Inexpensive & Engaging Activities for Road Trip Entertainment

Planning Tips

Limit screen time and encourage family bonding with these games, crafts and audiobooks

While the vast and beautiful American landscape will offer plenty of compelling sites for adults on a family road trip, children often need more than a mountain range to stay engaged. One of the greatest challenges parents face while planning a vacation is offering a variety of road trip entertainment options without relying on screens. How do you initiate family bonding in the challenging environment of a moving vehicle with limited flat surfaces? We offer some suggestions below that will make your next road trip a little breezier.


Classic board games are a great way to connect generations and introduce basic strategy to children, but standard-sized games often prove impractical in a car. One pothole will send all your pieces flying! Fortunately, companies like Kidsthrill and Gamie offer compact, five-inch magnetic board game sets that can easily fold and utilize the same pieces to keep organization and packing space stress at a minimum. With no risk of sliding pieces, your family can enjoy classics like Checkers, Snakes & Ladders and Backgammon as long as you please.

Magnetic board games minimize the chance of losing pieces in the car. - Road Trip Entertainment

Magnetic board games minimize the chance of losing pieces in the car. cpoungpeth/


A more elaborate variation on road trip classics like the “license plate game,” road trip bingo supplies every non-driver with a traditional five-by- five bingo card. Instead of numbers, each board contains objects like billboards, rest stops and farm animals that your family can spot as you drive. Participants are encouraged to keep an open eye and beat their fellow competitors, and sliding screens on the board mean there’s no risk of flying pieces from an unexpected stop.


Give your child’s creativity free reign and limit the mess by purchasing an inexpensive metal baking sheet. Companies such as Zazzle and Oriental Trading Company sell magnets that children can color with markers or colored pencils (avoid crayons that can melt in the summer heat) and place on the flat cookie sheet surface. These magnet kits are packaged with the magnet already attached, so you won’t need to worry about sticky glue, and the flat sheet surface makes for easy storage.


Maps, snacks and blankets can create a mess in your backseat if you’re not organized. Remedy this problem with an activity binder—a collection of entertainment options in one place for your child to use. Simply purchase a standard three-ring binder from your local office supply store and use a three-hole punch to compile pages of coloring book sheets, mazes and mad libs for the entire car to participate in. You can also attach a pencil case to store snacks, markers or playing cards.


Just because your family is in a moving vehicle doesn’t mean playing card games are off the table. Simply place a shallow bowl on the floor of your car for “bucket games,” or card games where one person plays their hand by adding a card to the center. Examples include Uno or Cheat, and families can also play Heads Up (a game where a participant places a clue on their forehead and encourages everyone else to gives clues without naming the object itself). Prompts can be written on notecards and deposited in the bucket.


Want a communal entertainment experience that can include the driver? Consider an audiobook for your road trip to introduce your children to new worlds and authors. Audiobooks are often available for rent at your local library or can be purchased online with services like Audible or Scribd.

Audio books are educational and keeps kids off their screens. - Road Trip Entertainment

Audio books are educational and keeps kids off their screens. LightField Studios/

These are merely a few road trip entertainment ideas to keep your young ones engaged. Be receptive to what your children are enjoying most, and remember that it’s never too early to instill a traveling spirit in your family.

Miles Dobis

Miles Dobis

Miles Dobis is an Associate Editor with Premier Travel Media  Some of his favorite destinations to visit include the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, Wisconsin’s Northwoods and the Mediterranean coast

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