If you’ve tackled a road trip with your family recently, you know perfectly well how tough it can be to help kids stay content while traveling. What’s even tougher is finding screen-free ways to occupy kids while traveling, am I right?
*Post contains referral links; I receive a small commission if you purchase through one of these links. See disclosure for details.*
Don’t get me wrong, traveling with kids can be lots of fun, but when you take into account all of the sitting still, being somewhat quiet and calm, and boredom that comes along with that territory, it’s tempting to shove a device in their hands and let the electronic devices do the heavy lifting.
Thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way. Even though modern technology is second nature to our digital natives, it’s entirely possible to hit the road and travel for hours without devices.
Technology may be second nature to our kids, but it’s still possible to travel without devices. #ihsnet
I was reminded of that during our recent trip to Disney World. Even though it was a nine-hour drive one way, we made the trip with minimal screen time for both my eleven year-old and my five year-old.
Here’s the thing: nearly screen-free traveling wasn’t a one time thing for us. This is also how we approach our eight-hour trips to visit family in our home state; we allow screen time in small increments, but encourage our kids to spend most of their time on the road doing other things.
Today I’m sharing my favorite ways to occupy kids while traveling in hopes it makes your next road trip more manageable.
Nearly Screen-Free Ways to Occupy Kids While Traveling
Before I share our favorite ways to occupy kids while traveling, I do want to mention the kinds of things that don’t make the list for us:
- Items that require lots of instruction.
- Items with lots of pieces.
- Items that take up a lot of space.
- Items that can’t be stored in a backpack or similar bag.
Now that you know what doesn’t make the cut when we pack our bags, here’s a list of what we use to keep our kiddos happy when we’re on the road.
1. Coloring Books
Coloring books may seem like an obvious or even boring choice, but we always pack a few of them and some Twistables in our bag before we hit the road.
In addition to coloring books and crayons, we’ve also found Color Wonder books and markers to be fun for our kiddos while they’re cooped up in the car. They’re good to bring along because they’re mess-free and have fun character and marker selections.
If you came across my recent post about family audiobooks, you already know how much we enjoy using our time in the car to enjoy stories together. We’ve found that listening to these books can not only help you connect as a family, but can also provide entertainment for everyone in the car. That’s why we always stop by our local library and borrow audiobooks before we leave town.
Here are a few of our favorite audiobook selections:
- The Ultimate Road Trip: Family Vacation Collection from Adventures in Odyssey
- Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books
- A Wrinkle in Time
- The Chronicles of Narnia collection
- Harry Potter series
Don’t have room for audiobooks on CD? Try Audible and get two free audiobooks to enjoy on your next trip. These audiobooks from Audible are completely digital and can be downloaded to your favorite device.
On the same note, be sure to check your library’s website for downloadable audiobooks. You might be surprised by what you’re able to borrow for your trip without leaving your house.
3. Dry-Erase Activities
The right dry-erase activities can be a lifesaver when you’re traveling with kids. They can be used over and over again and often in different ways each time.
Take our 100 Things for Little Children to Do on a Trip cards for example. They may be looking a little ragged these days, but the condition of the box is a good indication of how much we use them.
4. Look and Find Books
Look and Find books are another wonderful way to occupy kids while traveling. There are tons of varieties available and the best part is that you can often find them at your local library!
Some of our favorites are Can You Find It?, which encourages kids to search for specific items in well-known paintings, the Look and Find volumes, and LEGO Star Wars: These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For.
If you’ve got younger kiddos, however, you may want to focus on the My First Look and Find books. We had great luck with them when both of our kids were preschoolers.
5. Mad Libs
When you’re packing your carry-on, don’t forget the Mad Libs and a pencil. They can be lots of fun for kids and grown-ups on a road trip. They’re generally inexpensive and are a great way to get everyone laughing in a dull stretch between stops.
One of our favorite things to do when we’re traveling is give my oldest a new book that’s been on his wishlist. We tend to stick the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book or something from the Jedi Academy series while traveling since his day-to-day free reading is usually connected to something we’re studying.
By keeping the reading light and fun, these books continue to be a treat and an easy way to keep kids occupied while traveling.
7. Road Trip Games
We also love classic road trip games for keeping kids occupied while traveling. From scavenger hunt cards to the license plate game to Would You Rather?, these are fun ways to keep everyone engaged and not wondering how much longer the trip will take.
8. Amazon Prime Movies
You can still pack your Kindle and keep your trip nearly screen-free because Amazon Prime membership allows you to download one movie or TV show at a time.
Since you only have access to one title when you’re away from a WiFi connection, it makes it easy to keep the screens put away for most of your travel time and reserve screen time for traveling after dark.
If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, keep in mind that you can start a free 30-day trial, download your movie of choice, and check out the other benefits when you return from your trip. That way you can keep your trip screen time under control and still check out some new movies for your kiddos or enjoy their old favorites.
In closing, I hope these ideas help make your next travel experience more enjoyable for you and your kids.
Do you have fun ideas for keeping kids busy while traveling? If so, share them in the comments below so that we can try them out on our next trip!