How to Keep Your Kids Happy on Long Journeys

Driving with kids can be surprisingly fun if you plan it right. They come up with the weirdest ideas and answers and you’ll probably find yourself laughing despite the already aching back. General rule – have lots of drinks, healthy but yummy snacks, and be ready for many stops (see “have lots of drinks” above). Here’s 20 ideas of things you can do to make your journey more fun for everybody. We wish you a happy and safe journey!

  1. Plan fun along the way – e.g. promised McDonalds meal, stopping at some attraction along the way – playground, local zoo etc. – a bit of research beforehand will go a long way there. Aside from the fact that they’ll have something to look forward to and you will break the journey somewhat, it’s a great blackmailing tool! Mwahahahaaa. Ehm.
  2. Make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals in the days running up to the journey – especially sufficient levels of B-complex vitamins are very good for keeping things more zen.
  3. Every child is different, of course, but ours love riddles. Everybody takes turns (driver may be exempt from the duty upon request) and makes up a riddle the others must then solve.
  4. Surprise treats. You can use them as a reward for winners of whatever little competitions you decide to make – a few inspirations are below – or simply a nice surprise you quickly throw in when things start to get sharp.
  5. Trip diary. Give each kid a little blank notebook where they can keep a travel log, draw pictures of remarkable things you pass along the way (famous landmark, beautiful tree, rainbow, an interesting roadkill…), stick in something they collect from whatever stops you make, etc. Come up with a promised reward for diligent journalists who will last until the drive is over (ice cream? Swim? Something you meant to be doing anyways but they don’t know it, bless their little hearts?)
  6. Make a list of things that you might spot during the drive (with pictures for younger children) and present it to them as a checklist they have to tick off as you go. You can even turn this into a Road Trip Bingo!
  7. Try Mad Libs – or create your own “fill in a word” game. What Mad Libs is is basically a short story with many words left out, the reader (they can take turns) has to fill in the right (or a funny wrong) word. Usually the category of the word (noun, verb, etc.) is written underneath the blank to help the reader.
  8. Audio books, anybody? The only disadvantage is, you have to keep an eye on the driver and make sure it doesn’t put him or her to sleep. Other than that, audio books are great. Especially when reading or concentrating on anything immobile in the car – drawing, toys etc. makes you or your kids sick.
  9. This isn’t really an entertainment idea, but don’t forget to make frequent stops and get the kids to stretch their legs every time – you can even make a competition out of it – who will be the first to run to the tree and back, hop three times and touch five noses?
  10. Magnetic versions of any game you like to play is great. Have lots of spare dice though.
  11. This is a small thing but may contribute greatly to keeping your children happy during long car rides. Surprisingly, most children’s car seats are really hard! And it’s not so easy for the small butts to be sitting on unyielding plastic for hours on end. We’ve found the thing that worked best for us was this horseshoe-shaped travel pillow – except it doesn’t go around the neck, but rather under the little rumps. Memory foam for preference, but really anything that will soften that seat is great.
  12. If your kids like drawing, etch-a-sketch or magnetic drawing board are great – kids don’t keep losing pencils and crayons and loudly complaining until the non-driving parent snakes around and fishes the offending object from under the seat, risking life and limb – only to have to do the same two minutes later.
  13. Find a shape in the clouds? A free classic.
  14. Travel Kits! Basically just a small organizer that you fill up with whatever you know will keep your little treasure happy – book of puzzles and riddles, finger puppets, cars…
  15. This isn’t what people would name first when asked for some fun activity, but try math games – while it’s boring at school, when you turn it into a competition or dress it nicely into pictures, additions, subtractions and divisions can be surprisingly pleasing – there are loads of little exercise books that your kids might (or might not, sure) enjoy on the road. If your kids like coloring, you can try coloring by numbers – that they have to first calculate. You can also download printable worksheets – for example here.
  16. YES/NO game. A player thinks of something and the other players then ask him questions which he can only answer with a yes or a no, to find out what it is. It can be anything, but of course you can limit it to whatever category you want.
  17. Word chain game: One person says a word. The other person follows with another word which begins with the same letter the other person’s word ended. And so on. E.g. “Elephant.” “Trampoline.” “Email.” “L” Etc. It’s kind of a spelling game in disguise, too, so you get bonus wholesome parenting points.
  18. Country-Town-River. This is a great game for older school kids, we used to play it for hours. Everybody gets a sheet of paper. They make 7 columns with as many rows as fit comfortably on the paper. The columns’ headings are:
Country Town River Animal Plant Name Points


Once all are ready, one person (you can take turns) announces start and starts going through the alphabet silently in his or her head. Another player shouts “stop” at some point and the alphabet guy has to say which letter he got to. At that moment, everybody starts furiously writing up a country, town, river, animal, plant, and name beginning with that letter. Whoever is the first one to be ready with all columns shouts “Stop” and everyone has to stop writing. People read their answers aloud for others to approve and everybody gets 5 points for any correct answer they managed.
You can have a tournament, or single rounds, add or take away columns (food, mountain, tool, occupation – whatever you desire).

  1. Who Am I? A variation of the guessing game. With smaller kids you can choose to be a fairy tale figure, with older, anybody they would be familiar with. The kids can then ask you yes/no questions to find out who you really are. For added thrill, you can limit the number of questions allowed.
  2. Time Cards. Make an estimation how long your trip is going to take you (be more on the pessimistic side, the disappointment would probably be loud). Give your kids time cards for every hour you think you’ll spend on the journey. Every hour, redeem one for a surprise treat (chewing gum, small candy, voucher for a game of badminton with you on the beach once you get there etc.).

Happy travels!

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