How to play the Alphabet Car Game

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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.  But, if not, let me share it with you, and what the “Fagan house rules” are.

The Alphabet Game is a game you play when you are trapped inside a car and have nothing to do but stare out the window, listen to music, and drive or sit.  You play 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.  When you find a letter, you shout out the word you found it in, and then say the next letter you are looking for.  No paper/pens required.  It can played as a team effort (and if you are caravanning, car vs car) with all in the car looking for the same letter, or a competition to see who can get all the way through the alphabet first, challenging the others in the car with you.  Either way, when you get all the way to the end of the alphabet, you just start right over with A and keep playing.

The nice thing about this game? My three year olds, who know the letters of the alphabet, can play along (a little) too.  My daughter Alison is 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.  It’s a fun teaching tool as well as a game.  It also helps pass the time on those long road trips.

However, Josh and I have come up with house rules while playing this game.  We’ve played this game repeatedly on our short two-hour trips from Indianapolis to the Louisville LDS temple.

*My affiliate links are used in this post.*I love the car alphabet game! I appreciate the sheet cheat for the hard letters J, X, Q, and Z!

Here’s How to Play the Alphabet Car Game:

1. You can only use one letter per word per object/sign/car/truck.  Makes it much harder!

2. You can’t use anything inside the car.

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 is totally lame and makes the game too easy (yes, even for the X). They are too common.  Challenge yourself.

Those are our simple rules to make the game more difficult, more challenging, and more fun!

Josh 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, 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:

Find the letter “J” for the Alphabet Car Game with:

Find the letter “X” for the Alphabet Car Game with:

  • EXIT signs (but see point 5 above)
  • Next (like next exit take a right)
  • FedEx trucks
  • Exxon Mobile
  • Xerox trucks
  • Redbox kiosks
  • Exhibits
  • Rx prescription/drug signs
  • Complex or Plex
  • Excellent, excel (as in quality)
  • Express (like Holiday Inn Express, or an express lane)
  • RE/MAX
  • Mexican restaurants
  • Tax – like in TurboTax and LibertyTax
  • Texas and New Mexico license plates

Find the letter “Q” for the alphabet game with:

  • “Air-ride equipped” on the side of semi trailers.
  • Antique shops
  • Dairy Queen
  • Quilts
  • Queen-sized mattresses,
  • Quality (like in Quality Inn)
  • Quiznos
  • Qdoba
  • Liquor

Find the letter “Z” for the Alphabet Game with:

Of course, we also scour people’s license plates, bumper stickers, 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.

Josh said that the next time we play 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 letters. Could be a fun new addition to the game.

Have you made any house rules for this game?  Or 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!

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  2. Sara says

    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)

  3. 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!!


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