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3 Games to Play on Long Car Journeys

By Edited Sep 27, 2015 2 11

Games to spark the imagination

Boredom is a state of mind. The days of sitting in the back seat of my Dad's Fiat Croma on endless car journeys down south forced my mum to be inventive. She would stave off the inevitable cries of 'Are we nearly there yet?' with the suggestion of a game. Since those days, playing games has been one of my favourite ways to keep the doldrums at bay when stuck in traffic jams, waiting at red lights or chugging along the motorway.

None of these games require equipment of any kind, just a keen imagination and willingness to participate.

Shopping Bag(98302)
I Went to Market

Parents have long depended on this classic memory game to keep the kids from going bananas in the backseat. Give it a go with your family and friends for a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Object of the game

To memorize a list of words in alphabetical order. The list gets longer each time a player takes a turn.

How to play

Players take turns to speak out loud, each adding an edible item to an imaginary supermarket shopping list of one word items. For example;

  • Player One: I went to market and there I bought an Avocado.
  • Player Two: I went to market and there I bout an Avocado, and a Banana.
  • Player Three: I went to market and there I bought an Avocado, a Banana, and a Cake.
  • Player Four: I went to market and there I bought an Avocado, a Banana, a Cake and some Dog Food.
  • Player One: I went to market and there I bought an Avocado, a Banana, a Cake, some Dog Food and an Easter Egg.

How to win

Players are eliminated when they forget an item. On the next turn in the example game above, if Player two forgets what C stands for (or replaces the item with carrots or a cookie by mistake), Player three gets a chance to recite the list from the beginning and adding an item for F. If Player three succeeds, player two is out of the game. If Player three fails to successfully recall the entire list, Player four now gets the chance to eliminate both Player two and Player three by successfully reciting the list and adding an item for F.

The last remaining player is the winner.

Advanced version

If repeating the items alphabetically starts to get a bit repetitive, try cranking things up a bit by using the last letter of the previous item as the start of the next one as an alternative.
For example:

  • Player One: I went to market and there I bought an Avocado.
  • Player Two:  I went to market and there I bought an Avocado, and an Onion.
  • Player Three: I went to market and there I bought an Avocado, an Onion and some Nuts.
  • Player Four: I went to market and there I bought an Avocado, an Onion, some Nuts and a Satsuma.
  • Player One: I went to market and there I bought an Avocado, an Onion, some Nuts, a Satsuma and an Apple.


  • All items must be edible.
  • Two word items are allowed (Ice cream, chicken breast, salmon fillet).
  • No brand names. (Potato Chips or Crisps rather than Doritos')
  • No repetition of item, flavour or product (no apple pie after apple juice, no salt and vinegar crisps after cheese and onion crisps).
  • There will be disagreements. Settle them quickly - you've got to keep the list in your mind as you debate the validity of paper as an edible item!


Similar games can be invented using:


  • Basic - Africa, Belgium, Canada, Dominican Republic…
  • Advanced - Aryshire, Eton, Nottingham, Manchester…


  • Basic - Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, David Hasselhoff…
  • Advanced - Angelina Jolie, Ella Fitzgerald, Daniel Craig, Gregory Peck...


  • Basic - Aardvark, Budgie, Cat, Dog...
  • Advanced - Aardvark, Kangaroo, Orangutang, Goat…

Kevin Bacon
Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

This classic car game was inspired by the 1993 movie Six Degrees of Separation and became popular when it was featured on MTV by comedian Jon Stewart.

Object of the game

To link two movie stars through a chain of over-lapping co-stars.

How to play

Player One names two celebrities: Kevin Spacey and Jude Law

Player Two links them in as few steps as possible.

  1. Kevin Spacey is in Glengarry Glen Ross with Johnathan Price
  2. Johnathan Price is in Evita with Antonio Banderas
  3. Antonio Banderas is in Philadelphia with Denzel Washington
  4. Denzel Washington is in The Pelican Brief with Julia Roberts
  5. Julia Roberts is in Closer with Jude Law

That's five degrees.

Now Player three must try to link the two stars in fewer steps. For example:

  1. Kevin Spacey was in Seven with Gwyneth Paltrow
  2. Gwyneth Paltrow was in The Talented Mr Ripley with Jude Law

Just two degrees!

How to win

The aim is to connect the movie stars in the fewest number of steps (or degrees). Each degree equals one point, so the over-all aim is to score the least amount of points. If a player gives up, they score 10 points. If all players give up, they all score 10 points and the player who originally named the movie stars must prove that the chain is possible (in six or less steps). If that player can't do it, they are given 10 points and all other players have 10 points deducted from their over-all score. Play one round per player (so that everyone gets the chance to name the movie stars).


