14 travel games to play in car to keep kids busy on long journeys

A family in a car playing car games for kids.

Give these travel games to play in car a try on your next family journey. From memory to music games, they're sure to keep tantrums, boredom and backseat squabbles at bay.

Driving, navigating and entertaining your little ones in a confined space for a few hours is enough to test most people, so it’s no wonder that half of parents admit they find car journeys stressful. And while a friendly chat or some knock-knock jokes (opens in new tab) can kill a few minutes, they're not always going to keep little ones entertained for long.

To help take the tension out of your next trip, we’ve consolidated a tried-and-tested list of fun car games for kids that the whole family can enjoy. So, don't let the fear of a long journey with little ones scupper your plans for fun things to do with the kids this summer. Just have these great car games for kids up your sleeve and the drive time will fly by...

Travel games to play in car

1. Backseat Bingo

Age suitably: 4 and over | Minimum number of players: 2

Bingo is a great game for keeping kids concentrated (and quiet) in the car. Before setting off on your journey, make some bingo-style sheets of things you might expect to see out of the window. Your grid can be made up of as many squares as you feel appropriate – less for younger kids, more for older. Or you can print out our ready-made bingo sheet examples below.

Hand out the bingo sheets and pens during the journey and have your kids keep an eye out of the window to spot all the things on their sheet, ticking them off as they go. The aim is to mark off all the pictures and be the first to shout ‘Bingo!’

Top tip: You can always laminate your bingo cards and reuse the sheets for future rounds of backseat bingo. Just pack whiteboard pens and tissues.

backseat bingo car games for young kids

(Credit: GoodToKnow/Canva)

backseat bingo car games for kids

(Credit: GoodToKnow/Canva)

2. Buzz

Age suitably: 5 and over | Minimum number of players: 2 (though a group works best here)

As a group, go round and take turns to collectively count to 100. Each time a number with 5 in it comes up, say the word ‘Buzz’ instead and carry on the counting. As the game goes on, family members are sure to forget the golden rule, and when one person forgets to say ‘Buzz’ the game starts from 1 again. See how long it takes you - and be sure to have your wits about you.

Top tip: Challenge older children by adding additional rules into the mix. You could make numbers ending in 2 silent or replace another number with a funny sound or word.

3. Endings Game

Age suitably: 7 and over | Minimum number of players: 2 (though a group works best here)

One of our favourite travel games to play in car, the endings game will provide plenty of head-scratcher moments. To play, pick a theme like animals, food or children’s TV characters, and have one person start with a relevant word. Each player must then respond with a word that starts with the last letter of the previous player’s word. So, for example, if your theme is animals and someone says ‘cat’ the next word must begin with a 't' - so turtle, tarantula or tiger. The game keeps going until you all run out of ideas. And then you can start over again with a different theme.

Top tip: With older kids, you can add in a fun, extra rule. For anyone that comes up with an example that uses the last letter twice - e.g. Thomas the tank engine or cheesy chips - the game play changes direction, putting the pressure back on the player that’s just been.

4. Name That Tune

Age suitably: 7 and over | Minimum number of players: 2 (though a group works best here)

A must-play for musical families, this game can be played two ways. Simply prepare a playlist ahead of your trip and play just the introduction of songs. Or take it in turns to hum everyone’s favourite family songs (and children’s theme tunes) and have the car buzz in with their guesses. Those who guess correctly get to go next.

Top tip: For extra points you could ask players to name what album the song was from or what year the song was released.

Playful family laughing and singing in car.

Credit: Alamy

5. Never Miss A Beat

Age suitably: 5 and over | Minimum number of players: 2 (though a group works best here)

Another funny music game that requires a good sense of rhythm. Play a popular song and have the whole car sing-a-long. Then in key moments (say the chorus), turn the music right down, continue singing and see if you stay in time with the song when you turn the volume back up. Who knows the song a little too well and who needs to brush up on their listening? The winner is the superstar who stays in sync with the beat.

