Wondering how to keep kids entertained on a long car ride or even a cross-country road trip? Here are more than 60 road trip activities for kids to keep them occupied and make your family road trip fun!
These activities are geared for ages 3 and up, but many of these road trip activities are fun for adults too! We’ve divided these up by type of activity- group games, solo games on paper, etc. You can mix these up and modify them to fit the age of your kids.
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At the bottom of this post Download your free copy of the License Plate Game! Be sure to print out one copy for each kid before you hit the road!
How Can I Keep My Kids Entertained on a Long Family Road Trip?
Worried about keeping the kids occupied, and entertained? We understand! Bored kids become whining, “poking their sibling” monsters, so you need a game plan! A good road trip plan includes a couple of key elements:
No one wants to do the same thing over and over for hours (or days!) so you’ll need a plan to mix it up. Vary solo activities with team games, switching between quiet activities and louder more boisterous ones to keep the kids entertained for hours.
Especially for younger kids with shorter attention spans, you may need to pull out new toys or activities at intervals. Don’t pull out all your best games and songs during the first few hours!
The Dollar Store and the $1 bin at Target are great for creating a bag of small surprises before you leave. Mini coloring packs, new crayons, window stickers, can all be part of this. Fun snacks count too! Bonus points for wrapping items individually- the toddler group especially loves to unwrap.
Make sure you set expectations for the trip. The amount of entertainment I can provide (and surprises I can pull out) for a nine-hour road trip is very different than what I can maintain for a 60+ Day Epic Cross-Country Road Trip. Make sure the kids understand how long they’ll be in the car overall, and what is happening that day.
We like to focus on the next stop- for example, “2 hours until our fun lunch stop with a carousel”, or “We won’t get to the hotel until after it’s dark”. These types of statements really help minimize the inevitable “Are We There Yet?” questions!
Maps are great for this- show them where you are going, and where you’ll be at the end of the day. Print out a map of the states you’ll be driving through for them to color.
Don’t Forget Snacks!
Snacks help keep everyone’s spirits up and break up the boredom. Plan for lots of snacks! Our post 40+ Easy Road Trip Snacks for Kids & Toddlers includes ideas for easy breakfasts and lunches as well.
Plan to Take Breaks
Food breaks, bathroom breaks, and just “stretch your legs” breaks are important for everyone. Don’t forget to stop and get some exercise. It breaks up the mood in the car and you can start fresh when you head out again.
Need more tips about traveling with kids on a road trip? Check out A Road Trip with Kids and Toddlers: 20+ Tips to Survive and Thrive.
Fun Road Trip Activities for Kids
There are endless activities for kids on a long family road trip, including tablets and other electronics. There are lots of apps that are fun and educational, and we all need to take a movie break once in a while! However, we do try to limit electronic time in the car (and our iPads only work with WiFi), so here are our suggestions for classic, unplugged activities for the whole family to enjoy on a long road trip.
Classic Road Trip Games
These classic road trip games involve seeing things outside the car as you are driving. There is no limit to how many people can play, you can play as a team or assign prizes to winners.
The Alphabet Game
There are two ways to play this, the first involves finding anything outside the car that starts with each letter of the alphabet, in order. You can work together as a team, or see who can complete the alphabet first. For example, you could see an Airplane, a Bus, then a Cat on a road sign… be prepared for arguments over what counts, and feel free to make your own family rules.
The second version of this game involves finding each letter printed on something that you pass, in order. It could be a street sign, billboard, store, or the side of a bus. The word must START with the letter. Feel free to make family exceptions for hard letters like X!
The License Plate Game
Keep track of how many license plates you can spot from different states! Work together or keep your own tally depending on the ages involved. See if you can spot them all! Make your own family rules, like whether cars parked in rest stops count, or if they have to be moving.
(psst… there’s a free printable at the bottom of this post to play the License Plate Game!)
Road Trip Bingo
This is a game you’ll need to print out before you leave. Download a Road Trip Bingo card and have each kid circle things as they find them along the way! This can also be formatted as a Road Trip Scavenger Hunt and modified to different age groups if needed.
