Bored on a road trip and wondering what the alphabet game rules are, or even just words that start with x on the road, then this post will help you out as you play the alphabet game.
I can only assume that everyone who has ever traveled on a long-distance road trip (or even a short one) has played the alphabet game as it’s one of many great toddler road trip activities that don’t involve screens and proves to be a fun teaching tool as well as a game.
My three-year-olds, who know the letters of the alphabet, can play along (a little) too.
When my daughter Alison was three she was especially good at finding the letter O – her favorite letter – because as she often says, “My name has an “O” in it.”
But, they have also spotted other letters, too! Win!
But, even as adults, my husband and I need games to play in the car so we’ll stay awake and alert and have something to do as we drive along for hours as sometimes our audiobooks for family road trips get a little less engaging than we’d like, or everyone else in the car is sleeping so you need something to focus your mind on as the driver.
I like playing the alphabet car game because it is so easy to play! Anyone can play as long as they can identify letters A-Z outside their window and it requires no paper or pens, nor tablets or internet! You just need your eyes (and maybe a glasses or contacts prescription).
It’s also a great way to get to know the area you are driving through as it forces you to really look around, check out the local businesses, get to know your fellow drivers, and how that area of the country looks.
Plus, it can played as a team effort (or if you are caravanning, car vs car) with all in the car looking for the same letter or you can play as a competition to see who can get all the way through the alphabet first, challenging the others in the car to be more observant.
It’s a game you can play over and over again, with some rounds taking only minutes and some lasting an hour or longer!
I’m going to assume you are familiar with how to play, but if not, let’s go over it, and then I’ll share some tips for making it more challenging as well as tips for where to find words that start with X on the road (although other letters are harder to find).
What is The Alphabet Game
If you need to know how to play the alphabet game, it’s really very simple.
The Alphabet Game is played by finding all 26 letters of the alphabet on things that you pass as you are going down the highway, in order, from A to Z.
You can spot letters on buildings, cars, billboards, signs, license plates, and anything else outside your vehicle.
When you find a letter, you shout out the word you found it in, and then say the next letter you are looking for. For example, you’d shout “Washington” if you were looking for a W.
When you get all the way to the end of the alphabet, you just start right over with A and keep playing.
There are some variations to this game, like only using a sign once. Once you use that sign for a letter, you cannot use it again for a different letter no matter how many words or letters are on it (so choose wisely!). Or, one player can only use the sign for that particular letter but others in the car may use the sign for a different letter of the alphabet.
Some people play that the letter you are looking for must be the first letter in a word. It cannot be in the middle or end, which can make finding certain letters extremely difficult, like if you need to find words that start with X on the road.
Some who play The Alphabet Game do not allow use of letters on movable vehicles or on license plates.
These are all rules you will need to agree upon before you begin to play.
I’m going to share with you what our “Fagan Family” alaphabet game rules are. We play a lot and find these work well but also make it challenging still, but not too challenging where you never finish the game (especially when you are in the middle of nowhere).
Alphabet Game Rules
These are our family’s rules and I’m rather fond of them.
We always play as a team.
We sometimes like to time ourselves and see if we can beat our previous scores, or see how many times we can get through the alphabet in an hour. We may even try to start at Z and work our way forward to A (though it’s rare we do so).
Anyway, here’s how we recommend playing the alphabet game:
1. You can only use one letter per word per object/sign/car/truck.
2. You can’t use anything inside the car or on your car. Ever.
3. You have to actually see the letter, not just “know” that that car had “Accord” written on the back.
4. You cannot use signs you saw previously (though that is often very tempting for those hard to find letters!) for the letter you are currently on.
5. Using EXIT signs, MILE markers, and SPEED LIMIT signs, among with other highly common road signs is totally lame and makes the game too easy. They are too common. Challenge yourself by making some signs off-limits.
Those are our simple rules to make the game more difficult, more challenging, and more fun!
My husband and I have determined that the hardest letters of the alphabet to find are the letters J, Q, X, and Z.
The hardest to find is J, followed by Z, then Q, and then X.
