Great list of toddler road trip activities and toddler road trip games! These are the perfect road trip ideas with toddlers in order to keep them entertained and happy on a long road trip.
As a family, we have taken many 4-hour road trips to Dallas to go and visit my husband’s family. We have also driven to South Padre Island a time or two which is about 5 hours away from where we live. But my husband and I have not attempted a road trip any further away with the kids, because we really haven’t needed to. For the past 8 years my family has lived only about 15 minutes away, so we spent holidays driving 15 minutes or driving the 4 hours to Dallas.
This summer, my mom and dad moved to Utah and my best friend moved to Nebraska. The first thing I told my husband when I found out they were moving was, “I guess we have a lot of road trips in our future!”
Because here’s the thing: it is SO EXPENSIVE to fly with kids.
I have a daughter who is 6, a daughter who is almost 4, and a son who is 2. To fly all of them to Utah or Nebraska would be anywhere from $200-$400 per ticket, so we’re looking at over $1,000 for the whole family to fly.
Compare that to a road trip, and you’re looking at a few tanks of gas, some food for the trip, and maybe a hotel stay, which is going to be a LOT CHEAPER.
So, though we haven’t road tripped to Utah quite yet, I recently took a road trip to Nebraska by myself with my 3 kids this past August. Though I was a little stressed at first, especially as we contemplated potty training while traveling, the whole trip ended up being a super positive experience, and I’m not so worried about taking the kids to Utah next summer.
Before you take a road trip with kids and toddlers, you have to PREPARE. You can’t just hop on the road without really thinking things through. There are 16 Smart Things to Do Before You Leave on Vacation and family vacation packing checklists and road trip car checklists to go over.
To make your life a little easier, here is my list of the best Toddler Road Trip Games and Activities to keep your little ones entertained and happy on your next road trip.
Toddler Road Trip Activities
At only $1 each, they’re affordable and entertaining. I made sure to get coloring books that my girls would like (Fairies and Princesses) and a few for my little boy (Cars and Paw Patrol).
Anytime the kids started getting bored, I would say, “It’s time to color!”
I also bought two brand new sets of Crayola markers and crayons for the trip, because who wants to color with a marker that’s losing its ink and crayons that are broken?
However, I know some people shy away from crayons because they will melt in a hot car! Either buy washable crayons so if they do melt, it’s a piece of cake to clean up (good advice anyway!) or forgo crayons altogether and opt for colored pencils or (washable) markers.
Washable Window Markers
My kids love to stick their hands and feet all over their windows on road trips. When you drive a minivan, there are lots of nice, big windows to pick from. So why not use all that wide open space to your advantage?
These cool washable window markers allow kids to write on the car windows and come off easily with Windex. They can draw whatever they like and stay entertained for a little while.
Katelyn talked a little bit about this in her post 6 Tips for Taking Long Road Trips with Toddlers in Tow, and I want to highlight it here.
If you bring a backpack filled with a few favorite toys for your kids, it is a lifesaver.
Before we left on our trip, I had my kids each pick out about 5 toys that they wanted to bring with us. My daughters picked their Trolls toys and ponies, and my son picked his CARS.
It was super helpful to break out the toys when they got bored. Kids love using their imaginations, and even though it’s annoying to have to scoop up the toys when they fall on the floor, it’s totally worth it.
I would suggest not bringing more than a couple because otherwise your chances of losing them at a gas station or pit stop really go up!
I am a little late to hop on this bandwagon, but magnetic blocks are all the rage right now. I didn’t know I needed these until I saw kids at church being entertained endlessly by them!
My kids love to play with them and they are going on their Christmas list for sure! Here is the Amazon link if you have no idea what I’m talking about but they are on Katelyn’s Classic Toys List as something kids will play with again and again.
These would be great for a long road trip because they all stick together and since they come in bulk quantities, you can separate them out among the kids so everybody has some. These magnetic blocks are colorful and help kids create and use their imaginations.
You just have to have some type of portable DVD player with you if you’re going to attempt a long road trip.
We were fortunate enough to purchase a minivan that already had a DVD player installed, but if your car doesn’t have one, it’s totally worth it to borrow one from someone for the trip or pick one up.
My kids love movies (what kids don’t, right?) and sometimes you just need that 1.5 hour Disney movie break where they’re all quiet and mesmerized by the screen.
Of course, if your kid gets car sickness often from watching movies, be sure to check out Katelyn’s post all about How to Handle Car Sickness on Long Road Trips.
A great way to keep toddlers and kids entertained is with audiobooks.
I was able to download the entire “Frog and Toad” collection for my kids on our road trip. I had them bring along their Frog and Toad book and follow along.
So many audiobooks are easy to download for free from your local library, so there’s no need to go out and buy a bunch.
Katelyn recently posted a fantastic article about the best audiobooks for family road trips that actually gave me a great list to start off with.
In hindsight, I wish I had been able to obtain more audiobooks prior to the trip, so lesson learned! You can only listen to Frog and Toad so many times before the kids start whining. I also downloaded the audiobook “Bird Box” for our trip that I listened to with my headphones in, and that kept me awake and alert throughout the long hours on the road!
