Our family was never averse to a classic road trip: we drove from Michigan to Florida numerous times over the years. We would caravan with my cousins and our jobs were to keep ourselves entertained. Sometimes we did that well, and other times we complained we were bored all the way down I-75.
While boredom is helpful in social-emotional growth, there are only so many times a parent can hear a kid repeat, “I’m bored.” Keeping a list of activities for yourself and a handful of supplies can help to mitigate the longer stretches of the drive, when the novelty of the landscape has worn off. Some of these can be great family activities, and some will give everyone a break from each other with the ability to focus on something else.
Now if you’re road-tripping with a baby, start here. Otherwise, check out this list of activities ranging in price and effort to help keep the family vacation a fond memory.
1. Check Your Local Library for Content Before You Go
With Netflix allowing you to download some episodes offline, parents without access to Wi-Fi on the road have been saved from mutinies. If you don’t have a tablet, though, another exciting alternative is audiobooks! You can pick something age-appropriate and download it to your phone. Most libraries now have apps that let you directly download books straight to your phone for free. Some local libraries have tablets you can check out pre-loaded with activities for different age groups. In northern Michigan, there is a phone number you can call to hear a pre-recorded storytime.
Local libraries can be great resources, even if it’s just to get a few different albums, audiobooks, and books for your trip.
2. Make Road Trip Grab Bags
I’ve seen this all over Pinterest and other sites, so there are a bunch of different ways to do it, but the base idea is always the same:
- Assemble a group of grab bags (brown paper lunch bags work well) for your kids.
- Number each of the bags in the order you want to open them.
- The bags should have a different activity in each of them. You can make some activities, purchase a few small ones from the dollar store, or you can throw in a treat in the one in the middle. It’s really up to you and your capacity.
- Throughout the trip, pull out the grab bags in order. Consider having your kids answer a question before they are able to open the bag.
Paper fortune tellers (aka cootie catchers), like the ones you might remember from elementary school, are a fun option you can make yourself. Printable versions like these summer-themed cootie catchers are available too.
3. Play Car Games (No Supplies Needed)
There are some great classic car games: the license plate game (where everyone calls out the states they see and try to mark off all 50), I-spy, and others. One of my new favorite car games is making a story together. Each person says a sentence and builds upon the last to make a group story.
Another group game assigns a different restaurant to each person, i.e., Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s. Every time you see your logo, you count it and at the end of a predetermined time, whoever counts the most wins. These give an opportunity for everyone in the car to interact with each other and engage with the landscape around them. And the quick visual is great for littles who can’t yet read to participate.
4. Try Interstate Bingo
This is a fun activity that can be played individually or as a family. You can print out and pass out bingo boards to each family member, or you can work as a group to spy the different items and play off of one board. If you don’t have access to a printer, you can also just make a list ahead of the trip that everyone can check off items as you go.
5. Turn the Car Into a Canvas
Doodling has always been a fun way to pass the time for me and my siblings. Spend the ride making a group mural, each family member adding more as the road trip continues. You can find washable window markers and let the kids draw to their hearts content. They can also use the windows as writing boards and play Pictionary from each side of the car. At the end of the trip, wipe it all clean!
Road trips can be both fun and tedious. But if you envision vacation beginning with the start of the car, though, they can be opportunities to create lasting memories. What are your family’s favorite road trip activities?