Sticking your kids and the contents of your house in the back of your car and travelling across the country might seem like your idea of hell, or it might be what you have planned this summer...or both!
Family road trips can be great ways of seeing the country or visiting family. Keeping kids occupied while you're on the road can be tricky, to say the least. Thankfully, as always, we have your back. Here are 32 games and activities for road trips that will keep everyone's blood pressure at an acceptable level!
- The screen-free challenge
- The great alphabet race
- DIY dry-erase travel kit
- Ready-made dry erase game
- License plate game
- Madlibs on the road
- Coloring books
- Alphabet pictionary
- Busy books
- Magnetic doodle boards
- Travel cards
- Road trip goodie bags
- Countdown goodie bags
- Finger puppets
- Threading games
- DIY clip toy
- Travel tins
- Glow sticks
- Magnetic tangram puzzle
- DIY marble run
- Patriotic tic tac toe
- I'm going to Grandma's house...
- Family questions
- Rubberneckers collection
- Word searches
- Free printables
- Back seat organizer
- Car pulley system
- Travel pillows
The screen-free challenge
If your idea of a successful road trip is getting your iPad and phone batteries to last for the whole time, then more power to you. As parents, sometimes we've got to do what we've got to do. But if you fancy a challenge, check out our guide to having a screen-free road trip. Let us know how you get on.
The great alphabet race
This DIY travel game from Handmade Charlotte will get your kids looking out the window rather than at their video games. You can even use it on shorter journals like the school run.
DIY dry-erase travel kit
Made using items you can grab from Office Depot, this dry-erase travel kit from Simply Designing is reusable and contains 3 free printables. You can get the easy-to-follow instructions and drive away in no time.
Ready-made dry erase game
For those of you who, like me, don't necessarily have the time to make your own game you can get one of these from Capable by Design. They come in cute little bags that are easy to pack, too.
License plate game
The license plate game is a road trip classic that even I played as a child. Happiness is Homemade has a great printable for your kids to color in as they find the plates. There's also a great recipe for a s'mores snack mix, yum!
Madlibs on the road
Another classic here, that you'll have played at family gatherings and kid's parties. This little book is easy to stash in your bag and can keep you all occupied for miles of road.
As long as you can trust your little darlings with marker pens in the back of your car then they can make vibrant designs and pictures with their favorite cartoon characters. For slightly messier artists, washable pens, or crayons are the way forward.
Popped neatly in a 3 ring binder, this alphabet Pictionary game is perfect for younger children who are learning their letters, as well as older ones who want to challenge each other. Find out how to put it together, with free printables, from Lalymom.
Busy books are a brilliant, Montessori-inspired, children's toy. They're also perfect for road trips as everything tends to be compact and connected (harder to lose). You can get loads of different types, but I love this book about routine and clothing. It's washable too!
Magnetic doodle boards
I had one of these doodle boards (or a much more basic version) when I was a kid, so I love the idea of throwing one of these in the back of the car to encourage your kids' creativity. Endless opportunities for drawing that you can just get rid of when you're done.
If your road trip includes a flight, you can grab these printable travel cards that we designed to keep the family busy. To be honest, you can do a lot of these activities in the car, or at a rest stop.
Road trip goodie bags
The pros know that keeping at least one activity secret from your kids is the key to surviving the last few hours of a road trip. These goodie bags from Travel With a Plan are great to pull out at the last minute. You can stuff them full of interesting magazines, or even snacks.
Countdown goodie bags
For a little twist on the goodie bag theme, these countdown bags from It's Always Autumn, are designed to be pulled out at different locations along the way. You could even theme them to match the places you're stopping!
For those of you travelling with younger children, these finger puppets from Easy Peasy and Fun can help you tell an engaging story to keep them busy. You can switch out the characters if Little Red Riding Hood isn't your thing.
Beads aren't really the kind of thing you want your kids playing with in the back of the car on a long journey. But threading is a really effective way of keeping little hands from getting into trouble. So a larger threading game like this one is the perfect solution.
DIY clip toy
Kids Activities call this toy "road trip sanity with a toddler". We're inclined to agree. The clever clipping mechanisms provide hours of fun, and the soft toy of the month can hang out in its own ready-made sleeping bag.
Smaller versions of the busy boxes you might have at home, these travel tins from Mama Papa Bubba can be customized to suit your child's interests. My favorite is definitely the dinosaurs.
I kept my son busy on a 4-hour flight to Turkey just with stickers. They're brilliant, and weirdly compelling for small children. You can find sticker versions of pretty much anything your child loves. You might end up with a few on the car window, though.
Some kids love travelling at night. The lights, the wooshing sounds, the weird shadows. Others hate it, and need something to light up the back seat. Glow sticks can help them out while not distracting the driver too much.
Magnetic tangram puzzle
This DIY travel game is so cheap and easy to put together that you'll want to make loads of them! It's great for problem solvers and for challenging older kids. Delia Creates shows you how to get it done.
DIY marble run
Another vote for the homemade mini-game here! You can make a marble maze from a small cardboard box and some straws. Decorate it with your kid's favorite characters and they'll love playing with it all along the highway.
Patriotic tic tac toe
Planning a road trip to see your family for Thanksgiving? Maybe you can take along this USA-themed tic tac toe game. Atta Girl Says has step by step instructions, and it's magnetic so nothing will get lost!
Once you've gone a few miles, you're probably sick of all of the available radio stations. Audiobooks will be your savior. Be Family Travel have a list of the best audiobooks for family road trips. Sit back for storytime!
I'm going to Grandma's house...
My sister and I used to play this game walking to school and back. We had great fun thinking up the craziest combinations to remember. One person says "I'm going to Grandma's house, and I'm going to take..." filling the gap with something beginning with "A". The next person repeats this, and then adds something beginning with "B", and so on. You can also pick themes as well as letters.
Spending that much time together in a small box can be stressful, but it can also be a great opportunity to get to know each other a little better. Try out this list of interesting questions from Family Off Duty to see what I mean.
Rubberneckers is another great travel game with glossy cards full of things to spot. You can spot someone picking their nose, someone snacking on a burrito, the lists are endless. It's a much more fun way of playing I Spy!
Not just for filling in on the back of your newspaper over your morning coffee, Suduko is a great road trip option too. This collection is for kids, but you can stretch your little Einsteins with more difficult puzzles as well.
If numbers aren't really your thing, then wordsearch books are a brilliant thing to pop in your bag at the last minute. You can get Disney themed books, and those aimed at all different ages. It's a no-brainer.
As if all these fabulous ideas aren't enough, here is our list of 35 free printable activities. Most of these are pretty good to keep your little ones busy in the back of the car. Throw in some crayons and you're sorted.
Back seat organizer
Speaking of crayons, here is a great idea for keeping all of your coloring, sticking, and puzzling resources in one place. This back seat organizer is a fun activity station for your kids.
Car pulley system
There are few things more annoying than constantly having to pass back snacks, activities, drinks, soft toys, dropped games, etc. while you're driving. Why not make it fun? Set up this pulley system with Kids Activities so that you're front seat passenger can send back fun things to do all road trip long.
While there will be plenty of time for games, chatting, singing, and drawing on your road trip, there will also be sleep (hopefully). It's Always Autumn has a pattern for these kid-sized travel pillows. The added bonus? They also have a carry case and velcro pocket for your favorite book or game.