A Travel Day Camp Program That Rules the Road

Do you remember that MTV show Road Rules? I used to run a “travel” camp for middle school campers based on that theme.

If you aren’t familiar with Road Rules it was a reality show that had 6 people live and travel in an RV. They would follow clues and take on challenges (or missions). If they made it to the end they got a prize.

The Beginning

Years ago I worked for a parks and recreation teen department, and I was challenged with designing a summer’s worth of camp for middle school kids. I had no physical location to run the camps. Instead I was given access to two 15-passenger vans. At the time I really enjoyed shows like Road Rules, Survivor and Fear Factor. So, for one of the 8 weeks I had to program, I created my own version of Road Rules.


Each day we had a schedule of places to visit and things to do, but it was a schedule that allowed for changes. Sometimes we would spend longer at a certain location and other times we skipped a location all together. There were days we would decide to make an unscheduled stop somewhere, because one of us had a great idea for a challenge. It was all very flexible. They key was to text “home base” of any changes. Having walkie-talkies in each van was crucial as well.

We had 2 vans full of middle school kids. The first van was the blue team and the second van was the red team. Two staff were the captains and myself and my colleague were the “game masters”.

Day 1 – Team-Building

confessionalThe first day we took the campers to a state park and did some team building and “confessionals”. After a few all group team-building games, we split the campers into teams. The team-building games then became competitions.

For every game, the winning team got points. We also gave and took away points based on behavior, sportsmanship, etc. We knew that we wanted to give everyone a DVD of the week, so we video taped EVERYTHING. Each day we wanted to have each camper record a 2-minute confessional for the DVD because…well… that’s what they do on the reality shows. Truth be told, as much as we tried to coach them, the kids had a hard time doing this. They just couldn’t think of anything to say or were too nervous to open up. After day one we scraped that idea…to all the kids’ relief.

Competition Everywhere

Days 2-4 is where the challenges got creative. Here is a list of some of them:

  • dogwalkAs we drove from one location to the next we would randomly stop and ask people questions. For example, if a person was walking their dog, each team would come up with a letter of the alphabet. I would explain to the person what we were doing and then ask them the name of their dog. Whichever teams letter was the closest to the first letter of the dog’s name, they would get points.
  • At one outdoor shopping center I looked for a woman who seemed to be approachable, and then I put up a certain amount of points for any boy who would go up to the woman, get on one knee and propose. One of the middle school boys accepted the challenge. He saw a flower on the ground and picked it up before heading over to the woman and her friend. As he got on one knee we watched and laughed from a distance, video taping the whole thing, of course. Afterwards, one of the staff  approached the women and told them what we were doing. They laughed. We did this a few times in different locations. Some women would even take videos and pictures of their own.
  • art-garden-8At a busy park that was full of museums, the teams had to try to raise money by doing some street performing. The teams had 30 minutes to practice and 30 minutes to perform. Whichever team raised the most money, if any, won the points. Any money that was raised would go in the Children’s Museum donation box. One team did skits and the other team decided to sing. After they practiced, both teams took about 15-20 minutes just to build up the confidence to perform in front of all the people walking by. The team that did the singing made $1 and was crowned the winner. It made for some great footage.
  • skeeballWe went to a nickel arcade, and the team that earned the most tickets were awarded points.
  • We counted the seconds at a red light and the team that was closest got points.
  • We filled up on gas and the team that was closest to the cost of the gas got points.
  • We went bowling to see which team could get the highest score.
  • We spent half a day at a public pool, and for points, did challenges like holding your breath underwater, best cannonball, best dive, etc.
  • We played laser tag and awarded points to the winning team each round.
  • We did Fear Factor games like eating disgusting stuff, sticking your hand into a jar full of bugs to retrieve a coin, etc.
  • We would stop at a park and do a pie eating contest, water balloon toss and relays.
  • We would have campers go up to random people to try to get them to dance.
  • cookiedtWe stopped at a Double Tree hotel to see if one of the campers could get a cookie from the front desk clerk. (Only guests who are checking in are supposed to get a cookie.) Both campers we sent in got one.
  • We did a photo scavenger hunt where the teams had to get pictures of things like building a human pyramid, getting a picture from inside a movie ticket booth, getting a picture with a police officer, getting a picture of the whole team on a fire truck, etc.
  • We went to a place that had a zipline and the campers tried to toss a beanbag into the center of a hula hoop as they zipped down.

The Mall Challenge


One of the most memorable things we did was the Mall Challenge. Each team was given a video camera and a list of things they had to get shoppers to do. Captains (counselors) were not allowed to help, just supervise and keep the kids safe. For each item they checked off the list, they got points. Some items were worth more points than others. Teams could not have one shopper do more than one action on the list. Here are some of the things they got people to do:

  • Cry like a baby
  • Talk like a baby
  • Dance for 10 seconds
  • Do the worm
  • Say “The snozzberries taste like snozzberries!” in an excited voice
  • Sing the first few lines from any song in the musical Annie
  • Learn and perform a five-part secret handshake
  • Do an impression of a famous person
  • Twirl around and sing “The hills are alive with the sound of music”

There were 40+ items on the list. The teams were given one hour. Each team got about 20 of them checked off. Again, great footage for the DVD.

dscavDisney Scavenger Hunt

We spent the last day at Disneyland. During the first few hours the teams had to complete a scavenger hunt. Once completed we found a place that we could all sit down, and awards and prizes were given out for all sorts of things besides winning the entire week. Here is a list of some of the other awards given:

  • Best Performance
  • Most Daring
  • Team Leader
  • Most Positive
  • Best Arcade Game Player
  • The “I’ll Eat Anything” Award
  • Dead Shot (laser tag)
  • The “I Can Hold My Breath Forever” Award
  • Best Cannonball
  • Cookie Monster (the campers that got the cookies from the hotel)

We made sure everyone was given an award and a couple of prizes (candy, gift cards, small toys, etc.). Then we spent the rest of the day going on rides. It was a fantastic week. One that was repeated multiple summers.

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