Here’s what we look for when stuck on the hard letters of the Alphabet Car Game, our cheat sheet if you will:
Words that Start with J on the Road or Have a J in them:
- J.B. Hunt semi trucks
- JEEP vehicles
- Jaguar cars
- Junction signs
- Any J last or first name (i.e. Johnson & Johnson)
- Jacuzzi (found on hotel billboards)
- Jesus billboards and churches
- Jimmy Johns
- Jiffy Lube
- New Jersey license plates
Road Signs that Start with X or Have an X in them:
- EXIT signs (but see point 5 above)
- Next (like “Next Exit Take a Right”)
- FedEx trucks
- Exxon Mobile
- Xerox trucks
- Redbox kiosks
- Rx prescription/drug signs
- Complex or Plex
- Excellent, excel (as in quality)
- Express (like Holiday Inn Express, or an express lane)
- Mexican restaurants
- Tax – like in TurboTax and LibertyTax
- Texas and New Mexico license plates
Road Signs that Start with Q or Have a Q in them:
- “Air-ride equipped” on the side of semi-trailers
- Antique shops
- Dairy Queen
- Queen-sized mattresses for sale
- Quality (like in Quality Inn)
Road Signs that Start with Z or have a Z in them:
- Pizza hut or any pizzerias
- Shopping plazas
- Zumba classes
- Piazza Produce trucks
- Amazon trucks
- EZ (like for toll roads)
- Zone (as in AutoZone or ‘No Passing Zone’)
- Schlotzsky’s Deli
- Arizona license plates
Of course, we also scour people’s license plates and bumper stickers as well as semi trucks (they have letter and number codes on the sides of them) and every sign we come across, sometimes surprised by the words we find that have the letter we need in them.
I even check out the grave markers in cemeteries if we are close enough to see them, although some people play the alphabet car game where if you spot a cemetery you can shout out “Cemetery” and all other players have to start back at A. But, if you falsely call out cemetery, you have to start back at A.
My husband said the next time we play the alphabet game we will have to try doing numbers (that’s my mathematician husband for ya), going from 0-9 in order after we go through all the alphabet. Could be a fun new addition to the alphabet game!
Have you made any family alphabet game rules? What are the common signs/objects you use to find those hard to find letters? And when was the last time you played the alphabet car game?
Oh, and if you are interested in a different road trip game, I love this license plate game from Melissa and Doug! We recently started doing this one when we did super long family road trips!
If you need more road trip helps, check out these articles:
Brenna @ Life After Laundry says
I wish I had read this earlier. Would have been great for our trip last week. Will be using it next time though.
Ah! I guess I should have written it earlier! It is fun.
Great idea! I’m trying this with my nephews next time we take a trip!
Oh good! I hope they enjoy it! I still enjoy it myself at 25.
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Rachel @ I Love My Disorganized Life says
Sounds a little like what we used to play on road trips, fun!
Deb @ Kneaded Creations says
Looks like a fun thing to do when the grandkids are here. I will give it a try! Deb @ Kneaded Creations
My family ended up with a version where only the first letter on the sign counted (or the first letter on a grouping of words on a vehicle)
Katelyn Fagan says
Wow! That would definitely make it more challenging!!
Sarah N. says
I am almost 25 and still enjoy this game on road trips! I played it with friends or family growing up, and my husband and I enjoy playing it now.
There are a couple extra rules that we have:
-I’ve always played that you are not allowed to use anything except road signs – no license plates, vehicles, etc. The exception is if all players become stuck on the same letter for an extended amount of time. In that case, only license plates are included.
-Also, no two players are allowed to use the same letter from the same word on the same sign: first to call it, claims it!
We’ve never played that mile markers, exit and speed limit signs are excluded, but I think I will add that next time! I also love the idea of adding numbers 0-9 to the end.
Thanks for a great post that allowed me to reminisce and anticipate my next road trip!!
Katelyn Fagan says
Sarah, you are welcome! I love hearing about your rule alterations! And I’m 25… and we still play it too.