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School’s finally out and that means it’s officially time to get those summer plans in motion. If you’re lucky, those plans include frequent cottage getaways that offer a welcome change of scenery for the whole family. With all that fresh air and cottage country fun, what more could one ask for?

Okay, real talk. Getting out of the city is exhilarating and all, but car drives there and back with littles in tow can be downright torturous. Even an hour or two can feel like days when confined in the car with increasingly restless kids. But, we’ve got a solution (nine actually). Good ol’ fashioned travel games are not only enjoyable for the kids, but they help pass the time for you, too. We can’t help you with the 14 loads of laundry you’ll have to do post-getaway, but here are some simple, cheap ideas to entertain the whole fam on route to your summer oasis.

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ALPHABET SEARCH

Sibling rivalry makes this super basic seek-and-find game extra fun. Players simply race to see who can spot all 26 letters of the alphabet first (in order) from their individual sides of the vehicle. (For the ones stuck in the middle seat, we sympathize.) Letters can be found on buildings, signs and road markings but not license plates – that would be too easy!

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I SPY

If you’ve never played this, there’s likely an I spy-shaped chunk missing from your childhood. In this ideal game for toddlers and preschoolers, each person takes a turn suggesting what the others will find. For example, “I spy with my little eye, something that is green.” The first person to find something appropriate and shout it out goes next. There are no winners or losers here – just endless entertainment.

Variation: Make the game more challenging for older kids by adding in specific items to find, or suggesting a certain letter that an object must begin with. Try different car models, unique shapes or more random roadside objects like windmills, casinos or farm silos.

CLIPBOARD PRINTABLES

Put together DIY activity pads in advance that include a variety of printed game sheets and colouring pages. Each child gets a clipboard with pages and a pencil case with writing/colouring supplies. Word searches, Tic Tac Toe and Connect the Dots are all hits for children. (We like these free printables from MiniTime.) And, yes, all of these games and millions more are available on your kids’ smartphones/tablets. But you know what doesn’t require wifi or battery life? Clipboards and paper.

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LICENSE PLATE HUNT

This one works especially well for longer road trips with lots of highway driving and can be done individually or together as a group. The goal is to spot license plates from as many Canadian provinces and territories and U.S. states as possible. We recommend keeping watch throughout the whole drive, even while other games or activities are taking place. (Multiple activities happening at once = even less chance of boredom complaints. See what we did there?)

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LICENSE PLATE INITIALS

Because one license plate activity just isn’t enough. In this game, one person calls out the letters they see on a nearby license plate and everyone shouts out what the letters could stand for. The quicker the responses, the funnier (and more nonsensical) they usually are! ‘BHMF’ could be ‘Belly Hug My Face’ or ‘Big Huge Monster Farts’! 

CATEGORIES

Super easy to play and can be tailored to your kids’ specific interests. First, select a category with lots of options, like ‘girl names’. Then, starting with the letter ‘A’ and continuing through the alphabet, take turns saying a name beginning with each letter. Other categories might include types of food, animals, French words or even words relating to your favourite movie. This activity is all about wracking your brain to pass the time (and passing time means everyone wins).

Variation: Instead of going from ‘A’ to ‘Z’, one person starts the category with a random answer. The next person’s answer must begin with the letter that the previous answer ended with. For example, in ‘girl names’, if one person says ‘Michelle’, the next person must choose a name beginning with ‘E’, and so on.

RESTAURANT RACK-UP

Each player chooses a restaurant or fast-food joint (the more common, the better) and earns a point every time they spot their chosen place on the side of the road, on a billboard, on food/gas signs or even if it’s mentioned in a radio commercial. The person with the most points at the end of the allotted time period (say, 20 minutes) wins the round. For some added fun, allow the winner to choose where everyone stops to eat!

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TWENTY QUESTIONS

The fact that this game is such a classic is a testament to how much kids love asking questions. (Not that we weren’t aware). One person secretly chooses an object and players take turns asking yes or no questions to try and figure it out. Once 20 questions have been asked, each player has a turn to make a guess.

Variation: Simplify the game for younger kids by first choosing a category as a group, like vegetables or professions. This will help direct their questions (which makes the game slightly more bearable for older players).

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STORY TIME ADD-ON

An activity that is perfectly suited to creative, young minds (and to grown-ups who need a refresher on using their imaginations). One person starts off a story with a line or two and then stops mid-sentence for the next person to carry on. The idea is to keep building on each person’s ideas with even wackier ones. In our experience, this activity can get pretty silly – and that’s why we love it!

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