Car games for long road trips are something most kids do to pass the time. “I Spy” is usually the go-to, or maybe “Punch Buggy,” when a VW bug is spotted. That one wasn’t particularly popular when I was growing up, because at the time, souped-up Bugs were all the rage in Hawaii. They were everywhere. At any rate, we had our own car games in Hawaii that, as far as I can tell from my passel of calabash nieces and nephews, are still played by young ones. And they are unique to Hawaii.

Drivers who live on larger land masses may scoff at the idea of a long road trip in Hawaii, but it’s possible to drive for hours on any island. From town to the North Shore or West Side on Oahu, for example. Or the road to Hana on Maui. Or over Saddle Road on the Big Island. And for visitors who rent a vehicle without individual DVD players or Bluetooth, keeping the kids occupied can be a challenge. Here are a couple of games kids here play while Mom and Dad tune them out on a long drive. They’re a lot like “I Spy,” but different.

Out of State License Plate remains a favorite because despite increased numbers of mainland transplants they remain relatively rare. And for kids, spotting something as exotic and alien as a license plate from, say, Wisconsin is something to remember. It’s certainly not unusual on the mainland.

Most non-military families that relocate to Hawaii dispense with the considerable cost of shipping a vehicle and just buy one upon their arrival. Even for adults like me (technically speaking) who grew up in Hawaii (also technically speaking), it’s something of a novelty to notice an out-of-state license plate on the road. Even my wife, who is from the mainland, marvels at the interest I take in spotting them.

Tented House is a game that involves spotting a house covered in a colorful, striped tarpaulin, undergoing fumigation for termites. Most older homes in Hawaii are single-wall constructions and are particularly vulnerable to swarms of insects ravenous for wood. So in practically every neighborhood, at least one household is undergoing the treatment. They’re not rare, but they’re not ubiquitous either. The fun bit is that they can be spotted on hillsides and side streets by kids looking out for them, who would have otherwise not even noticed them.

Keeping kids focused on things other than “Are we there yet?” or “Can you change the station?” makes a long Hawaii road trip a whole lot easier on the parent(s) doing the driving. Having a car game to give them to while you’re here can actually help make the trip more memorable for the whole family.

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