They say, “Getting there is half the fun,” but when you are traveling with kids, it can feel like getting there is half the battle.
Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with my kiddos, but it does involve a lot of work and planning to keep them entertained on long road trips.
It’s all fun and excitement and rainbows and butterflies when we pull out of the driveway. Then…eight and a half minutes later…”Mom, how much longer?” and “Mom, I’m hungry.” and “Mom, I have to pee.” and “I’m boooooored.”
You know. You’ve been there.
We have survived a few road trips (once I drove 14 hours in one day with a two & four year old). It was tough, but I lived to tell the tale.
We’ve tried lots of ways to entertain the kids and keep them happy while riding down the road for hours at a time. Some ideas worked. Some…not so much.
And all kids are different, so maybe these ideas will help you or at least give you an idea you can adjust to your kiddos’ liking. Some of these activities are a little messy. Honestly, I’d don’t mind doing extra cleaning in the car if it buys me a few hours of peace during our road trip.
Okay…we’re all packed up…ya’ll ready to go?
Snacks & Drinks in a Cooler
Eating and drinking are activities, right? It’s definitely my favorite activity. This is really a lifesaver when traveling with kiddos. I remember when mine were really little, we were traveling to New York. I had one fast asleep in their car seat and one begging for food. And, of course, I had no food in the car. When we stopped to run through a drive-thru, my sleeping baby woke up and was cranky for a long time afterwards. After that experience, I made sure to have plenty of snacks and drinks in the car at all times. It also ends up saving us money in the long run (the cost of gas station snacks and eating out adds up quick) and the snacks from home are always healthier than the ones we usually find on the road. Suggestions: Bottled waters, juice, fruit cups, string cheese, veggies, popcorn, etc.
Sometimes I buy the physical DVD and sometimes I buy a movie for digital download. It really depends on how much storage we have available on our devices. We have several DVD’s that we have purchased in the past, and I bring the kiddos favorites for the trip. Movies are also available through Redbox and the Local Library, which could save a lot of money.
We also subscribe to Amazon Prime and we have downloaded the Direct TV APP. Many people I know really like HULU and Netflix on the go. They only work in our car with unlimited data (which we have – it’s costly, but so worth it for us) or we wait until there is WIFI in the hotel.
We have a TV & DVD that is built in to our car, but many families bring a laptop that plays DVDs and that has worked well for them.
***DON’T FORGET THE HEADPHONES!
I have learned this the hard way, listening to Dora the Explorer’s annoying, squeaky voice and the ping-ping-ping of a Sonic the Hedgehog game at the same time is enough to drive anybody nuts!
The kiddos always bring their iPad Mini’s and sometimes they get a new game for the trip (it is 2.99 well spent). A new game holds their attention for quite a while and I can get some driving done. The kids have so many games now that they don’t ask for new ones anymore (especially since they’ve discovered Mine Craft).
If it is a really long trip, I will let my son bring his Wii U to play games in the car for a while. Eventually, the kiddos get bored with the games, feel car sick, or get that glazed-over, zombie look in their eyes. That’s when I know it’s time to move on to something new.
DON’T FORGET THE HEADPHONES!
Small Gifts and/or Goodie Bags
I like to go to Michael’s Craft Store the day after Christmas, and all of the seasonal products are dirt cheap. I get arts and craft supplies, kids drawing books, activity kits, crayons, pencils, mini toys…etc. I like to save these for road trips that we will be having later on in the year. They are perfect for small gift boxes or goodie bags for the car ride. The kiddos can get a little gift box or goodie bag every hour with a new toy or activity. It keeps them entertained and it is something that they look forward to.
My kids tell me that my 90’s music is “too 80’s”. What?!?!? So I just prepare myself for a Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Taylor Swift marathon. Listening to upbeat music really entertains them and puts them in a good mood and makes the time seem to pass more quickly.
Sometimes, mini games are a great idea. Sometimes, my kids are super competitive and this turns into World War 3. These seem to work the best if it’s one little kid playing with an adult or older kid. Or if a kid wants to play a game by themselves.
When the kids were little and couldn’t read on their own, I would bring picture books. They also would look at interactive books and books that made sounds or had moving parts. Now that they are getting older, they can sit and read their favorite books on their own. We like to bring a mini flashlight so that they can also read at night.
These are great for entertaining kids while on a road trip. They can be borrowed from a library or purchased and downloaded.
Notebooks/Coloring Books/Activity Books with Crayons and Pencils
My daughter is a little artist and she loves to draw and color. I make sure to bring plenty of notebooks, crayons, pencils, and coloring pencils (I buy them when they are on sale right before school starts). I also like to find the kiddos coloring books and activity books to keep them busy while we are traveling.
Click Here for FREE Printable Coloring Pages from Crayola.com
Arts & Crafts Supplies
My kids love anything that involved a glue stick and/or magic markers. They also love arts and crafts and we always have supplies stored in our house and I usually pack up a little tub with a few activities for them. We also bring a cookie sheet from the dollar store or bring one of these:
*For some simple activities, I can make some simple cuts (like hearts and circles) out of construction paper. I cut the paper shapes before the trip and put the paper pieces in an envelope for the trip. The kiddos can open their envelopes, and use their glue sticks to make a cute FOX or PENGUIN paper craft.
*HERE is a great resource for cute Origami Crafts. They come with simple instructions.
*I like to pick a few leaves before we head out for a road trip since my daughter loves leaf tracing ( or if they are super hyper and excited about the trip, I let them pick some leaves while I finish loading up the car). A few sheets of printer paper, crayons and a few leaves and she is entertained for quite a while.
Or the kiddos can take their leaves, glue stick, and paper and make leaf animals. I saw a great leaf art/animal project idea HERE. So CUTE! These are a lot of fun, especially in the fall with all the variety of leaf colors.
