Road Trip Games: License Plate Lottery

This is one of those road trip games lots of people play, but I've created a more detailed and competitive version.

Usually, the game is pretty casual, with people shouting out the name of the state whenever they saw an out-of-state license plate while on the road. The license plate games I’ve witnessed didn’t have any way of keeping score or rewarding winners. I’ve amped up this game by injecting it with the excitement of winning play money as well as a chance at hitting the jackpot.

Road Trip Games

This is one of the most user-friendly of all road trip games because you don’t need more than two people and the driver can play. Of course, the more the merrier! This is a road trip game you can play during your entire trip or just for one day of your trip if you want to mix it up. It’s also versatile as you can play this game on a road trip of any length – from a trip lasting a couple of hours to one running many days.

Minimum number of players: 2

What you’ll need: Pair of dice, Monopoly/play money, and a map of the United States.

Rules of the game:

To start the game, everyone rolls the dice. If the driver is playing, take care of this before you hit the road. The person who rolls the highest gets to select their state of choice (license plate) as their "lottery" state, then the next highest roller, and so on down to the lowest roll.

The state must be a minimum of 4 states away to be a lottery state. This is when the map comes in handy for those who haven’t memorized it (that includes me!). For example, if you are in Connecticut, you can choose Michigan.

All license plates have different values. A license plate from the state you are traveling in has no value, one state over has $10 value, two states away is worth $20, three states away is worth $50, and all other states outside of that range not including the lottery states selected by players are worth $100. Lottery states are worth $1000!

To play the game, the car must be moving forward, so all players must wait to call any states until you are backed out of your parking space and also while waiting for the driver to start the engine. One person must be selected by all players to be the banker and distribute winnings. I recommend that the driver’s winnings are placed in the glove compartment or another location the driver chooses so that they don’t have to handle it while driving.

Whoever spots a license plate with a value and yells it out first, gets the money. If two or more people yell it at the same time, no one wins. Whoever collects the most money in the end is the winner.

You can definitely strategize to improve your winnings. If you are first or second to choose your lottery state, consider what states are in the running. For example, in the Northeast, Florida plates are everywhere and a great choice for your lottery state.

Another strategy is to keep your eyes peeled when you’re stopped at your hotel or at a restaurant or at any sight. Once the car is in motion, you can shout out the name of any valued state license plate you see in that parking lot.

Every time you go over a state line, pull over and re-assign lottery states by rolling the dice again. There is usually a visitor’s information rest area sponsored by the state right off the highway that can be fun to visit when you stop. I always grab all the flyers they have of state sights and attractions.

This road trip game can be great because it makes you more aware of your surroundings. I’ve found I pay more attention to the cars themselves as well – I’ve seen some crazy looking contraptions! The craziest was a bright purple sedan with a light show going on underneath it, and dancing colored lights around the plate itself. It had a fluffy white covering on the seats that looked like fake rabbit fur and was driving in front of us across George Washington Bridge towards New Jersey.

This is a really great game for a long-haul highway trip as you don’t need to stop often to play like other road trip games. Kids really love it, so I highly recommend road trip games (especially this one) for family trips. It might actually keep them from asking the old "are we there yet?" for the hundredth time!

Want more games? Check out these great road trip games.


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