Planning a road trip with kids can be a scary idea. You may be wondering what travel activities for kids will be able to fill the time and keep your children from fighting over the middle line of the back seat or being cranky from boredom.
- How do you make a road trip fun?
- What games to play on a road trip with kids?
- What do we do in the car all day?
- What travel activities for kids will keep my kids happy?
If you’ve been asking these questions, this post will have some great ideas for you as you plan your travel activities for your kids!
This is part 2 of the series Road Trips with Kids. If you haven’t read part 1, you can read it here: Healthy Meals on a Road Trip with Kids.
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This collection of road trip games for families has been tried and tested on many road trips with our daughters. We drove across the country (27 hours each way) at least twice a year for nine years while our daughters were between the ages of 3 and 15. Yes, there were times when one crossed the line in the back seat! Or they were just done with being in the car, but those hours of time in the car were also filled will many happy memories.
The happy memories were in large part because of the time and shared experiences we had together. But happy memories of a road trip take a bit of planning and preparation before the trip. It’s simple to bring the devices along with 500 hours of movies with everyone plugged into their own little world, but when you’re taking a family road trip vacation, you want to capture all those moments together. Leave the electronics packed away and read on.
Plan ahead a bit and collect a few of these things for your bag of tricks and look forward to the fun you can have on a road trip with kids. Your kids won’t remember what movies they watched in the car or what game they played on their phones, but they will remember the time spent doing things with you! They will remember the games you played together and the activities they did as you drove across the country.
“Looking out the Window” Travel Activities for Kids
The following travel activities and games can be played over and over. Your kids will enjoy these games and activities and love playing them with you! One great benefit of these particular games is that the driver can play along as well.
- License Plate Game – Keep track of all the different state license plates and see if you can find all 50. This can be a group activity or an individual.
- Alphabet game – Watch for signs on the road and as you pass through towns. Each person is trying to make their way through the alphabet by finding the letters, one at a time, on signs. J and Q are often the most difficult letters to find unless you drive past a junction or a Quick Stop! You can also include the letters on license plates if you are driving through a remote area without a lot of signs.
- Guess what’s in that vehicle. Guess where they are going? Take turns trying to make up the story and sharing it. This can be a collaborative story where each person shares a sentence or two and then the next person adds to the story. Or, each person can choose a vehicle and tell the complete story. The more creative the story, the more entertaining it will be! Be sure to start out with a fantastic story so your kids will be engaged!
- Bubble gum contests. Who can blow the biggest bubble? Make the loudest pop? Blow a double bubble, etc. This is a fun, quiet-ish game aside from the popping bubbles. Be sure your kids know how to blow bubbles well enough to keep the gum in their mouths and not blow it into your hair. (You don’t want to know why I would suggest this!)
- Road Trip Bingo – Print out bingo sheets for license plates, farm animals, road signs, etc. Or purchase some cool bingo cards like these to reuse over and over.
- Counting horses, silos, barns, pickup trucks, John Deere tractors, Wall Drug signs, Teslas, or anything that is local to the area that you are driving through. Each person counts out their own window or counts different things. No double counting. If one person calls out the horses on that field, then they can’t be counted by someone else. You could also count comparison things like Ford trucks, VW Bugs, or some other variation that each person chooses.
- Horses and cemeteries – This game is similar to the one above where you are counting certain objects. This works well if you have two kids and each child can count their side of the road. If you are counting horses on the right side of the car and you pass a cemetery on the right side, you lose all of your horses. This doesn’t have to just be horses. You can assign anything to count. If you have more than two kids, then have them each choose something different to count.
- Conversation Starter Card Game – choose a card from the stack and take turns answering the question. Once everyone has answered, the next person gets to pick the next card.
Travel Activities for Kids for Quiet Time
These travel activities for kids can provide some quiet time during your long road trip. Sometimes you just need a little bit of quiet in the car after playing games with the family and your voice is gone from reading aloud.
- Travel journals are a really fun way to document the different places you see and what you did at each place. Travel journals come in a variety of options that could include blank pages just for sketching or pages that have room for sketching and writing. Your children can use these to add postcards and stickers to add to the scrapbook feel of the journal.
- Drawing books such as Draw Write Now and a sketchbook with pencils and crayons can fill many hours of drawing while children are learning to draw. This series of books is great for the beginning artist and also for moms and dads. Simple instructions with great end results. These can also be used with your travel journals.
- Maps and brochures at rest areas and visitor centers can be a really fun way to document and plan your trip. Every rest area and visitor center you stop at encourages the kids to pick out some maps and brochures of places that look interesting. Watch what they choose and then pick out some additional ones for your pile.
- When you are back in the car, look through your brochures, and share the things that look interesting. You may need to model this at first. Open up your state magazine and read aloud about something that sounds interesting. Once you’ve looked through your stack, swap piles and keep sharing and learning.
- This is a great way to learn about the area where you are traveling as well as encouraging your kids to read for interest. Some of our favorite stops on road trips with kids have been because of something we read in a map or brochure. We also have a few places on our family bucket list because of the things we saw in brochures.
- Make stops at some of the places you read about. If you are on an Oregon Trail kick, read some stories and stop at some museums or historical sites. Often, there are hidden gems very close to the freeway or your route. They are often free and it only takes an extra couple of hours, but it adds fun ideas for your long road trip.
- Crafts can occupy a lot of time in the car while allowing each person the ability to engage in conversation and look out the windows as well. Our girls learned to crochet when they were about 8 years old and they took their yarn and crochet hooks with them on many road trips. I also crochet, so it was a fun thing to do together in the car. By the end of a long road trip, all the stuffed animals had little scarves, coats, jackets, and blankets!
