Travel Entertainment for Kids

In the next 3 weeks, I will be spending 6 days of 4+ hours in the car with the kids. My kids are pretty good travelers, most of the time, but like any kids, there comes a point when car travel gets old. That’s when the complaining and sibling fighting starts.

I like to be proactive in dealing with problems before they begin. Therefore, I like to have an arsenal of ideas, ready to keep the kids happy before boredom turns to fighting.

These are just a few of the things I have planned for this month’s trips.

  • The ABC Game. This one is an old family favorite. As a family, look out the window at signs, license plates, or anything else with letters, and see if you can find all the letters of the alphabet in order. If you’re a competitive family, compete with each other to see who can complete the alphabet first.
  • Looking for License Plates. Give each child a notepad before you start the trip. Have them see how many different state license plates they can find on the road.
  • Audio Books. I stopped by the library yesterday and checked out a few books on CD. On our trips we’ll be listening to Henry Huggins, How to Eat Fried Worms, and Felicity.
  • Crayola Color Wonder. This is not free, but I have used this in the past with the kids. The “invisible” markers are definitely a better alternative than regular markers. At least “invisible” markers don’t stain like regular markers.
  • Music. Whether in the CD player or an Mp3 player, music is always a great way to sooth the nerves. The beauty of personal Mp3 players is that each person can listen to their own music. That means quiet time for mom. Since my son doesn’t have an Mp3 player, I might let him listen to music on my iPhone. Maybe.
  • DVDs. I’ll admit I have never let the kids watch DVDs in the car before. For one, we don’t have a portable DVD player. For another, I’m too cheap to buy one. However, my laptop has the ability to play DVDs, so as a last resort, I’ll pull it out and throw in a movie for the kids for a nice two hour break from bickering.

What do you do to keep the kids happy on long road trips?

Photo by Andrew Currie.


By , on Jun 9, 2009
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. We love to listen to books on CD when traveling. We started out listening to Adventures in Odyssey from Focus on the Family when we drove 11 hours to Philadelphia (in 1 day!) six years ago and just recently finished up the entire Left Behind series. Books on CD tend to hold their interest quite well, and it leads to some great conversations. When the twins were younger, we’d play a variation on car bingo. Instead of cars, I would just name something for them to find, depending on where we were. In the country, I might ask them to find a red tractor or a swingset with only 1 swing, or in the city, a building with a red door or a blue van with a female driver. They also liked to keep track of out-of-state license plates that we saw.

  2. Leanne:

    Some good ideas here. We often do long car trips with our kids so I’m always looking for something to keep them happy. We haven’t gone down the DVD player path either. We borrowed one once, but found it’s entertainment value didn’t last that long.

  3. Marci:

    I guess I’m just old fashioned but I don’t see that anything is necessary to keep the kids entertained. I remember as a kid just being fascinated with the passing scenery. I still am. It bothers me that kids seem to think they need to BE entertained, and not that they can provide their own entertainment by just using their own imaginations.

    Mostly I tell my grandkids to use their imaginations and enjoy the scenery. We talk a lot about what we see and related items. There is always something to see if one but looks. The only other things we do are: sing along with the radio, sing camp songs without the radio, play the license plate game, and an I spy game (which has to be done very fast as we are moving! And sometimes we just spend some quality time talking to each other and sharing their growing up years, and ‘back when Grammi was a kid’ stories, and we talk about family history also – a good time for passing along family stories and heritage.

  4. cathie:

    If you don’t already have one, an inverter will make laptop dvd viewing easier. You won’t have to worry about the battery. You can get one fairly cheaply, and they are so useful for several different applications.

  5. Charlie:

    Great tips. Travel can be hard on young ones. Some things that may work.

    Bring along cards. Kid love cards but in today’s high tech environment when do they ever get to play them. Old favorites like Go Fish and UNO are perfect for the car.

    Give your kids a map and let them follow along with your progress. It makes things much more interesting for them if they know where they’re going.

    Find wacky or wild places to stop off. These are places that they’ll always remember. Roadside America has a great website for finding weird and wacky rest stops and tourist attractions.

