car trip

10 Best Ways to Pass the Time on a Car Trip

This past summer my family took a several-week car trip. That’s a lot of hours in the minivan. My son shouted out that he had to go to the bathroom and couldn’t wait to stop. He asked if he could go in a cup so we gave him one. When my daughter started screaming I looked in the rearview mirror just in time to see my son wide-eyed with a stream of urine coming towards me. He ended up hitting me, my wife, and soaking my poor daughter all the way from the farthest backseat in our minivan. It was the most impressive stream I have ever seen. Coincidentally, he didn’t get one drop in the cup.

When we stopped to clean up my son said, “This is not my day.” I responded, “Not your day? We’re the ones covered in urine.” Peeing for distance is not a great way to pass the time on a car trip, but we’ve got plenty that will make your trip easier. Here are 10 ways to pass the time on a long car ride.

1. Tablets and Movies

I am a big believer in limiting my kids’ screen time, except on road trips. They are a best friend to the road-tripping parent. Let your kids play on educational apps that they enjoy. Give them a certain amount of time and then tell them they are going to watch a movie as a family. It will help you peacefully chew up the miles. And make sure the movies help enlarge your children’s understanding of the world.

2. The License Plate Game

Drivers from all over the country are out there sharing the road with you. Give everyone a blank map of the United States. As they spot different state license plates, they fill it in. Whoever fills in the most states wins. Prize? They get to choose where to stop for lunch or dinner.

3. Photo Journalists

Let your children use your cell phone camera for a period of time. If you have old cell phones or tablets assign each other one. Instruct them to document the journey through their own eyes. They can take pictures of anything they want as long as they are taken during the road trip. It will be interesting and likely funny when you see what they photographed. Funny faces, blurry mountains, the back of Mom’s head. Who knows what will show up.

4. Travel Journals

Give each kid a notebook with blank paper inside, markers, and glue. Have them write or draw pictures of each trip you take and what they saw. Every time you stop, let them pick out postcards of the area you are in. Grab some of those millions of brochures that tell of the local adventures and sights. With these, the kids can create their own story of the trip. Later on, they can add the photos they took.

5. Video Games

Let them play games on cell phones and tablets. Challenge your son to beat his own high score in his favorite game. He won’t even notice that an entire hour just passed by. Though, careful with this one. Lots of video game stimulation can lead to higher emotional reactions and a harder time focusing on parental instruction.

6. The Official Map

“Dad, when are we going to get there?” Worst question ever. Print out your entire trip using Google maps or your choice of site. Give a copy to all of the kids. When that question rears its inevitable head, you will be ready. Simply tell them where you are and have them find it on their map. The first child to figure out how many miles left to go wins a prize. Mom is in charge of all prizes.

7. Scavenger Hunt

Of course, there are a lot of interesting sights on the road, giant plastic dinosaurs, historical landmarks, wildlife, etc. Pick out a list of items you will be likely to see on your trip. Some easy to spot and some difficult. Whichever family member checks off the most items gets the prize. You can break it down into categories or just make one big all-inclusive hunt.

8. The Deep Discussion

Deep discussions can last for hours. Maybe the topic is religion. How do you see God? What is He like? Maybe politics. Do you feel like everybody is treated fairly in this country? Not only do religion and politics usually lead to heated debates, but you will learn a lot about how your child feels and thinks. Our sister site iMOM has hundreds of questions to get you started.

9. Quirky Stops

Break up the boredom by planning a few stops of fun along the way. Find quirky and unique places to check out. You have to get out and stretch your legs anyway. Might as well do that in an interesting location. Going to the restroom inside a building shaped like a great white shark is always more fun than a boring gas station!

10. Car Picnic

Some of our best moments are shared over a great plate of food. Some of our best moments are shared over a great plate of food. Keep plenty on hand while driving. Nothing like driving down the road gnawing on a big chicken leg. That’s what it’s all about!


Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is your favorite car activity to do during a road trip?”


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