Hours locked up with children in a car on a long road trip may sound like one of the seven levels of hell, but there are ways to help the miles fly by that don’t involve electronics.
Sure, you could tranquilize your kids with video games and movies, and there are times you need to, but there are good, old-fashioned car games that have stood the test of time and are still fun to play even in our always-plugged-in society. Here are 10 of them that have been play-tested in my car on many a road trip:
1. License plate phrases Most state and province license plates on North American roads are a combination of letters and numbers. When a car drives by, each person in the car has to create a funny phrase using the letters on the license plate. For example, if it’s AJG 224, you yell out Archie Juggles Girls. Things can get goofy very quickly.
2. Last letter, first letter This is a word game where one person starts with a word then the next person has to call out a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word. The first person to break the chain, loses. The words should be part of a theme. In our car, we use place names like cities, countries and states.
3. 20 Questions This venerable guessing game is always a hit. One person thinks up a person, place or thing and everyone else has to guess what it is in fewer than 20 questions, which can only be of the yes-no variety. My oldest son memorized a long list of the names of the solar system’s minor planets like Make Make and Sedna to make sure we’d never guess.
4. Alphabet game Find something in the car or in the passing scenery that starts with each letter of the alphabet. The first person starts with A, the next with B and so on until you can’t continue. Unless you’re driving in Quebec, have an X-ray in your pocket or are passing a zoo, letters like Q, X and Z can be a challenge so you may add a rule to skip them.
5. I Spy I spy with my little eye, something that is orange. What is it? Everyone has to guess quickly, because things disappear in the blink of a little eye when you’re in a car.
6. Collect license plates Travelling on interstate highways means you see license plates from many states and provinces. Keep a running list to see how many you can spot during your trip. Alaska or the Northwest Territories can be a difficult find and Hawaii is pretty much impossible.
7. Car bingo This takes a bit of advance preparation. Create bingo sheets with a grid of commonly seen items along the road like a gas station, police car or billboard. The first person to get five down, across or diagonally is the winner. You can create your own grids or find printable templates online.
8. Restaurant race Each person selects a restaurant chain like McDonald’s or Subways. Every time you see the restaurant by the side of the road, on a billboard or on an exit sign, you collect a point. The person who gets the most points after a set time is the winner. Play it before lunch time and the winner can choose where to stop to eat.
9. Counting Cows In rural areas, cows are a common sight in passing fields. Kids in the back seat look out their side of the car and count cows that they pass. The goal is to count the most, but if you pass a cemetery, your cows die and you have to start over.
10. Find 100 Pick an object and be the first person to spot 100 of them. Can Dad spot 100 flags before Mom finds 100 billboards? It’s cheating if you pick something too plentiful like blades of grass or car tires.
What games do you play in your car? Let us know in the comments.
I have travelled with my kids since they were infants, taking them from one end of the continent to the other in a series of marathon road trips that have exposed them to all sorts of people, places and experiences.
On a recent road trip, I realized that they had become travellers. They easily coped with long hours in the car, helped seek out interesting restaurants and knew the difference between a good and a bad hotel.
We tend to visit a lot of museums and historical sites on these trips, all teaching moments that bring some of the things they learn in the classroom to life, assuming some of this stuff is ever even taught in schools.
When spring break comes or summer vacation, travel is a great way to keep learning, not just for the kids, but for the grown-ups, too.
The folks at Booking.com (which bills themselves as the world’s #1 accommodation website) have pulled a list of what they believe are the top accommodations in Canada for an unforgettable and educational outdoor field trip during March break or whenever school is out.
Take your kids on a history lesson they’ll never forget at Hôtel-Musée Premières. This boutique hotel draws inspiration from Quebec’s First Nations people and resembles traditional Iroquois longhouse. On site, discover the rich history of the Aboriginal community at the Huron-Wendat Museum where you’ll learn about local plant life and examine authentic artifacts and art. The hotel offers several exciting packages that include winter activities like skiing, snowmobiling and dogsledding however, the standout is the snowshoeing package. On this excursion, guests are taken back in time to 1850 and get to participate in a caribou hunting expedition. Wrap up the evening by the campfire or with a drink from the ice bar at La Traite, (the hotel’s restaurant) while the kids sip on a hot cup of cocoa.
This luxury mountain resort, located in Jasper National Park, is surrounded by majestic trees offering stunning panoramic views of the Rockies. On-site you can enjoy a wide variety of winter activities like ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing and even curling. If you’re looking to explore and discover the natural landscape, rent a fat-tire bike (one of Canada’s fastest growing winter sports) and ride along the marked trails. The whole family can enjoy a unique scavenger hunt across this property that uses clues and GPS technology to help locate hidden hieroglyphs around the resort. After an active day outdoors, kick back by the fire pit and make your own s’mores or relax at the luxurious Fairmont Spa.
Have you ever even heard of a yurt let alone stayed in one? Traditionally yurts were used by nomads in Central Asia as their living quarters but today these modern re-creations are fully equipped with all of the living essentials including wood heating and electricity, refrigerators, electric stoves and beds. If you’re looking for a unique experience, stay at the Yurts at Youtre au Domain O Naturel where you and your family can become one with nature in a 20 foot yurt. This resort offers all sorts of winter activities to keep the kids busy including skiing, dogsledding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and Quad ATVing.
If you’re seeking a relaxed and cozy environment look no further than the historical Big Bar Guest Ranch. Situated on the hills of the Southern Cariboo in Clinton, this accommodation offers several activities during the winter months. Guests can have a go at ice fishing or get active ice skating and cross-country skiing. For those looking to explore the area, grab some snow-shoes and discover the majestic wintery trails.
Situated on Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park, expect comfort, luxury and a truly extraordinary experience at this resort. Take in Banff’s natural beauty on unique excursions like a horse drawn sleigh ride along the scenic Bow Public Ride or while being pulled by a group of huskies on a dog sled. For those seeking more adventure, try a snowmobile tour in Kicking Horse Valley or plan a day of heli-skiing in these magnificent mountains. Just moments away from the resort, relax and rejuvenate at the natural Banff Upper Hot Springs or take a spectacular ride on the Banff gondola. The concierge team at this hotel can help plan all the details to ensure you have the perfect itinerary during your stay.