Vacation with the young-ins takes a lot of pre-planning – for sure.

But in my experience, vacationing with my two boys mostly requires the ability to come up with new plans on the spot (because all the pre-planning didn’t go according to plan).

Luckily, I am a trained and practiced maker-upper, and I have a list of some real gems for both long and short car rides.   The following games were made up on the spot – usually to interrupt yet another argument in the back seat over whose stuff is on the wrong side.

1 | “Dumper, Camper, Flat-bed, Bus”

(Best for children 3 and up)

This game actually has a song for its title – it helps you remember the names of the vehicles. Here is how you play the game:

  • While one adult drives, the passengers look around for a dump truck, a camper or RV, a flat-bed truck, and a bus.  When all of the items are spotted by any passenger, the game is won.  That’s it.  And honestly it is pretty fun.
  •  If you want to make the game last longer, you can sing the second verse: “Tow-truck, Food-truck, Tanker, Rust.”  Then you look for a tow-truck, a truck with some kind of food marking on the outside, a milk or oil tanker, and then a rusty truck.  Boom.

2 | “Soggy Trip”

(Best for children 5 and up)

The goal is to work as a team to find cars or trucks or buses that are certain colors: the colors that are represented by the letters in the words SOGGY TRIP.

  • S is for Silver – so you would find a car that is silver in color. O is for orange, G or gold or green or grey, Y is for yellow, T is for Tan, R is for Red, I is for Indigo or dark blue, and then P is for Purple.
  • Silver, Orange, Grey, Green, Yellow, Tan, Red, Indigo, and Purple.

We don’t find them in order – just one car from each color to complete a full “set.” Our record is finding 6 complete sets during the 15 minutes it takes to get from our house to school.

3 | “One of a Kind”

(Best for children 6 and up)

This is a counting car game where all passengers count things that are together.  

I’ll explain:  

  •  As you all are driving along you’ll find something that is all alone – a crabapple tree or a cow or a gas station.  That counts as 1.
  •  Then you try to find 2 things together that are the same – like two headlights, two bicycle tires, two green tractors, two gas pumps.  They count as 2.
  • Then you continue onto three, and it gets harder now.  You need to find three of the same thing – like three motorcycles driving by or three goats in a pen or three lights in a traffic light.  That counts as 3.
  • Then onto 4 then 5 then 6.  We usually stop at 10 and then start over again but if you wanted to try to find 11 of something, then give it a try.  You might find 11 windows on a house or 11 geese flying by.  This game is a group game where everyone works together.

4 | “Car I Spy”

(Best for children 6 and up)  

This game is just like regular “I Spy” with the added complexity of movement.  So it requires some imagination and extra attention.

     As the car is moving down the road, the “Spy” spots something of a particular color (a flower, a mailbox, a garage door, a trash can) and says “I spy something yellow.”

      Then each passenger asks clarifying questions to narrow down what it could be: “Is it man-made?”  “Is it made of metal?”  “Is it attached to a barn?”

      It requires players to pay extra attention to what is outside – and it asks them to imagine what they could have passed by and thus can no longer see

5 | “Pay Schwindeman”

(Best for children 7 and up)

I know – crazy name.  But it is a crazy game!  It involves making up unique names and then describing the character based on the name.   

Here is how it works:

  •  One person comes up with a name – like “Rock Rolidex” or “Saraphath” or “Billy the Noodle.”
  •  Then each of the other people in the car have to make up a character that has that name.  One character is a superhero, one character is a mythological being, one character is a musician, and one character is a world leader (all depending on how many people are playing).
  • Next, it goes around the car and everyone has a chance to offer a character.  For instance, “Rock Rolidex is a superhero who can freeze time for as long as he wants in a given area.
  • The thing is, if one person has already used the superhero option, the next person has to do something else.  “Rock Rolidex is a Latvian hip hop artist who dresses like a 1950’s American film star.”
  • Once everyone has had a chance to offer a character, the person who came up with the name chooses which character he or she likes best.  Then the winner gets to choose a new name.  It is crazy fun.

If you need more explanation or an example, here’s a video  we made of me and my wife playing these games.  

Even More Games

In this blog post, we have three games (plus video) you can play in the airport when your flight is delayed and the children are going bonkers.  

Pop these games into your back pocket when the cell service, app, directions and anything else that was a part of your original plan breaks down – or when you simply want a little family connect time.  Happy Travels!