8 Clever Ways to Keep Your Kids Occupied During Family Road Trips

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Noel Hendrickson/iStock via Getty Images / Noel Hendrickson/iStock via Getty Images
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Tablets and smartphones have definitely revolutionized family road trips, but the age of “Are we there yet?” won’t truly end until someone invents teleportation. In the meantime, here are some creative ways to keep your kids occupied, organized, and entertained while you head over the river and through the woods this holiday season.

1. Create a clothespin countdown.

To reduce the number of logistical questions (including “Are we there yet?,” “Where are we?,” “When’s lunch?,” and “How much longer?”), run a string around the interior perimeter of your car and use clothespins to hang note cards that detail your itinerary. You can include state lines you expect to cross around certain times, activities you’ve planned for the car ride, and stops you’ll make along the way.

2. Buy some backseat organizers.


Instead of climbing all over the car in search of a certain stuffed animal or snack, keep everything in sight and reachable with these handy, pocket-filled organizers that strap to the seat backs. There’s even a special pocket for a tablet, so your kids don’t have to hold them while they watch.

Buy it on Amazon for $10. 

3. buy some travel trays.

Beloved Belongings/Amazon

These travel trays have special pockets for tablets and other items, but they also function as portable desks, so your kids don’t have to balance their books and snacks on their laps.

Buy it on Amazon for $20

4. Plan a game of road trip bingo.

Regal Games/Amazon

If you really want to give your kids the quintessential road trip experience, bingo is the way to go. You can create your own game, tailored to what you think you’ll see along your particular route, or you can purchase a classic set with spaces like “barn,” “bridge,” and “airplane.”

Buy it on Amazon for $9.

5. Download kid-friendly audiobooks.

Tablets can be tiny, heaven-sent televisions, but sharing devices, headphones, and chargers between multiple people isn’t always as easy as you want it to be. Pressing play on a story that the whole family will enjoy is a perfect way to engage everyone at once—and if the kids help choose what to download beforehand, they’ll be more likely to get excited about listening. Tim Curry’s recording of Peter Pan is nothing short of enchanting, or you could try a more modern classic, like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, read by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Buy Peter Pan on Amazon for $18 and Aristotle and Dante on Amazon for $17. 

6. Listen to some podcasts.

Podcasts are another way to entertain the entire car, and the short episodes—ideal for those with limited attention spans—help break up a seemingly endless journey into segments. Check out this list of best kid-friendly podcasts for some ideas.

7. Invest in an erasable drawing board.

Boogie Board/Amazon

To keep yourself from finding long-lost crayons in your car crevices for years to come, treat each kid to a Boogie Board, an LCD writing tablet that erases with the touch of a button. They’re available in blue, pink, and black from Amazon.

Buy it on Amazon for $40. 

8. Print out “treasure” maps.

Plotting your route on actual printed maps will give kids a sense of progress (and a sneaky geography lesson). You can also identify landmarks along the path and, if you want to make it an actual treasure map, you can treat them to a surprise once you reach your destination—whether it’s an early gift from Santa or a slice of grandma’s chocolate cake.

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