5 Best (and Weirdest) Car Games I Ever Made Up

The following games were made up on the spot – usually to interrupt yet another argument in the back seat over whose stuff is on the wrong side.

Vacation with the young-ins takes a lot of pre-planning – for sure.

But in my experience, vacationing with my two boys mostly requires the ability to come up with new plans on the spot (because all the pre-planning didn’t go according to plan).

Luckily, I am a trained and practiced maker-upper, and I have a list of some real gems for both long and short car rides.   The following games were made up on the spot – usually to interrupt yet another argument in the back seat over whose stuff is on the wrong side.

1 | “Dumper, Camper, Flat-bed, Bus”

(Best for children 3 and up)

This game actually has a song for its title – it helps you remember the names of the vehicles. Here is how you play the game:

  • While one adult drives, the passengers look around for a dump truck, a camper or RV, a flat-bed truck, and a bus.  When all of the items are spotted by any passenger, the game is won.  That’s it.  And honestly it is pretty fun.
  •  If you want to make the game last longer, you can sing the second verse: “Tow-truck, Food-truck, Tanker, Rust.”  Then you look for a tow-truck, a truck with some kind of food marking on the outside, a milk or oil tanker, and then a rusty truck.  Boom.

2 | “Soggy Trip”

(Best for children 5 and up)

The goal is to work as a team to find cars or trucks or buses that are certain colors: the colors that are represented by the letters in the words SOGGY TRIP.

  • S is for Silver – so you would find a car that is silver in color. O is for orange, G or gold or green or grey, Y is for yellow, T is for Tan, R is for Red, I is for Indigo or dark blue, and then P is for Purple.
  • Silver, Orange, Grey, Green, Yellow, Tan, Red, Indigo, and Purple.

We don’t find them in order – just one car from each color to complete a full “set.” Our record is finding 6 complete sets during the 15 minutes it takes to get from our house to school.

3 | “One of a Kind”

(Best for children 6 and up)

This is a counting car game where all passengers count things that are together.  

I’ll explain:  

  •  As you all are driving along you’ll find something that is all alone – a crabapple tree or a cow or a gas station.  That counts as 1.
  •  Then you try to find 2 things together that are the same – like two headlights, two bicycle tires, two green tractors, two gas pumps.  They count as 2.
  • Then you continue onto three, and it gets harder now.  You need to find three of the same thing – like three motorcycles driving by or three goats in a pen or three lights in a traffic light.  That counts as 3.
  • Then onto 4 then 5 then 6.  We usually stop at 10 and then start over again but if you wanted to try to find 11 of something, then give it a try.  You might find 11 windows on a house or 11 geese flying by.  This game is a group game where everyone works together.

4 | “Car I Spy”

(Best for children 6 and up)  

This game is just like regular “I Spy” with the added complexity of movement.  So it requires some imagination and extra attention.

     As the car is moving down the road, the “Spy” spots something of a particular color (a flower, a mailbox, a garage door, a trash can) and says “I spy something yellow.”

      Then each passenger asks clarifying questions to narrow down what it could be: “Is it man-made?”  “Is it made of metal?”  “Is it attached to a barn?”

      It requires players to pay extra attention to what is outside – and it asks them to imagine what they could have passed by and thus can no longer see

5 | “Pay Schwindeman”

(Best for children 7 and up)

I know – crazy name.  But it is a crazy game!  It involves making up unique names and then describing the character based on the name.   

Here is how it works:

  •  One person comes up with a name – like “Rock Rolidex” or “Saraphath” or “Billy the Noodle.”
  •  Then each of the other people in the car have to make up a character that has that name.  One character is a superhero, one character is a mythological being, one character is a musician, and one character is a world leader (all depending on how many people are playing).
  • Next, it goes around the car and everyone has a chance to offer a character.  For instance, “Rock Rolidex is a superhero who can freeze time for as long as he wants in a given area.
  • The thing is, if one person has already used the superhero option, the next person has to do something else.  “Rock Rolidex is a Latvian hip hop artist who dresses like a 1950’s American film star.”
  • Once everyone has had a chance to offer a character, the person who came up with the name chooses which character he or she likes best.  Then the winner gets to choose a new name.  It is crazy fun.

If you need more explanation or an example, here’s a video  we made of me and my wife playing these games.  

Even More Games

In this blog post, we have three games (plus video) you can play in the airport when your flight is delayed and the children are going bonkers.  

