So you’ve planned your vacation, packed your bags and the kids are in the backseat. You finally set off on your family road trip. If your kids are anything like our kids, it isn’t long before you hear “how much longer”, followed by “I’m bored”. To help you plan your next family road trip, we have listed our 10 best road trip activities for kids.
One of the biggest challenges on a road trip with kids is keeping them entertained on long driving days. Apparently there is only so much scenery a child can take! We have road tripped with our kids in the USA, Australia, Europe and Africa. On these trips there was a lot of time spent in the car and we needed to be prepared to ensure this time was as enjoyable as possible for everyone.
We have learned the hard way that planning road trip activities for kids makes for a better trip. But I also think road trips get easier as kids get older. When our kids were young we couldn’t drive more than a couple of hours without someone losing it, big time. Now they are older there are more games to play in the car to stop them getting restless. So while road tripping with young kids is definitely possible, I think longer, bigger road trips become more enjoyable as they get older.
Devices and Technology
Before we jump into our 10 best road trip activities for kids, I wanted to talk about devices. I am always looking for games to play in the car that don’t involve technology. There are some good ones listed below. But, sometimes it is worth embracing new technology, for everyone’s sanity.
There are different tech options including iPads, smartphones, music players, laptops, etc. We have found the most flexible option is a basic smartphone for each child. They are much cheaper than an iPad, with more functionality than a music player.
We purchased inexpensive smartphones as gifts for the kids but didn’t purchase a SIM, so they can’t be used as a phone and have no ongoing cost. Smartphones are lightweight, compact and versatile personal entertainment devices that enable quite a few activities when we travel.
Click here for latest prices on the Motorola Moto E4 we purchased for our daughter.
There is no doubt these devices have made a huge difference to our kids’ ability to cope with long road trips and travel days. We highly recommend this option for road trips with kids.
Road trip activities for kids
Our kids are primary school aged, so we have focused on activities that suit their age group, but many of these tips would suit younger kids too. We are always looking for more road trip car games so please share your best travel tips below!
1. Listening to music
Our first suggestion for surviving a road trip with kids is personalised music playlists. We are big fans of the music app Spotify and used it heaps on our trip around the world. With a family membership everyone can build their own playlists and listen to their favourite music on their own device. Playlists can be saved and made available offline which is perfect for road trips.
Sometimes we will connect the phone to our car’s audio system and take turns picking songs off our playlists for everyone to listen to. We can pass many hours of a long car ride singing along to our favourite tunes. Other times the kids will listen to their music on their devices with headphones. Click here for latest prices on our favorite basic travel headphones.
It is a good idea to add some new songs to each playlist and check they are downloaded before each trip. Listening to music has become one of our kids’ favourite things to do on a long car ride.
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2. Audio books
Audio books are a great way for kids to pass the time and are one of our best tips for long car trips with kids. Before we set off on a road trip I will borrow and download a few audio books from our local library on each device.
The kids can then choose what they listen to on their device. The audio books range from 30 minutes to 4 hours. We have had many a road trip with two kids listening intently to a gripping book in the backseat.
Audio books are a great alternative to books for kids who suffer from travel sickness and cannot read in the car. Check with your local public library to see if they have an online library available.
In Australia we use the BorrowBox app.
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You can also buy your favourite audio books on Audible. This is a great option for books that your kids love to listen to repeatedly! Click here to sign up for a free trial before committing to a monthly membership.
3. Traditional Travel Games For Kids
Some of the best games to play in the car are the simplest. There are so many fun road trip games that everyone can play. These are some of our favourites for school aged kids:
- “20 Questions” or “What am I” (also known as Hedbanz). Each person takes a picture card of an animal, food or common object and places it on their forehead. They ask the others questions and have to try and guess what they are.
- “I Spy” – an oldie, but a goodie.
- “I’m going on a picnic” – This is an alphabet based game. The first person states “I am going on a picnic and I am going to bring (an item starting with A)”. The next person repeats what the last person said and adds an item beginning with the letter B. And so on until you get to Z. This is a great memory game. The topic can be anything – cities, countries, food, animals…We tend to help everyone out on their turn so the game stays fun.
- Mad Libs. A series of books and now also an app, Mad Libs is a word game where one player asks others for words to fill in the blanks in a story before reading the story aloud.
- Add on storytelling – each person takes a turn to tell part of a story. The next person continues the story with their own sentence or two. You can end up with some pretty funny stories.
- Car cricket – you may not know about this one, especially if you are from a country where the game of cricket isn’t played. Each person takes a turn to “bat” and score runs. Runs are scored by counting vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. Cars earn one point, cars with a trailer 2 points, trucks or buses 4 points, etc. The player continues to score until a red car passes, then they are out. The player with the most runs wins. It can be a bit tricky to play on large motorways, but great for smaller country roads.
4. Spelling Bee
Say a word and the kids take it in turns to spell it. This can be fun with older kids. Although, I find my kids have to be in the right mood otherwise it quickly descends into trouble! You can find lots of word ideas at myspellit.com
5. Would You Rather
Play the game “Would you Rather X or Y”. Ask each person if they would rather one of two things. E.g. would you rather fly like a bird or swim like a fish. This game is a great conversation starter and can be pretty fun too.
Our kids aren’t that keen on podcasts yet, but many of our friends have a lot of success with podcasts targeted at kids. Apps such as Castbox allow you to search, download and play podcasts. Podcasts for kids include Wow in the World, Storynory and Brains On.
Download Castbox for free. Click for
7. Assign a Navigator
If you have an avid map reader in the backseat, buy a map and have them plot your journey. My son loved plotting our Europe road trip in our Big Atlas. It makes a great souvenir of the trip too.
Alternatively, give them your phone with the journey plotted in Google maps. Let them navigate you for a portion of your trip if you are brave!
8. Play a Movie
For long travel days on motorways or freeways with long stretches of straight road we sometimes run movies or TV programs on our laptop for the kids to watch. It is a great way to pass large chunks of time.
Download the Netflix App to your phone:
9. Game Apps
We allow the kids to have a couple of simple games on their devices and reward good behaviour with some game time. We tend to hold out until the last hour or so of our journey before we let them play games.
Games such as Words with Friends, Roadblocks, Crossy Road, Sudoku, Clash Royale, Sim City and Minecraft are all popular at the moment and can help pass an hour or so. We find games to be particularly useful when they are getting restless at the end of a long day driving.
10. Old fashioned pencil and paper
There are a never ending list of things to do with paper and pencil! Play Hangman, Dots and Boxes, Tic-Tac-Toe, make paper Fortune Tellers, create funny poems together…the options are endless. Click here for latest prices on these cute Fortune Tellers.
Three final tips for a successful road trip with kids
- Don’t take activities with small, or a lot of, pieces. Whenever I have packed craft, magnetic games or puzzles it has usually resulted in a meltdown as pieces get lost or dropped. My best tip is to keep it simple. Reduce the amount of stuff the kids need to manage and plan activities that don’t need a lot of pieces.
- Mix up the activities during the drive. The kids will still get bored, restless, annoyed with each other. Whenever that happens, change it up – do something new.
- Always have plenty of snacks and a few treats they love on hand to keep the kids happy.
It pays off to prepare and find things for the kids to do in the car on a road trip. Plan some road trip activities for kids in advance to ease the inevitable boredom in the backseat.
What are some of your favourite games to play in the car on a road trip? Let us know in the comments below!
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