Introduction: Stay Entertained on Long Bus Rides

Long bus rides for field trips or competitions can be really boring sometimes. Of course, with a friend or two and a few games to play, the time can fly by. Plus, you'll be bonding with others and strengthening friendships. Here are a few classic games, riddles, and random things to do that I usually resort to.

Step 1: The Name Game

The Name Game is always a classic. It's usually best with 4-8 players. The version I like is where the first person thinks of a name that starts with the letter "A" and tells the group. The next person repeats the "A" name and then says a name that starts with "B." The next person repeats all the previous names and says a "C" name, and so on until you go through the whole alphabet. If the group wants, people who forget a name are "out."

Another version of the name game is a little harder. One player will say any name and the next person has to say a name that starts with the letter that the previous name ended with. For example, if player 1 says "Abigail," then the next name must start with an "L." If player 2 decides to say "Leslie," the next name must start with an "E," etc. You must not repeat any names, so it can be challenging. Good luck with those "Y"s. Try Yolanda, Yoshi, and Yvonne.

You can also try different categories for the name game, such as cities or celebrities. Be creative. You can even try medical diseases!

Step 2: Using the Surroundings

Certain games involve watching your surroundings. The most common example of a game like this is I-Spy. Here are a couple others.

Alphabet Signs: Players must watch signs out the windows. The goal is to go through the alphabet (in alphabetical order), finding a word that begins with each letter while you are are "on" it. This is great for beginning readers and older people alike.

Alphabet Search: Same premise as alphabet signs, but in this game you are not looking for signs. You are looking for actual objects or physical entities that begin with the letter you are "on." This is much more challenging than it seems, because most people tend not to see visually and think in terms of words simultaneously.

*A Variation: Play alphabet search using objects inside the bus itself.

Step 3: Riddle Me This.

I love telling riddles for one simple reason: you know something someone else doesn't, and it makes them really, really mad. Here are some riddle type games that you can play for hours if you're cruel.

The Green Glass Door (a.k.a. The Green Glass Room.):
Basically, tell your friends that there is something called the green glass door, and only certain objects (and possibly actions) are allowed inside of it. Give them a few examples like these: you can have a hammer but no nails; you can have a spoon but no fork; books but no words; trees but no leaves; apples but no oranges; moon but no sun; glasses but no eyes; feet but no toes; etc. Try to get the players to come up with objects that go inside and respond with "yes" or "no." (The secret rule is that only words with a double letter are allowed.) If they don't understand the pattern at all and are terribly frustrated at this seemingly illogical place, you can give them a hint along the lines of "look at the letters," or "what do 'green,' 'glass,' and 'room' have in common?" This game is fun when you have other people in the know with whom you can create new examples.

Variation: People can only bring objects that contain a letter of the name of the person that he/she is sitting next to.

One Up, One Down:
This is a pattern type game that may or may not be very successful. It helps to have at least 4 people. There are 3 different states a person can have: 1 up 1 down; 2 up; and 2 down. (Sum total is always 2). Since you know the pattern, start out by saying what state you are. Have the next person guess what he/she is, and if they are wrong correct them by saying something like "No, it's two down." Continue this endlessly with the other players, moving in a circle. (The secret is that you are talking about the person's arm position. 1 arm up and 1 arm down; 2 arms up; or 2 arms down.) You can easily move your own arms in a subtle manner to change up the so-called pattern. Sometimes determining arm position can be difficult, but you can pretend to be studying the pattern until he/she moves.

The Hat Game:
For this game, you need an imaginary hat and having 4 or more people is helpful. For example, Peter, Alex, Steve, and John are four players, and Peter is the caller, meaning he is the one who knows the game and no one else does. Peter says, "If I have the hat, and I pass it to Steve, who passes it to Alex, who passes it to John, who has the hat?" Almost undoubtedly, someone in the group would answer that John has the hat, but this is not always true. The caller should then declare who really has the hat, and then the caller starts a new "round." The caller can change the order in which he passes it, and to make it more confusing, he can even pass it to himself, non-players, or inanimate objects. (The secret is that the first person who talks after the question "Who has the hat?" is told that he/she has the hat.) This one can really make people confused, but someone will probably catch on eventually.

