Things to Do on a Long Car Ride

There are plenty of fine things to do on a long car ride with kids. A toy, a snack, a screen (hey, I’m not going to judge!) But vacations are all about connection, and the drive isn’t just a way to get to the fun. A long car ride with kids can be fun too.

We wanted to put together our best list of ways to have fun with your kids that encourage interaction, connection, and bonding. Long car rides can be a great time to zone out, let your mind wander, and let kids experience a little boredom. But road trips can also be a great time to bond as a family.

And as our kids get older, finding that connection gets both easier (they can talk in full sentences and don’t need to nap!) and harder (they need a little indepdence from Mom and Dad). Plus there is the pull of phones and ear buds to compete with. But connection for older kids and teens is more important, and road trips are a great time for that.

If you’re looking for fun things to do on a long car ride with kids that help encourage connection and laughter, we have ideas for you.

Things to Do on a Long Car Ride

Things to Do on a Long Car Ride with Kids – Games

Games are great for breaking up boredom (or breaking up backseat fighting). Living in Montana, the license plate game (find a plate from different states) has never been that do-able, and even the ABC game (find signs with each letter of the alphabet) is slow when signs are miles are apart. So here are a few more of our favorites:

Geography Game

The first person thinks of a locale (state, country, town, landform – anything!) and says it out loud. The next person must think of another locale that starts with the last letter of the first place. For example – Montana – Arkansas – Sandpoint. Bonus points if you work in locations along your destination!

I’m Going on a Picnic Game

The first person names three things they are bringing on a picnic. For example, “apples, bananas, and oranges.” Everyone asks if they can bring something trying to guess the category. (“Can I bring grapes?” “Yes!”) But don’t reveal it if you find out, let everyone keep guessing!

For younger kids, you can keep the categories simple, like “apples, art, astronauts” (things that start with ‘A’). Teens and tweens might enjoy harder challenges, like “cake, shoe, notebook” (even number of letters).

I’m Going to the Grocery Store Game

One person says something they are getting at the grocery store that starts with “A”. Next person repeats what they said, and adds something that starts with “B”, and then next person keeps going with the list. See how long you can keep your list going! If older kids really want a challenge, try making a list that’s not alphabetical.

Would You Rather? Game

If kids are getting grumpy or fighting, nothing will get them giggling like a game of Would You Rather? (Would you rather be on this road trip for another hour, or eat boogers for lunch?) You can come up with your own, or keep a book in the car when boredom strikes. And if you really want to get them laughing, use a gross edition.

Fortunately, Unfortunately

The first player starts a story with a single line beginning with “Unfortunately,…” The second player continues the story, beginning the sentence with “Fortunately….”

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

The classic game of 20 questions should keep any family busy for a few miles. It can also be a fun way to get kids excited about the destination or things you are passing along the way.

Heading to the beach? Play an ocean themed version, where all animals, vegetables, or minerals must be found on or near the seashore. Note: A theme can also cut down a little of the frustration for younger kids, and might inspire some tricky creativity for older ones.

Don’t Laugh!

Come up with a silly phrase, like “your smelly socks.” Someone asks a question, and they can only respond with “Your smelly socks.” First person to laugh loses!

Who am I?

Pick a character from a book/tv/show and answer questions about them until your character has been guessed!

Destination

Pick a letter, and the next person has to think of a destination that starts with that letter, transportation, and an activity. So if I have D, I could be going to Denver on a donkey to dance.

Song Game 

Someone picks a word (not too obscure of a word), and everyone has to try to think of a song with that word in it and sing that bit of a song.

Example: “Love”

  1. I love, you love me
  2. All you need is love
  3. What’s love got to do, got to do with it…

Things to Do on a Long Car Ride with Kids – Card Games

Hear me out! Obviously you don’t want to try to play Go Fish in the car. But if you have a reader in the car who doesn’t get car sick (count me out), check out these games:

A picture of various card games including Scattegories, National Parks Trivia, Guess in 10: States of America, Mad Libs Road Trip, Professor Noggin Wildlife of North America and Brain Quest for the Car.

Brain Puzzlers

Brain Quest’s Questions for the Car and Awesome Riddles are both fun games to play in the car.

Mad Libs

My kids can’t get enough of Mad Libs. Check out this road trip edition, and the vacation edition.

Trivia

Do you have older kids and teens who always have the answer? Put their skills to the test with some trivia. If you have parks enthusiasts, check out this National Parks trivia. Birders will love this Sibley Trivia game. And outdoor kids will like Professor Noggin Wildlife and Geography.

