5 Road Trip Games That Will Help Pass the Time

By: Gerlinda Grimes
balloon animal in a red car
When you pack for a road trip, don't forget to bring along some car game ideas. They'll keep you and your carmates sane.
William Andrew/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

You've loaded the cooler with snacks, strapped the luggage to the roof and stowed the dog in your vehicle's cargo bay. You've got a multi-hour drive ahead of you. The objective? To enjoy the journey without killing your seatmates along the way!

Leg-stretching pit stops will only provide a modicum of relief; games of rock-paper-scissors quickly become boring; and you're determined to put the kibosh on endless choruses of "the diarrhea song" before things get too out of control. Keeping your family and friends entertained on road trips requires the creativity of Dr. Seuss, the foresight of Mark Zuckerberg and the patience of Job.


Fear not. Whether you're an adult, a kid or somewhere in between, we've got five road trip games that will make the hours sail by. First up, rediscover an old classic: Slug Bug.

5: Slug Bug, Punch Buggy and Beetle Bug

yellow Volkswagon beetle
Spot a bug? Time to slug! Or not...

There are a lot of variations (and strong opinions on the subject), but a basic game of Slug Bug or Punch Buggy goes like this: Players stare out the window, looking for classic Volkswagon Beetles. When they spot one, they squeal "punch buggy" or "slug bug" and then slug their seat-mate in the arm.

While there are no hard and fast rules for playing the game, to elevate the level of game play, players can invent more elaborate sets of instructions, such as those listed at www.thepunchbuggygame.com. Under these rules, slug bugs are defined as classic Volkswagon bugs, vans and pickups, and rare models like the VW Thing are awarded more punches than more common models like the VW bug. Players might also set standards for claiming a punch buggy sighting. For instance, they might require that the color of the bug be stated ("red punch buggy") or that the phrase "no punch backs!" be added. Forget to include the "no punch backs" clause, and your opponents may retaliate. Some players will insist that only classic VW bugs count, while others will incorporate newer models in game play.


A word of caution: It's probably not a good idea to involve the driver in a game of Slug Bug, even if you are attempting to enforce a no-contact version of the game. With a game called "slug bug" or "punch buggy," players will soon be trying to get away with pokes as a precursor to full-out punches even when game play calls for awarding points, rather than punches. When violence reaches unacceptable levels, it's time to move on to a less physical game. Our next road trip game requires brains rather than brawn. Discover how to read your seatmate's mind in 20 questions or less on the next page.

4: Twenty Questions

"Animal, vegetable or mineral?" "Is it bigger than a loaf of bread?" "Is it made up of smaller parts?" So goes the classic game "Twenty Questions." To play, the "answerer" selects a subject, which can be anything or anyone, from Winston Churchill's cigar to Harry Potter's lightning scar or even Harry Potter himself. The remaining players (the "questioners") try to guess the subject by asking up to 20 yes or no questions.

The more obscure the object, the more difficult it will be to guess. Players must ask strategic and specific questions in order to unmask the subject. Insider knowledge of the person answering the questions is also helpful. For instance, if the answerer is a die-hard J.K. Rowling fan, his or her subject is much more likely to be Harry Potter's lightning scar than Winston Churchill's cigar. The answerer must always tell the truth when responding to the twenty questions. To make the game a bit easier, limit subjects to specific categories such as famous people, movie titles or the 1980s. To crank up the difficulty, broaden the categories to "Animal, Vegetable or Mineral" or simply allow for random subject selection.


If your brain threatens to fry from too much thinking, its time to move on to a road trip game that'll get you (and potentially everyone on the road around you) laughing. Find out how to elevate the ever-popular road-trip sing-a-long to a whole new level on the next page.

3: The Singing Game

young women singing in a car
Unleash your inna diva (or rapper) with these delightful singing games.
Kevin Hatt/Taxi/Getty Images

Sing-a-longs are a time-honored and endlessly amusing road trip tradition. Turn your ditty into a real diversion by playing The Singing Game.

