If you have a long car ride with kids in your future and you’re in need of fun road trip activities to keep everyone happy and entertained, this post has lots of ideas to inspire you! Whether you choose to create your own DIY activities, or prefer the convenience of store bought options like me, we’ve curated our favorite family-friendly travel games and independent activities for kids of all ages and stages below. From scavenger hunts and travel BINGO, to magnetic game boards and puzzle books, to brain teasers and a really cool ‘shape shifting box’, these screen-free activities are small and compact, and offer the perfect way to beat boredom and connect as a family on your next road trip.
6 Tips to Survive Long Car Rides with Kids
Before we dig into those road trip activities, here are a few tips and ideas to set you up for success while you travel with your little ones!
1. Get Into The Right Mindset
No matter how much you plan and prepare for your travels – and how many snacks you pack and road trip activities you organize – your attitude will play a huge role in how everything plays out. As much as you want to be in control of your time in the car, much of what happens is completely out of your hands. It’s impossible to predict what traffic will be like, if someone will hurt themselves or fall ill, what kind of mood your kids will be in, if they will enjoy the activities you’ve planned, and if they will sleep as expected. But if you let go and adopt a positive attitude, you will be better able to handle whatever happens along the way.
2. Timing Is Everything
While it’s not always possible to schedule long car rides with kids around naps and bedtime, you are much more likely to have a smooth journey if you start off with a well-rested child. If your little one struggles to sleep in the car, plan your trip for first thing in the morning, and put your child to bed earlier than normal the night before to make sure he or she isn’t tired and cranky. If your child is a car sleeper, you may consider traveling at night so he or she can sleep for most of it. You know your child best, so try to organize your travel around his or her schedule.
3. Pack Lots of Snacks
Another extremely important tip for surviving long car rides with kids? Snacks! Lots and lots of snacks. While you can certainly stop to get food along the way – which is sometimes part of the fun – having your child’s favorite foods on hand can make a huge difference. Not only does it save you time, but it also ensures you aren’t scrambling to find something they can eat when your options are limited. Squeeze all of your child’s favorite foods into some of these inexpensive bento box containers, and invest in a couple of these PackIt Freezable Lunch Bags to ensure nothing spoils.
4. Make a Surprise Travel Bag
I first heard of this idea from a mom who travels around the world regularly with 6 (yes, SIX) children, and it has been a life changer for me. Whenever we travel, I put together a bag filled with brand new toys and activities for my daughter. I stock up on dollar store toys and things I find on sale in the weeks leading up to the big day, and usually get a couple of things she has been eyeing at her favorite toy store. It’s a bit indulgent, but I find it goes a long way in keeping her excited and happy during the journey. I don’t show her any of the items before we travel, so it’s a complete surprise once we’re on our way to our destination.
Pro tip: If your child struggles to sit still for long periods of time and/or you are undertaking a particularly long car ride, consider wrapping a few items up in wrapping paper, and surprising your child periodically along your journey. It adds a little excitement, and it’s a great way to reward your little one for good behavior.
5. Invest In A Disposable Travel Potty
If you’re traveling with young kids, aren’t sure there will be ample rest stops along your route, and/or the idea of public bathrooms makes you cringe, a disposable travel potty is a great idea to consider. This travel potty by Playtex is sturdy enough to hold a 60 lb child, and it’s incredibly compact. I wish they sold these when my daughter was younger!
6. Organize Road Trip Activities for Inside AND Outside of the Car
In addition to organizing road trip activities your kids can do in the car, make sure to pack a few items your little ones can play with at rest stops to help them stretch their legs and get some energy out. A basketball, soccer ball, baseball and mitt, jump rope, and hula hoop are all great ideas as they can be enjoyed by the whole family, and are small enough not to take up too much room in your car.
27 Road Trip Activities for All Ages
If you’re on the hunt for road trip activities for kids, I assume you already have an iPad loaded with TV shows, movies, and audiobooks and that you’re looking for a mix of ideas you can enjoy as a family and for your child(ren) to do independently. The ideas below are a great way to keep everyone happy and entertained, and work for all ages and stages.
Mess Free Coloring
Travel Scavenger Hunt
Paint by Sticker
Handheld Water Game Arcade
Travel Tangram Puzzle
Melissa & Doug Reusable Stick Playsets
Guess in 10 Travel Game
LEGO Travel Suitcase Building Kit
I Spy Travel Card Game
Flashing Cube Electronic Memory Game
Kids Conversation Starters
Travel Activity Game Pad
Electronic Simon Says
The Everything Kids’ Games & Puzzles Book
Family Brain Teasers
Where’s Waldo Activity Books
Kids Word Search Puzzles
Travel Word Spin
Mad Libs on the Road
Magnetic Board Game Set
SHASHIBO Shape Shifting Box
I hope these road trip activities keep you and your kids happy and entertained while also enjoying time together on your next family vacation!