Best Ways to Pass Time on the Road

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”—or at least that’s how many road trips seem. Everyone is excited to get to their destination, but what person hasn’t heard from their children - or even joking friends — the dreaded four-word phrase, “Are we there yet?” It can be the beginning of a tense journey that seems to go on indefinitely.

Fortunately, with a bit of planning, getting there truly can be half the fun. The following ideas provide potentially hours of fun and diversion. At most, they require one item so they don’t clutter your traveling space. Use the ones provided or let them inspire your own ideas to ensure that the next trip is a pleasure instead of a pain.

Discover Your Surroundings

One of the best things about traveling is exploring new terrains and environments. Even when driving a route you have already experienced, you can discover something new.

This is especially true in areas that frequently expand or update. These methods for passing the time ensure you miss nothing.

“You Never Know What You’ll See”

This one was a favorite of my dad. “You never know what you’ll see” is used, in part, as a way to keep kids looking out their respective windows rather than arguing with each other. Over the years, the following were observed in rural Missouri alone: an elephant, giraffe, and a pony grazing in a pasture, a moose stepping over a barbed wire fence and crossing a state highway, a mountain lion running down a gravel road, and a timber wolf crossing a rural drive. The theory is that passengers should pay close attention to their surroundings or they might miss something.

Research the Area

There are several ways to engage in this activity. The destination can be researched online to discover interesting facts like the state tree, flower, bird, etc., as well as bits of trivia, such as famous and infamous residents past and present. The various locations along the drive can also be studied, also. Perhaps, assign passengers specific areas on the route to investigate and present to each other. This is informative, as well as interesting.

Watch the Clouds or Scenery

Observe the scenery that you pass through. Pay attention to the terrain, the color of the soil, the types of trees, and indigenous foliage. These are vastly different from state to state and sometimes, even within a relatively small area.

Notice, also, the cloud formations, which seem to transform from sweet-looking cumulus to majestic thunderheads within a short period of time, as you pass by.

Discover Yourself

Long drives—whether you’re alone, with a companion, or a group of friends or family—can be a great way to get in-tune with yourself. Introspection can be a powerful tool when used for personal enlightenment, however, it can be a real downer when ruminating on worries or regrets. Keep it light; you’re traveling!

Journal

One of the nice things about long drives, when you aren’t the one driving, is that it allows many uninterrupted hours that you can catch up on some of the things you may not have time for otherwise. For example, you can begin, or add to, a travel journal. Write about your observations of the surroundings and your thoughts or feelings about them.

To avoid arguments, you could even write about your fellow passengers and your thoughts and feelings about them, if you want. With an iPad or smartphone, add photos to the journal, unless you are writing it freehand. In that case, leave some room to add photos or even sketches to literally illustrate your literary points.

Meditate

This is another activity that often falls by the wayside in a busy world. Take some time to close your eyes and meditate. If, however, your fellow passengers are too noisy for you to get your “Zen-on”, daydream. Set an imaginary stage where you are the star and let your mind go wild. If you are traveling with a child, consider giving him or her a specific setting or storyline to start the process. Ask them later, what they imagined as a way to move to storytelling.

Nap

Take a nap and see how the time flies. Additionally, it ensures you are fully prepared for activities when you reach the destination.

Read or Tell Stories

Perhaps the oldest form of entertainment—story telling—is the preference of your group. Telling or reading stories aloud helps pass the time in a constructive and entertaining manner. After each story, you can discuss the plot, moral, characters, etc., as a group.

Make up Stories

Your group can take turns telling stories or jack things up a notch and tell one story in turns. For example, one person begins the story and then passes it to the next who picks up where the first person left off. This continues until everyone has a turn and the first person brings it to a conclusion. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Tell Ghost Stories

Telling scary stories makes the drive time go by quickly. There are several books that have a variety of stories that are appropriate for passengers of a range of ages. A few good books are “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “The Big Book of Urban Legends.”

You can also check out the websites scaryforkids.com, everythingscary.com, and creepypasta.com. Or better yet, make up your own. From retelling urban legends to rehashing the plotlines of your favorite scary movies, these tales are classics.

Read Aloud

If creativity isn’t your forte, bring a book and take turns reading aloud. Great road trip options include the following:

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Of course, these are but a few of the books that could be completed within a road trip. Many of these are available as audio books, as well if that seems less of a hassle. Another option is to pick up a magazine that satisfies the taste of the majority of the members of your group.

Read Individually

For some, reading a book they have been looking forward to is the perfect way to spend a long drive. They can engross themselves into a tense thriller, a tear-jerking romance, or a fantastical tale of other worlds and the time flies by.

For others, however, reading in a moving vehicle results in motion sickness. Group reading or listening to an audio book works better for them.

