Screen Free Ways to Keep Kids Happy on A Road TripWe love road trips more than any other kind of vacation, and we want kids to love road trips, too. With these tips and a little planning on the parents’ part, you can keep kids entertained in the car for hours without ever turning on any digital device!


  • Magnets on a Cookie Sheet – Magnets are great in the car!
    • Pick up a couple cheap lap size cookie sheets at the dollar store and some magnets.
    • Note, consider picking magnets up on your trip as a souvenir. It’s a fun addition to the magnet tray when on the road.
    • Bonus tip – Cookie sheets are great for all sorts of car craft; the raised edges keep beads and other small items from rolling away.
  • Activity Boards – Melissa and Doug has a great activity board that has a bunch of different types of latches on in. Kid tested and approved!
  • Lacing Card Sets – Head to the store and pick up a lacing card set for the kids to practice their ‘sewing’ skills on.
  • Stop Watch Timing– Surprisingly, this activity requires only one small, portable and amazingly entertaining prop.  You’ll never believe how many things can be timed!
  • Printables – You can find a TON of free printables on the Internet. Think Road Trip Bingo, the License Plate Collecting Game, the Dot Game and many more..
  • 20 Questions by Category– Our favorite category is Animals! Whether it’s guessing the sound it makes or what it looks like this one is a blast for toddlers, and you can choose trickier categories for the older kids.
  • Walk-Talkies – Kids love Walkie-Talkies – even when they are just a couple seats away from each other in a car! They are also really fun to take with into the hotel, out on hikes, and lots of other places.
  • “Cash Cab” Trivia – Good at coming up with trivia questions on the fly? Bring some Monopoly money and let the questions begin!
  • Plot Your Route on a Map – This is also a great keepsake for the scrapbook. Pick up a United States map from the dollar store and let your kids draw out the route, starring their favorite stops along the way.
  • Flashcards – Brain Quest has cards that are held together on a ring. These are great to take in the car as they won’t spill all over the place (available at Barnes and Noble). They offer a variety of versions for different ages.
  • Music with Homemade Instruments– Bring along some homemade instruments to make singing and listening to music extra fun
    • Water Bottle Maracas- Put some dry snacks in a water bottle and shake it around like a maraca
    • Bottle Cap Finger Cymbals – Cut a small strip of carboard from a box. Glue a bottle cap to each end and fold it in half. Now you have finger cymbals.
    • Rubber Band Guitar – Put some rubber bands around a shoe box top and let the little ones pluck away.
    • Jingle Bracelets- Try making jingle bell bracelets using bells and ribbon from the craft store. Tie them to your children’s wrists and ankles and now they are part of the song! (This is also super fun to do when out looking at Christmas lights! Crank the Christmas music and jingle all around town!)

CRAFTS (Car-Friendly and Non-Messy)

  • Colander and Pipe Cleaners – Little fingers love sticking things in holes. Pipe cleaners in an upside down colander does the trick!
  • Pipe cleaner and Pony Beads – Easier than dealing with string in the car, pony beads are the perfect fit on pipe cleaners. Tip – give them a small amount of beads at a time!
  • Marshmallows & Pretzels – An edible craft! Use the marshmallows and pretzels to create sculptures the kiddos eat when they are done
  • Noodles & Yarn – Make jewelry by threading penne pasta around yarn. Tip. Dip yarn tips in glue to make them easier to thread.
  • Sandpaper & Yarn Pictures – This one requires a little prep by the parents but it makes for a great car craft because it is not messy!
    • Use an old picture frame or pick one up at the dollar store.
    • Glue a sheet of sandpaper (a very coarse grit) to cardboard fitted to the frame.
    • Remove and toss the glass for the frame and insert sandpaper.
    • Cut up various lengths and colors of yarn.
    • The yarn sticks to the sandpaper, kids use their imaginations to make pictures, shapes or even letters with the yarn. I love this because it is re-usable as many times as they want to use it!


  • Rotate Activities – Pack separate bags of craft/activities for you to change out when you make stops.  It keeps the clutter under control so they can’t dump out everything at once and it keeps it fresh rotating in new toys.
  • Surprise Rewards – Buy some trinkets from the dollar store and wrap them up like presents. When you cross a state border, or they make it an hour without whining, then reward them with a little treasure to keep them busy for the next stretch.
  • Tickets for Souvenirs – You can get ticket printables on the Internet. Give the tickets out for things like good behavior, winning a game, passing a landmark etc. The kids save the tickets and can then ‘cash’ them into mom or dad when they want to buy a souvenir.
  • Books on Tape – Check your local library. This is great if your kids like a story before nap.
  • Always involve your kids in the planning whenever possible
    • Use sKIDaddlers to plan out the spots you and your children want to go see.  Save your top spots to your favorites (note, you will need to create an account and log in first). Once you’ve visited a spot on your list, have your children help write the review. They’ll have fun telling you all about their favorite part of the day and then seeing their review posted to the web, and you’ll enjoy being able to track and read those reviews down the road. ** Tip, Include cute kids quotes in your reviews. You can refer back to your reviews later for when you’re scrapbooking the event.
    • If you’re going some place even further down the road, buy a travel book or pick up an AAA book to plot out all the places you want to go.  Use special stickers to mark the book for the ones you’ve visited, and extra star stickers on the ones you love. Write the date of your visit and anything else you want to remember in the book for a personal touch


Happy Travels!


To find more Resources from sKIDaddlers, such as Kids Eat Free Restaurants, Birthday Party Venues, Themed Staycations, click here.







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