- Create a crafting contest. How many beaded key chains can you make in one day? Can you make a zipper pull for each of your cousins as a gift? How many potholders can you finish for Grandma for Christmas?
- There are many crafts that are easily portable and take practice and time to accomplish. Beads, string, play dough, fuzzy posters with colored markers, scratch-off pictures, and many other crafts that your kids might enjoy. Ziplock bags are really helpful if your craft project has small parts or needs to be contained when not in use.
- Road Trip Printable activity pages are a really easy way to customize the activities that would appeal to each child. Click on the link below and get this awesome bundle of Road Trip Printable Activities, Bingo, and Games Print these out and put them on a clipboard for each child. It is so much easier to color on a clipboard than to try to color in a coloring book balanced on your lap!
When considering travel activities for kids, you need to think about how much space you will have in the car, what parts or pieces will likely get lost and how to keep those things together. You also want to have a variety of travel activities for kids so that you can rotate them a bit.
If you are on a long road trip, you might want to consider dividing up your activities, games, and worksheets into groups for different parts of the day. That way, you won’t go through all the road trip activities in the first hour. Divide up your time for the trip and then help your children stretch their imagination and creativity while waiting for the next time period when you’ll get out something new.
Travel Hacks for Kids – Keeping the Travel Activities for Kids Contained
- Travel Hack for Kids #1: A box of 24 crayons fits perfectly in a travel soap dish with a flip lid. It keeps the crayons contained and helps them not to get broken.
- Travel Hack for Kids #2: A lap desk can make it much easier for a child to write, draw, and color in the color. This can also be super helpful if they are crafting. If you are tight on space in the car, you will probably want a foldable lap desk for easy storage when not in use. With the storage compartments, kids can store their extra parts and pieces while they are working on something else.
3. Travel Games for Kids
- Card games are easy to fit into a small space in the car. Uno, Go Fish, and many others are just as easy to play in the car as they are anywhere else. Storytelling games are also really fun in the car and can also include the driver. Never-Ending Stories is so much fun and becomes a different story every time you play it. It encourages everyone to use their imagination and build a story from various pictures.
- I’m going on a trip to Hawaii and I’m taking my… This game can go on forever and can be modified to fit the situation or creativity in the car. The first person starts and adds one thing to the list. The second person says “I’m going on a trip to Hawaii and I’m taking my (first person’s thing) and then add one thing of their own. Each additional turn then adds to the list so that by the time each person has had a couple of turns, the list is quite long.
- Don’t let the song stop! In this game, the first person picks a song to sing and everyone sings along. Then the next person needs to start a second song as soon as the first song is finished so the music doesn’t stop. The goal is to see how long you can keep singing without running out of songs.
- A – my name is Albert, I live in Alabama and I love Apricots. This game is a variation of the alphabet game and you can mix it up with whatever questions each person is answering all based on the letter of the alphabet. So the first person answers the questions with A answers and then the second person answers with B answers and so on. The variations are vast! You can include animals, food, vacation places, songs, etc.
- Pictionary on a magic slate or whiteboard (you can find all sorts of categories for Pictionary type game cards online if you do a search. This way you can customize the words to be used.
4. Travel Activities for Kids Through Audio Books and Stories
Long road trips with kids can get challenging when you’ve been driving all day and everyone is getting tired. This is when you need your best tricks! Take a little time planning ahead of time and you can come up with hours of entertainment for the whole family by adding audiobooks or stories to your activities.
Yes, this activity does include your radio, but it is much different than being plugged into headphones on an individual device. Listen to these as a family. It helps the miles speed by for the driver too. Sharing time listening to books or stories also gives you shared experiences and emotions to talk about.
Travel Hack for Kids #3 – Audiobooks and stories are especially great travel activities for kids to pull out when you are still driving when it’s getting dark on your long road trip.
- Adventures in Odessey – CDs or download episodes. Christian stories from Focus on the Family are centered around an ice cream shop in a small community.
- Jonathan Parks
- Lamplighter Theater
- The Bible in Living Sound
- James Herriot – All Creatures Great and Small
- Pilgrim’s Progress
5. The BEST Travel Activities for Kids – Eating
If you started reading this series with part one, you have already read about the benefits of eating in the car. If you missed Road Trips with Kids Part 1 Meal Planning, you can check it out here. With careful planning and preparation, you can bring along food that is packable and easy to eat in the car.
Instead of getting overpriced and unsatisfying food at a drive-through, stop and make your food at the rest area while the kids are stretching their legs. This gives them time to move around while you are fixing the meal. When the food is ready, eat it on the road. This will often help you get down the road a few more miles while everyone is eating.
To stretch it further, eat your lunch in the car on the go, then ask the kids to watch for a sign for ice cream. Depending on where you are driving, this could take up a few more miles before finding an ice cream stop.
6. Our Favorite Travel Activity with Kids – Reading
Reading together is one of the best ways to pass the time and share together while driving. Check out the next post in this series for an awesome list of books to read or listen to while you are taking Road Trips with Kids – Part 3 Books to Read Aloud.
Road trip games for families, travel activities for kids, travel games for kids, and books to read aloud on a road trip will all help to build family memories and help the time pass happily in the car. Of course, these games and activities can also go on a boat, train, or plane as well.
As you plan your road trip, grab some road trip games for families to play together while you are driving. Plan your travel activities for kids by doing a bit of planning for some new craft projects, worksheets, or coloring pages, and then get your meal planning done so you are ready to make happy memories every mile of your trip!
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