Table Topics

Looking for ways to get an older kid or teen to engage on the road trip? Table topics for the family might inspire some fun conversations.

Guess in 10

Another trivia type game that kids will love is Guess in 10. If you’re road trip is taking you across country, check out the States edition. Outdoor kids will also love the animals edition.

Scategories

Scategories isn’t just for game night, it makes a perfect road trip activity, too!

Things to Do on a Long Car Ride with Kids – Fun on the Radio

If you’re looking for ways to get older kids to turn off the ear buds and interact, here are some road trip activities for kids that will have you all listening together.

Make a Themed Playlist

If you have a musically inclined teen or tween, hand them your phone and have them put together a themed playlist for the drive. (Depending on your data/cell coverage situation, you may want to assign this task before leaving the house.) Here are a few ideas:

  • Make a playlist themed for your destination.
  • Traveling themed playlist – there’s no shortage of songs about the open road.
  • Family names playlist – see how many songs you can find with your family member’s names in them.
  • Surprise theme – Make a playlist, and see how long it takes your family to guess the theme. Ideas: Songs with the word “sun” in them, songs from movies, songs from the 80s, songs about stars.

Radio Roulette

Put on the radio or Pandora and see who can name the song first. (Might need to cover your screen, if you have one!) You can also try playlists from different eras, Disney movies, or Broadway musicals.

Podcasts

We’ve talked before about our favorite podcasts for nature loving kids. But since this post is all about interactive things to do in the car, here are some fun trivia podcasts to get everyone talking:

A girl is listening to pink headphones and reading a book about nature in a carseat.

Audiobooks

Okay, I know I said this post was about connection and not zoning out on the long car ride. But listening to audiobooks together is one our favorite things to do on a long car ride with kids, and is a wonderful way to connect. Here are some of our favorites that outdoor families will appreciate. Many of these are geared towards older kids and tweens, so be sure to check the descriptions.

For more book ideas, check out our other posts here.

Things to Do on a Long Car Ride with Kids – Navigational Skills

Older kids and teens are looking for a little more independence and mastery in their lives. With phones to help us out, there’s not a pressing need to develop map-reading skills. And that’s not a bad thing – who remembers wasting hours of vacation time becasue Dad got lost? But navigational skills are still a great way to flex decision making muscles for kids.

Here are some road trip activities for kids that encourage some skill building.

Let Your Kids Lead!

Get paper maps and see if your kids can chart the fastest path. If you have time to spare, take their route and let them call the shots (step if in you’d be heading hours out of your way, but getting off the interstate an exit early won’t hurt).

Giving kids paper maps of the routes also helps with the “are we there yet?” if they can check out landmarks along the way and calculate distances. You can even check “math practice” off your summer to-do list.

A young girl looks out of a rolled down window.

Identify Landmarks

I love to look at paper maps (when my stomach can handle it) on drives to see if I can identify the names of mountains, rivers, or other landmarks we pass by. This is a great way to teach kids about geography too.

Geocaching

If you have time to stop, geocaching along the way can be a fun way to break up a trip. Not only can geocaches teach kids about local history, they are an opportunity to use some navigational skills. Learn more about geocaching with kids here.

Weather Watcher

Designate a kid to be the official weather watcher for the journey. Have them check the forecast, update the driver about changing cloud conditions, and note how long until sunset.

Things to Do on a Long Car Ride – Enjoy Yourself!

Ultimately, the best thing to do on a long car ride with kids is to just enjoy yourself. It sounds crazy, I know. But as our kids get older, those precious moments get harder to find.

Road trips really are a great opportunities to spend time with your kids. And a great roadtrip is all about keeping a mindset positive and looking for opportunities for connection. It’s okay to be bored, and it’s okay if the trip isn’t perfect. So even if everything goes downhill, remember it will at least be a trip you can laugh about together in years to come.

A car is parked beside a tent at sunset. The tent is glowing from light inside.

I hope our list of connection-based road trip activities for kids helps your family out on your next journey.

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Fun Things to Do on a Long Car Ride

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  • Jackie is a coffee-lover, writer and a mom of three young children living in Helena, MT. She thought that hiking might help tame her children’s wild spirits, and co-leads a Hike it Baby branch. All that hiking only made her crew wilder, but in a good way. Before kids she enjoyed reading, knitting and baking, but now she enjoys making it to bedtime.

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