I recently just purchased some fun road trip games and activities for kids to take on our cross country trip. My hope is that these car activities will pass the time and make some fun memories as a family! We’ll be driving over 2,000 miles with 4 kids ages 8 and under, so wish us luck.
While I’m positive my kids will be getting an embarrassing amount of screen time, I want to have plenty of screen free time built in to each day as well. You’re sure to find new car games, activities, and podcasts here that are new to you!
If you have toddlers or kids who don’t read yet, scroll to the bottom.
Weird things your kids will remember from your road trip
I remember taking a cross country road trip in 2nd grade. This was before movies in cars or GPS, and before cell phones! If you’ve forgotten what road trip memories kids will hang onto…it’s not the stuff you’d expect.
Looking back some highlights of this 2nd grade girl were:
- Playing with my brother at the pools in each hotel.
- The gameboy that my brother and I traded turns playing. It had a screen size of about 2 square inches and helped pass the time like no other!
- Mini sugar cereal boxes…and always some milk in the van cooler.
- Sips of my mom’s sweet coffee from the gas stations.
- Earning enough money to buy a candy bar at the next gas station by giving my mom or dad head-rubs while they drove.
- Car games. We had a bunch of them and I loved trying to find all 50 states on license plates!
- Endless Brain Quest questions…I was so entertained by them.
Road trip games for kids
I realize not all road trip games for kids will be loved by all the kids in the car. Since we have a pretty big spread and a LOT of miles to cover over about 2 weeks, I’ve purchased quite a few I’ll share.
In addition to car games, I’ll list a few podcast recommendations for kids people have shared with me, as well as a few tricks we’re doing to get the van road trip ready.
Road Trip Activity Books For Kids
This comes as a pack of 12, so you’ll have a few to gift too. But each kid can have their own book, and as they see license plates from different states they can find the sticker and place it on the state. There’s also a map of the USA in the middle.
Travel Games For Kids
Games On The Go (50 games on a keyring!)
I’m excited to play some of these simple and easy games in the car. Possibly together, but more likely my 7 and 8 year old will play a few together.
Looking through the games, this would be an awesome pack to keep in my purse for longer outings or doctor appointments with kids.
There are a few variations of these, and you can buy a variety pack. There’s interstate bingo, license plate bingo, auto bingo, and more. Kids cover the picture after they spot it.
Downside is the red covers do slide easily so they’d have to keep it flat.
This version of Blokus snaps in, so it won’t slide around! Big kids can play by the rules, but even my 5 year old loves to just fit the pieces in by himself for fun.
We lucked out and found it at Goodwill, so check your thrift stores before your trip!
Magnetic checkers (and other games)
This is thing, small, and magnetic! I’m sure the kids will try this one out together either in the car or at the hotel.
These look so awesome! A friend has these, and they appeal to your non readers and your big kids too.
Educational activity books on the USA & National Parks (for your kids who can read and write)
I was very impressed with this in person! So many activities on each page, centered around the states. One per kid might be ideal, but I just got one so they’ll have to pass around and share.
This has excellent 5 star ratings, so I snagged it. Kids will learn a little about the different parks with games and activities scattered throughout. Pictures are hand drawn vintage looking, not real photos. Plus there’s great maps inside with all the national park locations.
US Atlas options
After having several people tell me they LOVED having an Atlas on their childhood road trip, I bought this National Geographic US Atlas magazine. It looks terrific, and typical magazine size and quality.
After buying, I remembered I also already owned this Children’s Atlas of the USA and Passport to America from Masterbooks. I may take too, but the atlas is BIG, as in it only fits sideways on a bookshelf. It’s probably worth it to bring though.
They’ll have different pictures and facts inside. The States book is less map central and more what’s special about each state, including food they’re famous for. Also has great pictures, and comes with a mini passport inside with all 50 states.
I loved these as a kid! Random, grade level questions with answers on the back. Each deck comes with 2 sets of cards.
There’s no mess if dropped because they are all connected in the corner. I got grades 1, 2, and 3…and hoping my kids will enjoy these like I did when they are bored in the car!
Road trip sticker books
These are a few I’ve purchased and been given by friends for our trip. I’ll report back with which ones were used the most!
- Make a Face by Melissa and Doug (there’s also pirates version and more)
- Sicker by Number there are TONS of these and all we’ve tried from several brands have been excellent.
- Dry Erase Wipe and Learn Book (this will be perfect for my 5 year old, with I spy pages plus tracing inside!)
Road trip games and activities for age 5+
My 5 & 8 year old love Snapships! We have several sets so I’ll probably keep pieces in a gallon Ziplock bag.
While they can follow the directions to build, my kids usually do that once and then tear it apart and make their own creations. It’s extra nice to have a few sets so they have more cool pieces to work with.
