Are you planning a road trip for spring break or summer? We’re planning for a LOT of time in the car this spring break, and I’m already searching for tips and ideas to pass the time for the kids. I’d like to help you out too so I’m sharing what I think are the ultimate road trip activities for kids.
When I was young, we moved across the country a couple times for my dad's job. The first of those moves was when I was in fourth grade, and we moved from Colorado to Illinois, which was completely across the world as far as I was concerned. I still remember being heartbroken at having to leave my best friend, school, and everything that I knew. Now I look back, and I think it probably was good for me to experience a new place and get out of my comfort zone a bit.
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Road trip activities for kids
My best friend and her parents were always very creative, and before we left to drive cross-country they gave me a mysterious bag. Inside was a bunch of wrapped items as well as a set of directions about where in the trip I could un-wrap each one. It was a sad goodbye but the activity bag was fascinating!
Kids love little gifts, activities, and knick-knacks. While I don’t remember exactly what was in the packages, I do remember how excited I was to get to each place to open the package. “Only 10 miles to Lincoln!!! We can make it!”
It passed the time and made me look forward to seeing new towns along the way. Also, I got to know the road atlas maps really well so it was a great geography lesson. Do any of you remember having the good old State Farm Road Atlas? We ALWAYS had one in our car.
Since then, I’ve made several such bags for friends going on long drives and for road trips with kids. Depending on who it’s for, I’ve included games, CDs for a specific place on the drive, a Rubik’s cube, books, a journal, history of places along the way, and lots of other fun items. Kids absolutely love it.
How to make your own road trip bag
If you'd like to combine a bunch of awesome road trip activities for kids into one, you'll want to make your own road trip bag or tote for the journey.
First of all, map out your trip, which you'll check into anyway.
Second, select cities or towns along the way about an hour apart, or 60-80 miles works well. Fill out the free printable you can download below with your list of cities or towns in the order of your trip (or just use your own piece of paper).
Third, the cities or towns you selected will be where the kids get to open their wrapped items. Count up how many gifts/activities you will need and obtain that many items to wrap. You can see my examples below. Also, if you have more than one child I find it best to make each kid their own bag to avoid squabbling.
Fourth, wrap the items and number them from one to however many cities you've chosen as destination gift opening spots. I usually just write the number on the package, but you can make a fancy tag if you like.
Fifth, place a filled out copy of your free printable ultimate road trip activities for kids in each child's bag and load it in the car. Make sure that place is easily accessible during the trip.
Sixth, when you get to each city written down on the paper, the kids get to open their package with the corresponding number. Yes! Joy! Finally! Ahh! Love!
Voila! With so many road trip activities for kids to anticipate and the trip will go by like the snap of your fingers. Well, maybe not quite that fast, but close. It may sound like a lot, but it really doesn't take that long to put together. If you use items from dollar store type places, it's not going to break the bank either and will be worth every penny for everyone's happy sanity during the drive.
What do you need?
To begin, you’ll want to gather all the supplies you’ll need to complete your awesome road trip activities for kids.
I like to include a map or road atlas showing our entire journey that’s not on a screen. When there are wrapped surprises at stake kids get to know the route really well. Also, they can page through and look at the different states or countries and plan out their own trips. As my favorite heroine says, "There's so much more scope for the imagination!"
Dollar store prizes
I find the dollar-type store and the Target $1 section to be awesome areas to find fun items to unwrap. It’s best to get something that’s a puzzle, game, or something meaningful to you both to occupy them as long as possible. Kids think these are fabulous especially when they're wrapped up and they anticipate opening them. In addition, they have to stare at the packages in the car, and you will get squeals of joy when it's time to open them up! You may never again see someone so excited to get to Dumas, Texas (no offense intended to our Dumas friends!).
When you create your road trip bag, you plan to have an item to open about 60-80 miles or so. This averages out to about one item to open for every hour you're on the road. Therefore you'll be needing some fun wrapping paper or even newspaper comics. You'll also need scissors and tape.
