Entertaining the kids on car journeys

Children will cope better with journeys if they are entertained … and this will make the experience so much better for you! Bear in mind the length of your journey and the amount of time you have allocated. Ideally stop every two hours so that the children are able to stretch their legs and go to the toilet. If you are travelling on the péage it is worth stopping at the aire de répos, where there are play areas for the children. Some service stations have play areas, but tend to be busy – you might prefer to avoid them unless you need fuel.

Tablets / phones are a necessity now for older children! If they have the storage space see if they can download some favourite programmes or films to keep them entertained on route. Or games that they can play by themselves.

Books are a great way to entertain the children, even non-readers – a plethora of picture books are available. Take the whole family to the local library to choose, just before you leave. Be careful with renewal dates, especially on a long holiday. Some libraries are quite flexible and you may be able to have a longer loan period if you ask.

DVDs if your budget can stretch to it then a DVD player system is an amazing investment for the really long journeys – we could not believe how quiet it kept our kids! You can buy them as standalone units for personal use or as after market fitted units for the car. Another option is to use the DVD drive on a notebook PC if you have one available.
For security reasons, do not leave these units in an unattended vehicle!

Story tapes are an alternative for those who suffer travel sickness, music tapes are a good idea for all ages. Another idea is to educate your family on the move with French learning tapes. This may encourage them to try to use the language while on holiday, as well as the obvious benefits for their education. As with books, the library is an excellent source.

France Family Car Travel Game Ideas

Motorway and Minor roads ‘Treasure Hunts’

Downloadable playing sheets available here:
Motorway sheet
Minor roads sheet

The object of the games is to be the first to spot all the items on the list. This can either be

a) the most found by a player within a set time.
b) the first person to find everything with no time restrictions.
c) the most found by a player within a given number of kilometres/miles. You need the driver’s help here to set the mileage trip meter.

N.B. There is space at the end to add anything else that we have missed – do let us know about other things to ‘spot’.

Car Bingo

Downloadable playing sheets available here:
Car Bingo caller
Car Bingo player

The object of the game is to be the first person to get a full row – either horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

Each player fills in his/her grid with any 25 numbers from 1-99 (do not repeat a number).

One car passenger (ideally Dad or Mum who is not driving) calls out the numbers that he/she reads off car number plates (the last 1 or 2 digits for example). The children cross through any of the numbers on their sheet that match those called out. To make things easier for the ‘caller’ it helps if they keep a record of the car numbers that they have used to avoid duplication using the sheet provided.

N.B. This game tends to work best on the motorway as we have found that minor roads are often too quiet to generate much in the way of traffic!

Zany Car registrations

This is a bit of fun. The object of the game is for everyone in the car to come up with a phrase from car registration numbers. For example a French car with the registration 123 FFF 75 would be France For Families.

The phrases must make sense, but it is more fun the zanier they are.

Spot the French Département

Downloadable playing sheets available here.

Just like telephone numbers so French car registration number plates show which département the car originates from. So for example 123 FFF 75 comes from Paris as 75 is the département number for the Ville-de-Paris. Why not use the playing sheets to see how many different départements you can spot.

Car Snooker (compliments of the Car Travel Games website, with our own variations)

This is a variation on snooker, scoring as if different coloured cars are snooker balls. So instead of ‘potting’ balls in a set order you are ‘spotting’ cars in a set colour sequence.

The object of the game is to be the player with the highest score/break. Paper and a pencil is useful for scoring.

Scoring and colours are:

  • Red = 1
  • Yellow = 2
  • Green = 3
  • Brown/any lorry = 4 (Whoever saw a brown car!!!)
  • Blue = 5
  • Pink/van = 6
  • Black = 7

Nominate the driver to say when the game starts. Each player then has to take it in turns to ‘spot’ the cars in the correct order. Two things can result in that players turn ending and passing to the next person:-

1. Spotting a silver car.

2. Spotting two red cars in a row during the first stage of the game. Not only does play pass to the next player, but you also lose 3 points.

As in snooker the order of play is:

Spot a red car, followed by any coloured car, then a red car, then a coloured car etc…..until you have done this 15 times (in other words you have ‘spotted’ 15 red cars and 15 coloured cars. Next you must ‘spot’ the coloured cars in the correct order (see above) until finally you ‘spot’ the black. However don’t forget the forfeits. The other players need to stay vigilant to make sure that there is no cheating/missed cars (as if that ever happens!!!).

Other Games not requiring props:

  • I Spy.
  • Guess Who? 20 Questions
  • I went to the shops and I bought…….
  • Word chains ( matching the last/first letters )
  • Animal, vegetable, mineral

Other Games requiring pen and paper:

  • Noughts and Crosses – Hangman
  • Join the squares – Car Bingo and variations
  • Find your list – Word searches
  • Crossword puzzles – Spot the difference
  • Quizzes

Commercial Travel Games

Travel games can be bought for about 5 or 6 pounds from most shops selling toys. The following list is probably not exhaustive.

  • Chess – Draughts
  • Cluedo – Snakes and ladders
  • Noughts and Crosses – Four in a row
  • Hangman – Hungry Hippos
  • Battleships – Guess Who
  • Monopoly (this is more expensive at around £15 or £16)
  • Pocket Scrabble (again more expensive at around £10)

Waddingtons, Hasbro, Chad Valley and Mattel are among the manufacturers that make these games

Read more travel in France: