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Road Trip! 17 Ways to Keep the Kids Happy

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 17 ways to entertain your young ones as you travel:

1. A 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.

21 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, 21 questions can go by quickly.

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 in a tin:

  • Crayons and sticky notes for hours of driving fun
  • Tiny Legos to build small structures
  • Tic-Tac-Toe handwritten board with colored buttons to use as x’s and o’s

5. “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 with “Once upon a time” and tells as much of the story as they like. When it’s time to pass the story on to the next person, finish by saying, “And then…” The next player continues the story until time to pass it on.

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, color words, names, etc. Ask if the children can make a picture that looks like an animal, a building, or a toy.

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

Tangrams. The 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. 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.

Scavenger hunt. 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. 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. Your kids will 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 you have wonderful hours of travel time filled with fun.

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and the author of Homegrown Readers and Homegrown Family Fun. Find her at



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