There are many variations on The Singing Game. We call one of our favorites "Song Connection." To play, participants try to string lines from popular songs together in some sort of logical fashion. For instance, if player one sings "Celebrate good times, come on!" from Kool & The Gang's "Celebration," player two could chime in with "C'mon, get happy!" from The Partridge Family, and player three could add "Happy happy joy joy," the Ren & Stimpy song. While there is no particular objective to this game, the sheer silly fun that can ensue will keep your passengers entertained for miles.


Another favorite we call "Rapper's Delight." In this version, players use rhyming skills, environmental cues and creativity to get a dope flow going. Player one might start off with "I see a street sign; it's real green" and player two could pick up with "I'm flying past it in my auto machine."

Can't carry a tune? Fret not. You too can use your voice and creativity to make something out of nothing. Find out how in the next section.

2: The Story Game

young girl in car looking bored
That's not a face you want to see on a road trip. Try out the story game to turn that frown upside down!
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Whether they're spooky or silly, people of all ages love to tell stories. What better time to engage in a game of group storytelling than when you're captive in a car on a road trip?

There are really no rules to this storytelling game. Instead, it's all about using your creativity to create characters and place them in unexpected situations. One person might start off with, "There once was a little boy named Herbert." The next player then picks up the story, adding "He lived in a garbage can behind the middle school." A third player throws a wrench into the works, adding, "Well, it looked like a garbage can, but really, it was a secret tunnel." Before you know it, half an hour has passed in the blink of an eye while players send Herbert scurrying to avoid rats, preparing delicious sandwiches in his underground hideaway and sending telegraphic messages into outer space.


If you'd rather draw your stories than tell them, our next road trip game is the one for you. Find out where surrealism meets storytelling on the next page.

1: Exquisite Corpse

drawing from Exquisite Corpse corpse game
In this game of exquisite corpse, the players were delighted to discover obvious connections between their three randomly drawn panels.
Image courtesy Gerlinda Grimes

Back in the 1920s, surrealist artists, writers and thinkers like André Breton and Paul Éluard played a parlor game called Exquisite Corpse. One player would fold a piece of paper into thirds or fourths. Then he would begin sketching in the top section, making sure to extend his artwork just slightly beyond the first fold. When he was done, he would fold his section under, so that only the remaining blank sections were visible. The next player then connected his own drawing to the exposed bit of the previous artist’s drawing. Others followed until the entire page was filled. The end result was delightful, surprising and often surreal. In one example, exotic dancers sprouted elephant heads, grew umbrellas and melted into clocks [source: exquisitecorpse.com].

Exquisite Corpse is fun to play in the car precisely because the bouncing and rattling of a vehicle makes this surrealist game even more unpredictable. Add urgency to the game by setting a 1 minute time limit for each player to complete his or her drawing. The driver is the perfect timekeeper, since he or she will be busy keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.


So, on your next road trip, ditch your Nintendo DS and holster your headphones. Time spent in the confines of a car will never be as fun or pass as fast as it will with this series of road trip games.

Can't get enough of road trips and road trip games? Find related HowStuffWorks articles and lots more information on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • "About Exquisite Corpse." Exquisitecorpse.com. (July 13, 2011) http://www.exquisitecorpse.com/definition/About.html
  • "Let's Go Roadtripping." St. Martin's Press. 2009. (July 21, 2011) http://books.google.com/books?id=69z1qsLK_qkC&pg=PA5&dq=road+trip+car+games&hl=en&ei=59ApTrSYHIKatwfUi7nXAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=road%20trip%20car%20games&f=false
  • Stribling, Dees. "Fun Games to Play in the Car." Boy's Life. June, 2010. (July 21, 2011) http://boyslife.org/hobbies-projects/funstuff/13770/fun-games-to-play-in-the-car/
  • Tellem, Tori. "Top 10 Road Trip Games." Edmunds.com. May 12, 2009. (July 21, 2011) http://www.edmunds.com/car-reviews/top-10/top-10-road-trip-games.html
  • "The Game of Twenty Questions." Barelybad.com. (July 13, 2011) http://barelybad.com/20_questions.htm
  • "The Punch Buggy Game." thepunchbuggygame.com. (July 13, 2011) http://www.thepunchbuggygame.com/