11 Classic Road Trip Games Before Smartphones: Unplugged Fun

Long before smartphones existed, families and friends had to find creative ways to keep entertained during long road trips.

Back in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, road trip games reigned supreme as the ultimate boredom buster.

These classic games didn’t require any special equipment, just a bit of imagination and a willingness to have fun together. Ever wonder how families kept the miles rolling by with laughter and excitement? Let’s dive into some of these timeless games that brought joy to generations on the road.

1) I Spy

“I Spy” is a game that kept kids busy during long car rides in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

To play, one person secretly picks an object that everyone can see.

They then give a clue by saying, “I spy with my little eye something that is [color/shape].”

Everyone else tries to guess what the object is.

It’s a game that never gets old because you can play it anywhere.

You could play it on a road trip, while waiting for food at a diner, or even during a layover at an airport.

It helps everyone stay alert and observant.

Another fun twist is to spy items inside the car.

This makes it even more challenging, especially if the car is packed with road trip supplies.

You can also make the game tougher by giving fewer clues or using more specific descriptions.

So remember, next time you’re looking for some old-school fun on your journey, try giving “I Spy” a go.

It’s simple, free, and makes for great memories on the road.

2) 20 Questions

20 Questions has been a road trip staple since the 1960s.

It’s simple and can keep everyone entertained for hours.

One person thinks of an object, person, or place.

The others take turns asking yes-or-no questions to narrow it down.

You can play with just two people or a whole car full.

There’s no need for any special equipment, just your mind and a bit of curiosity.

During the 70s and 80s, families often played this to pass the time on long stretches of highway.

It’s a great way to spark conversations and get everyone thinking.

This game is perfect for connecting with fellow travelers.

It can lead to some interesting discussions and laughs.

Plus, there’s always a sense of accomplishment when someone finally figures out the answer.

So next time you hit the road, give 20 Questions a try.

It’s a classic for a reason and never seems to get old.

3) License Plate Game

Back in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, the License Plate Game was a road trip staple.

You’d spend hours looking out the window, trying to spot plates from different states.

It was simple, engaging, and kept everyone entertained.

Each player would write down the state names as they saw them.

Sometimes, this turned into a contest to see who could find the most unique plates.

Not only did it kill time, it also taught you U.S. geography.

You’d start to recognize which states were far away by how rare their plates were.

Scoring could be as simple or as complex as you wanted.

Some played by just counting the states, while others used points for rarer finds.

No smartphones were needed, just a keen eye and maybe a good map.

Families could bond over it, making long drives more fun and less boring.

4) Punch Buggy

Punch Buggy, also called “Slug Bug,” has been a favorite since the 1960s.

It’s easy to play.

When you see a Volkswagen Beetle, you shout “Punch Buggy!” and gently punch the person next to you.

It’s a great way to stay alert and keep an eye on the road.

Kids especially love Punch Buggy.

The Beetle’s unique look makes it fun to spot.

You’ll find yourself getting excited every time one appears.

The game can get competitive, so set some ground rules to keep it friendly.

You can even add some twists.

Some families give extra points for rare colors or older models.

This can make the game more interesting.

And don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.

It’s just a light tap to get everyone laughing.

Punch Buggy has stuck around for decades because it’s simple and fun.

It’s the perfect way to pass the time on long drives.

Just remember to be fair and enjoy the ride.

You’ll make memories that last long after the trip is over.

5) Road Trip Bingo

Road Trip Bingo is a game that has entertained families for decades.

From the 1960s to the 1980s, it was a favorite way to pass the time on long drives.

You can create bingo cards with common sights you might see on the road.

These could include things like cows, traffic lights, or even specific types of cars.

Each player gets a card and marks off the items as they see them.

The first person to get a full row, column, or diagonal wins.

To make the game more exciting, you could use small prizes for the winners.

It adds a bit of competition and fun to the journey.

Road Trip Bingo doesn’t need any fancy equipment, just some paper and a pen.

It’s simple, engaging, and perfect for keeping everyone’s eyes on the scenery.

Consider laminating the cards or putting them in plastic sleeves if you want to reuse them.

This way, you can play multiple rounds without needing new cards.

This game not only kills time but also encourages everyone to look out the window and appreciate the sights along the way.

6) Sing-Along Sessions

Long before Spotify and smartphone playlists, families relied on cassette tapes, 8-tracks, and the good old car radio for their music.

You’d gather everyone around and sing along to your favorite tunes.

Whether it was hits from the Beatles in the ’60s, Elton John in the ’70s, or Madonna in the ’80s, there was always a song for everybody.

Parents often chose tunes they loved from their own teenage years, passing on iconic music to a new generation.

Creating a themed playlist was another fun option.

One trip might be all about Motown, while another focused on rock classics.

If you had a karaoke microphone handy, it made things even more exciting.

You’d take turns being the lead singer, turning the backseat into a stage.

Singing together kept everyone entertained and connected.

You formed lasting memories that went way beyond the car ride.

7) Alphabet Game

The Alphabet Game is a classic road trip favorite from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Back then, you and your family would scan the signs, billboards, and license plates along the highway to find words that start with each letter of the alphabet.

To play, start with the letter “A.” Spot something on the road with the letter “A,” like a sign that says “Apple.” Call out the word, and then look for the letter “B.”

Keep going through the alphabet in order.

It’s a fun way to stay entertained and pass the time.

It’s also a great way to practice your spelling and observation skills.

Back in the day, kids would get really competitive.

The first person to spot a letter would usually shout it out and keep score.