WikkiStix Doodlers Molding & Sculpting Sticks
When I searched on Amazon for fun toys for road trips, these WikkiStix came up.
I have never heard of them before, but they basically look like pipe cleaners, except durable. I can totally see my kids having fun with these shaping them into letters and numbers and making bracelets, etc. For only $5, why not try them out?
Yes, in my book food qualifies as an activity. Does it keep them entertained? Check! Does it keep them happy? Check! Then it counts!
If your kids need something to do and they haven’t eaten a meal in a while, then toss them a granola bar!
Katelyn has an awesome post about What Foods to Pack for a Long Family Road Trip that will help you keep things simple, cheap, and clean.
When you travel with kids, it’s a whole lot easier and cheaper to pack your own food instead of eating out. On our way back home from Nebraska, I let my kids each pick out a special treat at a gas station convenience store to thank them for being so good the whole time. That was the only time they had anything relatively messy or chocolatey.
A Jar of Questions
If you plan on driving the whole way as I did, this may be a little tough to do on your own. Luckily I have a 6-year-old who can read really well!
Just fill a jar with slips of paper that contain questions for your kids and take turns asking questions to each other.
You could ask things like, “What is your favorite memory with Grandma and Grandpa?”, “What do you hope to do when we get to our destination?”
Asking questions is a great way for everyone to feel involved and important.
My kids absolutely love to read, so we had to bring along some toddler-friendly books for the road trip. I purposely did not pack any library books, as I was too afraid I would lose them in Nebraska, but having a few books on hand was a great way to keep the kids happy.
CDs Full of Kid Music and Songs You Like
I made two CDs full of songs that my kids like and ones that I can tolerate as well.
Our playlists included songs like, “Love is an Open Door” from Frozen, “Life is a Highway” from CARS, “Love Story” by Taylor Swift, pretty much all the songs from the Trolls soundtrack, “Strange Sight” from Tinkerbell and the Neverbeast, etc.
You have to know that if you’re going to be playing these CDs on full blast, you have to like them too.
It was great having these CDs on hand because usually I just play them from YouTube on my phone, but when you’re going on a long road trip with kids you can have pretty spotty service, so you can’t count on that working. Am I sick of these CDs now? Umm…YES!!
If you have unlimited data, you can skip the CDs and stream from your favorite digital audio station or digital music service instead.
Naps, Quiet Time, and Boredom
My son takes his nap from about 1:00-3:00 in the afternoon on a good day.
Since I knew we would be driving through his nap time, I had all three kids bring along their favorite stuffed animals and special blankets to encourage some sleep along the way.
My son is not used to sleeping in the car and neither are my girls, but since it’s a 12 hour trip to Nebraska, they did manage to all take about 1-hour naps. Don’t be afraid to tell your kids, “It’s nap time!”
You’re the adult. You’re in charge. Even if they don’t nap, at least they have some time to chill and be quiet and not think about how long the drive is.
Also, I want to remind you that it is 100% okay for kids to be bored during road trips and let them just stare out the window. They don’t constantly need a screen, game, book, song, or toy to entertain them. Boredom means silence often too which is so great for mom and dad who are driving!
Travel Tray (to Keep Things Organized)
If you’re planning on bringing just some or all of the activities, games, and ideas on your trip, then I suggest investing in a travel tray for your toddler or kids so they have a space to put everything.
One of the main complaints from my kids on our road trip was that they didn’t have a flat surface to color or draw on, so something like this would come in super handy for a long drive.
An extra bonus of the travel tray? You don’t have to reach back every 5 seconds to hand them stuff!
Toddler Road Trip Games
Road Trip Scavenger Hunt or BINGO
Your kids can circle or color or check off items as they see them, such as telephone poles, a bird, traffic cones, etc. This might be a bit advanced for a 2-year-old, but they may catch on faster than you think!
License Plate Game
As cars pass you on the road, see if your kids can spot cars with license plates from each of the 50 states. There’s this great map from Amazon they can use to keep track!
To help encourage their budding knowledge of letters, you can play (or try to play) the Car Alphabet Game! You can just go in order of the alphabet, and encourage your kids to find an “A” outside their window, and then a “B” and so on. No need for a paper or board for this, unless you really want to. Check out Katelyn’s post about How to Play (and Win at!) the Car Alphabet Game for more rules and tips for those hard to find letters.
Other Travel Games Toddlers Can Enjoy
If you’re still looking for a few more things for your toddler to do on your long road trip, these items were highly reviewed on Amazon!
- Melissa and Doug Tape Activity Book
- Magnetic Fun – Cars Planes and Trains
- M&D Water Wow Activity Pads
- Wooden Lacing Toys
This is more for the entire family, and most helpful if you have two adults in the car instead of just one: Rubberneckers: Everyone’s Favorite Travel Game
No matter how long your road trip or how many kids you have, the key to not going crazy is preparation! I hope these toddler road trip games and activities keep your little ones busy and everybody in the car sane and happy.
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