Step 4: Invent a Game!

Sometimes I have random, creative ideas for games. Whether or not it really works out is usually a fluke. Here is the story of Spearmint Rhino:

I was sitting for over 10 hours on a coach bus full of teenage band geeks when I noticed a billboard for a gentlemen's club called Spearmint Rhino. I thought to myself, this is the most ridiculous name I've ever heard. It's as if someone picked a noun and an adjective and threw them together. This is the basic premise of the game I then invented, Spearmint Rhino. One person will think of any adjective and say something along the lines of "I have an adjective!" Then, someone else should think of any noun and say something such as "Okay, I have a noun." Person 1 says the adjective aloud, and person 2 says the noun right after the adjective. Then anyone listening or participating can decide what this invented name is. For example, it is a band, dance club, clothing store, bakery, alcoholic beverage, etc. This game can go on forever, because the pool of words is so large!

Step 5: Pencil + Paper = FUN

This one is sort of a no-brainer. Bring a notebook and some pencils and play some simple games with one or more other people. Playing tic-tac-toe, hangman, and the dots and boxes game are fairly common, but I have some other suggestions.

Draw a grid/chart with a letter in each box on the left-hand column. These can be any letters or they can spell your favorite word. Across the top row, write categories like "girls' name, boys' name, body part, animal, place, occupation, color, car" etc. Players take turns coming up with words for each category that start with that row's letter. The object is to come up with words no one else used. Point system? Up to you.

Why? Because.
Each person writes a question beginning with "why," such as "Why do dogs bark?" or "Why do men have nipples?" or "Why do people yawn?" Then, fold the top of the paper over to hide the question and pass it to someone else who, without reading the question, writes an answer beginning with "because," such as "because the Germans invaded Poland," or "because your mother said so." Then read the questions and answers for hilarious results.

Word Building
Basically, one player writes a letter. Another person adds a letter, with the intent of spelling a certain word. Each player keeps adding until neither can add another letter. If one person thinks the other player can't possibly be thinking of a word, he/she can challenge that person to finish the word.

A favorite of younger kids, MASH is a game used to predict a person's future. One player tells the other's fortune. The fortune teller starts by writing out possible outcomes, starting with MASH (mansion, apartment, shack, house),and usually making categories such as spouse, career, spouse's career, car, pet, and number of children. The possible options are normally a mixture of good, bad, and average. The magic number is derived by the teller making tally marks and the person saying when to stop. The magic number is used to eliminate choices until left with one answer per category. For example, if the number is 4, the teller counts M(1), A(2), S(3), and H(4). House is no longer an option. Continue using the magic number, skipping crossed out options and finished categories.

Similar to tic-tac-toe, start with a grid 3 x 3 or larger but still equal width and height. Either player can put an S or an O down, with the object being for a player to create on their turn the sequence S-O-S among connected squares (either diagonally, horizontally, or vertically), and to create as many such sequences as they can. If a player does get an S-O-S, they can continue turns until they no longer make the sequence. Otherwise, turns alternate. To keep track of who created which, one player circles sequences and the other puts a line through theirs.

Scribble Time!
Easy. One person makes a big scribble-y mess on paper, and another person adds to it and makes it into a picture. Viola! Watch the inspiration on Youtube.

Step 6: Private Time

It's understandable that you might not be able to interact with others the whole trip, or that you may not want to do so. Here are some activities you can do on your own:

  • personal music/video player
  • read a book or magazine (if you don't get queasy)
  • using a cell phone
  • drawing
  • portable video game
  • have a snack
  • sudoku, crosswords, etc.
  • of course, sleeping

Final tips:
The ride won't feel as long if you keep occupied. If you're tired of trying games with other people, don't forget you can just talk to them. Conversation is a great way to pass time and get to know someone better. If you get to a point where you feel bored, try something new. Change the rules of a game, or start telling stories. There's always something you can do, so don't die of boredom, please.