What's Your Favorite Travel Game?

Long road trips are the best. Blasting some tunes, taking in the scenic highways and byways, having long, meaningful chats with your traveling companions. But there’s always gonna be some downtime, and that’s where road games come in! Whether it’s some version of I Spy, a round travel-sized Battleship, or my personal favorite, an improvised Dungeons & Dragons adventure, most everyone has a favorite road game that they like to break out when the road is long and the times are slow. Now we want to hear about your favorite games to play while traveling!

(Image: Josh Appel/Public Domain)

Tell us about your go-to travel game in the thread below, how you discovered or when you first played the game, and why you love it so much! Your response may be included in an upcoming round-up article on Atlas Obscura. Let’s play!


Pens. Paper. Let’s play! :grinning:

My favourites are, indeed, probably list races. Seeing who can write down the most - for instance - English football league teams or Steven Spielberg films or Roman Emperors in, say, 10 minutes is a fun, stimulating and surprisingly competitive way to pass the time.

For variation, you can do it with A-Z. (Who can write down an animal or country for every letter fastest.) There’s also what some people call ‘Stop the Bus’ but which I prefer to call ‘Category Blast’ (similar to a TV show called Scattergories, I believe). All of these have proven to be hits in classrooms where I’ve taught and needed something to fill time and/or get the students on my side… :smile:

And, of course, if you get fed up of words you can always play Pictionary or use the paper to make Exquisite Corpses/Handsome Cadavers with your travel companions. Indeed, you can go far and have a hell of a lot of fun with pens and paper…

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I don’t have a genuine contribution to this, but all it made me think of is Roadkill Bingo from “The Adventures of Pete and Pete”.

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“Slug Bug” is a classic sibling game and offers the added bonus of learning important automotive marques. Note: Do NOT call it “Punch Buggy;” that is for sissies. We have augmented the family pummeling by adding to the game “PT Cruiser Bruiser,” “FJ Cruiser Bruiser,” and “Gnat Slap,” which occurs when players spot a Smart Car.

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I used to make a lot of long solo drives, so I had to make up solo games. The one that worked best to keep me awake was trying to think of tree names alphabetically (e.g., alder, beech, cottonwood, etc.). Because I know nothing about trees, some letters would keep me thinking for a long time. Fortunately, so many Southern California towns and cities name their streets alphabetically after trees that I know a lot more names of trees than the trees themselves – I wouldn’t recognize a cottonwood if it bit me.

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The ‘Initials’ game. One player throws out the initials of a famous person (being/character) and the others have to guess the name after asking various questions (to be asked and answered one at a time) that whittle down the choices. Start with such questions as:
Male? Female?
Living? Deceased?
Old? Young?
Artist? Scientist? Sports figure? Cartoon character? Actor?

As the game progresses, the questions get more specific, in order to narrow it down.

The person who makes the correct guess is the next to choose a new set of initials.

With kids, keep it fairly simple; with adults, it can get pretty obscure and go through quite a few rounds before discovery.


Oh I love this idea!

If you can play it while driving I give you full marks though I don’t want to be on the same road, but I’ve done a few long trips with a Mancala board in the car or backpack.

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We have taken our share of drives over the years, and even before we had our daughter, we would play games to make the drive more interesting. Now that she is here, this is an even more important tactic, as aside from one cross-country move, we have tried not to succumb to the lure of giving her a screen for mind numbing “entertainment.”

I Spy is an old favorite.

The alphabet game: everyone keeps their own score and tries to be the first to call out a word on a sign or vehicle that starts with a particular letter. Once a word has been used it is off limits for the other players, first one to Z (or farthest along) wins. Especially challenging of course for Q and the end of the alphabet - I got crushed when I was not the first to spot an Xpress truck and couldn’t catch up until a Rail Xing sign right at the trip’s end.

License plate spotting - a cooperative effort, see how many states or countries one can spot, as well as making words out of the plate listings. In Germany, we had a running list to see if we could find all of the prefixes, as they are based on location (B for Berlin, WI for Wiesbaden, MTK for Main Taunus Kreis, etc.) Best license plate we ever spotted was in our own neighborhood, a boastful Stuttgart car with S EX 6666 (makes more sense if you pronounce 6 in German, “sechs”).

The hay game, a rather pointless game of our own invention. Try to use subtlety to get someone to look at a hay bale by pointing and commenting something like, “Hey, check that out.” It got a little too intense once when we introduced my dad to it - not one for subtlety, he pounded on the dashboard and cried, “Hey, hey, hey!” - I almost swerved off the highway!


Buzz. Anything with a 3 in it or a multiple of 3 is buzz instead of the number.


Sounds simple enough, but when it gets going quickly, it’s easy to make a mistake and say the number instead of buzz. Then you’re out.

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Hilarious full family synonym guessing game:

One person thinks of two rhyming words that make sense together then says out loud synonyms for each of those words and the others have to guess the original rhyming words.

For example you could say “rodent abode” for ‘mouse house’ or “arachnid obscurer” for ‘spider hider’. Can easily be adjusted for younger kids, brain teasers or potty humour :slight_smile:


Another game we play is “In my world…”

In my world, there is green but no blue. ~It’s a great world.
In my world, there is bippity-boppity-boo but no fairy godmother. ~It’s a great world.
In my world, there are cats but no dogs. ~Sounds like a horrible place.
In my world, there are kittens, but no pups. ~It’s a great world.

It’s most fun to play with people who don’t know the rule – your world must contain a repeated letter. For those who know the rule, the inclusion/exclusion must be related.

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