Bus and train trips, flights, delays in airports and train stations, hostels without TV or much light; the list of situations where a traveler has time to kill is long. That’s right — travel is not always exciting. There will be dull downtimes, and you may not always be able to read a good book, play road trip bingo, do crossword puzzles, or doodle in your journal. That’s when you need a good repertoire of travel games to spontaneously play with your fellow travelers. Some will be popular games that you can find online and long-forgotten games from your childhood, and you might be surprised just how necessary they’ll be — and how much fun you’ll have — when you want to fill some of those inevitably empty hours on the road. Travel Games A quick confession: I’m a bit of a game geek anyway, and an English teacher to boot, so I’ve been known to start these games even at parties. But I promise that they have all been road tested on a real road, somewhere in Tunisia, Finland, Canada or Germany or any place where I was bored and without a book. #1: I Spy You’ve probably all played I Spy a long time ago, but I recommend dredging it back up from your long-term memory. If you can’t, it starts off like this: “I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with A,” and the other players have to guess what object you can see. I’ve played this travel game in hostels (especially those hostel living rooms that have trinkets from all over the world gathering dust there), on train rides and in planes. Sadly, it didn’t work too well in the desert. “I spy … sand.” How to play: I like to limit each person to three or four guesses. Otherwise, they’ll exhaust every item in the room that starts with “B” and you’ll soon run out of objects to use. I also like the jet lag variation — play it in a dark room at night when you can’t sleep because your body’s on some other clock, and see if you can actually remember what’s in the room around you. © Mariano Kamp #2: Donna’s Alphabet Game This is not the official name, but it’s the way I like to remember it after my old school friend Donna got a car load of us playing this on a stop-start motorway in southwest England. It’s simple, as long as you’re traveling on a road with signs (and even better, advertising) and these signs use our alphabet. Don’t try it in the western provinces of China, for example. How to play: Logically, Donna’s Alphabet Game starts with A. Be the first person to spot the letter “A” in a sign and yell out the word: “A is in motorwAy!” Continue with B and get right through to Z. It sounds easy, but there will be a few tricky letters, and if you’re playing in a non-English speaking country then pronouncing the words will be a lot of fun, too. The way we play, there’s no winner — anybody can scream out the next letter when they see it — but natural competitiveness spurs everybody on anyway. #3: Stadt, Land, Fluss: City, Country, River This is one of the only travel games I know with a German name because my German friends taught it to me — which is also perhaps why it strikes me as being a bit intellectual, but still a lot of fun. It’s also a highly appropriate game for travelers to play because their geographical knowledge should be a bit better than average. How to play: Choose three or four categories like the names of a city, country, river or lake. To be honest, I’m terrible with rivers so I always change the river category to something completely different — often food, because I like to talk about food. Take it in turns to challenge another player to think of a city, country and river all starting with a particular letter. If your friend challenges you with “D”, for example, you can win by getting out Dubai, Denmark and Danube in under sixty seconds — or whatever time limit you and your bored mates decide on. Question Mark Art, Stuttgart Museum of Art © -bast- #4: Twenty Questions One of my favorite travel games, Twenty Questions is an oldie but a goodie. You can make it topical by restricting the choice of “What am I?” to be something related to the region in which you’re traveling. I did have a friend, though, who would choose objects like “pyramid” while traveling through Egypt or “chocolate” in Switzerland, and then we could have made it just two questions rather than twenty. How to play: Someone chooses an object, and everyone else asks them questions about it, but the only permitted answers are “Yes” or “No”. (Or in my rules, “irrelevant”, if I think saying yes or no will send the guessers along a completely wrong path … I like to play fair!). If you’re playing with a group, whoever guesses the item correctly can choose the next word. #5: For RTW Trippers: Kalgoorlie, Balladonia … I think it was my father who started this travel game when our family took a driving holiday across Australia. We were gone about two months and my sister and I — being about ten and twelve years old — needed a lot of entertainment. How to play: This game only works with your traveling companions, and only on long trips. It’s more of a challenge than a game, but it always works for me. Simply start with the name of the town you stayed in first. On our trans-Australia trip, it was the gold mining town of Kalgoorlie. You then try to name every other town you’ve stayed in, in chronological order. My sister and I were experts at this all those years ago, but today I can only remember the first and second stops. There are tons of other word and guessing games you can play in those bored moments of travel, and you can adapt these games with endless variations, too. And while it might seem like just a way to kill time, playing games like these is something I really love about traveling. It’s almost as if we don’t give ourselves permission to have that kind of fun if we’re at home in our “real lives”. What Are Your Favorite Travel Games? Anyway, I’m keen to learn some new travel games, too. So feel free to share your favorites in the comments! 