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Winter family roadtrip.
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9 Family Road Trip Games That Actually Aren't Terrible

I promise, you won't dread these.

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A family road trip feels like the quintessential memory maker, right? But there are few parenting experiences that fail to live up to my expectations like a road trip. My kids are usually pretty great at traveling — especially now that I've learned what to avoid so they don't barf all over their car seats — but there's bound to be some whining, some "I'm booooored," and some frustration over slow-loading tablets. Having a few family road trip games in your back pocket is essential to creating the family road trip of your dreams. (You know. Like the Griswolds.)

If you look for road trip games, there are tons of products out there to buy that promise to be fun. But all I see are a lot of little pieces going missing in my car. Who can keep up with hangman whiteboards and travel Scrabble tiles and tiny plastic license plates to put on a map? I want games that require little fanfare, and that are actually kind of fun to play. Every parent is going to get worn out at some point, but these games are all ones I've played with my own kids, and they really do help keep everyone occupied and aren't that terrible. Plus is there anything more wholesome than a family singalong on a light-up microphone or an old-fashioned parlor game?

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1

The Minister's Cat

I absolutely stole this game from the 1970s musical Scrooge starring Albert Finney, but it's basically a super fun, silly party game that your little kids can get into. You start a clapping rhythm and sing "The minister's cat is a ____ cat." But you fill in that blank space with an adjective starting with the letter A. You keep going on that same letter, each person taking turns, until someone can't come up with an adjective. That person is then out of the game, and you start on the next letter, continuing until one person is left.

It's very fun and silly and great for their vocabulary. The clapping rhythm helps you figure out when someone is "out," but if you have kids who might need extra help, you can also just have everyone take a turn with the letter A, then everyone moves onto the letter B, and so forth until you go through the alphabet. (Someone will absolutely sing, "The minister's cat is a FARTING cat" when you get to the letter F. You've been warned.)

2

Car Bingo

There are tons of sets you can buy with pre-made bingo cards, but if you really want to make it a challenge, make your own on some cardstock for the whole family. The trick is to come up with enough items that your kid will be engaged for a long time, and it's even more fun if you put things on there that you know you'll see, like a sign for peaches as you drive through Georgia, or Mickey Mouse billboards the closer you get to Orlando.

3

Once Upon A Time

My 6-year-old loves making up stories, and this is a fun game that does just that, but doesn't require a lot of brain energy on my part. Just start with, "Once upon a time," and go from there. It's more fun the more detailed you get, because kids tend to say things like, "I saw a bird" and it can kill the game a bit. But if you start off imaginative, chances are they will, too. My favorite is "Once upon a time, an alien landed in my front yard." Then I pass the story off to one of the kids, and they continue, everyone taking turns until we have some ridiculous tale. (That will also involve farts or poop, I'm sorry to say.)

4

20 Questions

My 6-year-old is surprisingly good at this one, which makes it all the more fun. Pick a category — something broad like food or characters or places — and have everyone else in the car ask yes or no questions to figure out what the item you're thinking of from that category is. The gist is that you have to get the answer in 20 questions or less, but we sometimes make a pass and give each person 20 questions so that the little ones feel like they're really working hard at the game. (My daughter totally stumped me on guessing "watermelon" and it's her family claim to fame.)

5

I'm Going On A Trip, & In My Suitcase, I'm Packing...

My mom calls this game "memory" and it goes just like you remember from childhood. "I'm going on a trip, and in my suitcase I'm packing ______." Fill in whatever you want in the space (my kid says POOP, I'm sorry again) and the next person starts with, "I'm going on a trip, and in my suitcase I'm packing POOP and ______." And so forth and so forth. The game keeps going until someone messes up the order of items.

6

Guess That Song

Make a playlist of songs everyone in the car would recognize, and play them randomly. The first person to guess the name of the song before it really gets going wins. (When the kids fall asleep, this is a fun one to play with any other adults in the car, but add in things like "first person to name the year it was released" or "name the album the song was on."

7

Carpool Karaoke

I don't really like buying a lot of games or things for a road trip because, more often than not, they end up on the floor of your car and it's just another thing to find and clean up. But this microphone? It's everything. It's wireless, and you can connect with your radio so your voice comes through the speakers. The bluetooth plays songs through your phone, and the microphone even pulses and lights up in beat with the music. It is so ridiculously fun, and a great way to spend an hour of your road trip.

8

Timed Selfies

OK, this is a great way to break up a road trip. Figure out how often you want to do it (Every 30 minutes? Every hour?) and plan for little spots in the trip to take a family selfie. It'll help break up the monotony of the trip, and is also a low lift for the adults in the car. Counting down to the next selfie is way more fun than counting down to the next rest stop or wishing hours away in the car.

9

Sticker Head

Much like the games where you put a card with a name on your forehead and have to ask questions to figure out who you are, this one just uses something you already have in the car — a book of stickers. Let your kids put stickers on your head and try to guess what the sticker is. You can do the same to your kids, but in my experience, they really prefer being in control and having you guess.

And if all else fails, bring one of those power blocks to recharge their tablets so they can watch Peppa Pig on repeat while you disappear into the English accents and dream that you're starring in The Crown.