20 Ways to Keep the Kids Happy on a Road Trip

road trips

This summer many families are opting for road trips rather than air travel vacations. Road trips are fun. Road trips are exciting, but…how to entertain the kids?

It takes a bit of planning and some ingenuity to solve the problem of what to do during those long hours of driving. It helps to prepare some games and activities ahead of time because you know best what your kids love to do and we all know it’s hard to sit still for long hours.

Here are twenty ways to entertain your young ones as you travel:

Gift a Day:

One tried and true method is to purchase small gifts and toys ahead of time. Wrap them and number them—one for each day of driving time. They can either be distributed at the beginning of each driving day or at the end of one day to be used the next. It gives the children something to look forward to.

Car Ride Bingo:

Make some bingo cards ahead of your trip. Make a five by five or six by six grid with a free space here and there. Write in objects kids can find while looking out the car window. Be creative and include things like animals, vehicles, certain shapes or colors, etc. Add at least one funny object.

Twenty-one Questions:

The person who is “it” thinks of an object. It can be anything in the world. The rest of the players take turns asking questions to narrow down the categories, but be careful, twenty-one questions can go by very quickly.

Color the Map:

Print off maps of the U.S. Kids will look for license plates from each state and color in that state when they find it. Find a printable map at Nationalatlas.gov.

Small Tins:

Find small tin cans with tops such as breath mint cans. Use them to store small toys for the road trip. You might include Crayons and sticky notes for hours of driving fun. Tiny Legos to build small structures or a  Tic Tac Toe handwritten board with colored buttons to use as x’s and o’s.

I Went to Town and I Bought 

Use the name of the city that will be your final destination of the day. The first player begins by saying I Went to (town) and I bought an apple. The next player has to say the same sentence but finish it with an object beginning with the letter B. Can you make it to Z?

And Then…

Players tell a story. The first person begins Once upon a time and tells as much of the story as he or she likes. When it’s time to pass the story on to the next person, finish by saying, “And then….” The next play continues the story until time to pass it on. And then…

Metal Tray with Magnetic Letters and Shapes

Find an old cookie sheet or other small metal tray and pack some magnetic letters and shapes. Encourage writing words that rhyme, words that are five letters long, color words, names, etc. Ask if the children can make a picture that looks like an animal, a building, or a toy.

Magnetic Animal Homes:

From Purple Cow, this fun matching game matches animals to their habitats.

Wikki Stix Travel Pak:

Wikki Stix are fun to use and easy to take along on your road trip. These come in a handy plastic box and come with an activity book offering many ideas to spark creativity as kids bend the stix.


This travel version of tangram puzzles is called Tangoes and is perfect for hours of puzzle-making in the car.

Wooden Toy Magnetic Puzzle Pieces:

This toy is a combination of a white board that is also magnetized to take puzzle pieces. It will entertain young children for hours at a time. The wooden box makes it easy to take along on your road trip.

Ed Emberley Drawing Books:

Ed Emberley Drawing books are a treasure trove for little ones. Take your pick of Animals, Trucks and Trains, or things you can make from your own Thumbprint. His step by step pictures make success just one line away.

Take N Play Hangman

This favorite word game is easy to pack and fun to play. Get Hangman before you go.


This travel bag is filled with small toys and games to keep your kids happy for many hours. It comes in bags for boys or girls.

Scavenger Hunt:

Choose from the Highways or City and Suburbs deck of Scavenger Hunt cards. Play individually or in teams to find the designated objects as you travel.

Yellow/Pink Game:

In this I Spy game everyone looks for either yellow or pink vehicles. Yellow are worth one point and pink are worth two. The first to spy the vehicles wins the points and you go to a decided number—maybe twenty-five or fifty. The winner gets to pick the restaurant for the evening meal, or perhaps gets a special dessert.

Read Aloud Chapter Books:

Bring along several really good family-friendly chapter books and read one chapter or more a day. Kids really look forward to hearing what happens next.

Would You Rather?

This super-silly game can be a life-saver when the kids get restless, but be prepared for a lot of giggles. Ask, “Would you rather kiss a pig or lick a snake? Or some other improbable activity. Give each person several chances to come up with their own Would you rather question.

Sticker Book Fun:

Time for a bit of quiet? Bring along several sticker/activity books. Kids love them, especially if they are on the current topic of choice. Dinosaurs, superheroes, favorite movie themes—all of them have sticker books available and they’ll bring some quiet travel time when you need it.

Here’s hoping your summer road trip is a smashing success and that you have wonderful hours of travel time filled with fun.

Find Jan at www.janpierce.net

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Last Edit: June 26, 2021


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