People have been taking road trips for almost as long as there have been cars. Who made the first road trip? A car inventor's wife named Bertha Benz.
In the summer of 1888, Benz and her teenage sons "borrowed" her husband's prototype Benz Motorcar Model No. 3 and cruised from Mannheim to Pforzheim, Germany. The first road trip was a mere 65 miles, so the Benz kids probably didn't ask, "Are we there yet?" more than once.
Bring these classic road trip games back to keep your young passengers entertained.
The Picnic Game
This classic backseat game starts easy and becomes more complex as it progresses. The first player says something like, "On Saturday, I went to a picnic, and I brought an artichoke." See how the first letter of the thing they brought begins with the letter A? That's the point of the game.
The second player repeats the phrase, adding to the list an item that starts with the letter B. For instance, player two might say, "On Saturday, I went to a picnic, and I brought an artichoke and a banana." They could also say they brought a balloon, a bagel, or a baboon, as long as the item they add to the end of the list starts with a B.
Player number three expands on the initial idea by repeating the game-starting sentence, then adding something that starts with C to the ever-expanding list. Player four adds a D item, and so on. Playing the Picnic Game can make even the most desolate road trip more fun. This memory-building road trip game has the support of Edmunds automotive magazine.
Name That Tune
Based on an American television game show that aired in various forms from 1953 through 1985, Name That Tune is a classic road trip game that drivers and passengers can play while passing the time and enjoying the scenery. If you're not familiar with the TV quiz show of the same name, here's a brief synopsis:
"Name That Tune" featured a live orchestra that was adept at playing the first bars of practically any song. The gist of the game involved two contestants, each intent on ringing a bell and "naming that tune" before the other.
At the beginning of every round, the emcee would build excitement by reminding players and viewers of the monetary value of each song. Once a song was named, the orchestra would repeat the song, this time with a vocalist. Trivia buffs may be interested to know that future "Regis and Kathie Lee Show" star, Kathie Lee Johnson was a featured singer until 1978.
So, here's how to play Name That Tune as a road trip game: First, decide on a theme. For instance, the theme could be "songs from Disney movies," "current pop songs," "songs about food," or any other theme.
When everyone agrees they're ready for a game of Name That Tune, player one hums a tune but doesn't sing the words of a song of their choice. The person who names the tune first wins and gets to hum the next song for contestants to name.
License Plate Games
There are as many license plate games as there are states from which they hail. Most are similar, so we'll group them together here. The only requirement to play a license plate game is a basic understanding of the alphabet.
Have younger kids keep their eyes open for license plates that contain an A, then a B, then a C, and so forth. Once they've discovered license plates with each letter in sequence, invite them to watch for double or even triple letters.
Older backseat riders can play a slightly harder version of the license plate game. Invite teens to look for out-of-state plates from every U.S. state, and award bonus points for foreign plates from Canada, Mexico, or another country.
Another variation of the game allows kids to come up with goofy phrases based on letter sequences seen on nearby license plates. For instance, a plate with the letter sequence M-H-G could be hilariously interpreted to mean "Mom's hair is green." This silly game is guaranteed to help kids pass road trip time between cities in a positive manner.
Another tried-and-true road trip game is 20 Questions. Although the spoken word game was designed to encourage deductive reasoning, most road trippers find it to be a fun way to pass the time.
The basic gist of the game goes like this: Player one thinks of something that can be classified as animal, vegetable, or mineral, and commits it to memory. To begin, contestants are told which basic category encompasses the item in mind. After that, contestants ask one question at a time, and player one answers honestly. This happens up to a total of 20 times. If at any point during gameplay, someone guesses the item correctly, they get to come up with the next mystery item.
Variations of the game can make 20 Questions easier for little kids. For instance, a category such as jobs people do, or things people wear can make it simpler for youngsters to guess the mystery thing.
Unlike the other games on this list, Car Bingo requires a bit of planning. Before your road trip, print plenty of Bingo cards. The Travel Channel offers seven free bingo cards — enough to keep a backseat full of travelers busy for hours. Each card contains five rows and five columns of randomly ordered images and a "free space" in the center square. Every card has the same images but in a different order.
Provide one card and a pencil, pen, or kid-safe crayon to each participant. Marking the cards while motoring is easier if each player has a clipboard, too.
Before play begins, instruct players to scan their cards and remember essential things they need to find during the drive. Travel Channel cards offer images of bridges, animals, geological formations, road signs, and other stuff commonly observed on a road trip. Every time a Bingo item pops up in real life, players mark the image on their card with an X. The first player to cross off five consecutive images, vertically, horizontally, or on the diagonal, wins the game.