How to Keep Kids Busy on a Long Road Trip

I’m not going to lie, I like a good road trip. But when you have children with you, it can get a little chaotic. Want to know how to keep kids busy on a long road trip?

road trip with kids

We’ve taken some pretty long road trips as a family. And when I say long, I mean LONG.

Last year we went to Alberta. That took us about 30 hours of driving to get there. And then there was the year we went to Colorado. That took closer to 40. And then there was the trip to BC which was another 40 hour trip.

When we took that first BC trip our kids were 5, 4, and 1. Yes, we took a one year old on a 40 hour car trip! With a tent trailer.  We are all sorts of crazy, I tell ya.

But you know what? It was a good trip and the kids did amazingly well.  We made a ton of  memories. As long as you keep them busy, you can take a long road trip with kids.

But the key is to provide things for them to do. To expect them to sit quietly ad happily for hours on end with nothing to do is nonsense. It’s just not going to happen.

I know most parents understand that. But what can you do to keep them busy? Plenty.


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Pack some books

Books can occupy kids of all ages.  The key here is to make sure it’s new books that you bring along because old books that they’ve seen a million times won’t hold their attention for long.  I like to hit up the library before a trip so we have a stash of new books in the vehicle.

I generally don’t let the books leave the vehicle on a trip so that we don’t lose them since they are library books.

Don’t forget the snacks

Kids are pretty much always happy when they are eating snacks.  Pack snacks.  LOTS OF SNACKS.  The best kinds of snacks are ones that take some time to eat, like goldfish crackers, etc.  Do not give them free reign of the snacks. 

Hand them out periodically.  Perfect times to hand over a snack to your child is when you can tell they are getting sick of sitting in the vehicle.  It’ll buy you a little more time.

Make hourly activity bags

A really fun way to occupy kids in the vehicle is to give them hourly activity bags.  What is that exactly?  Well, head to the dollar store and purchase some fun little cheap items.  It can be toys, games, coloring books, maybe a candy or two. 

Now put a few items in a few different brown paper bags.  Depending on how long the trip is, you can make a bag for each hour, or every few hours.  Hand them out at whatever intervals you want during the trip.  The kids will be so excited about these surprise bags it’ll make the trip that much more exciting for them.

Listen to some radio theatre

My kids have loved listening to kids radio programs since they were young.  Some of their favorites are Adventures in Odyssey (there are countless hours of this program, you’ll never run out) and Narnia.  Listening to kids programs on trips has become one of their favorite things to do.

Invest in a DVD player or iPad to play movies

I’m usually not one to encourage screens, but look, if you ever had to drive 40 hours with kids, you’d want one too.  It doesn’t need to be playing the whole time, but let me tell you, it really helps when no amount of books, toys, or radio theatre will occupy the kids.

Take breaks

When the kids are getting antsy it’s time to take a break.  Find a rest station and pull over.  Tell the kids to play a game of tag or to just run.  Or take a 20 minute family walk.  Basically, you want them to get some energy out.  It’s not a bad idea for us adults to take a short walk on a long trip either since sitting for extended periods isn’t great for us.  Factor in stretching breaks into your trip, it’ll make everyone happier.

Purchase some seek and find games

The best activities for kids to do in the vehicle are ones that are going to keep them busy for awhile.  These Seek and Find toys are super fun for kids to do and they will keep them busy for quite awhile.

Buy some travel games to bring along

Travel games are so much fun for the whole family.  Many of the travel games have magnetic pieces to prevent kids from losing them so easily.  This pack of 12 travel games would be a pretty useful thing to bring along with you on your next long road trip.

Use this magnetic tangram puzzle to occupy kids

Tangrams are like Legos – they never go out of style.  I remember using tangrams in school when I was a kid and I always LOVED when we were allowed to use them.  Now they make magnetic ones for road trips!  These tangram puzzles are fun for all ages.  Little ones will love them and so will older kids.

Pack some crayons and coloring books

Again, make sure they are new coloring books, but generally, many kids are happy to color for awhile.  Buy some crayons or pencil crayons or markers and some coloring books for the trip to keep those kids happy when you are battling traffic.


All these activities are fun, but you want to keep them organized in a way that makes it easy for you or your child to access the toys, snacks, and games.

We have a car organizer like this one that we put in between a couple of our kids.  This way they can reach in and grab a book or activity when they want to. These ones that hang over the front seat could be extremely useful as well.

When they were little we didn’t put the snacks in arms reach though. 

I kept the snacks in the front seat with me and would hand them out periodically.  I often divided them into individual snack bags to make it easier to hand out when snack time came.


The best way to make sure your road trip is enjoyable is to keep the kids occupied.  Being well prepared will make the trip run a lot smoother than if you just try to wing it.  Being on the highway with kids who are screaming isn’t fun for anyone (we’ve all be there) and while you can’t avoid it completely with activities and snacks you can minimize the amount of time it may happen.

The more pleasant your car trip the more likely you are to pack up the family and go on an adventure.  It’s always worth it to make memories with the kids.  So, I encourage you to try some of the tips in this post on your next road trip for a fun and memorable experience.  Before you know it you’ll be excited to go on any future road trips!






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