It can be difficult to find engaging road trip activities for kids when you are competing with iPads and personal gaming systems. Don’t despair! We’ve come up with some great activities for your kids to enjoy on the road on their own or as a family. Activity books, crafts, games, we’ve got the tech-free entertainment covered for the next family road trip.
For your convenience, we’ve split our games up into 4 sections: Road Trip Crafts, Road Trip Games, Quiet Time, and Road Trip Toys.
Road Trip Crafts
The first set of road trip activities for kids is centered around arts & crafts! Read on to see this selection of fun things to do that will entertain them for hours.
Portable Craft Station
Crafting? In the car? Yes! It can be done! I wouldn’t go at it with the glitter, but if you purchase one of these Kids Travel Trays, you can load it up with all the essentials and let your little artist get busy.
For supplies, I’d recommend:
- Colored pencils
- Washable Markers
- Plain Pencil
- Pencil Sharpener
- Glue Stick
- Safety Scissors (If age appropriate)
- Construction Paper
- Plain Paper
- Pipe cleaners
- Stickers (get creative here with 3d stickers, jewel stickers, alphabet, numbers, think variety!)
- Popsicle Sticks
- Googly Eyes
Mazes, word search, find-its, the options are endless! Most book stores, grocery stores, and places like Target or Walmart have an activity books section with their kids’ stuff. Find something that follows your child’s interest (dinosaurs, Disney, the ocean, etc). Most activity books come with age recommendations, so make sure to pick out age-appropriate books for your kids.
A classic kid’s activity for a reason. Never underestimate the power of a brand new coloring book and a fresh box of crayons, colored pencils, or markers.
I love a sticker book! Especially ones that allow the stickers to be used over and over again. Some create scenes or allow you to dress up characters. Don’t want to spend the money? Hit up the dollar store for a cheap notebook and a book of stickers instead.
Paint by Sticker Books
Exactly like it sounds, a paint-by-numbers…but with stickers! Great for slightly older kids who can follow the instructions and place the stickers neatly where they go.
These are great because you don’t have to keep track of a dozen markers and the scratch stick is easily replaced with the back of any random pen, coin, paper clip, or even a hair clip.
Take a blank sheet of paper and set it down perpendicular before you. Have one family member draw a monster head then fold the paper to cover the head. The next person draws the body and covers it. The last person draws the feet. Then unfold the paper and see the monster you’ve all created!
Whiteboards are portable and great for endless drawings. Get a few colorful dry erase markers for the cup holder, a tissue box for wiping down the board, and you’re off!
Cookie tray with magnets
They actually sell travel sets that are in a tin box complete with themed magnets (like a Disney movie or on the farm theme), easy clean up with all the thinking done for you. On a budget? Grab a cookie tray and pull all the magnets off the fridge or purchase a magnet set yourself. Going to be a long road trip? Let your kids pick out a magnet keepsake at each stop to play with on their board!
Road Trip Games
Most family games can be purchased in an easy-to-use Travel Version. Think magnetic Battle Ship, Checkers, or Guess Who. Hasbro does a great Family Travel Games Variety Pack if you have a family of gamers in your car!
A classic and mess-free travel game! Simply take turns saying “I spy with my little eye something…” and describe an item in or outside of the car. The first to guess what is being described wins!
License Plate Game
Especially fun for road trips that run through several states. Have the kids shout out every time they see a new state license plate. Got a competitive bunch? Print out a map of the USA that can be colored in, whoever fills in the majority of their map first by the end of the trip wins!
Use our Printable License Plate Game to have the most fun trip ever!
Before you set off, have everyone in the family come up with a list of questions. Write these down on individual slips of paper, fold them up, and put them in some kind of container. When boredom starts to set in, draw a question from the box to get the conversation going!
If you need help, check out our fun list of Road Trip Questions for Families!
Another family road trip classic, travel bingo is played just like regular bingo only you use common road trip sights instead of numbers and letters. You can purchase mess-free travel bingo boards that allow you just to slide a marker over when an item has been spotted, or you can make your own board at home!
We also provide a free printable Travel Bingo Card to make it easier for you.
TA small ringed notebook is ideal for this game. The first person writes 1-3 short sentences but must leave the last sentence unfinished. Cover what’s been written (or flip the page) and have the next person has to start with the last word of the previous person’s sentence. Let everyone in the car have a turn then read your masterpiece aloud!
Got a family of gamers? Great! We have more exciting games you can check out in our Fun Road Trip Games to Play post.
This is a great one, especially for older kids. At the start of the trip, gift them with a special journal for recording all their thoughts and memories on the trip. I’d even include one of these handy Journaling Pencil Cases; they attach to the cover if the journal and can be filled with different color pens and even a glue stick for pasting in ticket stubs and postcards.
If you have readers in the family, take them to the book store to pick out a title for the journey! My 4 y/o (not reading yet) enjoys bringing a stack of her favorite books to flip through on a long car journey, so maybe don’t count this one out for the younger ones right away.
Audiobooks and Podcasts
Kids are getting restless, but you don’t really want to hand out the personal tech just yet, so have some family-approved audiobooks and podcasts in your back pocket! This can be tricky, especially with kids of varying ages, but we’ve got some family-friendly suggestions in our Best Road Trip Audiobooks and Best Road Trip Podcasts posts.
Yes, paper maps! Those things we used to use before GPS and smartphones? Kids will get a kick out of unfolding them and looking along the route or even adding notes or little drawings of what they’ve seen and done. There are some amazing maps and atlases illustrated specifically for kids that can be purchased on Amazon or in book stores too.
Draw What You See
Ask each of the kids to pick something inside or outside of the car and draw it. Take turns passing the drawings around to guess what they are and ask why they choose to draw it. Not an entirely silent activity, but a great one to bring the energy down and bring a little reflection into the car.
Road Trip Toys
I know, kids have short attention spans and new toys never last long, but a long family road trip means pulling out all the stops! Character sets, little knick-knacks, that toy they’ve been eyeing up for months, whatever is in your budget and sparks their imagination. Wait until kids are in the car and you’ve driven off, this will add to the Special Surprise factor.
You know the ones, those little pieces of metal wire knotted together and you have to find a way to untie them? Or the wooden cubes you have to take apart and put back together? Great for kids with inquisitive minds and a need to know how things work.
With all the recent hype of slime and magic sand, it is easy to forget about this classic squish and shape toy. Great for the car because it doesn’t dry out or really cause much of a mess. Just make sure you tie up the hair of little ones before handing it out!
Easy to find at any book store, grocery store, or place that sells children’s books/toys. The first page has a list of words you need to fill in (noun, adverb, adjective, etc) and on the second page, you insert your list of words into a story. Results are hilarious and it doubles as a great grammar activity without the kids even noticing.
Pop its, spinners, gadgets, and gizmos…fidget toys are a growing craze for a reason! They give an outlet for nervous or restless energy so your mind can relax. Have a bag of all different kinds to hand out for that final stretch before a rest stop or your destination.
Choking hazard? Not anymore! Polly has had an upgrade and can reclaim her place as the perfect compact, travel toy! She is now slightly larger but still comes complete with her own little world and a few extra accessory pieces.
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Lisa Hurd is a born and raised Californian currently living with her husband, daughter, and labrador in the UK. She enjoys road trips with her family and has fond memories of cross-country adventures with her 3 sisters while growing up. She misses the sun… send vitamin D and quality Mexican food ASAP!