25 Ways to Keep Kids Busy on a Long Road Trip

Long road trips have been enjoyed, or at least slightly enjoyed, by families for generations.  And while hopping on a plane and jetting off to those faraway destinations has become more popular, there is nothing better than packing everyone and everything into the car for an hours long adventure!  

Of course, once you get five minutes down the road, you are going to hear a little voice from the back seat say the words, “are we there yet?” and your five, eight, ten, or twelve hour car ride just became a million times longer!  Now, there is nothing that I can do to prevent all of those “are we there yets??”, but I can share quite a few ways to keep those same children busy during your long road trip.  

You might already know all you need to know about how to travel with kids, gotten a few travel essentials you didn’t think you needed, looked up a few travel tips for traveling with kids, and are ready to make that long-distance trip. But how will you survive the long hours ahead? 

Here are 25 ways to keep kids busy on a long road trip:

1. Watch a Movie

If there has been a movie that your kids have been dying to see, this is the perfect time to pick it up and pop it into the DVD player or download it to a device to stream as you are driving along.  Now, I wouldn’t do this right when you are starting out, because then you have used up a precious resource at the very beginning of your trip when your kids still have some excitement inside them! Plus, I wouldn’t do it near potential naptimes either, as there is nothing worse than at least one child sleeping through it and then insisting on watching it again and having the outcome ruined by the child that stayed awake.  Instead, I would wait until maybe halfway through or when you are closer to your destination and they are ready to wreak havoc in the backseat.  

2. Read a Book or Listen to an Audio Book

Lots of children love having stories read to them, so choose this long car ride to read or listen to a book that you have all been waiting for.  Younger kids will love the Magic Treehouse Series, while older children will love anything that relates to Harry Potter or Percy Jackson.

Kids Books - Keep Kids Busy on a Long Road Trip

The best part is that you can complete a chapter or two before taking a break and then starting up again a little while later.  That will keep everyone interested and waiting to hear the next part of the story. You may even find that your kids are bugging you to start reading again!

3. Try to Spot Animals

Depending on the roads that you are driving on, you may have the opportunity to spot many different animals.  Kids will love looking out the window as they try to search for animals as you are speeding past! Do not forget to encourage them to look up, as you never know what type of bird you might see flying in the sky.  While some kids will be happy simply spotting the animals, most will need to have a game where the person who sees the most is the winner.  

4. Create a Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts from the inside of a car are just as much fun as those completed outdoors.  All that you need to do is create a list of items that you want your kids to look for as you are driving along. 

Scavenger Hunt - Best Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy on Road Trips

A few items that you can include on your scavenger hunt list are cows, a bridge, a billboard, a police car, a windmill, a tour bus, a train, road work, and a massive traffic jam (hopefully before you are in the middle of it).  

5. Sing a Few Songs

There is nothing better than getting the entire family together to sing a few songs.  You can choose to sing along to what you are listening to on the radio or you can sing a few of everyone’s favorites.  If you are afraid that you won’t know what songs to sing, simply write out a list prior to your departure. Of course, you could just ask your kids what they want to sing, as they usually have a favorite that they are willing to sing for hours!

6. Create a Milestone Chart

This option will take a little work, but your kids will be thrilled when they are able to cross certain milestones off the chart.  You can create milestones that include specific cities, places you will be stopping to rest, and even attractions that you either stop at or pass along the way.  This is a great way to countdown as you get closer to your destination.  

7. Have a Puppet Show

While the car is not always the best place to make a puppet, it is the perfect spot for having puppet shows.  Create a few paper bag or sock puppets before your trip and keep them away from the kids until the timing is perfect for a puppet show. 

Puppets - Best Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy on Road Trips

They can then use these puppets to keep everyone entertained. One thing that I have found helpful is to have multiple puppets and only hand out a couple at a time.  This ensures that you can have different puppet shows throughout your trip.  

8. Silly Putty Fun

If you have children that are older and know that they will not be putting things in their mouth and hair, you can make some silly putty to take with you for hours of fun.  Your kids can then create many different things with this silly putty, and you can even take pictures of all their creations, so that they will want to keep making more.  

9. Play 20 Questions

Since the “Are we there yet?” question gets annoying after the first couple of times, you should allow your kids to ask all the questions that they want while playing 20 questions.  You can start by thinking of something and then having your kids ask questions until they figure out what it is. Then they can each have a turn. This is usually a good game that will last about half an hour, which means you will be a little further towards your destination when your kids get bored once again.  

10. Count Cars

Depending on the ages of your children, you can make this game as easy or as difficult as you wish. 

Cars - Best Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy on Road Trips

Younger children are great at finding red cars or blue trucks or something just as easy, while older children are always better at finding Chevy Ford trucks and corvettes.  The object of this game is to see who can spot a certain number of the cars first.  

11. Play the License Plate Game

As you are traveling, you are going to see license plates from many other states, so why not turn it into a game!  You can keep a list of all the license plates that you have spotted along the way and you may have a chance at completing your list before you get back home.  

