Need Ideas for Long Car Trip

Updated on April 23, 2014
J.C. asks from Blacksburg, VA
16 answers

Hi, moms!
We'll be taking a long car trip soon and I have a 6 YO and a 3 YO. We have the DVD player, but what are some other good activities for them? They tend to get bored of coloring and stickers pretty soon. The 6 YO will read some books, but I was hoping for some activities they could do in their seats. Games with magnets, maybe? Thanks!

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answers from Washington DC on

We play I Spy with DD when she is bored, and the Alphabet Game, where you look for letters in the signs. You can do Car Bingo or buy some little I Spy books or kiddie magazines with puzzles and stories in them. I keep a few back issues on hand, or I let her use my phone to play an educational game, or she can bring some soft, quiet toys to play with. She also likes music, so we have a "kid friendly" playlist on the iPod. They Might Be Giants has some great kid music.

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answers from Dallas on

iPad and apps. It you plan to stop at a hotel halfway through the trip, try to get one with an indoor pool. Have them go swimming before you leave in the morning and get out some energy.

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answers from Washington DC on

When you say "long" how long is "long"???

For our kids, when we were in the car for more than 4 hours, they could have DVD players and DS's.

With a 3 & 6 year old? My kids liked Etch-A-Sketch, magna-doodle, DS's.

Do you have a tablet they can use?
Books. Songs.
Man...when I was a kid...we didn't have anything other than each parents would play games with us. At 3, does your child know the alphabet? If so - play the alphabet game....license plates, bill boards, sides of trucks...the first to get all 26 IN ORDER wins!!

We also played the license plate game - got us to be aware of what was around us - how many states plates could you find??? I still do this with my kids! Even just driving locally - we check out the plates of other cars...

My husband and I stay away from lap boards...didn't want anything big in their lap that could hurt them in an accident.

Have fun!!

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answers from Washington DC on

My kids like to bring their electronics (DS, Kindle Fire, iPad, whatever) to play games, read, or watch movies. If you don't want your kids on electronics though, one thing I do (based on a recommendation from this site) is print out a list for each kid of the 50 states. They mark off each state as they see the license plate. I'd probably do one and help the two of them...the 6 year old can probably read, but I know the 3 year old can' maybe he can find differeng looking ones?

We also like to play with the truckers- they honk their horns for the kids a lot.

Honestly though, my kids sleep a lot in the car. So whether it's a 20 minute drive or 8 hours, we don't hear much from them.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

You'll need to budget time to stop and for running amok at least every 2 hours. With this age kids they get sore and cranky very quickly when they can't move all day and are strapped to a hard seat. Your seat is super cushioned compared to a hard lightly padded car seat.

We found that putting a movie in, letting it run, stopping when it's done, either for a meal, a snack, or run amok time with each one being a bathroom break, that we could go pretty much anywhere we wanted and didn't have to struggle with much of anything coming from the back seat.

I know this takes travel time but if you really really want to make good time on your trip start up after dinner, drive for a couple of hours, then stop for an evening snack. Once the kids ate snacks we changed them into PJ's. Got back in and drove until the driver couldn't go on. Then went to a hotel. Got up and started a long day of driving and stopping and going.

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answers from Kansas City on

So this is so old school but it works amazingly well for us! Each of our kids (6 and 4) have a portable CD player and headphones. Then we have a collection of kids music CDs and they listen to their heart's content. My kids will listen for at least an hour and then usually want to come back to them at some point. At some point I guess we'll have to get them some kind of iPod or something but I'm not trying to fix this unbroken situation! LOL!

Other things that work for us are little telescopes, kaleidoscopes, binoculars, play cameras, etc. They like looking at stuff out the windows and such.

My kids are also really into small figures/dolls so I usually buy them each a new one or two and they make up little games for them. Maybe a barrel of monkeys? I would check out the dollar store/dollar section at Target and stock up on some new stuff to keep them entertained.

But…in the end, now that my kids are a bit older (we've road tripped since they were tiny) movies keep their interest most of the time. They will watch movie after movie and we just let it happen. We check out a bunch of new ones from the library before we go.

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answers from Rochester on

Search for "Busytown activity book" on Amazon - not the one that's being released in June, but the one that's been available for awhile - it was INCREDIBLE. I wish I could've given it 10 stars instead of 5. Yup, it's an activity/sticker book - but the sheer amount of stickers and the ways to use them were incredible. For example, "help Huckle sort the recyclables" and you had 20 stickers to put in the different bins. Or "Decorate the birthday cake" with 50 stickers to decorate with...patterns, puzzles, all kinds of stuff, and it was just SO fun my 3 year old never wanted to quit with it!! It has a LOT of pages, so it will last both legs of the trip. My older child, who was 8 at the time, wished SHE had the book instead of her 3 year old sister - would please children of all ages, and I'd order 2 so they don't fight over it.

I know you said they get bored with that type of stuff easily - so does my 3 year old - but this book was just so different than all the other ones I've ever seen because it kind of let you be creative, not just put stickers where they belonged, and who doesn't love Richard Scarry?

Maybe find a few new DVD's and surprise them on the trip. We love Backyardigans, and for about six bucks apiece you could order a few off Amazon and each has 4 episodes. These keep both of my children entertained as well, and the songs in them...well, I bought the soundtrack "for my children." I listen to it when they're not in the car, lol. It's awesome, seriously.