Activities and Games
Sometimes it's fun to include a task or a game with the wrapped prize or gift. For example, you could put a sticky note on the coloring book that says, "Color three different pages in the coloring book before you can open your next destination package."
My daughter absolutely loves activity books and games like Mad Libs. They're great for in the car because we all contribute words and get to laugh hysterically when the story's read.
National Geographic sticker activity books are a big hit with my son. He's majorly into dinosaurs, science, space, and all that fun stuff. So, of course, you know best what will amuse your child. Find the perfect activity book for them.
On family road trips as a kid, I always played Auto, Interstate, Car Bingo or whatever you would like to call it. This is a fun surprise to wrap up that will take some time to play.
It's always fun to throw in a Rubik's Cube as one of the items especially if the kids haven't seen one before or at least not in a long time.
I tend to DIY a lot of scavenger hunt type activities for my kids as we travel, but when in a hurry this is a great option. This scavenger hunt game has kids searching all over for things like license plates, stop signs, a red car, etc. To check it out on Amazon click here.
Whenever we go on vacation I also love for my kids to keep a travel journal. You can use just a blank notebook or journal or take advantage of my free printable. To read about it and download, click here.
Games are road trip activities for kids and the whole family
The ABC Game
In the car, one of our most popular games to play is the ABC game. To make it an item in your road trip tote bag you can write it on a sticky note and stick it to a rock or put it in a small box. Then wrap it up and you all have to play when it's destination is reached!
To play is fairly simple, but it takes a little time and is fun. The players take turns stating three things starting with the letter they get on their turn. First, you say your name. Then, you say where you're from. Lastly, you say what you are taking. All of these need to start with the letter of your turn.
So for example, I say: My name is Amy. I'm going to Antarctica, and I'm taking apples. You go clockwise around the car, and the next person says: My name is Bertha. I'm going to Bermuda, and I'm taking belly button lint. Go through the entire alphabet that way. Silly items are always popular so have fun with it!
This is another easy fun game to play to pass time. First, someone is named the spy. That person says, "I spy with my little eye something red!"
Then you go around the car giving everyone a chance to guess what that red thing is. Whoever guesses correctly get to be the next spy. We usually limit the things you can spy to inside the car because half the time you pass by them before someone guesses if they're outside.
The License Plate Game
This is a good game for a little bit older kids. My 9-year-old loves it until we get to the middle of nowhere and don't see cars from other states. First, have the child list all 50 states on a piece of paper. It's good for them. Once that's done, every time someone sees a different state's license plate you put a checkmark by it. This can last throughout the entire trip, but there's something extremely satisfying about checking off all 50.
Who else love books?!
A couple of books to read are fun to throw in the road trip tote bag. They are simple educational road trip activities for kids. If you can find a good book associated with your destination, even better!
by Laura Marsh
Are you going to Florida? Learn all about Florida animals like Alligators and Crocodiles!
by Elizabeth George Speare
The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a Newberry Award Winner, and one of my favorite books! Learn about colonial Connecticut and some interesting history of the area. Also, it has great characters and a storyline you won't want to put down.
by Nathan Hale
My daughter loves Nathan Hale's graphic novel series, Hazardous Tales. She's been reading Alamo All-Stars of late. Can you guess where we might be going soon?
Sign up for Explorer Momma's newsletter and download the printable to use with road trip activities for kids as a bonus!
Give our kids' free printable Airplane BINGO a try! Print it out and you're good to go with an extra activity for the flight.
So what are your road trip activities for kids?
We love a good road trip as a family. So many funny memories are made, and you want everyone in the best mood possible. These road trip activities for kids have worked for us. I hope you take some time to prep your own road trip tote bag! Let me know how it goes.
Now, what else do you do to occupy kids on the road? I'm always on the look-out for suggestions!