Play Games

Little spurs conversation more than a rousing game. There are so many options it would be impossible to list them all. The following are a few of the most popular.

20 Questions

One person chooses an “item” and the goal of the other players is to guess what the item is in 20 questions or less. The first question is typically, "Animal, vegetable, mineral, or person?" Then, players ask general questions to narrow the options and try to guess what the item is or who the person is.

Go around the RV asking “yes” or “no” questions like "Does it have four legs?" or "Is it indigenous to this area?" for example, in order to obtain clues. At the 20th question, if no one has correctly guessed what or who it is, the "thing" is revealed. If someone guessed correctly, he or she begins the next round. If no one did, the first person gets another round.

Alphabets

Utilize billboards, road signs, and shop names—basically any reading material outside the vehicle that is on your side of the RV or truck—and look for each letter of the alphabet in order. It doesn’t matter where the letter is located within the word. For example, if you pass the Arizona state line sign, you could use the “A” to start the game or the “Z” to finish it.

Cards

There are more card games in existence than could possibly be mentioned here. The following are popular options separated into appropriate age groups.

For Children:

  • Crazy 8s

  • Go Fish

  • Old Maid

  • Slap Jack

  • War

For Adolescents, in addition to the above, include the following:

  • Hearts

  • Magic the Gathering

  • Rummy

  • Spades

For Adults, in addition to the above, include the following:

  • 21

  • 5-card Draw

  • 5-card Stud

  • Texas Hold ‘em

Electronic Games

When everything has been exhausted, bring out the electronic games. With smartphones, iPads, laptops, Game Boys, etc., there are many options to break up the time.

License Plates

There are many ways to play games with license plates. You can "collect" the plates you see from different states. Another option is to build words or phrases from the letters on the plates. For example, a plate featuring C, L, and D, it could be “clod”, “cold”, “cloud”, or “killed”. If you're working with phrases, it might be “Center for Leaders and Developers” or “Come and Look, Dummy”.

Six Degrees of Separation/Kevin Bacon

The game “Six Degrees of Separation” is based on the theory that all people and things are connected within six steps or less.

A different take on this game was developed by movie buffs in the 1990s called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”. In this version, players challenge each other to determine the shortest path from any specific actor to the prolific Kevin Bacon. Due to his extensive filmography, it is assumed that Kevin Bacon can be easily connected to any other actor through mutual movies.

Truth or Dare

“Truth or Dare?” requires multiple players. The first person gives another the choice of truthfully answering a potentially embarrassing question or fulfilling an equally embarrassing "dare". The question and challenge are both determined by the first person, after which, the second player gets a turn.

Think Outside the Box

Be creative! There are so many things that you can do to keep the journey an exciting and enjoyable part of the trip or vacation that boredom is a choice, not a punishment.

Bring a Friend (or Two)

The more, the merrier. By taking friends along for the ride, you increase the number of stories that can be shared, as well as the number of participants in games. Additionally, if you allow children to bring their friends, they are less likely to get bored.

Bring Your Pets

Similarly to bringing friends, taking your fur-babies helps build structure into your trip. With periodic water breaks, walking, and potty breaks, you have plenty of reasons to stretch your legs and explore your surroundings.

Interview Each Other

Use a smartphone or iPad to start a video journal. Passengers can take turns interviewing each other about the trip, their feelings, and their expectations about it. This not only passes the time, but also results in a great souvenir.

Look up Jokes

There are several websites that offer an assortment of jokes for a variety of ages and maturity levels. Young children may enjoy jokes4us.com. Adults can get some laughs from greatcleanjokes.com or chucknorrisjokes.com.

Sing Campfire Songs

If you and your companions are musically talented (or even if you aren’t), singing campfire songs is a great way to pass the time. Whether it is singing “99 Bottle so Beer on the Wall” or harmonizing to “Blowing in the Wind”, taking turns choosing the next musical ensemble is more fun than listening to the radio.

Work on Crafts

Depending on your hobby and the preferences of young passengers, working on a craft can be a great way to spend your traveling time. Knitting, crocheting, drawing, and needlepoint are safe options that aren’t likely to result in a mess.

With sufficient supervision, children may enjoy creating a collage or decoupage and creating with stickers or crayons is an activity that is appropriate for travelers of nearly any age.

In Conclusion

Traveling the country provides experiences and memories that are priceless. By planning ahead, you can ensure that no member of your party becomes bored, potentially ruining the trip for the others. Try to vary activities regularly to keep everyone engaged and interested. Using a few of these ideas, or using them to come up with activities of your own, makes time fly and you’ll be at your destination before you know it. If you found these options inspiring, please share with fellow travelers to make every trip an enjoyable one.

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