A road trip is a right of passage for many American families. It is a time for families to spend hours on end enjoying one another’s company, playing road trip games, seeing new sights, and creating memories. My husband loves long road trips. We usually end up taking at least one road trip with kids each year and have learned which road trip activities for kids work, and which ones don’t.
The longest car ride with kids was from Chicago to San Antonio, and we have made several trips to Nashville and New York by car. Each time I swear I will never, ever, take a long car ride with three children again. However, we continue to take family road trips, so I’ve found some awesome road trip activities for kids to help pass the time.
In order to survive, I have researched for hours on end for the best travel games for kids. I think the kids would agree I have come up with some creative games and activities that make our road trips a success. We try to make an effort to entertain the kids without technology for as long as possible.
We are not perfect, and devices and a portable DVD player do come out in emergencies. Screen time does happen, but we do our best to limit it on a long car trip. As we enter the road trip season, here are some fun ways to pass the time with these unplugged road trip activities.
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. Please check out our disclosure policy for more details. Thank you for your support!
25+ Awesome Car Games for Kids
Quiet Individual Road Trip Activities for Kids
1. Sticker Books
Kids of all ages love sticker books. Our kids love the ones where the stickers can be peeled and reused in the sticker book.
2. Travel Etch A Sketch
I used to love this when I was a kid, and I love that there is now a travel-size version for my kids. It’s perfect for getting those creative juices flowing while you’re on the road.
3. Magnets with a Cookie Sheet
A cookie sheet makes an excellent base for any magnet set or building blocks while riding in the car. It provides space for your child to be creative and keeps magnet pieces from getting lost.
We think magnet tiles are pretty awesome. I love the magnetic tins because the magnets come with interchangeable magnetic scenes inside their own carrying case. Some of my favorites are a Little Travelers magnetic tin and this Eric Carle one.
4. Silly Putty
Another throwback to my childhood, I prefer silly putty over playdough because it doesn’t seem to break up, dry out, or stick to everything. Make sure not to use it if you have just used hand sanitizer, for some reason this makes it turn gooey.
This may not provide hours of fun, but every little bit of time passed is time closer to your destination!
I would liken Perplexus to the Rubik’s Cube of the 21st Century. The object is to direct a small silver ball through a maze within a 3-D sphere by twisting and turning the larger ball around and keeping the smaller ball on the track within.
This keeps my kids busy for hours and there are different versions of Perplexus, so once they have mastered the first level, they can try one of the other ones. I would definitely say this is one of the best road trip games we’ve found.
6. Pipe Cleaners
Pipe cleaners are one of those items where creative possibilities are endless. Some kids will make jewelry, others will make stick figures, and then there will be the creations you can’t figure out. Pick some up at a craft store. They are inexpensive and kids just love to twist them around.
7. Coloring Books and Colored Pencils
Coloring books are a wonderful option for entertaining toddlers and even young grade school children on a road trip. Be sure to bring colored pencils or washable markers.
The last thing you want to bring is crayons because if they get lost, they could melt in your car and cause quite a mess.
8. Scratch Art Notepads
I sure wish I had invented these little moneymakers. These scratch art notepads come with blackened coloring pages and your child uses a wooden stylus or stick to reveal the hidden image below.
You can find these with farm animals, superheroes, or princesses. This road trip activity causes very little mess and takes up barely any room in the car.
9. Maze Books and Boards
Children of all ages love mazes. There are wooden mazes to choose from for toddlers like the one from Melissa & Doug below or books of mazes such as this one from Everything Kids. These are guaranteed to help pass the time!
10. Books – Audio, Read-Aloud, and Individual
I am the first to admit we have been blessed with three kids who love to read. Before each trip, we head to the local library to find new books for everyone to take along on the road trip.
Our library has digital media players with books pre-loaded onto battery-operated devices that come with headphones. Each kid checks out a couple.
I also choose a read-aloud book to break up the monotony of the trip and we let them choose two to three books they want to bring along. If they lose any of the books on the road, they replace them.
We’ve also found audio books to be a great way to break up a long trip.
11. A clip board, white drawing paper, and a stamp set
Your child’s creative juices will start flowing with a sheet after sheet of white paper to use as a blank canvas for their next masterpiece.
Melissa & Doug make several different stamp sets with washable, non-toxic ink. Get out the stamps and let your child go crazy! (Just make sure to tell them where the stamps can’t go: their faces, the car seats, their siblings, etc.). These are great to add to road trip goodie bags as a fun surprise.
12. Trip Journal and Postcards
This is one of my favorite road trip ideas. Have your kids brush up on their writing skills by having them keep a travel journal along the way. Give them writing prompts such as: “The best part of the trip was…”, “I can’t wait until we…”, “I am looking forward to visiting…”, or “I couldn’t believe…”.
You could also stop and buy postcards at the gas stations along the way and let them write postcards to friends or a family member back home. Be sure to bring some stamps with you, and have their addresses handy. Kids love receiving mail and this is a great way to keep in touch with friends back home.
13. Miniature Dry Erase Board and Dry Erase Markers
I love the magnetic game pieces that stay in place and come with a compact carrying case.