Pop these games into your back pocket when the cell service, app, directions and anything else that was a part of your original plan breaks down – or when you simply want a little family connect time.  Happy Travels!

 

Top 5 Hybrid Sedans for Your Family

Buying a new family car is a giant pain in the boo.

I’m always being asked by friends and family to help them decide what car to buy and, after over 15 years in the car business, I suppose I’ve been anointed Parent Co’s in-house car expert. I’m a real dork when it comes to car shopping. I’m one of the rare weirdos that genuinely loves the art and science of consciously coupling a car to its owner. That’s not what it sounds like, I promise.

When looking for a car, especially for a family, there are so many things to consider: Do we buy new or used? How many people can it seat? How much will the maintenance be on this thing? Does it have the gadgets and doo-dads our modern family has come to expect? How easily can I clean Gogurt from the seats?

And the always important: how far can I stretch the dead dinosaurs I’m burning?

We’ll do a follow-up on used family cars, but for now let’s focus on new cars and specifically hybrid sedans. Sure, there are Hybrid SUVs and Crossovers and we’ll cover those in another post, but the sedans tend to be the best from a dead dinosaur-burning perspective. And if you’re space savvy a sedan can work just fine as a family hauler.

There are a lot of sweet hybrid sedans on the market spanning the range of price points, but since most of us aren’t rolling in Benjamins, we’ll keep this list to cars under $40,000. Also, I will say that I haven’t driven any of these cars. I’m working strictly on the info on their websites and my (informed) opinion. With that said, if you’re a manufacturer on this list and want to change my mind by having me test out a press car, you know where to find me. Ha!

So here they are – the Top 5 Hybrid Sedans, listed in order of good to best.

5) 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid

Ford Fusion Hybrid

I’m a fan of what Ford is doing lately. Our family truckster is a 2014 Explorer and the value is certainly there compared with its peers, but I’m not sure Ford is bringing their A-game with the Fusion Hybrid.

On the plus side, 41 MPG highway isn’t too shabby, and I know from experience that the Ford Sync system is really fantastic. I’m also a fan of the styling on this car and I think it will still look pretty sharp five years or more from now. If you’re a bigger driver who appreciates a spacious cabin, Ford has this nailed.

The base price S model is tempting at just a skosh over $25,000, but the options to get a well-equipped car add up quickly. I’d personally want leather seats (for the ease of cleaning), sunroof, and definitely all the safety features available since I’d be hauling precious cargo. When you load it up, you’re looking at the Platinum model range at roughly $34,000 (without floormats). With an industry-standard 3yr/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and 5yr/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, I’d be a little squeamish to purchase outright and would probably lean towards a lease considering the fancy and expensive bits that make up a hybrid drive system.

4) 2016 Honda Accord Hybrid

Honda Accord Hybrid
Honda has always been a staple of reliability in the auto industry and the Accord has been a mainstay on American roads since the early 80s. The Accord and its chief rival, the Toyota Camry, are benchmarks for value in the mid-sized sedan category. The Accord Hybrid is no exception. With the Accord, you’ll get vanilla… but there’s nothing really wrong with a solid vanilla like Breyers or something like that.

The styling isn’t anything to write home about, and the starting base price of roughly $29,000 isn’t cheap, but it’s a Honda and it’s going to be a solid all-around vehicle. The 45 MPG highway rating is pretty darn good, and 4 MPG more than the Ford, but just like the Ford, when you start adding on features like lane departure warning, forward collision sensors, sunroof, and leather seats, you’re in the EX-L model at a base price of almost $33,000. With the same warranty as the Ford Fusion Hybrid, I would again lean toward a lease instead of purchase, despite higher overall resale values for Honda.

3) 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Toyota Camry Hybrid

Just like Honda, Toyota is a gold standard for reliability in this segment. I’ve traditionally thought of the Camry as the car people buy when they just don’t care at all about style (you can’t get more bland than a beige-on-beige Toyota Camry), but Toyota has really stepped up its game when it comes to styling refreshes across the model lineup.

The bare bones model has an admittedly attractive base price of roughly $27,000, but lacks two critical family car features – leather seats and optional Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) – making the top-of-the-line XLE model the only one up for consideration here. That model starts at roughly $30,000 and with Camry’s relatively simple package bundling strategy (versus other manufacturer’s a la carte method) you can choose a mid-range package with decent audio, moonroof, and BSM to take you up to about $33,000. It’s right in line with the others on warranty and, although slightly less gas friendly at 39 MPG, I think the updated styling, the simple package configuration, and its perceived resale value make this car an easy buy.

