15 Road Trip Ideas for Kids that Aren’t a Screen

No…we are not there yet. And no. You can not have a screen.

There ya go…just put that on repeat like that keyboard in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and you’re set to jet for your next road trip.

Remember the fun times you had on road trips as a kid rolling around the back seat of a suburban with no seat belts or Batmobile TV screens that folded down from the ceiling of your pimped-out mini van? Your kids deserve that misery, danger, and excitement too;)

Of the 15 ideas I’m sharing, only 3 require you to spend a little money and none are messy. I’m not a fan of “busy bags” – little kids will have rifled through this bag in 30 minutes and claim boredom. Idea #1 was my saving grace driving from Nashville to Detroit 2x a year for over a decade of little ones:

  1. COUNTDOWN POST IT NOTES. Write individual numbers on each post-it note for the amount of hours that your road trip will take. 6 hours – 6 post it notes. Stick them on the ceiling of the car, window, or back of the seat for your child. For each hour of the trip they can pull down a post it note and there will be a coordinating activity with that hour. Ideas for each hour:
    1. a small candy/snack
    2. library book tim
    3. small surprise toy
    4. call a friend/relative
    5. rest time
    6. journal/draw/printable time
    7. pick out a snack at the gas station
    8. a playground pit stop
    9. podcast or book on tape time
    10. WikkiStix time!! (see below)
    11. kids control the radio time

This blog written in partnership with mama friend Bridget of http://mommaofdinos.com/. Follow her for recipes, toddlering, and more. @mommaofdinos.

**Pulling down a sticky note each hour is a mini-countdown of fun but you could also do a paper chain. I never decide what each sticky note/chain link represents ahead of time. Instead, call the audible as you see what your trip (and your nerves) can handle. Also, kids can’t tell time so when they wake up just make something up. Meltdown on the horizon – “5 more minutes until we get to pull a new post it!”

2. Get LIBRARY BOOKS about your destination. Don’t let your kids read them until you get on the road to save a bit of the excitement.

3. Download a PODCAST or three. My kids love “Circle Round” which is a story telling and fable podcast. They are transfixed by “Wow in the World” an NPR production that explains everything from farts to why cats land on their feet. Also check out “Brains On!”to get lots of cool kid curiosities answered.

4. BOOKS ON TAPE/AUDION BOOKS. Also at your local library. It’s fun for them to have the book and pictures in front of them while they listen in and of course the audible chime that tells them to turn the page is too fun. Here’s a link to a great and diverse Disney collection with super fun voices and sound effects.

5. Anticipation JOURNAL/SKETCHING – Ask your kids questions like “What do you think that camping will be like?” or “How do you think that polar bears eat?” “What kind of food do they have in New York?” etc. See what they come up either through drawings or sketches and then revisit their answers on the way back. Cheap clipboards or activity trays are great to have on hand for trips.

6. WIKKISTIX are a fun and cheap way to bring new manipulatives along without the mess! WikkiStix are wax covered yarn sticks that can be bent and stuck together easily. Check out this fun travel box on Amazon. This is a guaranteed 30-50 minutes of focused, creative fun.

7. Family GAMES! My kids love word games like “Starts With Ends With”. Take turns example: Snake, elephant, Tiger, Rattlesnake, Egret, Turtle, Eagle, etc), the dot game keeps us entertained for hours and so does the classic “Eye Spy”

8. PRINTABLES. Forget activity pads that cost…here are some great free printables from Artsy Fartsy Mama . Low odor dry erase markers and sheet protectors in a binder are great but a clip board and some crayons is just a good.

9. FAMILY DJ ROUNDS. Take turns picking out songs and go around the car playing your favorite song. Everyone gets to jam when it’s their turn and no one monopolizes the radio!

10. THANK YOU NOTE. This is a great idea for the way home. Thank your host with a kind note or drawing and send it to them when  you arrive home.

11. MINI TRAVEL GAMES. Check out your local grocer’s gaming aisle for some great pint sized travel games. Most will come in tin boxes with magnetized pieces so they can’t be lost. Our favorite travel editions: Guess Who, Hangman, and Spot it. (click for Amazon.com links)

12. FINISH THE LYRICS. Start a song and stop it…see who can finish the lyrics.

13. PLAY FAVORITES. Think of categories like candy, animal, book, movie, trip, person (outside the car, ha), famous person, singer, color, etc. and everyone tells their favorite.

14. FLASHCARDS. Find these at the Target $1 bins, National Geographic flashcards linked here.

15. OLD CALCULATOR – this can become a phone, a cash register, or anything else they dream up. It’s a fun way for kids to bang away and use their imagination. Check out your local Goodwill.

**BONUS: The quiet game. yeah riiiiiiiight

Don’t succumb to the temptation of the screen, or at least don’t succumb to it for more than a couple hours;)

Kid: “I’m bored”.  Me: “Life’s boring”.

Safe travels amigos!!


1 reply
  1. lekaleka
    lekaleka says:

    11- Kids love countdowns of any kind so the idea of doing a countdown to arrival is just brilliant, like this one where each hour they get a new activity to complete (you can write them on the back of the numbers).


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