Make the Most of Carpooling

By Anna Krejci

I have been on numerous road trips, and I always enjoy company with me in the car.  Carpooling has advantages. It cuts greenhouse gas emissions than if each person were driving alone and is better for the environment.  It is also just more fun, in my opinion, to have someone else to talk to while I travel.  The cost savings of carpooling are beneficial too.

My travel companions are usually my family and sometimes my friends.  On long trips, it helps to be prepared with some activities to help the time go by.  I recommend several icebreakers for making a carpooling trip better, even if you are well acquainted with your fellow passengers. Perhaps you will want to plan a trip where you carpool with another couple or three of your friends who are vacationing with you.

A week or so before you depart, organize some in-car activities. Here are some of my favorite ideas that are appropriate for a wide range of ages.

Would You Rather? Game

I played this game with my family around the Thanksgiving table, and I recommend it for a good time.  You will need to create questions and let each passenger answer all of them. Eighteen to 20 questions give you something to work with. You might try asking, “Would you rather be a sportswriter covering the Cleveland Browns or a football player competing for the Cincinnati Bengals?”  Or “Would you rather vacation in a new place each year or revisit the same location?” Let yourselves elaborate on your answers, and you might find something in common between you and your friends that you did not realize.

My Life Played to Music

Ask everyone riding with you to create a playlist that would fit as a soundtrack for their lives.  Perhaps your friends could pick a song for each decade of their life up to this point. Take turns listening to the soundtracks during the car ride.  Inevitably some discussion will follow.  If playing the songs in the car is not an option, this activity can be just a conversation starter where everyone names songs that they feel match them. Ask each other, which songs would you play and why? How do the songs reflect what happened in that period of your life?

Packing for a Picnic

This game tests memory. Imagine you and your friends are going on a picnic. Think of the things you will need or want to have. The first person to play chooses an object that begins with the letter “A,” the first letter of the alphabet.   Suppose they choose, “Apples.”  The second player must repeat the first player’s word and then add a word beginning with “B” to the list.  They might say, “A for Apple,” and choose “B for Beach Ball.”  The third player might add “Cap,” to the list.  They would have to repeat “Apple, Beach Ball” and add “Cap” to the list. Play continues like this.  Feel free to play until you have the whole alphabet covered.  A variation on the game might be to name the things you’d need to put on a dance or go camping. Heck, if you’ve read the non-fiction bestseller "Packing for Mars" by Mary Roach, you could even play this game with a trip to outer space in mind!


 Travel Bingo

There are companies that sell Bingo cards for car travel, but you can also make your own.  The game is played like Bingo, but the squares on your grid are filled with names of objects you’d be likely to see on a road trip.  Create a 5-by-5-square grid on paper. You can use software like Microsoft Word to draw a table. You will need one unique card for each player. You might fill in the spaces with words like, “railroad crossing,” “Ohio license plate,” the Malley’s Chocolate Club “CHOC” sticker, stoplights, yield signs, an Ohio Bicentennial Barn, and a toll booth.  You’ll have more ideas.  As passengers notice these sights from the car, they mark off the corresponding squares on their cards.  The first person to mark off an entire row, column or diagonal of squares wins!

Trivia Talk

Bring a deck of trivia cards and a passenger can read aloud the questions. Take turns answering. You can find trivia cards for special areas of interest, like movie history.

Teaching Moment

Explain how to do something that you are enthusiastic about, like a hobby or something you are knowledgeable about and enjoy.  Let each passenger take a turn in explaining.

Hit the Brakes

Pick a site to stop and visit along the way, such as a cultural site or a historical museum.  An ice cream stand or coffee shop might make a good resting place.  If the weather is nice, find a roadside rest area or a park in a small town and bring a bocce ball set to play with. Bocce ball sets are easy to pack and not very large.  You just need a grassy patch to play in.  You can play it even if you are at a simple park with only a pavilion and a field.  Otherwise, stop and walk in a small park.

 The Ayes Have It

Quiz each other on the state capitals, those cities that house state capitols where the legislatures meet.  What are the state capitals you have been to?


Read Into It

Talk about a magazine article you’ve read from a magazine you brought on the trip. Find a topic that excites you. Can you summarize it?  Can you describe the photos?  Pick Better Homes and Gardens, Cleveland Magazine, Architectural Digest, Scientific American, The Atlantic, anything that interests you and you find fun to talk about.  Ask others what they think about the topic.


Given these recommendations of how to pass the time on a road trip, do help your driver navigate the turns when they come up. That is important. Other than that, have a great ride!