At first, a road trip sounds like a great idea. You can crank up the music, feel the wind in your hair, and maybe even see one of the best roadside attractions in America. But when you throw kids into the mix, things can get a bit hectic—and your perfect driving playlist could get drowned out by a chorus of “are we there yets” coming from the backseat. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: Never leave home without one of these essential car games for kids.
Our comprehensive list of the best driving games includes a mix of the classic (and absolutely free!) car games you grew up playing as a kid, as well as a few newer, shoppable options you can buy now. Whether you’re stuck in downtown traffic or on a cross-country road trip with no end in sight, these car games for kids will help you—and your crew—pass the time and have fun doing it.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love to Compete: Spot It!
$18; buy now on amazon.com
Spot It! is an ultra-portable card game that family members of all ages can play together in up to five different ways (and yep, variety is the spice of life—and road trips). Designed for anywhere between two and eight players, Spot It! is a visual perception game in which players must find matching images. In its simplest iteration, players flip over two cards at the same time. Each card features eight images and every two cards will feature exactly one of the same images. The player who spots that overlap first, wins. It’s similar to the classic matching card game, but can be switched up for more of a challenge. This game is perfect for siblings who want to play together in the backseat while you get a bit of a break.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love the News: Did You Hear That…?
“Did You Hear That…?” is one of the best car games for kids who love pop culture and entertainment and like to keep up with the news. One person tells a fake—or real—”news story” (it could be celebrity news or whatever you want!) starting with “Did you hear that…?” The others have to guess whether it’s fact or fiction. Everybody gets a turn to tell a story or two! This game is great for older kids and teens who are in the know.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love the Classics: Gamie Magnetic Board Game Set
$17; buy now on amazon.com
Retro games like checkers and backgammon can be a great way to pass the time, but moving vehicles aren’t necessarily conducive to keeping tiny pieces in place. This magnetic set of 12 miniature backseat board games means no stray pieces fall on the floor, and you get a wide variety of games to choose from.
The set includes challenging games like Chinese checkers and chess for older kids and simpler ones like Snakes and Ladders for younger ones. At just five-inches across, each game is super compact, so you can throw them all in the car and easily take them along on your next vacation.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love Music: Battle of the Bands
If there are music lovers in your family, you’ll definitely want to play Battle of the Bands! This free game is especially fun for middle schoolers and teens. One family member picks a category, something like “songs about New York City,” “songs about first love,” or “songs about high school dances.” (Make it more specific and creative for more fun and a bigger challenge!)
Using an iPod or iPhone, every other family member takes a turn playing a song that fits the category. The “judge” awards points based on which song fits the category best. Tally up points as you go along and see which family member would make the best DJ.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love to Look Out the Window: Regal Games Travel Bingo
$8; buy now on amazon.com
Travel bingo is a fun new take on the classic “spot the car” road-trip game. These special cards have common road trip items like “truck,” “rest area,” and “gas station” listed in rows. When you see one of the items, shut the miniature window using your fingertip. Five in a row, as always, means Bingo. This game is ideal for elementary school kids but will easily entertain the entire family, too.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love to Improvise: Fortunately/Unfortunately
Fortunately/Unfortunately is a perfect car game for families that enjoy charades, theater, storytelling, and improvisation. One person takes a turn describing a positive scenario that starts with “Fortunately…” The next family member explores the downside (getting as silly as possible) by describing something that went wrong with the first person’s story. For example: “Fortunately, I graduated from college.” “Unfortunately, it was clown college, and I got a D!” Take turns getting as creative as you can, and enjoy the laughs!
Best Car Game for Kids Who are Shy: Our Moments, Kids
$19; buy now on amazon.com
If you want to use your road trip as a chance to get to know your family better, Our Moments is a game to pick up. Each of the 100 cards in the pack includes questions like “Have you ever gotten angry at a friend? How did you handle it?” and “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They’re designed as icebreakers, with some a little deeper than others. It’s perfect for reconnecting with kids who might hold back a bit in your after-school chats.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Need to Practice their Letters: Alphabet Categories
This classic car game is a favorite for parents and kids alike and is fun for family members of all ages. Have one person choose a category or genre, like “fruits.” Each family member takes a turn naming an item in that category, in the order of the alphabet. For example, “fruits” could include apples, bananas, cherries, dates, and so on. Take too long to come up with something or repeat something that’s already been said and you’re out! Once you get through the alphabet, start over with a new person taking a turn choosing a different category.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love to Laugh: Mad Libs On the Road
$5; buy now on amazon.com
Mad Libs starts with a story…with a few key details missing. This Mad Libs book was written with road-trip themes in mind. But otherwise, it’s exactly like the retro classic: The blanks in the story are designed to be filled out by you, without knowing any context! Mad Libs is one of the best car games for kids in elementary school and middle school who are learning about grammar and parts of speech, as they have to differentiate between adjectives, nouns, verbs, and adverbs to make the game work.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love to Tell Stories: While You Were Sleeping
If a family member gets some shuteye during your road trip, play a fun game of While You Were Sleeping when they wake up. Each family member takes a turn telling the story of what happened while the napper was resting. You can go word by word for extra goofiness, or sentence by sentence if the kids want more time for storytelling. The more outlandish the story, the better. This is another game that’s great for kids of all ages.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love to Strategize: Connect 4 Grab and Go Game
$9; buy now on amazon.com
One of the best car games for kids who like hands-on activities is the portable Connect 4 Grab and Go Game. It’s a travel-size version of the traditional Connect 4 game, in which you try to block your opponent’s attempts to connect their red or yellow checkers. When the grid fills up, you start over. This is a great game for kids who tend to get impatient or antsy if they have to sit still for too long.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love to Test Their Memory: “I’m Going On a Picnic”
This is a classic and is perfect for young kids who need to practice their alphabet skills. Everyone takes a turn to say, “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing…” The item you bring goes in alphabetical order: apples, bananas, cutlery, Doritos, and so on. Each person also has t0 name the previous person’s items and all the ones that came before them, making it a nice memory game as well. Make it all the way through the alphabet for a fun, cooperative game that’s ideal for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love Trivia: Brain Quest for the Car
$10; buy now on amazon.com
Love trivia? Your road-tripping family will love Brain Quest! This version, designed specifically for road trips, includes 1,100 trivia questions about America. The questions are built around standard first- through sixth-grade school curricula, making it the perfect game for that age group. Brain Quest is one of the best car games for kids if you don’t want them to slack entirely on learning while you’re on vacation.
Best Car Game for Kids Who Love to Count Cows: Cows On My Side
Cows On My Side is one of the best car games for kids if you’re on an extended trip through the countryside. This game is a bit of an upgraded version of the traditional “Cow!” and “Horse!” exclamations that your kids will probably be declaring from the backseat anyway. The rules are simple: Count the cows (or add other animals to the mix if you want). When you see one, say, “Cows on my side!” After a few hours (or however long you’re willing to tolerate this) tally up the points…may the most cows win!