    Start a scavenger hunt. Create lists ahead of time and let the kids compete to find the items on the list as you travel.

    And don’t forget to bring blanket, pillows, and even sleeping bags. Sometimes kids just get cranky when they get tired. By doing things that make sleep more comfortable they’ll often be in a better mood.

  6. As a time-stretching snack of heard of mothers stringing cheerios or fruit loops onto yarn or something. They have to bite each one to get them off. Kind of like those candy necklaces but a bit healthier.

  7. Carrie:

    ohh the portable dvd player is truly worth the cash Lynnae. After flying from AZ to WI with Samuel I invested in one before flying home…it was completely worth it!!!

    We have a *to go* bag…crayons, coloring books, a bunch of misc not too messy items that we take with us frequently!!

  8. Chris:

    We have traveled from MI to FL twice with our little ones. They are 6 & 4 now, so you can imagine how little they were before. Things we did:

    1. Had a a stash of wrapped $1 store items and I think 2 movies (one for there and 1 for back).

    2. Music that the kids liked

    3. Binders for each that had the following: blank paper for drawing, crayons, stickers (from $1 store), sissors (worth the mess), tape, old issues of Sesame Street Magazine,copies of travel bingo and copied coloring pages. We put everything in a 3-ring binder – including the crayons and such (we usedone of those pouches). This was great! We still have them stashed and ready for any trip we take over 2hrs long.

    4. Our van has a built in DVD, so we did let them watch movies.

    5. Lots of snacks! We also bought bottles water and got flavors that were clear to put in them.

    6. we had enough room that we could also put a small bucket full of toys (cars, army guys, anything small)

    7. We also took a soccer ball and bubbles for rest area stops.

    8. Also used an old cookie sheet to put pur magnet toys on. We had word wammer at the time and the barn matching thing from leap frog. That was a really good one for the younger one!

    Happy travels!

  9. If you have kids that are prone to carsickness, be careful with watching a DVD on a laptop! I know that makes me sick really fast.

  10. The ABC game and the license plate game are what we played most often when we made long road trips (and we made quite a few!). When we got older we got into “slug-bug” but for some reason my parents didn’t much care for that one as much. ;)

  11. Elizabeth Shepherd:

    I try to plan ahead and find a park or playground for an extended break from riding and driving. We can eat a pre-packed picnic lunch and the kids can run and play for a good 30 minutes before heading back out on the road.

  12. I remember playing the ABC game in the car. I loved that one. Another fun one with the alphabet is “I’m going to the moon and I’m going to take an a-word.” Next person says, “I’m going to the moon and I’m going to take an a-word and a b-word.” And so on, each person having to remember all of the items listed up until theirs.

    For instance: “I’m going to the moon and I’m going to take an ant, a baseball, a cookie, a dinosaur ….”

  13. Once they reach a certain age, Nintendos are a huge hit. But my cheap version of Nintendo is my cell phone which has games on it.

    Another tip we use is the “A Whine a Quarter” toll. They get $3.00 each in quarters (you could use dimes if they whine a lot!). For every whine, they have to pay a toll of .25 to a sibling or parent. Things get more positive after the first .25 cents. After each hour, I let them “spend” a quarter on a prewrapped toy from a goodie bag of stuff from the dollar store. I’ve even bought dollar items and split them into 3 or 4 presents (like crayons and small notepads) to make it even cheaper.

  14. Rest stops are our best friends. It lets everyone go potty and also gives a chance to stretch our legs and play outside for a bit. My kids are 11 and 7 (or as Baby Gurl says, ‘7-11’ LOL

  15. Angie:

    We play “categories”. Think of any category–NFL teams, states, mammals, drinks…and take turns listing the items in each category. The more broad the category, the longer the game goes.

    Another fav is “In My Grandmother’s Trunk”–a memory game where each person thinks of something they found in the trunk and has to name what everyone else says in order while adding a new item each time.

    20 questions is another hit. Ok, I’ll stop now.

  16. Nice tips! Ours lean towards their MP3 players . . .

    Here is a tip for parents in the car with kids: Duct tape! Just kidding . . . (before I get a bunch of heated emails!)

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