I personally like making "gift baskets" for long trips. Wrap up all the new things for the trip in a little basket, then they can open it as soon as you are OUT OF TOWN. It makes the stuff seem very special, allows them to keep it all together on the floor under their seat, etc. In the basket, you could also pack gum, little treats, special shaped water bottle to be refilled at gas stations, a new box of crayons if you think about ordering the BusyTown books (or whatever you get), you get the idea.

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answers from Chicago on

bring some lego type activity. if you put them in a small tupperware type storage they can open it play/build it then put it back in. we have in the past brought lego's, connects, action figures, coloring books, little people and house. movies, books. if you check with your library they have vacation packs they can put together for you. it will have books, stories on tape/cd, card games, coloring pages, joke books etc. you fill out a form saying how old everyone is, and what there interests are. call now to see how long you need to give them for notice. ours is a week.

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answers from Boston on

I got some yes/no books and a magnetic set from this site: You can also make some road bingo sheets (e.g. look for a cow, street light, blue car etc). You can customize the sheets to things you are likely to see where you are driving as well as things that are appropriate for your kids ages. I know there are printable sheets on line or you can make your own. Wikki stix worked for us on a plane flight. you might have to pick some up at the end of the trip, but they don't leave much of a mess and are something the kids can play with.

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answers from Des Moines on

You have good ideas for the kids. For you, I would suggest going to the library and getting a book on tape, the ones that run on batteries and you can just stick your earbuds in. Or download one to your phone. It is awesome to listen to a story and not your kids fighting in the back. J/K...sort of. It does beat listening to the same movie over and over.

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answers from Phoenix on

I know this is coloring and stickers, but with a twist that may help with the boredom. My daughter has this pad of paper I bought in an airport store. It's a la la loopsie pad with the "magic" marker. The marker is invisible and all the color is in the picture on the pad. As she colors with the invisible marker, the color appears. She really likes it. It also has multiple sticker puzzles in the pad. Each puzzle has a picture on a page and 20+ stickers about 1 inch by 1 inch that are numbered. She has to find the number on the page and put the corresponding sticker on it. When she's done, she has a complete picture. Both keeps her busy for quite a bit. She got one when she was 3 and another when she was 4 and still plays with it. I'm sure Walmart or Target carries something similar.

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answers from Atlanta on

You have some great suggestions already. I just want to add that we have had great success with books-on-CD (aside from the issue of getting consensus on which book to listen to...). The advantage also is that the driver gets to listen to something too, which might help entertain him/her.

Another option is an iPod with earbuds.

Finally, stops to stretch legs and be outside are important.

Good luck with it!



answers from San Antonio on

Well, personally I would stay away from magnets with a 3yo, I read an article YEARS ago (when my girls were younger) a kid swallowed 2 magnets and they ended up "finding" each other inside her intestines, and ended up having to have surgery to remove that part of her intestines, been scared with magnets and kids ever since. Just Google "Kid swallows magnets ruins intestines". If I ever had to take a long road trip with young kids, I would try to do the bulk of the driving over night, they'll be asleep, less need for "activities" then when we'd get to our destination, usually to visit family, the family would watch the kids while H and I napped. not sure if that would make sense for you.



answers from Houston on

We're going on a long road trip next month too. I plan on the usual coloring books, sticker books, crayons. All new stuff so it's more special. Lots of snacks and drinks they don't normally get so it's special. My kids have kindles and our iPads that we will download some new games. I am also going to the dollar store to buy stuff they can play with that I plan to give them strategically throughout the trip. We plan on lots of stops to stretch our legs and let them get some energy out.



answers from Rochester on

Last summer we drove across Minnesota and South Dakota and half way across Wyoming with a 3 year old and a 5 year old.

Look for travel bingo games. They have little windows to close so no pieces to lose. You have to find different things out the window (barn, flag, fire engine, school, etc.). My kids loved it.

Books on CD.

Pipe cleaners! My kids love making things out of them and you don't need any other supplies. Just be careful because with some of them the wire can stick out of the end and be sharp. Wiki sticks are fun too but can get extra sticky if left in a hot car.

"Magic" invisible ink books were a big hit. Color with a clear marker and it reveals color or a hidden picture. The scratch art books were fun too.

Last year I found bubble containers that were non-spill. Very fun to hold the wands up to the air vents and watch the bubbles.

We have some magnetic play boards that are similar to a sticker book. Or take a cookie sheet and before hand cut out paper dolls or pictures from magazines that can be used to create scenes or make silly faces. You can also make puzzles. Glue magnets on the back and they will stick to the cookie sheets.

Lap boards were a great thing to have. It made it easier to color and do things like that. The cookie sheet would also work. When I was a kid my mom made us lap boards. Basically it was a cookie sheet with a lap sized beanbag glued to the bottom of the pan. The edges of the cookie sheet kept crayons and toys from rolling off.

I had a bag of goodies that I packed. Whenever we stopped or whenever they were getting bored I'd pull out something new. I also had a set amount of cash that when we stopped the kids got a couple of dollars to buy a little treat. Sometimes it was just a tattoo from a gum ball machine or a post card.

Your 6 year old might like having a map to follow your trip on. Pick up a highway map and highlight your route.

They also liked playing on the iPad for short times.

Best thing we did was stopping for sit down meals (and eating outside if possible). It took more time, but the kids got to be out of the car for longer. Or pick up Subway and eat at a park. I was actually surprised just how long my kids were content to ride.

Have a great trip!!



answers from Sacramento on

Our kids enjoy the kid activity books when we're on car trips. If you search Amazon, you'll find all different types -- hidden pictures, word searches, mazes, etc. They have them geared for different age groups.

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