6. Pub Cricket

Age suitably: 6 and over | Minimum number of players: 2

This counting game is best played on journeys that will see you winding through A and B roads and passing Britain's best boozers. As you approach a new pub, have a new player take their turn to 'bat' - i.e. count the number of legs in it's name. For example, the Red Lion scores four (lions have four legs), the King George makes two (humans have two legs) and so on. The aim of the game is to score as many “runs” as possible, so keep a note of your ongoing score. However, if you pass a pub name which has no legs, then it's game over. (Read: Pubs with 'arms' or 'head' in it's name are not your friend)

A close-up of a pub sign - The Wellington

No legs here! (Credit: Getty)

7. Spelling Bee

Age suitably: 6 and over | Minimum number of players: 2

Fun, yet educational, a spelling bee is a great way to test the whole family’s spelling ability - and perhaps learn a few new words too. Think animals, food, drinks and everyday items for your word inspiration. But if you really want to test them, impress with a few textbook medical terms. Vary the spellings according to age and keep a track of who is in the lead. Be sure to give an A+ to the winner once you’ve exhausted all your words.

Top tip: You could make it more relevant by getting the kids to spell names of upcoming towns you’ll be driving through on your journey.

8. What’s the story?

Age suitably: 5 and over | Minimum number of players: 1

Imaginations at the ready - task your children with creating their very own story. Take a special ‘story’ jar with you on your journey and fill it with pieces of paper, scrunched up with character names, plots twists or cliff hangers. Similarly fill a bag with props such as a shell, a brush, a spoon, a plastic cup, and so on. Ask the kids to each pick a prop or piece of paper and weave it into their tale. It can be as mad or magical as they like.

9. Can you keep a straight face?

Age suitably: 4 and over | Minimum number of players: 1

This game is perfect for little ones in need of a laugh, with the rules incredibly simple. A player must keep a straight face while others try to make he or she laugh with just their words. No touching or tickling allowed...

10. The Number Plate Game

Age suitably: 7 and over | Minimum number of players: 2

You won’t be lacking in number plates on your journey, so why not incorporate them into a fun game? Pick and read out a car’s number plate and have the car come up with words using only the letters displayed. The longer the word, the more points you get.

Top tip: To make it fair, challenge the adults to only put forward words of six letters or more.

Cars stuck in a traffic jam on a road in the UK

Credit: Alamy

11. The memory game

Age suitably: 6 and over | Minimum number of players: 2

Try a special car journey edition of the classic supermarket memory game. Take it in turns to say the phrase “I went on a roadtrip and I packed..” with the first person deciding on an item beginning with A. Say, an anorak. The next player must then repeat the phrase, the previous player’s item and add a new item beginning with B. For example: "I went on a roadtrip and I packed an anorak and a banana." This continues as you make your way through the whole alphabet. Once someone forgets an item on the list, the game starts from scratch again.

12. Random Numbers Game

Age suitably: 5 and over | Minimum number of players: 2

Another numbers-based game, see how high the car can collectively count up to without any order. The first player calls out the number one, then another player must randomly jump in with the next number. If two people say the same number at any given time, the game starts over. Whilst any five-second pauses will also reset the game again.

Top tip: Start off simple and try to count to twenty. If you’ve got older kids (and the patience) try getting up to a 50 or more.

13. 20 questions

Age suitably: 5 and over | Minimum number of players: 2

Get the kids asking questions to find out what the historical figure, animal or object you are. One player must secretly decide on who or what they are, while the other players must play detective and work out the answer. Use questions like ‘do you have legs?’, ‘where you famous’, and so on, to suss out the main player and discover their hidden identity.

Top tip: If you're feeling organised, grab a clean jam jar ahead of your trip and add in scrunched up pieces of paper with ideas. This way they'll be no excuses or long pauses as people figure out who or what to be.

Jar of ideas of car games for kids

You can also use a hat, bag or another container for your ideas. (Credit: Getty

14. Eye Spy

Age suitably: 4 and over | Minimum number of players: 2

Of course, we couldn't finish our favourite travel games to play in car without this classic. Have one player look out the window and decide on an object or item. Then have them share the letter that the word begins with. The other players must guess what it is, and whoever guesses correct, goes next.

Related video: Fun facts for kids

Emily Stedman
Features Editor

Emily Stedman is the Features Editor for GoodTo covering all things TV, entertainment, royal, lifestyle, health and wellbeing. Boasting an encyclopaedic knowledge on all things TV, celebrity and royals, career highlights include working at HELLO! Magazine and as a royal researcher to Diana biographer Andrew Morton on his book Meghan: A Hollywood Princess. In her spare time, Emily can be found eating her way around London, swimming at her local Lido or curled up on the sofa binging the next best Netflix show.