Passing the Time: Road Trip Games

How to make time fly for hours in the car

Long road trip with the kids? Here are some ways to keep them entertained…

Whether it’s taking the kids to see the grandparents, packing up to go in search of waves or just getting away for a long weekend, South Africans love to road trip. With huge vast open expanses of the country to explore it’s little wonder either. There is so much beauty out there, so many open roads less travelled to venture along. The excitement and anticipation of a road trip can be forgotten very quickly though. In fact, sometimes it can take a matter of just a few short hours before the whining, the whining and the constant queries of “Are we there yet?” start to drive you to distraction.

But this needn’t be the case. With just a tiny bit of pre planning and a little bit of imagination you can while away the long hours and the cruise down up and down the highways and byways in a state of entertained bliss. But how I hear you ask as you referee yet another open cage fight between the three kids in the back? It’s easy. We have put together a list of road trip games that will amuse and distract even the toughest passengers.

  • I Spy – an oldie but a goodie! There is not an adult anywhere in South Africa who ever went on a family holiday by car who didn’t play this. It’s a classic! One person picks something that is either inside or outside the car and begins the game. Everyone in the car must guess what it is they spy, and the only clue is the starting letter of the item: “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with….”
  • 20 Questions – another road trip cult classic. One person has to think of something, ANYTHING, and the other passengers have 20 questions between them to ask to figure out what it is. The first question is usually “Animal, Vegetable or Mineral,” and from there the floor is open.
  • Car Karaoke – if a popular song comes on the radio everyone joins in, and the person who can keep singing the longest because they know the most words wins.
  • Noot vir Noot – everybody loves a game show! Allocate each passenger a buzzer sound, and nominate a host. The game show host hums or whistles part of a song and the other passengers have to buzz in to guess what it is. You can keep track of the points or swop hosts each time someone guesses.
  • The Numbers Game – using the numbers on car license plates, the first passenger to get to 50 wins. So if you drive past a car who’s license plate is CA 801-788, you have your number one.
  • The Alphabet Game – using the same principle as the numbers game, the first person to get from A to Z wins.
  • Famous People – the person who starts says the name of a famous person and the next passenger has to name a famous person whose first name starts with the last letter of the previous passenger’s famous person. You can also play with countries, cities, foods or anything else you want.
  • My grandmother went to market – this is a memory game. The passengers in the car build a list of what grandma bought at the market. You go round the car adding to the list each time, and the first person who messes up loses. For example, “My grandmother went to market and bought a washing machine.” The next person says “My grandmother went to market and bought a washing machine and a pocket of potatoes.” You can make the shopping list as wild and whacky as you want. Just remember to remember!
  • Car Counting – each person picks a make and model of car, and the first one to spot ten of his or her assigned model wins.
  • The Sleep Game – this can be a parent’s life saver. So, you’ve played the DVDs, the battery on the iPad is dead, you’ve listened to the same music over and over and have refereed at least three title fights since leaving home, and you are only halfway to your destination. You are ready to throw the kids out, or better still jump out and walk yourself. If you have to hear “Are we there yet?” one more time you might scream. This is when you pull out the Sleep Game. The rules are simple. The first one to fall asleep, and stay asleep the longest wins.

With more and more of us throwing our bags in the boot and hitting the open roads when it comes to family holidays, there are certain essential items that you need to make sure you have: first aid kit, padkos and an arsenal of entertainment. Armed with these games, you can be sure that even the busiest minds will be distracted and the time will fly by as fast as the scenery whizzing by the windows.


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