14. Travel Magnet Chess or Battleship
A travel magnet chess set or magnet checkers is perfect for older kids who understand the games or want to learn. The best part is that these games can pass hours on a car ride. I love the magnets so the pieces stay in place and they have a compact carrying case.
15. Spot It!
My youngest loves playing Spot It! (and was a major cheater before we started reading the rules), and once we learned how the game was played, we were hooked too.
The object of the game is to find the matching objects on the two cards that are flipped over at the same time. The person who says “Spot It!” first, wins the pair. The person with the most pairs, in the end, wins.
What we learned was that our son was saying “Spot It” without really seeing the pair, in order to give himself time to find the pair. Smart kid. Now he has to say the item that he sees on the card with the match.
There are other ways to play this fun game too. There is an instruction sheet that comes along with the game. It’s fun to play in the car and in a hotel as well.
Road Trip Games to Play as a Family
16. Mad Libs
We laugh so hard when we play Mad Libs. We have to explain nouns, adjectives, and verbs to our youngest, but this can entertain us for quite a while. If you’re looking for a fun road trip game, this is one of the best.
It can also distract the kids in a restaurant while waiting for food to be served. We usually buy a couple of different versions to last throughout the trip.
17. License Plate Game
This game is easy to play since all you need is a pen and paper. Take it up a notch by printing out a map of the United States and letting the kids cross off each state as they find license plates from that state. A lesson in geography and the kids don’t even know it!
You can also download a free printable license plate game or hundreds of other printable road trip games. Just print them off and you’re ready to go!
18. I Spy
There are a couple of ways to play this game. One person selects an item and says, “I spy something that is green, or starts with the letter “A”, etc….” and the others in the car try and guess the object.
This works as long as your child doesn’t change their answer (we have one that likes to do that). Another option is to make an I Spy printable sheet (you can Google “Road Trip Printables”) and give one to each child so they can play as you drive along. Think of it as a road trip scavenger hunt.
We played this game on every family road trip when I was a kid, so it is only fitting that I now play it with my children. The first person begins a word by choosing a letter of the alphabet, then the next person adds a letter, then the next, etc. until the word is complete. You do not want to be the person to finish the word, or you get a “G”. The first person who spells G-H-O-S-T by ending the most words is out.
Example: Dad says: “A”, mom says “P”, John says “P”, Fred says “L”, Joe says “E”. Joe completed the word APPLE, so he gets the letter “G” of G-H-O-S-T. Words must be longer than three letters to be valid. I don’t know who made the rules, but we have fun passing the time with this game and it’s great for the entire family.
20. The Question Jar
This is one of those tools every parent should have in their bag of tricks. It doesn’t have to be an actual jar, it can be a paper bag or any container. Before you hit the road, type up (or have your kids write out) 20-30 questions for road trips they would like to ask. Here are some sample questions:
1) What do you think your parents were like when they were young?
2) Do you like to snuggle? Who is the best smuggler in our family?
3) If you could have any gift in the world, what would it be and why?
4) Name three words that best describe you.
5) Is it better to give or to receive? Why?
You get the idea. These questions set the stage for some great conversations and as the kids get older, I can see them becoming a more important and meaningful part of our road trips.
Still looking for questions to ask your kids? Check out TableTopics, they are perfect for road trips and dinner time!
21. Deck of Cards
It can be difficult to manage playing cards while the car is moving, but there are some card games that can be played on the go. Bringing along a lap desk to use as a travel tray is a good idea to keep cards in order. Consider playing a classic game like Go Fish or Crazy Eights.
22. Road Trip Bingo
You can purchase travel bingo cards online or make your own at home. Some fun ideas include locating different road signs, identifying different shapes as you go along, finding signs in a different language, or even finding different cars, buildings, or animals.
Try this classic road trip game and we are sure time will fly by on the open road.
23. Pack a ball or frisbee
I wouldn’t recommend using these in the car, but they’re great to have when you stop at a rest stop, restaurant, or grocery store. Give kids a ball or frisbee or foam football and let them blow off some energy. After a long drive, they will appreciate an opportunity to run around and have some fun!
24. Alphabet game
This is a great game to play with all ages, especially if older siblings love a good competition.
Someone chooses a category. For example: candy bars, animals, food, movie titles, etc. The first person has to name something in that category that starts with the letter A. They have 5-10 seconds to come up with an answer. The next person has to answer with something that starts with the letter B, and so on.
If a person is unable to come up with a word in that category with their letter, they’re out of the game. This will definitely make the time pass quickly as everyone is desperate to come up with the best ideas.
25. Guess that song
This is a fun one to play if your kids love music and like to sing along. Turn on the radio (or your playlist) and play a few notes from the song. The first person to name the tune gets a point and the first one to ten points wins. Some of the best road trips are made of laughter and this one is sure to be fun!
We hope you’ve found some travel activities that will entertain your whole family. Whether you’re traveling with younger kids or trying to engage with your teens, these are the best road trip activities out there. Be sure to bring these along on your next road trip!
Looking for more family fun? Don’t miss these 100 games to play on a family vacation.