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10 road trip games to help you survive long car journeys

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

The world is slowly reopening to international travel. But with restrictions constantly changing, a road trip to a UK staycation could be your safest bet for a quick holiday. Which is just as exciting, as long as you can keep your kids from getting bored on the car journey there, or entertained on long walks and hikes. Here are 10 road trip games that will keep them distracted long enough to stop them asking the dreaded question, ‘are we there yet?’

Note: Travel restrictions change fast. Always keep an eye on the government’s travel advice and the latest COVID-19 rules and regulations in your destination. 

1. The number plate game

A car full of kids, a few pads of paper, pens and the open road. That’s all you need to keep little ones entertained as they search for number plates from different countries or different UK areas. Scribble down the plates you find on paper (no cheating!) and the person that gets 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 or a vanity plate? That’s an automatic win.

2. Punch buggy

Scribbling down license plates, like the one in this blue Beetle, is one of the classic road trip games

Did you think working out how to fit baby seats and which iPad games to download were the biggest obstacles for travelling with children? In reality, occupying their minds during long journeys can be the toughest challenge, and this next game keeps those little 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 their punch). Interestingly, this game dates back to the 1960s and is believed to have its origins in a marketing campaign created by Volkswagen.

3. 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.

4. The ‘I Spy’ road trip game

Taking your kids on hiking and other adventures becomes ever more exciting when playing road trip games

It doesn’t matter if you’re travelling with babies, toddlers or teenagers: the key thing is to keep everybody 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’. This is a great game to play not just in the car but during all your outdoor adventures. But be warned: players should make sure that the object is visible throughout their turn.

5. 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.

5. Hold your breath

Headed into a tunnel? Turn it into a "hold your breath" road trip game

You’re heading in to a 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.

7. The 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. The quiet game

Even when playing road trip games, some times you need a big of quiet time

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 to 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’ and once they’re in it other passengers ask them five questions that they 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.

Discover where you can go

Making plans to get back out there for more than a road trip or staycation? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

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