Game on!

Hiker and haikuist Matuo Basho, the Japanese poet, once said “the journey itself is my home”. I’m assuming he didn’t have kids. I’m as one with Basho when it comes to going solo. Push me out of the door with a road map and a clear diary and I’m more than happy to spend days in isolation, but as anyone blessed with parenthood knows, family journeys can be less romantic.

Many parents solve this by medicating their children with tablets, as in those purveyed by Argos. But touchscreens can divorce you from your kids, even if they might prevent the other type. There is, therefore, only one cure – pre-plan activities which promise to make the experience of travel more engaging and memorable. To save time, try these rip-out-and-keep activities to ensure passengers are so engaged they arrive exclaiming “Are we there already?” If you must, thank me later.

Best of ten

I devised this pastime as the ideal way of appealing to rampant brand snobbery and greed, an ugly juvenile tendency that can only be explained by your own guiding example. 

Method: Best played on a quieter road, each person must clock ten cars that pass by on the opposite carriageway. As the models count down to zero, they must opt for one to ‘keep’. The joy lies in the rule that you can’t back-track: turn your nose up at nine Focuses, old Golfs and a MkIII Astra and that tenth beige Citroën Berlingo trundling into view is your default forever car. It’s a long game: experience suggests players can be so dejected about their choice that they insist on an umpteenth go. Before you know it, you’re in Barnstaple and more than thirty miles have flown by. Hopefully that’s where you wanted to end up.

Citizen’s arrest

I came up with this Meldrewish diversion after being accused of constantly tutting about other drivers. Release your inner policeman, get booking and enjoy.

Method: During the entire journey, your social responsibility is to detect and make known to other witnesses (passengers) perceived violations of the Highway Code, the Road Traffic Act 1983, Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 et al. In other words, you see someone doing something – anything – wrong, you point at them, declare “Citizen’s arrest!” and thereby bagsy a point. Highest tally wins. Tip: look out for drivers not wearing seatbelts (1 point), using mobile phones (2), sporting dead headlamp bulbs (3) or hilariously misconfigured number plates (3)… it’s fast and furious. Just don’t try to involve actual police officers in your game!

I-Spy deluxe

Numbed by the traditional kindergarten I-Spy? Panic not, this version relies upon points being scored by participants who spot the hit-list item first. Common – and less common – sightings are valued accordingly. Should you be set free in Europe, you can also customise to match pleasurable stereotypes: eg, windmills, people carrying baguettes, grown men in lederhösen. A typical list might also include:

One pointers: a classic BT phone box, a caravan, a motorbike, a gold car, a roadside pylon, roadkill*, a (living) cat, a rabbit. Three: police/fire/ambulance, an Eddie Stobart lorry, a broken-down vehicle, a wind turbine, horse in a field/being ridden, a hang glider/parascender. Five: cyclists on a tandem, a passing train, a hot air balloon, a classic car, motorbike with sidecar, a fox/hare/owl.

Bonus game: pub cricket

If you’ve yet to try it, this cross-country challenge endures as a classic. The rules are simple: occupants on the left of the car watch their side of the road, those on the right the other. By the end of the journey, the team with the most ‘runs’ wins. A run is counted as any human or animal leg. So the coach and horses, as a single coach pulled by two horses, scores eight runs plus the coachman’s two (unless the pub sign shows more people). Ye Olde Centipede is, naturally, a pub to dream for, unless it’s on the other team’s side of the road. And if the pub name includes a head in its name, you’re bowled out and have to start again. Play it while country pubs remain a thing and if it gets exhausting, stop at one and refresh yourselves.

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