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Top Ten Road Trip Activities for Kids Unplugged

Unplug your kids and still keep them entertained? Yes, it’s possible! Here’s how to tune them in to “good-old-fashioned” fun activities for miles of on-the-go smiles.

  1. Conversational Car Games

    I can’t tell you how many times I have told my kids about the horror of my childhood where most of our car activities included staring out the window with nothing to do. They can’t even conceive of such a point in history. Poor things.
    It is possible to take a road trip without a game console or DVD player going, even if the kids disagree, you just have to be creative. There are SO many road trip games that you only need another warm body to play. Here are a few classic ideas:

  2. I spy. That favorite “I spy with my little eye…” game.

  3. Would you rather…? Each person poses a question to the others in the car choosing between two (often outrageous) things. For example, “Would you rather swim in a pool of ice cream or jump on a giant bowl of gelatin?” If your kids are creative, this can get really crazy.

  4. Make shapes out of clouds. On a nice day full of fluffy clouds, put on your imagination caps and see who can make up the wildest things from what they see in the clouds.

  5. Verbal memory games. We always loved the game where the first person lists an item, then the next person has to remember the first persons, then add another item. Person 3 remembers 1 and 2 and adds a third item. You keep adding items to the list and the first person to get the list wrong loses.

  6. The alphabet game. Huge, competitive favorite in our house. Driving along the highway, you have to find the letters of the alphabet in order A-Z in the street signs. We have the rule that you can’t use license plates or other vehicles for letters.

  7. Snacks

    Never discount the power of the snack bag! We swing by Publix on our way out of town to get all our favorites. Planters P3, Naked Juice, and Mott's Fruit Snacks were all on our list this trip. Having snacks in the car definitely helps keep down a bit of the complaining, and keeps hands and mouths occupied for at least a few minutes!

  8. Car Bingo/Scavenger Hunt

    Around summertime, you can find car bingo sheets or erasable white boards available just about everywhere. It’s a great way to play a game together and pass the time—while looking out the window.

  9. Baking sheets

    My friends with smaller children suggested this and it really is quite brilliant. Use baking sheets as lap desks, and the kids can do all sorts of things with them:

  10. • Magnetic games

  11. • Paper dolls

  12. • Coloring pages

  13. • The license plate game

  14. • Spelling

  15. It’s a hard surface and they can stick their papers to the baking sheets with magnets to keep everything in place. While you’re at Publix, pick up a few new ones for your trip!

  16. White boards

    These are almost better than paper. A white board in the car can provide hours of doodling entertainment, as well as provide a great place to play games like Hangman or Pictionary. Just erase, and repeat.

  17. Audio books, podcasts

    Whoever invented audio books was brilliant. You can check audio books out at the library, or stop by a rest stop that rents them when you pop off the highway.

    There are also tons of kid-oriented podcasts you can download to entertain your crew along your trip.

  18. Small bag of gifts

    Having a small bag of gifts wrapped up to dole out is a great long car trip strategy for the younger set. You can pick up small gifts at Publix for this and you can even wrap up a Mott's Fruit Snacks or two to open. In hour long intervals, dish out another wrapped small toy to entertain them for a bit. It’s exciting to open the toy and exciting to play with something new for awhile.

  19. Window markers and wipes

    This was suggested by the mom crew as a boredom battling tactic. It hasn’t been tested by me, but it sounds like a fun idea for older kids who can handle a marker by themselves in the back of the car.

  20. Frequent stops: obscure roadside attractions

    My friend makes it a mission to find weird or interesting attractions along the route of every car trip she takes. They are really my favorite vacation photos to see online. The frequent stops breaks up a long trip for the kids and keeps the whining away. Check out Roadside America, Atlas Obscura, and the AAA guide books to find a few gems along your next trip.

  21. Envelopes 1-18

    When I wrote this list, I asked about a hundred moms about their road trip activities for kids. This envelope idea comes from a mom of four, all under 10.

    For a Florida to New York car trip, she made a mini envelope for each hour marked #1-#18. Inside each envelope were activities to do like: read a book, audiobook, movie, specific car games, trivia, conversation topics (would you rather?...), joke time, DJ round-up (go around the car and each person chooses a song for everyone to listen to), etc. Movies took longer, of course.

    When activities didn't take the full hour, they had quiet time or "look out the window" time until the top of the next hour. For really short activities, two were placed in each envelope. At nighttime, she passed out glow sticks/necklaces and had a dance party as one of their activities.

    Sounds like a blast! And what a great way to break up the long hours of a car trip.

  22. Rewards for good behavior

    This isn’t a road trip activity as much as it is an incentive. My friend’s grandmother had a brilliant way to help coerce quiet in the car…even if it meant the kids were left bored for a bit.

    Each kid in the car got a cup of nickels at the start of the trip (you can adjust for inflation if necessary) and the kids were informed that Mom and Dad could levy fines every time the parents had to talk to the kids about their behavior. Anything the kids had left when the destination was reached was theirs to spend.

About the blogger

Paula Biggs

Paula Biggs is a Florida-based party and lifestyle expert, and the dreamer behind the Frog Prince Paperie blog. Inspired by the childhood fairytale The Frog Prince, Paula wanted to bring these types of magical stories to life through parties and events. Her blog is a place “where parties start with a kiss of magic,” and houses tips and tricks for party planning, entertaining, DIY, activities for kids, as well as fun recipes.

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