The game can get pretty exciting, especially when searching for tricky letters like “Q” and “Z.”

The Alphabet Game is easy to play and requires no equipment.

You don’t need a smartphone, just sharp eyes and quick reflexes.

It’s a great excuse to look out the window and enjoy the scenery.

8) Word Association

Word Association is a classic game that has been around for decades.

You might remember playing it during those long car rides in the ’60s, ’70s, or ’80s.

The rules are simple.

Someone in the car starts by saying a word, any word.

Then, the next person says the first word that pops into their head related to the previous word.

For example, if the first word is “apple,” the next might be “fruit,” and then “banana,” and so on.

It’s a fun way to keep everyone engaged.

It also helps pass the time quickly while giving your brain a bit of a workout.

The great thing about Word Association is that it doesn’t require any materials or preparation.

You just need your imagination and a willingness to play along.

It’s perfect for all ages, making it a go-to choice for family road trips.

You never know what silly or interesting connections people will come up with.

9) Celebrity Name Game

The Celebrity Name Game is great for road trips.

You can show off your knowledge of famous people from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

Start by naming a celebrity like Elvis Presley.

The next person must name a celebrity whose first name begins with the last letter of Elvis’s last name, like Paul Newman.

Keep going until someone gets stuck.

If you can’t think of anyone, you’re out!

Limit the names to actors, musicians, or politicians from those decades to keep the game interesting and challenging.

The Celebrity Name Game is simple and can last for hours.

It’s perfect for keeping everyone entertained and engaged as you drive.

10) Count the Cows

Count the Cows is a simple game perfect for long car rides.

It gained popularity in the 1960s and continued through the next few decades.

The rules are easy, making it great for kids and adults alike.

You start by dividing the car into teams based on which side of the car everyone is sitting.

Each team counts the cows they see on their side of the road.

Every cow counts as one point.

The game can get pretty competitive if you pass by a lot of fields.

Keep your eyes peeled and be ready to count out loud.

To add some twists, you might create special rules.

For example, if you pass a graveyard, the team on that side could lose all their points.

Deciding on an end point before you start, like “first rest stop” or “when we reach the next town,” keeps the game exciting but fair.

Count the Cows is a nostalgic way to make the miles fly by.

Plus, it gets everyone looking out the window and enjoying the ride.

11) Mad Libs

Mad Libs have been a favorite road trip game since they were created in the 1950s.

You probably remember these fill-in-the-blank stories from your own childhood.

They kept everyone entertained without the need for electronics.

In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, families would often bring a pad of Mad Libs on long car rides.

They let you be creative and silly.

You’d ask your family members to give you nouns, verbs, adjectives, and more.

Then, you’d read out the wacky story and everyone would laugh.

Mad Libs are great for all ages.

On trips, they helped pass the time and made the miles fly by quicker.

Kids loved coming up with crazy words, and parents enjoyed the simple fun.

Today, printable versions are available online.

You can find road trip-themed Mad Libs that add a bit of nostalgia to your journey.

Grab a few for your next adventure and see how funny the stories turn out!

The Importance of Keeping It Classic

Classic road trip games can make travel more enjoyable by fostering real connections and creating lasting memories.

With no screens in sight, everyone gets a chance to bond and engage in imaginative play.

Why Classic Games Still Matter

Classic road trip games from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s were a staple for long journeys.

These games have stood the test of time because they don’t rely on technology.

They involve creativity, observation, and conversation.

Games like I Spy and 20 Questions challenge you to think, observe your surroundings, and interact with fellow travelers. License Plate Game and Yellow Car help pass the time while you travel across different states.

These activities provide a shared experience that screens can’t duplicate.

Building Memories Without Screens

When you play classic games, you’re not just passing time – you’re creating memories.

The shared laughter from guessing wrong in 20 Questions or the excitement of spotting a rare license plate can bond families and friends.

Playing Punch Buggy or Slug Bug brings a sense of fun and competition.

These little moments create stories to tell long after the trip is over.

By keeping it classic, you ensure everyone is present, involved, and contributing to the collective fun.

Tips for a Fun Road Trip

For an enjoyable road trip, prepare your car for the journey and have ways to handle any challenges that might come up on the road.

Prepping Your Car for Fun

Maintenance Check: Before you hit the road, make sure your car is in good shape.

Check the oil, tires, and brakes.

Pack a spare tire and jumper cables, just in case.

Comfort Essentials: Stock up on travel-sized pillows and blankets.

They’ll make those long hours more comfy.

Don’t forget a small cooler with snacks and drinks to keep everyone happy and hydrated.

Entertainment: Without modern tech, bring along some classic items to entertain.

Think cassette tapes or an 8-track player for music.

How about some comic books or a portable board game? These can be real lifesavers.

Navigating Road Trip Challenges

Map Skills: Back in the day, GPS wasn’t a thing.

Grab a detailed road map or atlas.

Teach your kids how to read them.

It’s both fun and useful!

Rest Stops: Plan your route with plenty of rest stops.

Not only do you need to stretch your legs, but rest areas often have picnic spots for a quick meal or game.

Inclement Weather: Always be prepared for different weather conditions.

Have a pack of essentials like rain jackets, hats, and sunglasses.

Listening to a classic weather forecast on the radio can also keep you informed about what’s ahead.

Traffic Jams: Sometimes, you can’t avoid them.

Use this time for some classic car games like “I Spy” or “20 Questions.” Keep a list of these games handy to quickly bring up something fun to do when traffic slows down.

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