The Color Car Game
Each player chooses a color of car, and you agree on how many you must see to “win”. So for example, the number is 10, and child one picks “Red” and child two picks “Blue”, you then watch the road, shouting out the numbers for your color car, whoever sees 10 of their color first wins!
Can You Spot…
This one takes a little creativity from the adult in the front seat. Look at what is coming up and say “Can you Spot…” The Capitol Building? The Railroad Tracks? The Mississippi River? If you prefer, you can make it a competition to see who can spot things first. You can also come up with more obscure things like “A Car or Truck with Two Colors” and see how long they spend looking!
The Counting Game
Pick something to count for one minute, then everyone guesses how many you’ll see. Count those items, and see who was closest! Favorite things to count include telephone poles, dogs in cars, and construction trucks. Feel free to modify to a longer time period or add your own rules!
Counting Cows is a specific version of the counting game- you count cows continually until you pass a cemetery, then you “bury the cows” and start over! A great game for when you are in a more rural areas and there aren’t a lot of other vehicles or road signs to keep you occupied.
This one can by tricky while you are moving, but it is a current favorite in our family! The “I Spy with My Little Eye” must be something either inside the car, or which everyone can see outside the car for long enough to be fair. So, for example “Something Blue” being “the sky” is fair, but “Something Red” that is a bus speeding by, is not.
This classic car game used to involve hitting your sibling on the arm and yelling “PUNCH BUGGY”. These days, it means whoever spots a car with only one headlight first yells “PADIDDLE” and wins!
Word Games to Play Together in the Car
These games don’t involve anything around you or outside the car and can easily be modified to be challenging for older kids or to include the youngest travelers. These word games are classic boredom busters for long car rides.
Who Am I?
In the traditional version of this game, each person is trying to figure out who they are by asking yes or no questions. This can be played as a “headband” game, where they wear the answer so everyone else can see it. In the car, this can get a bit complicated, so it’s best if each person picks a person and character, and the rest of the car guesses who they are. They can be anyone from cartoon characters, to someone you all know.
In 20 Questions, one person thinks of anything they like- a person, place, or object, and the rest of the car has only 20 questions to figure out what it is with yes or no questions.
Would You Rather
Would you Rather is a fun game of “this or that”- and everyone in the family can play! Print out a list of questions before you leave, or take turns making up your own! Examples include: Would You Rather be a Dragon or a Unicorn? Would You Rather eat Bugs or Worms?
Check out our post The Ultimate Family Travel Bucket List: 100+ Adventures Around the World for a free Download of Would You Rather- World Edition!
The Questions Game
This is a game of questions to get to know each other better, where the answers are more nuanced and introspective. Table Topics make decks of cards with great questions or make up your own before you leave. Examples include: If you could have dinner with one famous person, who would it be and why? If you had a million dollars what is the first thing you would buy?
The Alphabet Game
This version of the alphabet game involves starring with “I’m going on a trip and I’m bringing…” the first person adds something that starts with A, the second person repeats item A, and adds B, and so on through the alphabet. You can make up other versions of this where you can only bring songs, animals, or foods.
GHOST is a game for older kids and adults since it involves spelling. The goal is to avoid finishing the spelling of a word. The first person says a letter, the second person adds a letter, and so on until a word is spelled. You have to be able to prove that your letter actually makes a word. So if the first letter is “Z”, the second letter can’t be “K” unless that person can prove there is an existing word that starts with “ZK”. Each time a word is spelled, that person gets a letter in the word GHOST. When you get all five letters, you lose!
Team Road Trip Games on Paper
These road trip games take more than one person and need to be played on paper, or on a dry-erase board.
Tic-Tac-Toe is a classic game my kids can plan for an hour. It teaches basic strategy (defense!!) and takes only a pencil and paper!
We have so much fun doing mad libs together. This is a classic game where you fill in the blanks with silly nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. then read the complete story back. The more ridiculous the better!
There are lots of free versions online, or you can pick up this book of road trip-themed mad libs. Plus they help the kids learn the parts of speech!
This is the modern version of the game “hangman” we played as kids. One person makes up a word or phrase and draws lines to represent the missing letters. As players make guesses, correct letters are filled in. For each incorrect guess, a part of the snowman is drawn- three round balls, two arms, a top hat, two eyes, and finally, a frown means the guessers have lost!
