6 Games to Play on Your Next Road Trip

Updated on June 28, 2017
Time spent in the car is perfect for family bonding, try these games to pass the time.
Time spent in the car is perfect for family bonding, try these games to pass the time. | Source

List of Games

  1. Collecting License Plates
  2. The Alphabet Game
  3. Killed Your Cows
  4. Car Bingo
  5. Banana
  6. Slug Bug

Every summer when I was a kid we would take two road trips. A 12 hour one to my grandparents in Michigan and an eight hour one to my grandma in Nebraska. My parents would pack us all up into our Volkswagen van and hope we didn't kill each other in such a small space. To pass the time we sang songs and played games.

This is a collection of some of my favorite car games; some of these I played on those road trips, and some of these I learned on my road trips in college with my friends.

1. Collecting License Plates

All you have to do is see how many different state license plates you can spot throughout the summer. I did this one every year. I had a little notebook that I kept in my purse and I would obsess over the license plates. The town I grew up in was very small but had a lot of tourists due to the amount of wonderful swimming and fishing spots. We'd get all of these people coming to their vacation homes on the lake and sometimes their out of state friends would come visit them. So it was easy to start playing on that first day of summer while I waited patiently for our annual road trips.

I also discovered that it is possible to see both Alaska plates and Hawaii ones as well. I would find both of them every summer. The toughest ones for me were the New England states. They didn't like to travel down to Minnesota much.

2. The Alphabet Game

The alphabet game works best on a road with lots of billboards and road signs. I've had the most success on interstate highways. All players start at the letter "A" and try to find each letter on a billboard or road sign (words on cars and license plates is off limits). Once someone has used a sign and called out the word and the letter "Exit, E" that sign cannot be used by another player. This means really looking and reading each billboard closely.

I enjoy this game even as an adult. It's a nice way to pass the time and you notice some really hilarious billboards along the way.

The Alphabet Games is best played on major highways and interstate highways.
The Alphabet Games is best played on major highways and interstate highways. | Source

3. Killed Your Cows

Killed your cows is a game I learned more recently. I'm sure it has a better name but this is what I've come to call it. Every time you spot a field of cows you point it out and exclaim "my cows." You estimate how many cows are in the field and keep that number in mind for the trip. Every time you are able to claim more cows you add to that number. Whoever has the most cows at the end of the trip is the winner.

To make this game a little more tricky every time you pass a cemetery you can exclaim "Killed your cows" and force all other players to start back at zero.

This game has a lot of opportunities for creating your own rules. The most common one is the collection of horses as well, though they don't mean anything. My friends invented some very complicated rules that involved the creation of zombie cows and robot cows.

Collect cows as you drive through rural areas, whoever has the most at the end of the trip wins.
Collect cows as you drive through rural areas, whoever has the most at the end of the trip wins. | Source

4. Car Bingo

Car bingo is just like regular bingo except instead of numbers you're looking for specific things like a church, or a post office. Amazon has several types of travel bingo that have the sliding plastic frames so you don't have to worry about loose pieces. Or you can create your own using things you know you're likely to see along your specific road trip. For younger children you could make it with really easy items such as a stop sign, a semi truck, a blue car.

5. Banana

This one is easy, it's all about spotting yellow cars. Whoever spots and claims the most yellow cars at the end of the trip wins. You claim them by loudly yelling "Banana" anytime you spot one. It's a contagious game and you'll find yourself playing just on trips to the store. Bonus points if they are Volkswagens (Banana Bugs). I once spotted eight yellow Volkswagen Bugs in a single day coming home from a road trip.

The yellow Volkswagen Bug, the best of all the Volkswagens.
The yellow Volkswagen Bug, the best of all the Volkswagens. | Source

6. Slug Bug

Speaking of Volkswagens, there's always the good old slug bug. When you spot a Volkswagen you yell "Slug Bug" and punch someone in the arm. My stepdad was obsessed with Volkswagens so we were always on the lookout anyway. We played that you had to yell "no backs" afterward so they couldn't hit you back. This game can escalate very quickly so be careful who you are playing with. Some people take it a little too seriously

If you want to give your companions more options for rough-housing, you can add in "Cruiser Bruiser" whenever you see a PT Cruiser (I think you get to pinch them), and Coke Poke whenever you see a Coca Cola semi truck.

What Games Do You Play in the Car?

I would love to hear about the road trip games that you play. I still take road trips with my family and I'm sure my siblings are sick of me always beating them at the alphabet game.

Questions & Answers

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      • Becky Callahan profile image

        Rachel Finlay 

        12 months ago

        Great article! I think I will try the Alphabet game with my daughter on our next trip to the beach.

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