Road Trip Games for Kids: Activities for Miles of Smiles

Children's wooden blocks lined up to spell "play" with other blocks in the background.

“Are we there yet?”

Those four words are the kryptonite to fun on every road trip with kids, am I right? Well, those four words can often be held at bay by another four words: “Let’s play a game!”

Road trip games and activities for kids are best when they are kept simple, with few or no pieces. They should be easily portable so that when your child is ready to move on to something new or time to finally escape the car, there is little to no clean-up. No one wants to spend a lot of time cleaning the car when you arrive at your destination and there are new adventures awaiting!

Depending on the age of your kids, you’ll want to include the “tried and true” deck of playing cards or crayons and coloring books. But to eat up the miles with plenty of smiles, here are 10 great games and activities that will be sure to please the kids on your next road trip:


1. The Alphabet Game

This perennial favorite is a road trip staple for a reason. It requires no equipment and can be as simple or complex as you need for it to be. The basic idea is that you find things outside of your window for each letter of the alphabet and whoever gets from A to Z first is declared the winner. You might make the rule that the letter anywhere on any sign counts, or any item or object outside of the car that starts with the letter counts, or even that in order to be counted the letter must be the first letter of a word written on a road sign. Whatever your family’s rules, this game will keep everyone alert and talking and giggling for miles!


2. The License Plate Game

This can also be as simple as you choose. You could keep a running list of states that you see on license plates for a free road trip activity or you could buy a game board ahead of your trip to play bingo with, like this set from Tin Toy Arcade.


3. Tegu Blocks

While building blocks are not typically a travel-friendly toy, Tegu blocks are magnetic and a travel set is perfect for kids to build simple designs right on their lap on their Stupid Car Tray with a grip tray in Cotton Candy Pink or Superhero Blue and Red.


4. Reusable Sticker Books

While you probably don’t want stickers decorating the windows of your backseat, reusable sticker books are a great option for kids to build scenes and designs with reusable stickers that cling to the pages of the books. From princesses and fairies to vehicles and animals, you can choose from subjects to engage any child!


5. 20 Questions

This is another long standing favorite to get kids talking and thinking critically while you’re counting down the miles. You can either come up with your own subjects or use a deck of cards like this one from University Games which comes with 52 cards full of ideas for mystery persons, places and things.


6. Etch-A-Sketch

You might have had one of these as a kid and they are still fun ways to get the creativity flowing for kids without turning on a screen. There are even travel versions, so you can pick up one for every kid in your car to keep the arguing at bay.


7. Pipe Cleaners

Who knew that tossing a simple bag of pipe cleaners into the backseat and telling the kids to have fun would buy you hours of contented, creative fun?! Give it a try! You might keep a couple for yourself to bend as an example to give the kids some suggestions or just let them go wild and see what they create! It doesn’t get much simpler or cheaper than this—you can thank me later!


8. Mad Libs

If your child understands basic parts of speech, picking up a pad of Mad Libs or printing some off before you leave home will be a fun way of making up stories together. Mad Libs are a great way to pass the time and build family memories on your road trip. It’s even better when you can include your family members’ names or the places you are visiting into the Mad Libs.


9. Magnetic game boards and toys

Wooly Willy, Hair-Do Harriet, and other magnetic games are simple, fun and mess-free, open-ended activities that will help make the miles pass by quickly.


10. I Spy

While the Alphabet Game gets kids observing the world passing by outside their window, this game gets kids looking more closely inside the car. “I spy with my little eye, something that is GREEN!” And then each traveler takes turns guessing what the one who spies sees. The first one to guess correctly takes the next turn spying something and calling out the color. This one is nice because there’s no set end to the game, so it can be played for as long or short of a time as you need for it to be.


Planning ahead

In preparing for your next road trip, build a “travel fun kit” - a bag or small backpack for each kid with the collection of games and activities. Keep it a surprise until you are in your vehicle and pulling out of the driveway. The initial exploration will give them a few more minutes of fun and help set the mood for your road trip. You’ll be there before you know it - and hopefully before you hear “are we there yet”!

How about some healthy snacks to go with the games? Check out these ideas. And find a tray in their favorite color to give them an easy surface for both games and snacks.

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