Given the last year and a half, many families are opting for a road-trip vacation over a jet-setting one. Vaccinated or not, to many, traveling with a family pod inside of a car still feels more comfortable than getting on a plane.
What’s not comfortable, however, is the number of times parents can expect their children to ask, “are we there yet?” during the course of the ride. Kids get bored easily, and while the simple solution is to turn on a movie or give them an iPad, there are still plenty of ways to keep the ride screen-free and fun. The household gems of I Spy and the License Plate game (find all 50!) are the nostalgic car games to pass down to your kids. But it’s 2021, so here’s our roundup of new and improved screen-free activities your kids can do in the car.
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7 Screen-Free Road Trip Entertainment Ideas for Kids
Listen to the Story Pirates Podcast.
If you want to “change the tune” on your stereo, consider checking out the Story Pirates Podcast. The award-winning show features songs and sketches based on stories that were written by kids. Special guest talent includes Julie Andrews, Kristen Bell, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and David Schwimmer.
Pack engaging books for your kids to read.
Even when you’re at home and want the kids to have less screen time, you’re probably hoping they make time to read. Well, sitting in a car on your road trip is the perfect opportunity for just that (so long as carsickness isn’t an issue!). Whether it’s books they’re interested in or magazines that teach them something, reading is the perfect way to pass the time. Check out It’s A Numbers Game! Baseball ($14.99) or Girls Can! ($14.99)—and the National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas can be a great book to always keep handy in the car ($9.99-$19.90). You can also check out our picks for books about Black History, LGBTQ+ stories, books about and by AAPI authors, women's history books, and books with protagonists with special needs.
Choose a low-mess craft kit.
The Vacation Activity Kit ($14.99) by Kid Made Modern offers an interactive way for kids to document your trip. It comes complete with a guided book with prompts for drawings and activities for the young explorers. A passport booklet tracks the family’s travels, making your trip one that they’ll never forget. Kid Made Modern also has a ton of crafts to choose from, like the On-The-Go Friendship Bracelet Kit ($10.99). The set includes 8 embroidery threads, 100 alphabet beads, 50 pony beads, and 2 best friend charms—all organized in a cute carrying case.
Bring an activity bundle made specifically for backseat entertainment.
Aunt Goodie is a new brand on the block and it’s definitely making waves! Its creativity-fueled activities are great for your own family, or to gift to another. For your road trip, check out the Backseat Bundle ($31.99), which comes with five assorted activity books, fabric markers, and a cotton canvas tote that kids can decorate. Aunt Goodie offers a Big Kid Bundle and a Little Kid Bundle, each curated with age-appropriate activities. She thinks of everything!
Pack a magnetic board game for your little one.
A variety of on-hand board games can do the trick. The brand HABA has a lot of travel-friendly options, but we particularly love the Town Maze Magnetic Game ($22.99). Best for your younger ones, the magnetic board game features color balls that need to be “brought home” to their matching garage. Plus, it’s great for developing motor skills!
Help kids practice math facts with flash cards.
Think Tank Scholar makes flash cards that are educational and fun (nope, that’s not an oxymoron!). They’re a great accompaniment when traveling with young ones and keep them occupied with something that nourishes their brain. Bonus: The math flash cards (covering multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction) come in a pocket-size bundle ($44.99) so they’re easier to travel with.
Get to know your kids even better by asking thoughtful questions.
Want to get to know your kids a little better? We love Aunt Goodie’s Let’s Talk ($9.99)! It’s a game of cards with thought-provoking questions on them—like if you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you’d buy?—to encourage conversation as a family. And when you're done with these questions, move on to some Would You Rather questions for kids!