Connect the Dots to Make Squares
This game starts with a page full of dots. The players take turns drawing a single line connecting two dots. Each time a player closes a box with their line, they put their initials in the box and it counts as one point. The player with the most points wins!
Road Trip Card Games
Card games can be a great way to pass the time on a long road trip, but you’ll need to stick to games that don’t need a lot of cards laid out flat. It can be frustrating when a pile of cards goes sliding to the floor!
Uno is a great road trip car game as it can easily be played with two people and only involves a draw and a discard pile. Use a box or a tin to keep the cards from sliding around.
Spot it is lots of fun for all ages. You flip over two cards, and the first to “spot” which two items appear on both cards takes them and adds them to their pile. The player with the most card at the end wins. This game is great because even pre-readers can play along!
Played with a traditional deck of cards, War is a simple game of flipping two cards, with the higher card winning the pile. The player with the most cards at the end wins! More luck than strategy, kids can play this endlessly!
A family-friendly version of Bull*hit! With a traditional deck of cards, take turns placing cards face down, calling out what you are placing “Two fours”, the next person must put down fives, and so on. If you think someone is cheating, call “Cheat!. If you are correct, the cheater takes the whole middle pile, if you are wrong, you take the pile! The first one to get rid of all their cards wins.
Solo Games on Paper for Road Trips
These are all games and activities that can be done quietly by one person, on paper. Kids of the same age can help each other, but two people are not necessary. A lot of these activities can be found in booklets at the dollar store, either combined or separately.
Crossword puzzles come in a variety of skill levels and are a great way to pass the time! Kids can read out a clue and ask for help when needed. Great for building vocabulary.
Word searches are a great way to practice letters and spelling skills. These are a great road trip activity for kids as they also come in a variety of skill levels to keep everyone entertained.
Mazes are another fun road trip activity for kids! I’ve taught our kids to start from the beginning and the end and try to meet in the middle. That’s fair, right?
Find the Hidden Picture
These are drawings with little pictures hidden throughout the illustration. You find each hidden picture, and then can color in the whole illustration.
We often get these in our Highlights magazine. both girls love searching for all the hidden items and coloring them in!
Connect the Dots
Connect the dots books can be simple or quite complex- draw a line that follows the numbers to create an illustration, then color it in!
Quiet Road Trip Activities on Paper
These quiet road trip activities involve drawing, coloring, or writing on paper. These will require a few supplies like pencils, colored pencils, crayons, and washable markers. Make sure not to leave crayons in a hot car or you will have a melty mess.
Coloring books range from very simple pictures to complex adult versions that are great stress relievers! There are tons of options, from unicorns to favorite cartoon characters. This Girl Power coloring book looks amazing, or you can get this one all about bugs with cool facts alongside the illustrations.
Sticker books come in all sizes and shapes. There are reusable vinyl stickers that you can use to make endless scenes (which also stick to car windows), jumbo stickers books that provide a place for all the stickers to go, and everything in between. These Paint by Sticker books are really fun!
Rainbow Scratch Paper
Rainbow scratch paper has a bright rainbow or glittery base, then a layer of black on top that you scratch off with a stylus to reveal the color beneath. Kids love the surprise color, and the mess is minimal. You can buy blank sheets for the kids to draw their own designs, a hidden pictures version where they reveal a picture beneath, or a guided activity journal scratchpad.
Maps are a great road trip activity for kids! Print out maps of your route or the states you will be passing through and let them follow along and color! This is a great way to teach map reading skills, learn about cardinal directions, as well as state capitals and facts about each state. There are great free printable maps of the US here.
Water Wow or Imagine Ink Books
Water Wow books by Melissa and Doug use a water-filled paintbrush to color in reusable thick pages. These are great for ages 3-6, and provide a lot of entertainment for no mess. Our kids got a Martha’s Vineyard-themed book and loved it. You will have to be prepared to refill the brush, and we found that the brush didn’t stay with the book very well, so bring a rubber band or plan another way to store it.
Imagine Ink books use a special marker that only marks on its book, revealing the image or colors beneath. These are not reusable, but they are no mess, and there are enough pages in the book to keep kids occupied for a long time.
