Planning any road trips with kids this year? It doesn’t matter if it is for Christmas to see Grandma and Grandpa or summer to head to the beach or anywhere on those bucket lists. Road trips can be a lot of fun, but they can also have their challenges. Trust me, I know all about it from moving from one state to another with five kids. We even lived in a hotel for 5 1/2 months!
A long car ride with small children is not always easy. Oh, and it isn’t easy with teenagers either, they tend to fight or get grumpy. Here are 12 ways to keep your kids entertained on road trips, which in turn will help with your sanity. These ideas are perfect for the whole family, and will even work as great boredom busters in other situations as well.
1. How to make a Road Trip playlist everyone enjoys
Before hitting the road you should definitely have some playlists for your car that both you and your kids will enjoy. How do you do this? Oh, this is the easy part. Make a list of everyone’s favorite songs, yes this includes mom and dad’s songs.
To keep things interesting, don’t just play the same music over and over again! Mix in some new tunes and of course toss in some old classics to add variation.
Yes, I said old classics such as Born in the USA, Footloose, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka dot bikini, etc.
Don’t forget to throw in a few of the kids’ favorites. But I would advise you not to have the same song on repeat. Or ya know, program the radio to only have certain channels and once an hour switch it to the next number.
Or you could have the kids sing in the car. Here are 10 fun songs to sing in the car with kids:
– Old MacDonald Had a Farm
– Head and shoulders knees and toes
– If you’re happy and you know it
– She’ll be coming around the mountain
– ABC song
– Take me out to the Ball Game
– You are my sunshine
– Ants go marching..
– 99 Bottles of soda on the wall (or whatever ya want)
If you are traveling during a certain season go with songs that are great with that. Summer songs are always fun but so are Christmas songs. Think of all the songs you would’ve song as a child. Which ones were your favorite? Things are the songs to sing on a road trip with kids.
2. Kids Road Trip Games to Pass the Time
Making up some fun kids’ road trip games is one of the biggest things that keeps all of us from getting too bored. Create fun car games that keep everyone entertained. For example, you can play a variation of I Spy or 20 questions. There is an alphabet game where you can say a word and the next person has to come up with a word that starts with the same letter. A variation on this would be to form a word with the last letter of the previous word.
Play the Alphabet Game: look at the license plates of the cars that go by you or signs on the road (this gets younger ones to start recognizing letters). For example, if the vehicle had the letter “A “on the license plate, you move on to B. The next one would be the letter C, and so on. The first one to reach Z wins! Just a few ideas to stop the inevitable are we there yet phrase we always tend to hear on road trips.
If the kids won’t totally take advantage of it, we play out of plate license plate. Slug bug (we do more like love taps) when one person sees a Volkswagon bug and calls the color, but they must say slug bug blue or it doesn’t count and another can get the. Some call this game Punch buggy. We also do jeeps the same way.
Quick list of 12 Fun road trip games with kids:
- A-Z license plate (also A-Z road signs)
- I Spy game
- 20 Questions
- Out of state License plate
- Punch Buggy
- Scavenger hunt (print off a list of things for them to find along the way)
- Name that Tune
- Name Game
- Telephone Game
- Road Trip Bingo (like a scavenger hunt, as they see certain things they get to mark them off ex: red car)
- Would you Rather?
Can you think of some games you would’ve played when your parents went on a road trip with kids? I know we also played a game where you could not say a certain word or phrase or you’d lose points. The person with the most points would get to pick the place or food item we ate that night.
3. Listen to Audiobooks on the Road
Before going on the trip I would suggest going to the store to purchase audiobooks or your local library and checking some out (free is always best in my opinion). If your children are just learning how to read, give them some audiobooks that they can listen to while reading along in their book. It’s a win-win situation because the kids are occupied and having fun while learning.
Audiobooks are a great way to hear a story or even learn a new language. I use to love to get audiobooks for Italian that came with little books the kids could turn as it got to the next page.
Popular Audiobooks for families
- Roald Dahl book collection (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach)
- Charolotte’s Web
- Magic Treehouse Collection
- Chronicles of Narnia Collection (C.S. Lewis)
- Diary of a Wimpie Kid
- Junie B. Jones
- How to Train Your Dragon Series
- Percy Jackson
- Beverly Clearly Books
- Harry Potter
4. Make a Road Trip Journal for this Car Trip
If your kids are old enough, you can also have them create a road trip journal where they will draw or write about what is happening at the moment. This interactive activity allows your children to express themselves and feel empowered.