12. Take Time to Color or Draw

There is nothing more relaxing and occupying than coloring or drawing, which is why it should be part of your road trip experience.  While you can grab old crayons, markers, paper, and coloring books from home, I recommend that you take the time to purchase a few new items for your trip. 

Kids color - Keep Kids Busy on a Long Road Trip

This will ensure that your children have never seen them before and that they will be excited to use them. Oh, and if you have younger children and are afraid of what they will do to your seats, you may want to check out the Color Wonder products.  The markers that are included with those products are fantastic and will not show up on anything but the special paper that is included.  

13. Keep a Journal

Even the youngest child can keep a journal of your trip, because they can add drawings to their pages.  This is an excellent way to have your kids write down everything that you are doing, so that they can remember it forever.  I recommend purchasing a new notebook for each child for journaling and even allowing them to create something special on the cover before you leave for your trip.  

14. Give Them a Camera

Sometimes all kids need is a camera to capture what is going on around them.  There are numerous kids’ cameras available and they are quite durable, so you do not need to worry about them getting broken within five or ten minutes. 

Kid Using Camera - Best Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy on Road Trips

As long as you get digital cameras, your kids can take as many pictures as they wish before deleting the ones that they do not like and starting over again.  

15. Hand Over the Gaming Units

I can definitely understand why you would not want your kids playing on their gaming units for hours at a time, but you may want to allow them to play for a little bit here and there, just to keep the peace.  This is an excellent option for those times when younger children are napping, and you do not want them woken up or when you are closer to your destination and you want some quiet so you can get there sooner than later.  

16. Play Travel Sized Games

Many of your kids’ favorite games are available in travel size options, so you can bring the fun with you on your road trip. 

Travel Games - Best Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy on Road Trips

A few games that are perfect for travel include Connect Four, Boggle, Checkers, Tic Tac Toe, and Snakes and Ladders.

17. Play the Quiet Game

Everyone could always use a little quiet when they are tackling long road trips, so you may want to engage everyone in the quiet game every once in a while.  During this game, the only winners are the ones that can stay quiet for the specified amount of time. Anyone who talks or makes any type of noise are automatically the losers.  

18. Hand Out Activity Books

As wonderful as coloring books are, some kids need a little more when it comes to keeping them busy in a car.  Activities books normally do the trick, because they are filled with word searches, dot to dots, mazes, matching, and more.

Kids Activity Book - Keep Kids Busy on a Long Road Trip

I recommend trying to find activity books that have a theme of something that your kids are interested in, because they are more apt to be excited when you hand it over to them.  

19. Plan a Fun Stop or Two

Nothing will make a kid happier than knowing that they can get out of the car to do something fun!  While this will not completely help as you are driving along, you can at least mention that in a half hour or so, you will be making a stop at a fun attraction.  This will allow them to stop what they are doing, and they will start to ask you questions about you will be doing there. The best part about these little stops is that your kids might get tired and need to take a little nap afterwards! 

20. Create a Road Trip Bingo Game

While regular bingo games can be played in the car, a road trip bingo game is much better, because the kids will need to look for items to mark off instead of you calling off letters and numbers. 

Bingo - Keep Kids Busy on a Long Road Trip

You can create your own bingo boards or there are plenty of them available on Pinterest.  

21. Create a Portable LEGO Box

LEGOs can get everywhere, which is why they are normally not the best option for long road trips.  However, if you have a LEGO lover and you know that they will stay quiet for hours if they have their most prized possession, take advantage of it by creating a portable LEGO box.  Simply choose a box with a hinged lid that closes tight and attach a large LEGO piece to the lid. That large piece will serve as the first building block for the LEGOs and the ones that are not being used can simply sit in the deeper side.  When your child is done using the LEGOs, they can simply close the lid, and everything will stay in place.  

22. Utilize a White Board and Dry Erase Markers

There are times when children will love drawing or writing something and then erasing it over and over again and that is when you will want to pull out the white board and dry erase markers. 

White Board - Keep Kids Busy on a Long Road Trip

Of course, these can also come in handy when you have run out of regular paper and you haven’t reached your destination yet.  

23. Play the Name Game

Playing the name game is easy, especially for older children, but younger children can manage quite well too.  Simply start with a name like Shawn Mendes and then someone else needs to come up with a name that starts with the letter M.  That name could be Miley Cyrus and then someone would need to state a name that starts with the letter C.  

24. Play I Spy

This is similar to a scavenger hunt, but you will be seeing items right then and asking your kids to figure out what you are looking at. 

Kids travel - Keep Kids Busy on a Long Road Trip

For example, you could say, “I spy something blue” and your kids could respond with “the sky”. You can then say if they are right or wrong and then move on to the next item.  This game is always good for a few laughs along the way!

25. Always Pack a Bag of Surprises

No matter what you do, you are always going to have someone getting cranky on your road trip.  A bag of surprises may not cure all crankiness, but it may be enough to get someone back on track to happiness.  This bag can include a few new toys, little snacks, or other fun items that your kids may not get at home.  

Not every one of these ideas will work for every child, but they should give you ideas of what you can do to keep your kids busy during long road trips.  Start planning your next road trip now by including some of these ideas and see how much better you feel when you all arrive at your destination! 

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