6 screen-free games to play with kids on road trips

Three kids playing and laughing in the back seat of a car

Mobile devices have made it easier than ever to keep kids entertained during road trips, but what about parents who want to limit screen time?

If you're among those who fondly remember bonding with family during road trips, we look at 6 classic games to pass the time with:

License plate game rules explainer graphic

1.  The license plate game

"We always play the license plate game! You look for different state license plates on your journey, and the one that’s farthest from where you live wins when you arrive at your destination. For us in New Hampshire it’s always fun to see California, Alaska, or even Hawai‘i on the road." A variant of this game involves seeing who can spot plates from the most states featured on the AAA National Parks Mini Map.

– Nicole B.
Travel advisor, AAA Northern New England

Alphabet signs game rules explainer graphic

2. The alphabet signs game

"My family plays the alphabet game on road trips. You have to use road signs to complete the alphabet A to Z, and the first one who does wins. As we’re driving, you call out the letter with the word you spot: A-Albertsons, B-Bakers Square, and so on. The same word cannot be used twice by someone else in the car to get that letter; they have to find their own. Good luck when you get to Q and Z! And sometimes it takes a while when you are in the middle of nowhere, like the road to Vegas."

– Allison W.
Travel advisor, Auto Club of Southern California

Those Cows are My Cows game rules explainer graphic

3. Those Cows Are My Cows

"I’ve played Those Cows Are My Cows, where you claim how many cows you see and the person with the most at the end of the road trip wins." You can stick to cows or include other animals, such as horses and goats.

– Amanda H.
Travel advisor, AAA East Central

Places game rules explainer graphic

4. The places game

"On long hikes in Scouts, we used to play a game where you had to name a place and the next person then had to name another place that starts with the last letter of the first place (like Texas, then South Carolina)."

– Paul Z.
Senior writer and copy editor, Auto Club of Southern California

Radio game rules explainer graphic

5. The radio game

"Each kid is assigned words to listen for, such as 'truck' or 'sale.' Every time one of those words is said on the radio and they call it out, they get a point—most points by the end of the trip wins. A nice side benefit of the game for parents? It requires the players to be quiet for long periods of time."

– Jesse M.
Media planner, Auto Club of Southern California

Name That Song rules explainer graphic

6. Name That Song

Older kids can compete to be the first in the car to name the song and artist of each track that comes on the radio. 

– Susan G.
Travel advisor, AAA Northern New England

RELATED: Get more ideas and tips on how to stay sane on a family road trip.

A stuffed monkey on top of mini maps and crayons
Keep young minds busy with AAA's free Mini Maps1

They've got fun facts, lively illustrations, and of course games and coloring exercises centered around themes:

  • National Parks
  • Bugs
  • Route 66
  • Space Exploration
  • Under the Sea
  • Dinosaurs

Find a branch to get your maps

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