Three More Road Trip Word Games

The miles go faster and familes are happier when the kids are having fun (besides, word games are free and they don't have little plastic pieces to lose)

When you're spending more than a few hours in the car, your kids are bound to get tired of the activity books you've packed for them. A road atlas of their own helps, but when it gets dark, those activities are out of the question. Word games help kids' eyes grow droopy, and that's good news for parents. There are hundreds of word games to play; here is another installment of this series.

7. Incognito
Player one thinks of a famous person, or "mystery figure." She gives the other players a two-word description about the figure using that person's first and last initials. For example, player one might say, "fabulous singer." Players must think of well-known people with the initials "FS" who fit the bill. In this case, the answer is Frank Sinatra. If each player has guessed once and the identity of the mystery figure has not been revealed, players are allowed to ask one "yes" or "no" question before the next guess. For example, "Is this person alive?" or "Was he or she a politician?" or "Is the mystery figure over the age of sixty?" and so on. The first player to guess correctly chooses the next mystery figure.

8. Mirror
What happens when you look in the mirror? You see a reverse're actually looking at yourself "backwards." Take that concept and apply it to words...and you've got a great game that's loads of fun. Take turns thinking of words that have a meaning when they are spelled both forwards and backwards. Give one point for each letter in the word. Three-letter words are worth three points; four letter words are worth four points, etc. The person with the most points at the end of the round wins the game. Some examples to get you going: rat/tar (3 points); stab/bats (4 points); stool/loots (5 points). Score an extra two points (8 points total) for words that have six letters.

9. Impressions
Someone is chosen as the Director. The Director has all the players do an impersonation of someone famous or someone everyone in the group knows personally. The best impression wins an award. The actor who puts on a winning performance gets an Academy Award. The player with the most awards at the end of the game wins.10. Ghost The first person picks a letter with a word in mind. Each successive person adds a letter, trying to make a word without finishing the word with his/her letter.

Me, Tom, and Manny

Etching the earliest memories, one drive at a time.

My earliest road trip memory is that of a Thanksgiving drive to Maine. Another one that's especially fond to me is my son’s earliest road trip memory: just he and I driving home from Maine one night(it's always more magical driving at night). We were listening to the Red Sox game on the radio and chatting. As the bases loaded up, our chatter turned to the game. Listening to Manny Ramirez go through the pitches was like listening to 'Mighty Casey at the Bat'.

But Manny hit a grand slam home run that night whereas Mighty Casey struck out. Tommy and I were thrilled. This was before the two World Series titles.

I guess he was a little over four years old. He still asks me if I remember it:
“Hey Dad? Remember when we were driving home from Maine and we were listening to the Red Sox and Manny hit a grand slam home run?”
"Yes, I do bub."

Early Road Trip Memories: Relative Prosperity

Little things can polish the luster of a family trip.

Interesting thread at Fodor’s this morning about earliest childhood travel memories. A couple of things surface: It doesn’t take much to make a great memory, and the kids are usually quite oblivious to the nightmares that their parents may be experiencing.

I guess my earliest road trip memory is driving to Belfast, Maine for Thanksgiving with my Mom and Sister. We were “going home” to Grammy and Grampy Grady’s farm. The car was an old VW bug. It was black with a lot of chips, scrapes and miscellaneous dings. My Mom called it "Ol' Paint", which is a nickname for old horses. The car was in rough shape but it ran reliably, and it was paid for. The floorboards were rusted through, so Mom used to remind us to keep our feet up (though we were small enough that they probably didn't touch the floor anyway). It was an ongoing source of fascination for me: thinking about watching the road as it sped underfoot. Like a floor window, right underneath that floor mat. Truthfully, I think Grampy had welded some pieces of sheet metal over the holes, which were probably the size of a dime, but my imagination said "floor window."

Traveling was always an adventure in Ol' Paint, and this trip offered a little something extra: a snow storm. Driving at night is mystical to kids, but adding a blizzard of white in the headlights was delightful; but maybe a little less so to Mom. Traveling along Route 1, at night, in a snow storm, with two chatterboxes had to be challenging (ask me how I know this). It being the non-tourist season, finding an open motel added another layer of complexity.

The motel memory is brief but vivid. When my Mom opened the door, a new world gleamed through. Everything was different; it was like a big bedroom with two big beds and living room all mixed together. And a bathroom! And a color TV! And green rayon bedspreads! My sister and I jumped up and down on the bed until my Mom convinced (threatened?) us to go to bed.

The morning after a snowstorm is always magical, but after waking up in a motel during such an arduous journey, this one was supernatural. Sunlight gleaming into a blanket of white crystals, even the roads where white and clean. And slippery! After breakfast in a little local diner we continued on our journey to Belfast. I don't recall arriving or the preliminary activities; my recollection fast forwards to the dinner.

The elaborate table setting saturated my senses, but my clearest memory is a visual one. All of the special dinnerware that had normally been stored in Grammy’s china cabinets was laid out on the table. The anticipation built with each dish that emerged from the kitchen. And being
too small for the chair, my eyes were just about table height, so the view was even more dramatic, looking through the maze of silver platters, China serving dishes, and crystal water goblets. Soft light glistened off the roast turkey. That Thanksgiving dinner became the standard by which all Thanksgiving dinners have been measured, and none have measured up. But that’s a good thing.

