Hello! Today I’m sharing some of our family’s favorite big kid road trip activities! All these ideas don’t take up a lot of space in travel bags, and keep even the most fidgety kids occupied. We have a DVD player in our van, but I do prefer to keep it off most of the time so the adults can enjoy music or an audiobook on the drive.
Be sure to check out our toddler road trip kit ideas to keep the whole family happy!
Big Kid Road Trip Activities
First on the list, of course, is a tablet and books. My kids can’t use these in the van though, because they’re all prone to carsickness. If your kid gets car sick, I’d bet yours can’t either. However, these are great to pack for pit stops, or if you’re staying overnight on your drive. Sometimes if you’re at a small hotel with no amenities in the middle of nowhere, kids can get really bored, really fast. I personally get Kindle tablets for my kids because they’re affordable, durable, and you can make them be very content-safe for kids. Remember that older kids with phones can download the Kindle app for free! As for books, I try to stick to bringing chapter books that will last a while for my avid reader, and paperbacks are always easier to travel with.
Clean crafts are a saving grace on a long trip. This is going to depend on your child’s personality of course, and if they enjoy crafts. I’ve found that crochet or finger knitting is a great way for my kids to spend a few hundred miles, and needlepoint is great for older teens. I’d avoid anything with glue, scissors, or anything messy!
Sticker books! Reusable sticker books with scenes in them are great for the 4-7 crowd, and anyone older will love these paint by sticker books.
Two of my kids are absolute art fanatics, and love to draw! If your kids do too, I highly recommend grabbing a hard backed sketch book and a couple of mechanical pencils (no sharpening needed on the road!) Also, if your kids love learning how to draw new things, check out our The Drawing Book for Kids. It’s the perfect way to keep them busy! My kids have been using their copy for months to improve their art skills before school starts again.
Small toys! These will always be a road trip staple in my house. My boys love planes and cars, and my girls are obsessed with shopkins at the moment, so these are perfect to take along. Just remember to let them know ahead of time that if anything is dropped, they have to wait until the next rest stop to get up and get it!
Fidget spinners and cubes. My oldest son has ADHD, and we like to keep things like fidget spinners around or he will find something to pick at when he’s bored. Many a car seat and sock hem have been unintentionally destroyed when he felt the need to fidget, so these are a life saver on trips.
Audiobooks and podcasts. Whether you set them on on a tablet, a phone, or everyone listens to the same thing through the speakers. There are tons of audiobooks available through your local library or different apps, and you can get podcasts everywhere from apple podcasts to spotify. This is a great way for everyone to listen to the same thing, and have something to talk about and discuss later!
Printable Road Trip Activities
We have tens of thousands of printable kids activities around here! But here are just a few that are perfect for use in the car. You may want to print them out ahead of time and put them into a small binder or folder with fasteners to keep the pages tidy and together.
That’s the last of my favorite big kid road trip activities. However, I’m going to share one more bit of magic.
My secret weapon for road trips with older kids… cold hard CASH.
It’s not as bad as it sounds, I promise! But it is one way of stopping the back seat fighting, “are we there yet?” questions and greatly reduces the amount of times you will have to yell “do I have to pull this car over? I will pull this car over!”
I just let my kids know, that depending on the length of the trip, that they each have a certain amount of cash they can use to pick up extra snacks or small toys at rest stops. For a 3 hour road trip I might make it $2, but if it’s a 2 or 3 day trip with multiple stops, they might get $10 a day. However, if I have to pull the car over to deal with a situation, they’ll lose that privilege and have to wait while everyone else picks out a treat. I would also recommend putting a time limit on the shopping, especially if you have an indecisive child who can take an hour debating between sour patch kids or swedish fish.
This works for my kids because they loving spending their own money, and the promise of a couple dollars is motivating to them. However, if your child is motivated by food, one on one time with a parent, or something else, you can use those as motivators too. Just make sure it’s something you can deliver while on the trip, and something you’re okay with withholding from them if they don’t behave.
I hope you find these big kid road trip activities helpful on your next road trip, and if you have any favorite ideas of your own, feel free to share them in the comments down below!