You can have the kids begin making these booklets before they leave by threading yarn through the pages and having them design the cover themselves. Ask them what type of things they may like to include in it. They may even want to buy a map at each state so they can learn what path they took.
5. Make a DIY Lap Tray for the Road Trip!
Making a DIY Lap tray is easy! This could be something as simple as a cookie sheet from the dollar store. When we traveled from California to Indiana with a 3-year-old we purchased a cookie tray and grabbed magnets and Nicoli had a ton of fun for hours. When he got bored of the magnets he switched to a road (a printed road that we placed inside a plastic sleeve) that we laid over his tray and handed him hot wheels. Later he used the tray for a coloring activity, we pulled out crayons and a coloring book and the tray acted more like a desk.
6. Toys and Games to take on a Road
I love hitting up the Dollar Store to get some inexpensive toys, puzzles, and games for the kids to get as surprise gifts along the way. The best idea is things that will fit on their lap. You don’t want to buy them a remote control or anything like that. Depending on how long your trip is, you could unveil one every hour or every few hours.I have always loved to wrap these up so they get that extra joy out of the gift.
If you want, you can put these in a personalized road trip bag for each child to avoid the toys getting lost.
7. New Coloring Books and Crayons for the Road trip
Keep the kids busy with a coloring book and crayons! I suggest giving each child their own though so no one argues over who gets to color the kitten drinking from a bowl of milk. Coloring is an excellent activity because it allows each child’s creativity to flow while keeping them occupied. For older children try color pencils instead they will appreciate the upgrade.
Tip: If you have a printer you could always create your own coloring pages for your kids as well as some fun word searches to get them to find words they’ll see along the trip.
8. Pack Kid-Friendly snacks for the road
Pack some kid-friendly road trip snacks that your children love. If it is at all possible to fill up a cooler full of ice and snacks/drinks for the kids, always make sure there is plenty of water and a few fruit drinks on the way. We also buy some bread or crackers, peanut butter, and jelly. We have done deli meat but we’ve decided it starts to spoil throughout the road trip. If you buy meat constantly check on it or at least keep it closed as much as you can.
Snacks like granola bars, tortilla roll-ups, etc are great for kids to grab and maybe even have a snack bag of their own that they can pick from once an hour. You’ll be able to drive with peace of mind, knowing that your child is well-hydrated and is not hungry. No more worrying about finding a gas station along the way or overpaying for snacks, unless of course, it is for the frequent potty breaks you’ll probably make.
9. Bring iPads and other devices for the Trip
One of the best things you can bring is an iPad (or another tablet like the Kindle). Kiddos will be able to watch their favorite shows with headphones, and there’s no fighting over what to watch or do. Ensure that they are familiar with using it before getting on the road, to avoid unnecessary distractions. Try downloading some games they can play without wifi for those spotty areas along the trip.
You can also download movies from your favorite streaming sites that you know your kids will love. If you have more than one child and they have their own tablet you can personalize the shows for each of them. Making sure the movies and shows are age-appropriate will go a long way to keeping them interested during the trip.
10. Portable DVD Players are great companions for long trips
A great way to keep your kids entertained on long car rides is by bringing a portable DVD player. Have them choose what they want to watch or get some of their favorite videos so that you don’t have any boring downtime. If you don’t have one they can be purchased for about $50 or less and there are plenty of Redbox vending machines along the way. It’ll save on the “I’m bored.”
Don’t forget to bring your headphones. Headphones or earbuds are essential in today’s world. Having one for each passenger, as well as a way to charge them, will make using their tablets or the portable DVD player a lot less distracting to the person who is driving. This can be helpful for the teens not wanting to hear Barney throughout the trip.
12. Keep Them Occupied with an Activity Bag
You can keep everyone entertained by bringing a unique activity bag filled with different games or activities for each child. When they tire of the first game or toy, reach into your bag and trade it out with another option from the goody bag! You’ll never have to worry about not having something fun to do, no matter how many hours are left on your road trip. These bags can be personalized for each child which will make them even more special.
As you can see, there are many ways to ensure that your kids will be entertained on a road trip. Whether it’s bringing along their favorite snacks and toys or downloading movies for the car ride, no matter how long of a drive you’re taking – this is an opportunity to create memories with your family.
What do you think?
Do any of these ideas seem like something you would try out on your next family vacation?
Let us know by leaving a comment below. We love hearing from our readers!