2) 2016 Kia Optima Hybrid

Kia Optima Hybrid

I know what you’re thinking… You put a Kia ahead of Honda, Toyota, and Ford? Yep, I did. Kia has come a long way since the Sephia rolled into the states in 1994. Sure, the Korean brands can often be seen as taking styling cues from other, more “established” brands, but you have to give them credit – it works. The Optima is a great looking car. It might even be the best-looking of the bunch.

Loaded with every conceivable option, it tips the scales at just over $35,000. Dead dinosaur burns-per-mile comes in at 39 highway, right in line with the others on this list. Although it may seem like a pretty big jump from the steadfast and well-equipped Camry at $33k, consider the bumper-to-bumper warranty at 5yrs/60,000 miles and a powertrain warranty – including the hybrid drive system – at 10yr/100,000 miles. The car looks great, and you can drive with confidence it won’t be taking any more from your wallet for some time.

1) 2016 Hyundai Sonata Plug-In Hybrid

2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV
2016 Hyundai Sonata PHEV

Again, I know what you’re thinking: wha, wha, what? But just like Kia, Hyundai has come miles and miles from their entry into the US market with the ‘86 Excel. I remember my father and I went to look at one just because it was so cheap. Well, this Hyundai isn’t cheap, but it shouldn’t be, either.

This car is packed with technology, including ventilated seats that will keep your boo cool on those hot summer days. From what I can tell, this car delivers value in spades. Fully loaded up with every option and safety feature available, it’s the most expensive of the group at just over $38,000, but consider the key feature of this car that sets it apart from the rest: It’s a plug-in hybrid that Hyundai claims can run on 100% electric drive for up to 27 miles. Pretty impressive considering the average family commute to school and work is about 29 miles a day. You and your brood might just have enough juice to make your runs every day without burning a single dinosaur! Those savings will add up quickly and will more than justify the higher initial cost of the car.

The Sonata Plug-In Hybrid also has a 5yr/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper, a 10yr/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and also free lifetime hybrid battery replacement. The Sonata is the one to buy if you’re in the market for a sedan that looks great, is packed with the latest doo-dads, and you want to spend less time at the pump. Sure, gas is cheap now… but that doesn’t last forever.

Learn more about the Sonata Hybrid Plug-In

9 Family Cars for Dads and Moms Who Still Love Driving

Here are 10 “family” cars both new and used for those of you who know how to change a tire and can capably drive a manual transmission. Sure, some of these might not be considered the most practical or reliable vehicles you could buy, but if you’re looking for reliable and practical, just go buy a beige on beige Toyota Sienna Value Edition and stick with missionary position. It’s cool. Nobody is judging you.

The definition of the family car has evolved tremendously over the years. Family cars actually used to be cars. Families chugged along without the urge to carry everything they owned wherever they went.

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We have Lee Iacocca to thank for the slow and steady vehicular castration of the American family car.

Good old Lee was a savvy businessman who brought Chrysler back from the brink with a slew of crappy cars for Americans who had given up on the enjoyment of driving.

The most influential of Iacocca’s offspring was the Plymouth Voyager / Dodge Caravan. Chrysler thought they could sell a bunch more cars if they just put different labels on the exact same vehicles since we’re stupid consumers. They were so right. They were the same van with two different badges. They were terrible by any measure, but American families flocked to Chrysler / Plymouth dealerships to snatch up the latest must-have family accessory.

The minivan is still a staple of many families, but what if you’re the sort of person that cares about what you drive? What if you understand what makes a good car is not cargo capacity, infotainment systems, or chilled upholders? For decades families drove station wagons and sedans, and we were content.

Here are 10 “family” cars both new and used for those of you who know how to change a tire and can capably drive a manual transmission. Sure, some of these might not be considered the most practical or reliable vehicles you could buy, but if you’re looking for reliable and practical, just go buy a beige on beige Toyota Sienna Value Edition and stick with missionary position. It’s cool. Nobody is judging you.

E90 M3 Sedan

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The 2007-2011 BMW M3 sedan is an absolute animal. I know… I owned one and then I had to buy a house, so I sold it. I wish I never had… I have had over 40 cars and It was the only one I really regret selling. It’s a 4 door sedan with all of the modern safety devices you need and the latch system for your kids carseats. With 420hp, you can safely merge into traffic and outrun the cops. You will also be the coolest parent in your elementary school drop-off line. It’s a BMW, so it’s not cheap to fix or maintain, but with regular maintenance they’re quite reliable. It’s also a bit under the radar. To the layman, it looks pretty much like any other BMW sedan except you know what it feels like to rip 0-60 in a hair under 4 seconds, and it feels good.