Pipe Cleaner & Beads
I bought some cheap pipe cleaner and beads at the dollar store for one of our road trips. I asked my daughter to make some jewelry with it. She spent a lot of time making bracelets and necklaces. Then she decided she was going to have a “jewelry store,” and needed to make lots of jewelry. This entertained her for over an hour (one hour of quiet kids on a road trip is the equivalent to 6 hours under any other circumstances). This also works best on a cookie sheet, aluminum pan, or lap tray. It also helps to have the pipe cleaner and beads in a Ziploc bag or tub. Honestly, I still find beads under the seats when cleaning the car (along with rogue socks and half eaten french fries). Again, it’s worth cleaning the beads later to have an hour or two of happy kids in the car.
FREE Printable Games & Activities / Travel Binder
I know a lot of moms who like to make travel binders to entertain their children on long car rides. There are lots of FREE Printable games available to be printed for those binders. Some like to use crayons and pencils on the paper, and I have seen some moms who put the print-outs in a plastic sleeve and the kiddos use them over and over again with EXPO markers. Here are some FREE printed games your kids may enjoy:
FREE Printable Bingo Game
FREE Printable Travel Games from Education.com (Education.com offers 10 FREE prints per month)
FREE Printable Coloring Pages from Crayola.com (I like to look under Social Studies for US State coloring pages)
FREE Printable Drawing Prompts for Kids on Road Trips
FREE Printable Games and Activities for Kids on Road Trips
My daughter loves Where’s Waldo (and similar Seek & Find Books). It’s nice that Where’s Waldo activities come in book form and also come in an APP (see link below).
Where’s Waldo APP
Where’s Waldo Books link here:
I Spy Game
My kids love to play the I Spy game. We mix it up and “spy” things that are a certain color or things that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet.
The kids have recently “invented” a game where one of us give a clue or two about a cartoon, movie, or kid show. Then we ask questions to figure out the name of the show. It’s kind of like 20 questions, but about cartoons.
They have also invented a game where we say the year a person was born and the year it is now (we use dates from the past and the future). Then we have to figure out that persons age (Example: Born in 2002, the year now is 2025 = 23 years old). I have NO IDEA why, but they love this game. I haven’t told them that we are doing math problems…Hey, whatever works…
My kiddos love Wikki Stix. They’re colorful. They bend and twist. They are sticky. What’s not to love?
My kids love to talk. Love it. And we talk at home a lot. But in the routine of every day life, sometimes the conversations are mostly about breaking up fights or putting on pants. On road trips, my kids love having their parent’s undivided attention and talking non-stop about whatever is on their mind (right now, it’s American Girl Dolls & Mine Craft).
My kiddos love to take pictures. We have gotten them a couple little cameras that are really inexpensive and durable. The kids like to take pictures of things they see outside the car like landscapes, animals, and buildings. They also like to take 40 billion silly face selfies. I have to sift through all the photos to save only the decent ones, so they’ll have room on the memory card for taking more photos later. Using the camera usually entertains them for quite a while.
My daughter discovered these at her orthodontist’s office and she LOVES them. It is an 8.5 tablet that comes with a stylus. The kiddos can write whatever they like, and with a push of a little button, a light flashes and erases what they wrote. It comes with a battery that never needs to be replaced, which is nice. There are several colors and varieties at different prices on Amazon.
Play-doh & Slime
This stuff annoys the you-know-what out of me, but my kids love it. It entertains them FOREVER! We have learned to bring a small cookie sheet or tray along with plastic spoons, forks, and knives (not when they were little). They also like stamps and cookie cutters to use when playing with play-doh. This is one of those activities that can end up being messy. It helps if the play-doh and slime are kept in an aluminum pan or a small cookie sheet and put neatly back into their tubs (yeah right). I usually buy these at the dollar store.
Spot It Game
There are a few ways to play this game and there are several versions of this game available (including Disney Character Versions). It is an award winning game that is great for teaching kids to focus and helping them with their fine motor skills. The kiddos just think they are having fun.
Pillows & Blankets
My kiddos almost always take a nap on a road trip, even as they have gotten older. After we make a pit stop and run around for a while, they are ready to rest. I make sure they have their pillows and blankets so that they are as comfortable as they can be while resting in the car. Even if they don’t fall asleep, they can use the pillows and blankets to get all snug and cozy while they watch a movie or listen to a book.
Window Crayola Markers
These are great for entertaining kiddos while riding in a car and the ink washes off easily with a baby wipe. There is a big variety of these, but most say they are not for children under 3 years of age.
Favorite Toys from Home
Whether it’s Hot Wheels or a stuffed animal or a Barbie doll, kids always seem to have that one toy they can’t get enough of. At one time, my daughter was crazy about the mini princesses with the tiny dresses and shoes. She could dress them up in the car for hours. Now she is really in to American Girl dolls. She likes to play with their hair and dress them up in different outfits. I have noticed that bringing their favorite toy(s) doesn’t just entertain them, the toys seems to be comforting to them when we are staying in new places.
Melissa & Doug Activities
I love the quality and variety of Melisssa and Doug toys. My kids love them too because they are so fun and entertaining. Here are a few of my kiddos favorites:
(more varieties available on Amazon)
Let Them Daydream
I love to just see my kids looking out the window, singing or making up stories, using their imagination.
And I try to make sure that I bring a small garbage can or bags, cleaning supplies like Lysol wipes, and a mini vacuum (Dust Buster?).
And we have learned to make sure the kiddos get a break from sitting in the car and make a few Pit Stops.
These are a few things that have worked very well for our family, and my also work for your family.
How do you entertain you kids on a long road trip? I love to here your suggestions in the comments below!
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. All opinions are my own.
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