12 Road Trip Ideas for Kids to Keep Them Entertained the Whole Drive

updated Jul 28, 2023
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Road trips are a fantastic way to awaken the explorer within — but traveling hundreds (or thousands) of miles with kids in tow is a great way to awaken the “I’m turning this car around!” within. In an effort to keep the trip moving forward and have as much fun and as little stress as possible, I’m sharing some road trip ideas to keep kids entertained. Here are a few key items and ideas I’ve discovered to help make car travel easier on everyone.

While screen time in the car is great (I happen to love it; it gives us a quiet few minutes to ourselves!), part of the fun of a road trip is having kids discover what’s going on in the world around them. Depending on the length of our trip, we usually plan to let our daughter watch one movie toward the end of the trip when she’s getting restless. It gives her something to look forward to — and, to be honest, it’s nice to use an incentive for good behavior. Here are a few other things we incorporate to make travel easier.

Kids’ Travel Tray

A travel tray might seem overboard, but if you have a kiddo in a car seat for a very long trip, it’s nothing short of ingenious. This one comes with a map on the tray, and a buckle to keep it from falling off their lap. Stuff those pockets with crayons and window clings and other items to keep their little hands busy. 

An On-the-Go Meal Caddy

Craft caddies are small in scale and work great as a food carrier — they’re especially helpful if you have more than one kid in the car. Keep them stacked up in the front seat, and fill them up to easily serve snacks and pass around. Grab them in bulk; you never know when they will come in handy!

Sketchbook or 3-Ring Binder

If you have a budding artist, a sketchbook or three-ring binder is so much better than having a bunch of loose papers floating around the car. You can pick these up at the dollar store, thrift store, or any big-box store in the office supplies section. I recently found a Lion King trapper from the ’90s that my daughter and I both love, but you can’t go wrong with a cute animal design. Challenge them to draw what they see out the window for a fun way to capture some on-the-road memories.

Wireless Headphones

I love headphones for when it’s time to fire up the screens (or to drown out an argument). I’ve never bothered to buy my daughter her own because mine fit her perfectly. And honestly, when we’re on the road, I try not to pack multiples of anything. Headphones are a must — noise-canceling if possible! A bluetooth version minimizes wires and discomfort. 

Shower Caddy Suction Cup for the Windows

Another ingenious idea for keeping things within reach! Suction a few caddies to each of your windows and fill them with lightweight snacks, or other things your kids might ask you for. They can also make a fun pretend play area for little dolls or toy cars.

Road Trip Games

Jump-start a game of “I Spy” with this deck of cards. Filled with ideas of what you might see while driving, your kids will occupy themselves looking for trees, trucks, and dogs. With 48 cards, the game is bound to keep everyone in the car happy for a good chunk of the drive.  

Easy Arts and Crafts

When the kids need a break from their screens, break out these wax yarn sticks. You can bend the 13 neon colors into different shapes to form animals, flowers, or whatever inspiration strikes! Store a pack of the Doodle Stigs in the travel tray for easy access when the kids are ready to play.  

A First Aid Kit

If left to my own devices, I could create a first aid kit the size of our trunk, but all you really need for your car is something small and compact that can fit in the glove box and live there forever. This kit is small, but does the job. And trust me — when they need a Band-Aid, this will be a quick and pain-free fix — no emergency runs to the drugstore necessary. 

DIY Car Trash Can

Potentially the most life-changing thing you can do for your car is to add a garbage can that is big enough, and easy for everyone to use. Sure, there are plenty you can buy, but this one made the most sense to me. All you need is a 10-inch embroidery hoop and whatever size garbage bag you prefer. And it makes for easy storage after the road trip.

A (Free) Solution to “Are We There Yet”?

This is more of a hack for keeping parents stress-free. To avoid getting asked the inevitable “Are we there yet?” question 1 million times, tape a piece of masking tape to the inside roof of your car, and use a sticker or toy car as a distance marker to show how much farther you have to go until you reach your destination. When (if) they ask, all you have to do is point.

A DIY Tissue Holder

This coffee cup tissue holder is ingenious, and looks pretty easy to replicate. Sure, you could go with a small travel-size tissue bag, but those things are tiny and really difficult to get tissues out of. I love that this DIY tissue holder fits in a cup holder and is super easy for your kiddo to find, and can be made from a recycled to-go coffee cup. 

Podcasts and Playlists

Part of the fun of a road trip is talking about where you’re going and where you’ve been, but let’s be honest — questions are exhausting and sometimes you just want someone else to answer them for you. Some of our favorites: Brains On, But Why, The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd, and The Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl.   

Yes, there will be arguments. Yes, there will be lots (and lots, and lots, and lots) of questions — but there will also be really pure, memory-making experiences that will last a lifetime. Hopefully some of our favorites will be useful to you too. Happy trails!