• By Don Dwiggins
  • Posted Monday, June 6, 2011

Top Ten Children’s Travel Games

Each year around this time Americans start planning their summer vacations. While some families fly to their destinations the vast majority of us will pile into the family car and drive to our favorite vacation spots. Chances are the first few things on the travel list of any mother with small children includes IPods MP3 players, portable DVD players or anything else electronic in nature to keep them occupied while in transit to the beach, mountains or wherever your destination may be.

But what was travel like like pre-digital music and portable movie players? How did children pass the time while riding endless hours in a car without driving mom and dad crazy? This is the question I asked myself but also put to the staff here at the Library. My thought was to compile a list of all the travel games and activities adults of a certain generation played as children while traveling on vacation, and from this list put together a top ten list of the best travel games. I had only one rule, the game could not be electronic in any way nor could it be a board game or card game.

So here we go, starting at number 10 and working our way down to number 1.

10. Count the Cars

Each family member takes a different color car and counts the number that pass before reaching your destination. The highest number wins. Rare colors such as purple or pink count double and wood grain cars count for five points.

9. License Plate game (State capitol version)

When an out-of-state car passes, players try to name the capitol of the state the car is from. Correct answers get 10 points, wrong answers lose ten points. Once a state capitol is correctly answered, it can not be used again. First one to 100 wins.

8. 20 Questions

Each person takes a turn and thinks of either a person place or thing. Others try to deduce the answer in 20 questions or less.

7. The Alphabet Game

Each person has to find all the letters of the alphabet (in order) on signs or license plates. The first person to Z wins. Also, only one person can use the letter on a particular sign. For example, if someone shouts, "E in 'Exit!'" that particular letter on an Exit sign anywhere is eliminated.

6. A Cow Named Frank (Winner of the most creative game entry)

If you pass a pasture with cows and roll your windows down, and yell, "FRANK!!!" and a cow looks at you, you get a point. You take turns shouting, and the one with the most points at the end of the trip wins. Moral of the story: Lots of cows are named Frank.

5. Scategory

One person selects a letter from the alphabet and assigns categories like food, city, water, clothing, etc. The first person to shout out all categories at once wins - you have to keep them to yourself until you have all four. So if the driver gives you "A", you think up and yell out “artichoke, Asheville, Atlantic, ascot. “ Then you argue about who got them out first and what should be disqualified and why.

4. Story Add-on

Someone starts a story with "Once upon a time..." and provide a character and a setting. The next person would have to add onto the story with a sentence or two and then it was the other person's turn. Stories can become outrageously funny as everyone provides their own little twist to the tale.

3. Grandma’s Basket

A memory game that’s great for younger kids and even adults. It starts with the first person saying "I'm going on a picnic with Grandma, and in our basket I am taking ________." The first item has to start with “A.“ The next person has to name the “A” item and then choose a “B” item. The next person names “A” item, then “B” item, and chooses a “C” item. If you miss an item while recalling the list, you’re eliminated from the game and set out by the side of the road with a sign reading “”I lost at Grandma’s Basket.” (Ok, just kidding about the last part.)

2. Cows in the Graveyard

Each person takes a side of the road. Every cow you see on your side counts one point. However, if you pass a cemetery that’s on your side of the road you lose all of your cows. The first one to 200 wins.

1. Punch Buggy

For decades, the Volkswagen Beetle has been one of the most iconic brands in the automotive industry. So it stands to reason that the whimsy that surrounds much of its advertising should surface in the most popular kids travel game today, “Punch Buggy.” The game is simple. When players spot a Volkswagen Beetle on the road, parked, on a car carrier, or anywhere, be the first to shout out: “PUNCH BUGGY NO PUNCH BACK!” and you get a point. If you’re the first to call out the “Punch Buggy” you not only get a point but depending upon the rules you adopt for play, are entitled to give a soft punch in the arm of your opponents. (The key word here being soft.) Rules can be expanded to award more points (five) for old fashion Beetles, (those manufactured before 1985) and for VW Micro Buses (ten points).

Did you find your favorite travel game on our list? What games did you play as a child while traveling or play today with your own kids or grandkids? Send us an e-mail and let us know and we’ll add your favorites to our list. Tell us the name of your game and briefly describe how it’s played. Send your recommendations to Don Dwiggins at dwiggidr@forsyth.cc and we’ll gladly add it to our list. In the mean time, have a great summer vacation and we’ll see you at the Library.

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