Our girls will do their schooling mostly online, but they will also have paper workbooks to work on their handwriting and creative writing skills. Road trips are a great time to practice some of these skills. For E, heading into PreK-4, we got this book to practice letters and numbers. For S, going into 2nd grade, we got this fun book of creative writing and drawing prompts to encourage her writing.
Both girls also have journals to record what we do each day and how they are feeling about it. We will try to create some time each day specifically for journaling. E will need our help to write things down, but she can also draw pictures. Some kids may also like to glue in ticket stubs or things they’ve saved from the day. I think journalling is a really healthy habit to build as the girls get older. There are many options out there, we chose this and this.
There are so many fun activity books out there, from Road Trip Activity Books, to books focused on unicorns (S would love this one) or even space! Most of these involve some reading and writing, they are generally geared toward ages 4-9.
Junior Ranger Packets
If you are visiting National Parks, be sure to pick up Junior Ranger packets for the kids to work on! They have to complete a certain number of pages based on their age as well as a few other activities, and then can be sworn in as a Junior Ranger, complete with a wooden badge! Some parks are offering downloads of their Junior Ranger packets online that you can print before you go, so look for them!
We’ll definitely be taking advantage of these on our American Northwest road trip.
Postcards are a great way to combine staying in touch with family and friends and practicing handwriting skills. Kids can work on writing their messages on the road in between stops.
Arts & Crafts Road Trip Activities
Arts and crafts that are not messy make great road trip activities for kids. A mix of creativity and keeping hands occupied is a win for everyone during a long car ride.
Wikki Stix are bendable, twistable, waxy playthings that can do everything pipe cleaners can do and more. They’ll stick to most surfaces, and themselves, with no mess left behind. These are also sometimes called “wax craft sticks” or “monkey string”. These make a great road trip activity for creative kids.
Play-Doh or Silly Putty
Some people prefer silly putty to play-doh, as it’s easier to clean (though don’t let it mix with hand sanitizer or it gets gooey). We are a play-doh family- we love the many bright colors and have lots of molds and stamps and cutters to make it exciting.
Gel Window Stickers
Gel window stickers are a fun, mess-free way to decorate (and redecorate) your car windows. You can find them in a variety of holiday or seasonal themes at the grocery store, Target, or dollar stores.
Window markers take decorating the car to a whole new level. You can draw, or write as much as you like, then wipe off with a wet wipe when you are ready to start fresh.
Dry Erase Board and Markers
A small dry erase board and dry erase markers can provide hours of entertainment on the road. Play endless rounds of tic-tac-toe or snowman, or draw a family portrait!
A small stamp set and blank paper will keep little creative hands busy for hours! Make sure the stamp ink is washable.
Embroidery or Needlework
Road trips are a great time for kids to learn or practice new craft skills! Embroidery or needlework kits are great to take on the road, they tend to be very self-contained, and keep hands busy while listening to music or a story.
Knitting or Crocheting
Knitting and crocheting take very few supplies and can be very rewarding! Kids can start small with simple projects like a scarf, and move into more advanced skills like cable knits or a winter hat.
Pack up your embroidery thread, friendship bracelets are the perfect road trip activity for kids! Send the finished bracelets home to friends or make one for everyone in the car! Not sure you remember all your bracelet knots? This easy kit from Klutz has you covered.
The Japanese art of paper folding, origami is a great quiet road trip activity for kids 6+. This fun animal origami kit includes stickers to give your creations eyes and mouths, or try this neon kit with 60 pieces of paper!
Things to Read on a Road Trip
All ages can find something to read or look through on a family road trip! Be aware that some kids may experience motion sickness from looking down at a book, especially one with small type.
Smaller children can bring along picture books to look at, older children can spend time quietly reading to themselves. I Spy or Hidden Object books are a great way to pass the time.
Kids love magazines! Highlights is a favorite for ages 6-7, Ranger Rick or National Geographic are great choices as well.
My kids can spend hours looking at catalogs and marking the things they want for their next birthday or Christmas. Favorites in our family include the Amazon holiday toy catalog, LEGO, and the latest American Girl catalog.
