Ways to pass the time on a long trip

Forget the high-tech devices and try some old-fashioned fun on the road.

By Donna Fleming
Ways to pass the time on a long trip

Summer holidays often lead to long car journeys, and for children (and some adults) these can be mind-numbingly boring.

Most kids can be kept occupied thanks to MP3 players and electronic gaming devices, but they’re not very sociable. Instead, why not use this time to play some games that involve the whole family? Not only are you encouraging bonding, but time will pass a lot more quickly and you will hopefully avoid whines of, “Are we there yet?” Here are some ideas for ways to pass the time on a long trip.

Work your way through the alphabet by finding the letters on the licence plates of passing cars. Or, if you’re driving through built-up areas, use letters from road signs and billboards.

Take the letters from a car licence plate and have a turn at using their first letters to make up a funny phrase. For example, CPL could be “cuddle purple lunatics” or “cute podgy lizards”, while DWR might be “don’t wear racoons” or “dinky wriggling rhinos”.

One person thinks of an object – animal, vegetable or mineral, usually – and everyone has 20 questions to guess what it is. Questions have to have yes or no answers, eg, “Is it edible?” or “Is it bigger than me?”

This is similar to 20 Questions, only the person has to imagine where they are and everyone else asks questions like, “Are you a city?” , “Are you in New Zealand?” or “Are you by the sea?”. You can also play Who Am I?, eg, “Are you a man?”, “Are you an All Black?”, “Are you Richie McCaw?”

Unlike the previous games, where the answers can only be yes or no, this game involves asking one person questions that they’re not allowed to answer with either of those words. They have to come up with an alternative answer but can’t use the same words over and over again. They lose as soon as they slip up and say yes or no.

See how many answers you can come up with for this challenge. Think of topics such as TV show villains, bands with a colour in their name, places that have two or more words in their name or famous people with weirdly named kids. If your children are younger, make the questions easier, eg, people with black hair, movies featuring cartoon animals, words beginning with the letter T. When you’ve exhausted your answers, the person who came up with the last answer gets to choose the next category.

This storytelling game encourages your children to use their imagination and also to look on the bright side. Start with an “unfortunately” scenario: “Unfortunately, we forgot to bring Grandma,” and encourage them to match it with a “fortunately” one: “Fortunately, she can ride her broomstick and get to the campsite before us.” Be as outlandish as you like: “Unfortunately, there’s a children-eating alien hiding in the boot.” “Fortunately, I packed my children-eating alien stun gun.”

Pick a topic then come up with a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word. For example, if your topic is bands then one person might start with The Beatles, the next person might say Supergroove, then the next one could come up with the Eagles. Around the world is another good one – eg, Samoa followed by Afghanistan followed by Nepal.

Games to be prepared in advance

If you are really organised, sort out a couple of games before you depart.

Come up with a separate list for each person of objects they are likely to see on the journey, eg, cabbage trees, passing-lane-ahead signs, one-way bridges, Lotto shops, particular petrol stations, cattle trucks, green cars etc. The person who ticks off all their items first is the winner.

Write out a story before you go (if you need inspiration borrow one of their story books) but leave out lots of words. Then go around everybody asking them to fill in the gaps with a noun, a verb, an adverb or an adjective as required but don’t tell them what the story is about. Then read out the finished version. This is a good way of helping them to identify different types of words and the end result can be hilarious: “One ugly summer’s day, a sweet monster decided to rollerskate very sadly to the toilet.”

Write out questions yourself, print out quizzes from the internet or take a set of Trival Pursuit cards. This can keep you going for ages.

Other ways to pass the time include:

  • Audio books to play on the car stereo
  • Good-old fashioned singalongs
  • I Spy… an oldie but a goodie.

And remember: Don’t distract the driver.

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