Three Volkswagen Offerings

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VW is making some pretty sweet rides that are fun to drive, but also really practical. The latest generation of VWs are packed with enough tech goodies to make anyone born after 1970 pretty happy and the interior quality is almost better than their more expensive Audi cousins. The ones to buy are the 5 door hatchback GTI, Golf R, the Jetta GLI, and the Golf SportWagen.

All of these cars can be had with a manual transmission which just makes any car more fun to drive. The Golfs and the SportWagen are cavernous when you flip the seats down. You really can’t go wrong with much of what VW is currently putting out, but if the budget allows, go for more options and leather. Sure, VW has been marred of late with the TDI scandal, but now is the time to get a great deal on a VW while they’re not selling as quickly as they once did. Well optioned cars will hold their value more than the base models if you plan to sell them on.

Chevrolet SS

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We’re making some pretty decent cars stateside these days and Chevrolet has been stepping it up in the performance arena with the new Stingray. Even the most staunch critics have been praising the latest Corvette. However for the family there’s the SS. It’s a midsize sedan with a 6.2Litre v8 and can be ordered with a manual transmission. The interior is really well appointed while the exterior is very much under the radar. The only options are a sunroof and a manual transmission and I’d suggest signing up for both.

Ford Flex Limited

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Ford has recently been building the best vehicles it ever has. Our family has a 2015 Explorer, but sometimes I wish we had gone for the Flex. Like the Explorer, you can get it with AWD and a 330hp Ecoboost motor which is Ford’s way of saying it’s a turbo, but unlike the Explorer, it looks cool as hell. You get all of the benefits of an SUV, but you’re not driving something that every other bloak on the road is. Go for the limited model with the 20” alloy wheels and the appearance package to get a black painted roof.

Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat

2015 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
If you give zero f*cks about what some people may think about you, but you have a family and want something fast as hell, the Hellcat is for you. It’s packing a 6.2Litre v8 putting out an amazing 707hp and can burn dead dinosaurs quickly enough to do the quarter mile in around 11 seconds. That’s just what you need if your kid is super late for t-ball. Chrysler Corp has also come a long way with it’s interior quality as demonstrated by the latest Cherokee, but the Hellcat is a little over the top with the stitching and logos. Buy this if you’re making six figures, but also love NASCAR.

Subaru WRX Hatchback

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The new Subaru WRX doesn’t come in hatchback form anymore and that’s a shame. The WRX is an all-time great hot hatch with AWD, cargo space, and a turbocharged motor that will get you and the kids up to the mountain in a hurry. The WRX hatch looks awesome with a roof rack and a cargo box. If you The interior on these cars is a bit dated and has more hard plastic than most will like, but if you’re going to spill gogurt all over it, who cares. It’s a super fun car to drive and has the practicality for the family to match.

Tesla Model S

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The Tesla is “expensive”, but so is filling up a full-size SUV. If you’re a two car family and can afford the up-front cost of buying one, they seem like a really great option. They are fast! I’ve driven one and the experience of regenerative braking coupled with a silky throttle response is sublime. The interior room in a Model S is really astounding. The story is that when Elon Musk was working with designers for the Model S, he insisted he could bring his whole family with him and that meant three carseats in the back seat. The Tesla can run three Gracos wide in the rear seat and there is a “rumble seat” in the back for two more little ones. Remove the rear seat and there is endless cargo space. Remember, there is no gas tank to take up space. The battery is located underneath the passenger compartment which creates a low center of gravity and extraordinary handling in the curves.

Comedy In Cars With Kids- A Playlist

Traveling long distances in cars with kids is in many ways like bathing a cat. It goes against their constitution, it’s often a last resort, and you basically just hope to live through the experience with minimal scarring.

You can prepare for the young’uns entertainment with various tech-y items, art supplies, toys, and books. You pack snacks as though, instead of trekking through civilization, you’re actually about to set sail to the New World. Throw in a couple of pillows and a blanket each, and if traveling with reasonable people, you might journey at least one town over before someone files a complaint about something.

There’s got to be something in this for you. And since you totally can’t drink and drive, I suggest comedy.

While I could compile hours and hours of hilarious bits of storytelling you could listen to when the kids fall asleep, there’s no nap guarantee. Instead, I’ve rounded up some kid-safe gems you can fire up at any time.