We like to spend the morning reading out loud a bit about what we will be seeing or doing that day. This helps set the expectation for the day and means we start our activity with a little bit more background knowledge.
Plan to bring along some books to read aloud that are age-appropriate for the whole car. Reading a chapter or two of a book that you are all engaged in, is a great afternoon activity that keeps the kids engaged but calm.
Things to Listen To on Your Family Road Trip
Connect your device to the car radio and play a variety of things to keep everyone quiet and entertained!
Make a series of playlists for your trip- a quiet instrumental, songs the kids like, upbeat classic road trip songs, etc.
Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time! Play one chapter at a time- the kids can color or craft while they listen. Your library may have resources for audiobooks or try a subscription to Audible.
There are so many podcasts out there! Download a few to your device so you don’t have to worry about cell service. Our family favorites are Molly of Denali, and Grandpa’s Globe (by Purple Rocket). We are also going to try Stories Podcast, Earth Rangers, Live from Mount Olympus, and the Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian.
Family Road Trip Sing-a-long
When in doubt, start a family sing-a-long! Depending on the age of your kids, this could range from some Raffi songs to 1980s classics. This might be a great time for the kids to learn the words to American Pie!
Road Trip Jokes
Your phone is your friend for this one- look up some jokes to keep the family laughing! Knock Knock jokes are big in our family right now, but you can tell all kinds of jokes!
Here’s a road trip joke to get you started: What did the Pacific Ocean say to the Atlantic Ocean? Answer: Nothing, it just waved.
You can also tell riddles: What travels around the world but stays in one corner? Answer: A Stamp!
Tell a Road Trip Story
Tell stories! They can be real or made up. Kids love hearing stories of when their parents were little or even how their parents met!
You can take turns each telling a real story, or start a longer fiction story where each person tells a line or two before passing it to the next person in the car.
“Three Words” Version: For adults or older kids, limit each person to three words before the story passes to the next person.
“Object/Problem” Version: One person names an object and problem, the storyteller then gets 2-3 minutes to make up a story around those. Then that person names the object and problem for the next storyteller.
Toys and Travel Games
A few toys and travel-sized games can help fend off boredom on long car trips.
This classic toy comes in a travel size and is a great (quiet) road trip activity! We prefer this “magnetic drawing board” which uses a stylus, instead of the traditional “all in one line” technique.
Magnetic Play Sets
Magnetic playsets are nicely self-contained- this little travelers set will have kids dressing and playing for a while. You can also bring along sets of magnetic tiles for more three-dimensional play- you’ll need a sturdy tray or lap desk for these.
Travel Sized Games
Travel-sized, often magnetic, versions of classic board games are great for cross-country road trips. You can play Connect4, or sink each other’s ships in Battleship. Purple Cow makes a magnetic version of checkers and 26 other travel games! The pieces are quite small and then, so these are recommended for ages 5+.
Fidget Poppers or Fidget Spinners
Fidget Poppers come in all sorts of fun colorful shapes. Kids pop the bubbles back and forth on these- think of it like bubble wrap that never ends! Similar to the popular Fidget Spinners, it helps kids settle their minds by keeping their fingers busy. This four-pack of rainbow poppers should have something for everyone. If your kids prefer the traditional spinners, this one is extra cool with LED lights!
Dolls or Stuffies
We let each girl choose one doll or stuffed animal to bring with them in the car. They can spend hours caring for and making conversations with their chosen travel buddy.
Glow Sticks or Bracelets
Driving at night? Glow sticks or bracelets make a fun surprise! You can usually pick up a pack at dollar stores. But don’t expect the kids to go to sleep until these wear out!
Quiet time in our house is leftover from “nap time” when the kids were younger. We find that a bit of quiet time away from each other (or in the case of a small car, simply not touching or interacting with each other) means we all can reset mentally, and come back together in a more positive way. Adults need this too! I need 30 minutes of not hearing “mamma, mamma” coming from the back seat! We like to announce “Quiet Time” just after lunch, but figure out what works best for your family.
There You Have it!
Over 60 road trip activities for kids to keep them happy and entertained during a long family road trip. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments!
Need more advice on traveling with kids? Check out 21 Family Travel Tips for 2021: Best Tips for Travel with Kids