Road trips are sure to strike delight in the hearts of kids who see an unending stretch of movie-watching and fast food-eating in their future. Wait … that’s not what you had in mind?

Tech is great and can definitely come in handy on a road trip, but you may not feel comfortable letting your kids sit with a tablet for the entire 8-hour drive. Or the tablet might (gasp) run out of power. Rest assured there are ways to keep them entertained on a road trip (we promise!). Here are 6 ideas  and one tiny cheat!

1. Read (yes, it’s still a thing!)

Wait, what? Like, a BOOK?! Yep. Visit the library before you go and stock up on books (or even audiobooks) that each family member will like. A compelling series can be a great choice because your kiddos will likely be eager to get to the next one.

You can also download podcasts. (Even though they’re technically “technology,” we’ll give them a pass.) Listening to the same tale can help keep the whole family involved and give you all something to talk about at the next rest stop — you know, besides the famous “Are we there yet?” or its cousin “How much longer?”

2. Play old-fashioned “seeing” games

You might remember this from your youth. We’re talking old faves like I Spy, the license plate game, and bingo. A little competition can help break up the time.

3. Get creative with art stuff

Crayons and markers tend to roll just out of reach in the car or end up marking upholstery (or a seatmate). Some better choices for art activities include a dry-erase white board, where kids can play games like tic-tac-toe or hangman together. You can also try stickers and activity books, pipe cleaners, and clear tape and sticky notes (which are surprisingly fun in the car).

Another great idea for younger kids is puppets. Whoever has the lucky spot of riding in the front passenger seat can also have the distraction of being “puppet master.” (Hey, anything that beats the whines is worth it!)

4. Plan your day around meal options

You’re going to anyway, so you might as well make it a bona fide activity. Let the kids figure out which restaurants and attractions are on your route and plan ahead for where you’ll make your stops. You can even have someone create a notebook so you can keep track of all the different things you’ve tried.

After the meal, each person can rate and review the restaurant. You’ll enjoy sharing with each other what you liked and didn’t, and you might even have some new faves to hit up on the way home.

5. Switch seats

Most families typically default to a “designated” place where each person sits, but you might contribute to harmony by moving people around. Kids often love when parents take a turn in the backseat, where you can play games or just engage face to face. (Of course, only let kids who are approved from a weight or age status ride in the front.)

6. Wrap it up

Discount stores to the rescue! Before you leave, wrap up some fun finds from your local discount store to surprise everyone with. The real diversion is in the opening, so don’t worry too much about how memorable it is. Because everything’s just a little cooler when it’s got a bow on it.

Travel hacks


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.