number of points.
Some off-screen analog fun
Kazoo That Tune
It’s a game of “guess the song” but with kazoos instead of singing. This game is for up to four players, great for the whole car (as long as your stellar kakzoo-ing doesn’t distract the driver!), And can get pretty silly pretty quickly – which is pretty much the ideal road trip game. Right? This set contains four kazoos, 200 popular song titles and an hourglass for hours of music fun.
Kazoo That Tune, $ 15, Brodawka & Friends
Autocomplete: The Game
Kind of a guessing game where teams have a minute to correctly complete the top ten internet searches for a given prompt. This card game based game is best for adults, but younger passengers could likely play too if the cards were scanned for content beforehand. Three to 10 players can tackle this game and the game time is around 30 minutes, which makes it ideal for shorter trips or just looking for a quick car game before everyone turns back to their phones.
Autocomplete: The Game, $ 32.95, Request for a game
Do you remember
This one is more of a conversation starter than a game in itself. This 50 card game full of thought-provoking questions about players’ past will help bring back memories, start fun conversations in the back seat, and reminisce the whole car. It takes the pressure of asking a “good question” when it’s your turn, and it’s a great way to spend quality time with family or a car full of old friends. We think it would also be especially cute to give gifts to newlyweds who are on a road trip honeymoon this summer.
After-dinner conversation: do you remember? Game, $ 12.95, lost + found
This old favorite is a little quieter than some of the previous games on this list and has received a road trip makeover. In this on-the-go version, the board is magnetic so you don’t have to worry about tiles scattered around the car, and you can conveniently fold the board for stops without losing your game. In an added road trip twist, players can earn points for words they spell on the board and then discover along the open road.
Road Trip Scrabble Full Gameplay in a Portable Case, $ 26.99, Playtime Toys
Desert Island Dilemma Mash-Ups
It’s a “Would you rather” game without the work of coming up with stupid scenarios of your own. Ideal for all ages, easy to store and play in the car. The game includes 100 cards in a handy case and endless (well, 2500) possible scenarios to discuss how you would spend your time on a desert island.
Desert Island Dilemma Mash-Ups, $ 12, Spree Style
LeapFrog LeapStart Go
This is basically a magic wand. More specifically, it’s a LeapFrog interactive learning system with a pen that plays videos and audio responses from its LCD screen and built-in speakers while kids (or curious adults) read LeapFrogs textbooks. A computer with internet is required to download the books to the pen before heading out, but after that, your little learners can explore and interact with up to 13 books at a time using this pretty cool study tool.
LeapFrog LeapStart Go, $ 64.99, Toys R Us
Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet
For the kids in the back seat who aren’t quite ready for their own full-featured tablet, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet could be the answer to hours of road trip entertainment. It comes with tons of customizable parental controls and a full year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited that gives you access to thousands of apps, games, books, videos, and educational content. You can download content before you head out, and it has up to 12 hours of battery life, so even the longest trips are guaranteed to keep you bored.
Amazon’s Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet, 32GB, $ 169.99, staples
Our phones are always in hand, even in the car (as long as we are not the drivers). So why not use the technology we already have to play a classic game with friends! This free quiz app for iOS and Android allows players to play alone or against people on the web. Play alone or let the entire back seat come in – the choice is yours!
Trivia 360 for Android and iOS
This mega-popular, sold-out device almost everywhere feels like a given for any list of summer road trip tech. But there’s a reason this very cool console is seemingly everywhere these days – it allows you to play at home on the go. You can play it alone or join other players in the back for the fun with multiple Joy-Con controllers (each sold separately). There are tons of games to choose from, but the most popular game these days seems to be the “leisurely” video game Animal Crossing.
Nintendo Switch, approximately $ 399.99, available at most major electronics retailers
We love a game of bingo, and so will the whole car. Sure, there are tons of portable bingo options, but we especially love an auto-bingo app that is dedicated to the objects you’ll discover on your travels – no bingo markers required! And since you are looking for the pictures in the app, nobody has to be the caller, so everyone (except of course the driver) can play along. Both downloads are free.
Auto-Bingo for Android; Roadtrip Bingo for iOS
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