Bus trip activities: What groups can do as the wheels on the bus go “round and round”

When planning a long bus ride with youth, it is a good idea to fill some of the time with activities. Activities will make the time go faster, help those on the bus get to know each other, allow leadership skills to develop and keep the group engaged.

Youth on a bus
Youth during the Citizenship Washington Focus trip in 2018. Photo by MSU Extension.

When planning a long bus ride with youth, it is a good idea to fill some of the time with activities. Activities will make the time go faster, help those on the bus get to know each other, allow leadership skills to develop and keep the group engaged.

The following are some suggestions for long trips. Please verify that these activities comply with bus rules before using any of these ideas. Some busses may not allow the riders to move around and others may not allow too much talking. However, charter companies tend to be very open and accommodating, as long as the games are done in a safe and controlled manner.

  • Tall Tales. The first person writes the start of a story and ends their part with “and then suddenly...” The participant then folds the paper over so the next person cannot read what they wrote and passes the paper on. The next person writes his or her own part, ending with the phrase “and then suddenly…” before folding the paper and handing it on to the next person in line. Once everyone has had a turn, the last person writes the final portion of the story, leaving off the “and then suddenly…” line. In the end, there will be a fun tall tale to share with the group. This fun event is a great first icebreaker that allows participants to get comfortable without putting them on the spot to talk right away. As the stories are read, the interactions will start without any prompting. If the trip is for a specific event, you might want to give them a topic, such as write a story about our bus trip to Washington D.C.
  • Song Wars. Each youth writes a single word on a piece of paper and throws it in a hat without knowing what it will be used for. Then each youth takes a turn drawing a piece of paper out of the hat before standing, stating their name and then singing or saying a song lyric that has their chosen word in it. This is a fun way to learn everyone’s names and allows for a lot of teamwork when youth are trying to help each other with song choices, lyrics and even singing along. The energy on the bus will increase and youth will become more relaxed.
  • Sharing. The youth are given a piece of paper that has the following items to complete: write one thing about your features (color of hair, glasses, freckles etc.); write one thing about your heritage; write something about your personality; share two more things of your choosing about yourself. These facts are then put into a bag and randomly drawn out. The group has to try to guess which person the answers refer to. This game is similar to the Guess Who game. An optional addition is for youth to stand at their seats and then sit down as they are eliminated by each answer. For example, if the answers being read reference the person was blonde, everyone who was not blonde would sit down. After youth determine who it was, that person shares a bit more information about himself or herself. This is a great way to get to know each other and understand the diverse backgrounds present in the group.
  • Speed meeting. In speed meeting, youth are matched in pairs and have three minutes to talk to each other and find out as much as they can. The youth on the inside row then rotate one seat until they have met everyone on the outside row. This minimal amount of movement keeps the bus safe but allows half of the youth to spend one on one time with the other half of the group. Every third rotation the leader should stop the group and have someone introduce and share a fun fact about someone they met. If the group is a quieter group, you can tell them something to share for each rotation. Start with something simple, such as, “Share your favorite hobby and tell the person about it”, then work up to more difficult questions that may relate to your group, such as, “Share a name of a leader that has inspired you in life and explain why.”
  • Scramble. When the bus stops and the coordinator has to check on reservations, other chaperones can have the youth exit the bus and get in some exercise using this icebreaker. The group is split into teams, told they cannot speak and are given a piece of paper that has a portion of the 4-H pledge on it or the American pledge if this is not a 4-H group. The youth have to get themselves in order without talking. Once they are in order, each person says their portion of the pledge to check and see if they have it correct. The first group to complete this is the winner. The best part about this icebreaker is that it gets youth off the bus and moving around. Many times coordinators find youth want to stay on the bus at stops or just stand around. Getting them moving will help with their comfort for the next section of the trip.

Riding on a bus for long periods of time can be exhausting and boring. However, with a few of these game ideas from Michigan State University Extension, the trip can quickly transform into something entertaining and educational. For other great icebreaker ideas, see a series of articles written by Jan Brinn.

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