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Are we there yet? Travel games for the road

From counting cows to tracking miles, here's a collection of travel games to keep the whole family happy on your next vacation.

By GreatSchools Staff

When you're traveling great distances with children, it can be tough to keep the peace in the backseat. Prevent whining and boredom by packing a bag of toys and activities for the road. Here are games you can play wherever you're stuck - in the car, on the bus or up in the air!

For all ages

Treasure bags

Have two bags, one large and one small, ready for on-the-go activities. In the large bag (a shopping bag or cloth tote bag) put a deck of cards, and books and toys suitable for traveling. (See below for a few suggestions.) On small strips on paper, write hints that describe each of the games and toys, and place them in the small bag. Then have your child close his eyes and pick a strip of paper from the small bag. If he can guess what the item is, he gets to pick out and play with the toy or read the book from the large bag. Depending on the length of your trip, have your child pick a treasure hint from the small bag every so many hours or miles. In Travel Wise With Children: 101 Educational Travel Tips for Families, Mary Rodgers Bundren gives a few examples of treasure hints:

  • "There are 52 of me and if you figure this one out you're a real joker." (deck of cards)
  • "I'm red, green, and purple all over. Mark my words - I rub off." (markers)
  • "Open me up and you will get all the letters of the alphabet." (new book)

How fast?

Have everyone (except the driver!) close their eyes and listen to the noises made by the car's engine. The winner is the one who guesses the speed closest to the actual speed of the car.

How far?

"Each player looks off to the horizon and agrees on a landmark - a tree, a mountain, a barn," writes Carole T. Meyers, author of Miles of Smiles: 101 Great Car Games & Activities. "Then each player guesses how many miles away the landmark is and how long it will take to get there. When you are ready to begin, set the odometer and state the time.

"When you arrive at the landmark, check guesses against the odometer and clock. The player whose guess is closest wins."


If your child loves to collect, use your trip as an excuse to find stamps, post cards, snow globes, or other mementos from your travels. "Carry along some extra bags to fill with sea shells, rocks, or other interesting finds," writes Bundren. "Sorting and counting projects are a natural outgrowth of trip collections. How many different kinds of rocks did you collect? Categorize them into sizes. How about shells?"

Bundren also recommends collecting "books pertaining to your travel region, both fiction and nonfiction." Reading these books will not only help your child learn about the local landscape, they will also bring back memories of the trip.