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10 games to help you survive boring car journeys

Faced with the prospect of a long car journey with the kids this holiday? Here are 10 great games to play that will entertain the little ones and keep them distracted long enough to stop asking the dreaded question, "how long 'til we get here?" End boring road trips with these best games for long drives.

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1. The license plate game

A car full of kids, a few pads of paper, pens and the open road. That’s all you need to keep the little ones entertained as they search for license plates from different countries, or if you’re in the US, different states. Scribble down the plates you find on paper (no cheating!). The person that has the most wins. You can raise the stakes by giving double points for naming the capital city of the country or state spotted, and you get triple points for diplomatic plates. And if you spot a presidential convoy? That’s an automatic win.

2. I Spy

It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling with babies, toddlers or teenagers: the key thing is to keep your passengers entertained, and one of the most loved classic children’s games, I Spy, is a great way to get children interested in the scenery and the route. Items such as ‘road’ ‘clouds’ and ‘sky’ are all predictable choices, but the chances of success can be increased by opting for more unusual options, such as unique landscape characteristics, like “glacier,” “valley” and “pasture.” But be warned: nothing says spoil-sport like selecting a target that zoomed past a mile back so players should make sure that the object is visible throughout their turn.

3. Punch buggy

Thought working out how to fit baby seats and what iPad games to download were the biggest obstacles when it comes to travelling with children? In reality, occupying their minds during long journeys can be the toughest challenge, and this next game keeps their brains occupied while honing their observational skills. The concept is simple: players give a little love tap to their fellow passenger whenever they spot a VW Beetle. Just don’t let them put too much power behind your punch; a little brother might put on brave face, but inside he’ll be seriously distraught that he just got taken down with a punch from his big sis. Interestingly, this game dates back to the 1960s and is believed to have its origins in a marketing campaign created by Volkswagen.

4. 20 questions

This is one of the best classic car games. Players simply pick a person and their fellow passengers have to guess who it is using only 20 questions. More ruthless players will opt for obscure personalities in order to prolong their turn but we recommend opting for well known figures to keep the game fresh. And to prevent Granny or Granddad losing interest and falling asleep.

5. Hold your breath

You’re heading in to the Blackwall Tunnel, and your chattering, giggling little darlings have left you in dire need of some quiet time. So why not kill two birds with one stone by challenging them to hold their breath for the entire length of the next road tunnel, until the next roundabout or until they spot a car in a certain colour? Time them to see how long they can hold on and whoever lasts the longest wins. Of course, if you run in to traffic the game is suspended. And just to be clear (and to avoid potential legal action) the point isn’t actually to avoid taking a breath for the entire length of time, but just to see who can hold their breath for the longest period of time.

6. Guess the time

You’ve bagged cheap tickets to Alton Towers, the cool-box is packed with sandwiches and fizzy pop, and you’re keen to jump on the latest stomach churning rollercoaster. How long is it until you’ll be scared senseless on Oblivion, or get your thrills on the log flume? Take turns guessing how long it’ll take to reach your destination. Just don’t let the driver use GPS before making their guess, and keep an eye out for impromptu toilet stops requested for the sheer purpose of adding minutes to the journey time.

7. Memory game

There are a few names for this one (including The Picnic Game and the Casserole Game) but they all start in a similar fashion. One passengers says “I’m going out on a picnic and I’m bringing…” followed by whatever item comes to mind. The next player has to remember that item and add something else to the story. Getting a part of the story wrong results in instant expulsion.

8. Quiet game

This is a true trump card in attempting to restore order in a car full of squabbling siblings. You’ve ignored the incessant arguing over whose turn it is to play Candy Crush on the iPad for the past 80 miles, but no more. How about a game of “Let’s see who can stay quiet the longest?” Hey presto, an instant end of moaning. It’s a great way to shoehorn in some time to enjoy the open road in blissful silence.

9. Would you rather?

Would you rather put your hand in a bowl of electric eels or dance naked while cockroaches are poured over your head? Neither option is particularly pleasing, but you’ve got to pick one: that’s the premise of this travel game. Everyone takes a turn choosing between a rock and a hard place. This game works equally well for adults and children.

10. Hot seat

This one is decidedly grown-up, but still a lot of fun. Every person in the car takes a turn in the ‘hot seat’ – once you’re in it other passengers will ask you five questions that you must answer. Usually you can veto one of the questions, but you can see how wild this game could get. Try avoiding giving an answer that’s going to annoy fellow travellers and creating an awkward atmosphere for the next four hours.

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