Thinking about it now, the holiday was probably a special celebration for my Grandparents too. Maybe it represented success. Life may have been simple on the farm in Maine, but it wasn't easy. No electricity or running water. Most likely no automobile, just horses named Ol' Paint... I imagine this dinner represented an overwhelming giving of thanks: not only had they all survived and stayed healthy, but the kids were happily married, with healthy children, and, rusted floorboards notwithstanding, doing well. The hard work invested in their children was reaping dividends in the form of grandchildren. And relative prosperity.

What are your early road trip memories?

Washington DC Restaraunt Guide

From Fodor's Travel Wire:
D.C.'s a Dish: Savoring and Saving in the Capital City
Visiting dignitaries may find dining in Washington D.C. to be a staid and stiff affair, but the Beltway's best restaurants come in all sizes, styles, and budgets. From the Hill to Chinatown, here are a few of our favorite eats in the capital city.

Local Favorites for the Family
A day of culture-hopping in museums is bound to take a toll on your family's energy level. Fast-food joints can provide a quick fix for low blood sugar, but if you're looking for something more uniquely D.C., pop into one of the city's many bustling casual cafés and diners. Jimmy T's, a Washington institution a few blocks from the Capitol, serves breakfast all day along with greasy spoon fare like burgers and milkshakes.
Other hits with little eaters:
Pizzeria Paradiso, Georgetown
The Market Lunch, Capitol Hill
Ben's Chili Bowl, U Street

Fine Dining on a Balanced Budget
Few U.S. destinations offer better value for travelers than D.C. Sure, hotels are pricey, but free admission to world-class museums and an efficient Metro system (no need for a rental car here) make the city surprisingly affordable. D.C. also has great dining bargains. We're partial to the well-priced bar menu at Palena, the four-star Cleveland Park baby of Chef Frank Ruta and Pastry Chef Ann Americk, two former White House kitchen staffers. Fried lemon wedges, pàté, and a truffle-adorned cheeseburger are just a few delicacies on offer -- all $15 and below. Portions are small-ish, but savoring flavors this big at this price feels like a steal.
Other wallet-loving eateries:
Osteria Galileo, Italian, Downtown
Teaism, Asian, Downtown and Dupont Circle
Bistro du Coin, French, Dupont Circle

Tasty Tasting Menus
Plate after plate of haute cuisine might seem excessive, but if you're out to impress or celebrate, you can't go wrong with a reservation at a top restaurant's private chef's tables. The service and selections are exclusive; sitting close to (or even in!) the kitchen is a high honor at several high-end dining rooms around town. Foodies with a sense of humor should snag a stool at Café Atlántico's second-floor hideaway, Minibar. The private six-seat counter scores points for its roster of edible fantasies. The 30-course menu ($85) is prepared barside and sometimes includes such curiosities as cotton candy foie gras (right) and a deconstructed glass of white wine. Minibar fills its reservation book quickly; Café Atlantico's deluxe tasting menu spotlighting its Nuevo Latino specialties ($35) is a well-priced backup.
Other options for exciting multi-course experiences:
Laboratorio del Galileo, 12 courses, $110-125, Downtown
Citronelle, $85-150, Georgetown
2941, Falls Church, $75-110

I Spy a Senator
Just as some visitors to Los Angeles or New York pine for a glimpse of Hollywood royalty, some D.C. tourists live for the day when then can "bump" into famous political pundits. "Let's do lunch" means something in D.C.; mid-day is your best chance to see members of the city's political machine rubbing elbows. Unassuming Monocle is a magnet for members of Congress who head to the unassuming Capitol Hill eatery for Chesapeake crab-cake platters.
Other dining rooms frequented by the Who's Who of Washington:
TenPenh, Downtown
Montmarte, Capitol Hill
Capital Grille, Capitol Hill

United Nations
Chinatown may be D.C.'s only official ethnic neighborhood, but chances are the international cuisine you're craving is dutifully represented somewhere in the city. Zaytinya's medley of Turkish, Greek, and Lebanese offerings, small mezze plates, make it an ideal destination for groups keen to share the wealth.
For the best in globetrotting menus also try:
Full Kee, Chinese, Chinatown
Jaleo, Spanish, Downtown
Sushi-Ko, Japanese, Georgetown

Sweetly Southern
Cherry blossom trees bursting with pinkish hues aren't the only sign you're heading south -- all those restaurants serving up Southern comfort cuisine are another tell-tale sign that you're leaving the Beltway. The specialties at Vidalia aren't squarely centered on the restaurant's namesake. Elegant seasonal dishes, like rabbit loin wrapped with applewood bacon, round out a menu laced with quiet Old South influences. Don't forget to toast the day's discoveries with fresh mint juleps.
Other spots with sensibilities from the Low Country to Cajun Country:
B. Smith's, Capitol Hill
Horace & Dickie's, Capitol Hill
Bardia's New Orleans Café, Adams-Morgan
---Katie Hamlin