21 Responses XBL April 15, 2008 I like this post, all of them I’ve actually never played (well, I did, some variation on #1, using colors instead of letters – when I was really young). Reply Amanda Kendle April 16, 2008 Thanks XBL, the next challenge is to try some of them out! Enjoy =) Reply Loose Change - A round-up of recent travel tips from around the web (19th of April) « Oz Traveller April 19, 2008 […] spy with my little eye five games to pass the time while travelling at […] Reply loose change | Lasts information April 20, 2008 […] Comment on 5 Games for the Road: How to Pass the Time With Nothing …[â€¦] spy with my little eye five games to pass the time while travelling at [â€¦]Comments for Vagabondish – http://www.vagabondish.com […] Reply Turner November 24, 2008 I’d like to see something on universal card games. Reply Leslie February 3, 2009 A bit late to post but a game that has kept us entertained (being two adults and a six year old) is where you say a word and the next person has to say one that starts with the first letter the same as the last letter of the last word. eg: Elephan(T), Tim(E), Egg, (G)host etc. You can make it more complicated by limiting it to catergories. Reply Alexi March 3, 2009 Here are some of our faves: 1. Create a story, word-by-word. Each person says one word at a time, and the whole groups is entertained creating sentences (and really bizarre stories). 2. Uno. It just stays fun. 3. Being too afraid be bored – i.e., whenever my aunt is driving us. (For more on that trip, check out http://blog.nileguide.com/2009/03/02/travelogues-why-hiking-the-alps-is-better-than-driving-them/) Reply Lindsay June 2, 2009 Here’s one I just learned last night!! You need to play with people who know lots of musical bands. You start with the band ABBA. The next person then has to think of a band that starts the last letter of the band. So, say Ac/Dc. Then the next person has to think of a band that starts with a c. It’s a fun way to pass time. Reply Barbara November 22, 2011 Thanks for all the new ideas! My significant other and I have fun passing time by doing name 5 -e.g. I say name me 5 cars from cars the movie then he comes up with his category such as name me 5 types of airplalnes or sometimes we say name me 5 more of what the other person had requested. Also we take songs that have love in them he says or sings one them then I have to sing or name a song with love in it that starts with the letter that ended the previous song or has a word in what you sing that starts with the ending letter of the previous song. We also do 20 questions with animal vegetatble or mineral. By now those are probably on your list however wanted to share with you anyway Reply David November 22, 2011 Grab a copy of the World Almanac paperback version. There’s a million things to play with the info in there. For instance, pick a state and start going around the room/car naming cities. Whomever is the last one standing gets a point. Continue with the other states and use the almanac to verify any conflicts. Another could be currencies. Start with a penny and name who is depicted. Can u make it to Woodrow Wilson? Reply Elyse December 20, 2011 Whenever my friends and I are bored on the road, we like to see who can find the most restaurants. If we want an insanely hard challenge, we see who can spot the most mattress stores, or diners such as Panda Express. When we get bored of that, we have a contest to see who can eat the most Warheads(Sourest candy EVER) at once. Then we all laugh at each others faces. Reply Road Games | nerdtripping.com - nerdy trips January 10, 2012 […] are a number of traditional road trip games designed to keep you entertained in the car without requiring the driver to interact with cards or […] Reply Alternatives to the DVD Player While Traveling | Our Busy Family Life | Family Life Resources March 10, 2012 […] kids’ travel games and DVD players, families kept occupied in the car with good old fashioned road trip games that require nothing other than an imagination, creativity, sense of humor, and your […] Reply Travel Games and Activities for Children of All Ages May 9, 2012 […] 19. Road Trip Games for Kids and Grown-Ups […] Reply Caitlyn April 22, 2013 When my family goes on a long road trip (there being six of us kids), we always need something to occupy our minds. We play “I’m Going on a Camping Trip…” (or Picnic, whichever you prefer). You go around the car saying something that you’re going to take with you that starts with an “a”. The next person says the first thing and then adds something that starts with a “b”. The final person has to say all 26 objects in order. The first person to be stumped loses and you continue playing until there is one person left. If you want to put a twist on the game, add some adjectives before the object. The adjectives have to begin with the same letter as the object. Sometimes it’s hard to find adjectives that fit, but it’s worth it becausenit is really hard for everyone to remember the objects and the adjectives that go with them. Reply Turnip April 29, 2013 I’d quite like to see some universal cribbage on here! Reply Heather D June 14, 2013 Wow, I am surprised not to see the Cow Game. Although I am beginning to believe my mom made it up. You split the car in two and the left competes against the right. You count cows on your side of the road, but if you pass a grave yard you have to bury them and start over. The team with the most cows wins. Reply Grace November 15, 2014 Wow! Never heard of that one- that sounds fun, my kids would love that! I have never seen a cow in real life lol but maybe I can do one with cranes or something. Reply Jenna December 19, 2014 My family goes on a 12 hour car ride each year for Christmas. Every time my brother and I play a sketch contest. You choose a object to draw and whoever’s drawing looks better wins a point. Reply Mike Richard December 19, 2014 Love it! Nice and simple! (Although I’d be terrible at it because I can’t draw to save my life =P) Reply Obser News July 10, 2017 Good post helpful, I appreciate keep up the good work. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Let\'s Make Sure You\'re Human ... *Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA. + = Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.