I’ve asked each kid to fill one of our glass food containers with Legos for the trip. The snaps are easy for them to use, and this saves me from having to pack 3 containers or buy 3 new plastic ones just for Legos.
We are a huge Lego family and I got this tiny Lego Friends waterfall set to surprise my daughter with at some point during the trip.
Magnetic robot scene
Anything magnetic is a big win to me in the car! This robot set comes with a bunch of cool pieces and kids can make their own silly robots inside of scene on the tin.
Road Trip Bingo
I got the idea to make one of these from the art museum bingo board we did this year. It was a HUGE hit (especially for my non readers).
I made one for our trip and printed out enough for the kids to all get 2. It has common things they’d see like a gas station, train, Mac truck, yield sign, interstate sign, police car, motorcycle, digger, barn, and more.
You can buy it and download to print here.
Road trip activities for toddlers
We have loved these more than the big book with 4 pages, because the big alphabet cards last WAY longer before they are all wet. Plus, the cards are held together with a keyring so they don’t separate all over the car.
We LOVE these from about ages 2-5. They draw on the paper with the clear marker, and colors appear.
I recommend the Colorblasts by Melissa and Doug over Imagine Ink brand. There’s 3 things per page the kids get to “look” for while they color.
Other brands work well too, but don’t have this search and find feature, and also have activities that are sometimes too advanced like word jumbles or mazes.
Every single book we’ve owned like this from all the brands have always had a marker dry up too early. Best thing ever we discovered is to buy a pack of extra markers. These work well on Imagine Ink and Colorblast pads.
Melissa and Doug Magicolor books
For kids who want to decide which color goes where, with the benefit of a clear marker that ONLY colors on that paper, get the Melissa and Doug Magicolor books! They are super similar the above Colorblasts, except there’s 4 colors they can choose.
Van accessories for a smoother road trip
I’m hoping these will go a long way in organizing our van, and making it easier for us all to find things. Here’s what I’ve got so far.
Backseat organizers: This set of 2 will be a spot for snacks, coloring, wipes for sticky hands, and stashing who knows what.
Old grocery bags for the back garbage: A friend shared she just hangs plastic grocery store bags over the head rests for the kids to add trash to. Then, toss at any gas station once it’s full.
Book lights set of 2: I bought these lights so that the kids could see back there if they needed as it gets darker. They are small, clip on, recharge with the same cable as my white noise machine, and have 3 brightness modes.
Grabbers: I can’t reach to the back. This tool allows me to pick stuff up in the middle back and also hand it to the kids in the back!
Huge Hydroflask: Possible award for the “most used family purchase” this year….our 64 oz Hydroflask water bottle! This is my exact one, it’s easy to put ice inside and will stay cold all day. I love bringing this in the car because we just don’t run out and everyone can take a drink without remembering to grab and fill a million water bottles.
Headphone splitter: This allows all the kids to listen to a story at the same time, or to watch a show on the iPad at the same time.
Podcasts for kids to listen to in the car
Storylight podcast : Classic novel audiobooks for kids
-listen via Spotify or Apple podcast
A friend reached out sharing her friend started a podcast reading old story classics. Well, we are now BIG fans! It’s basically like getting free audiobooks from the library.
Think books like PollyAnna, White Fang, Black Beauty, The Wind In The Willows, The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, Anne Of Green Gables, and tons more.
Some other Podcasts I’ve been recommend by other homeschoolers found on Apple podcast:
Real Cool History For Kids podcast
-by Angela O’Dell from Masterbooks (we love her style!)
-listen free via Apple Podcast
If you love history (it’s turning out to be my favorite subject), then this is a goldmine. Episodes like “From the beaches or Normandy”, “The Flying Scottsman”, “The history of Ninjas”, “Valdez Oil Spill”, “Story of the Titanic”, “Apollo 11”, and tons, tons more.
79 episodes and counting!
Paws and Tales: A Christian podcast for younger kids (16 episodes and counting)
-listen free via Spotify or Apple podcast
From their site: “Find adventure, fun, and music in Wildwood! Journey into an exciting world where the truths of God’s Word are shared by a cast of lovable animal characters and the lessons learned are entertaining and life-changing.”
Wow in the World Podcast
Enjoyable for your elementary aged kids!
-listen free via Apple Podcast
From their site: “Stories about the latest news in science, technology, and innovation. Stories that give kids hope, agency and make us all say “WOW“!
Taking a road trip with kids is all about making memories
Please take a second to save this post for later, and leave a comment below with any helpful tips for me and future readers!
Overall, I want this to be a special trip. Kids remember the little stuff, like ice cream stops and dinky gift shop presents along the way. So I’m going to set aside my “lets eat healthy and not buy random crap” expectations for a couple of weeks so we can all have a more joyful, special trip!
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