7 New Ways to Pass the Time on Road Trips

So you’ve found yourself on a cross-country road trip, and now you have to keep yourself entertained for long hours in the car.

The license plate game and 20 Questions are classics, but it’s more fun to think outside the box. Here’s what Matt and I suggest for passing the time:

1. Play the Cow Game.

The rules are simple: tally the cows on your side of the road (if traveling with more than two people, divide teams into left & right sides). Estimates are okay if the herd is large—you’ll soon learn how to count cows in groups of ten, which is definitely an important life skill. When you pass a cemetery on your side, all your cows die and you have to start over from zero. The count refreshes each day.

2. Listen to an audiobook.

Any book will do, but we quite enjoyed listening to Don Quixote. We periodically paused the CD to discuss the characters or predict what was coming next, which kept us engaged in the story. The humor had us cracking up and lots of Cervantes’s jokes have become our inside jokes as well.

3. Get good at pumping gas.

In Oregon we don’t pump our own gas, so I’ve always kind of fumbled with self-service stations when traveling to other states. After filling the tank roughly twice a day for 8 days, I’ve perfected the art of the gas pump—another important life skill.

4. Freestyle rap.

Somewhere in the middle of South Dakota Matt and I started going stir crazy. He began freestyle rapping, and didn’t stop for about an hour. For the record, he’s terrible at it (rhyming “on” with “on” three times in a row), but it served as a creative outlet for him and comic relief for me. Highly recommended.

5. Eat the local food.

One way to keep the drive interesting is to appreciate how different each place is, and food is a good way to do that. We ate potatoes in Idaho, cheese curds in Wisconsin, and deep-dish pizza in Chicago. And we loved every minute of it.

6. Read silly articles out loud to each other.

Sometime during the South Dakota stir crazy, I found an article about how online dating is affecting millennials’ relationships. I’m always skeptical of pieces like this, since they’re very rarely written by someone of our generation and use a “field observation” tone—that is, authors analyze millennials’ every movement like we’re creatures in a zoo. This piece was especially despicable, so I read it out loud using lots of silly voices and air quotes. It took two hours, so my throat was sore by the end, but it occupied about 30% of our South Dakota time. Worth it.

7. Find the nation’s hidden gems.

In a country as massive as the United States, there are tons of little attractions that don’t even get a mention on Trip Advisor. One of my favorites on the trip was Tire Swing Park in Milwaukee, a sand pit under a bridge where swings hang down for the public to use. It was an unexpected surprise and so relaxing to just swing back and forth as the sun went down before making our way to dinner.

For more cross-country road trip posts, click here

9 thoughts on “7 New Ways to Pass the Time on Road Trips

  1. Being many decades older than you, I remember playing the “cow game” around 1950. But your best advice is found in two lines – “one way to keep the drive interesting is to appreciate how different each place is” and “Find the nation’s hidden gems.” Congratulations.


  2. LOL over the cow game and the cemetery rule – genius 😂. I must say I admire your creativity and resourcefulness in passing your time. Now here’s my burning question – just what, exactly, are cheese curds??? 😀


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