For those lovers of celeb gossip magazines, you can vary it by changing the rules slightly. Stars can be connected by movies, but also by real-life love affairs.

Here's a possible connection between Jennifer Aniston and Michael Douglas.

  1. Jennifer Aniston was married to Brad Pitt.
  2. Brad Pitt is in Ocean's Eleven with George Clooney.
  3. George Clooney is in Intolerable Cruelty with Catherine Zeta-Jones.
  4. Catherine Zeta-Jones is married to Michael Douglas.

Chain Reaction

Another brilliant word games guaranteed to fight off boredom on long treks in the car. On first inspection, this game seems very simple; it's just a case of creating chains of linking words. How difficult can that be? Just you wait and see.

Object of the game

To form a chain of two-word phrases. There are ways to strategize in this game, but sometimes it's just fun to try to make the longest chain possible.

How to play

The game begins with Player one choosing a two-word phrase and saying it out loud. Player two now repeats this phrase, but links the second word with a new single word to make another commonly heard phrase. It is best explained with an example.

  • Player One: Butternut Squash
  • Player Two: Butternut Squash Court
  • Player Three: Butternut Squash Court Yard
  • Player Four: Butternut Squash Court Yard Stick
  • Player One: Butternut Squash Court Yard Stick Man
  • Player Two: Butternut Squash Court Yard Stick Man Child
  • Player Three: Butternut Squash Court Yard Stick Man Child Safety

How to win

There are three ways to win in this game.

  • Occasionally, it is very difficult to link the last word in the chain. If Player three can't think of a way of continuing the chain, he may challenge Player two who added to last word (in the example above, the last word is Safety). If Player two cannot add to the chain, they are out and Player three continues omitting the word in question (Safety) and adding to the previous word (Child). If Player two does manage to add a new word (Safety Pin), Player three is eliminated.
  • If a player completes the game by adding exactly the same word that began the game, they automatically win the game. For example:
    • Player One: Work Clothes
    • Player Two: Work Clothes Horse
    • Player Three: Work Clothes Horse Shoe
    • Player Four: Work Clothes Horse Shoe Lace
    • Player One: Work Clothes Horse Shoe Lace Up
    • Player Two: Work Clothes Horse Shoe Lace Up Scale
    • Player Three: Work Clothes Horse Shoe Lace Up Scale Model
    • Player Four: Work Clothes Horse Shoe Lace Up Scale Model Student
    • Player One: Work Clothes Horse Shoe Lace Up Scale Model Student Work

So, there you have it. Three really simple and fun games that require absolutely no equipment and can make the dullest car journey fly by in a trice!



Jun 13, 2012 3:49am
The 'chain reaction word game' sounds fun. We will try that on our next road trip.
Jun 13, 2012 5:44am
We always play car games on road trips. One of our favorite is scavenger hunt. I make a list for my kids of things to look for on the road, and whoever finds everything on the list wins. They love playing it and it keeps the fighting in the backseat down to a bare minimum.

Fun article! :)
Jun 14, 2012 4:24am
Nice idea too!
Jun 13, 2012 7:05am
Thanks guys - we never go anywhere without playing a good old game.
Jun 18, 2012 8:28am
Excellent ideas - but I wonder will kids want to play these on a console!
Jun 18, 2012 4:49pm
I know what you mean! The answer is most likely 'yes' - much to my dismay.
Jun 18, 2012 8:42pm
Fun ideas for a road trip, and a great featured article. I will be adding these to our travel games. Thumbs Up!
Jun 29, 2012 12:26pm
Thanks southerngirl09 - glad you liked it.
Jun 20, 2012 1:43pm
Fun ideas well explained. Instead of Go to Market, we always packed a bag for travel somewhere but the items had to be in alphabetical order. "When I travel to see Grandma, I will pack my athletic socks." Next player says, "when I travel to see Grandma, I will pack my athletic socks and my boots." And it goes on and on. Pretty amazing how it makes the time fly by. Great game to play when driving anywhere through the state of Oklahoma.
Jun 29, 2012 12:27pm
Hi SoCurious. Great idea. - the possibilities with alphabet games are endless aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
Oct 10, 2012 9:03am
My husband's go to celebrity in the advanced version is Yaphet Kotto whenever anyone ends in y, e.g., Ben Kingsley. I haven't p,ayed Chain Reaction, but will add it to the repertoire!
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