Travel Tips for a Family Road Trip

In today’s post regular contributor, Ali Wright of At Home With Ali shares suggestions for music, games and activities just right for family road trips.

Game and activity ideas for family road trips

We do a fair bit of car travel with our 5 and 2.5 year olds to visit grandparents who live some distance away. To keep us all happy on these longer trips we have devised a range of fun things to enjoy along the way.

When we first started taking the kids on road trips we quickly banned kids music from the car as a sanity prevention measure! Instead we started making playlists of music that we liked, that we hoped would also be appealing to the kids. Our kids love interesting lyrics. Although some songs may have a deeper meaning for adults, we tend to explain song lyrics fairly literally to the kids. The whole family also loves music with some good drum solos – perfect for air-drumming. Though not all of our chose songs are boppy or upbeat, if the lyrics are vivid, the children like ballads and moody songs too. Some of our family favourites include:

  • Yellow Submarine, Octopus’s Garden and Penny Lane by The Beatles
  • Under the Milky Way by The Church
  • Where the Streets have No Name by U2
  • Baggy Trousers and Our House by Madness
  • Midnight Rain by Paul Kelly
  • Tiny Dancer by Elton John
  • Dirty Paws by Of Monsters and Men
  • Down to the Waterline by Dire Straits
  • Blue Monday by New Order

Car Games
When the kids start getting restless we rely on car games. Our top three games for travelling in the car are:

  • The classic “I Spy”.  As my kids are young we play “I Spy” with a colour clue instead of a letter clue. For example, “I spy something that is pink.” My little one always spies something that is blue and it is always the sky!
  • We have a long-held family game of “spot the yellow car”. It is very simple – the first person to spot a yellow car yells “yellow car.”  It is a great way to encourage kids to observe their surroundings. This game is now so ingrained I have been known to yell “yellow car” when there are no kids in the car!
  • We have started using car games to educate our kids about different types of trees. Every so often we choose a new tree, point it out to the kids and then let them “spot” the chosen tree as we drive along. Flowering trees are particularly easy to spot. So far we have searched for jacaranda, wattle, tibouchina, bottle brush and maple trees. This game can easily be adapted to any child’s interest…. trucks, birds or even architectural styles.

Travel Activities

Travel activity ideas for kids
Notebooks: Both my kids love drawing which comes in rather handy when travelling in the car. I have a collection of different sized notebooks for them. I find spiral notebooks with a hard cover the most practical – they are easier to flick through and the hard cover makes a good drawing surface. I swap the notebooks for each trip and the kids enjoy flipping through their long-lost notebooks! I also stock up on new notebooks when they are on sale at the supermarket and newsagent. A new notebook always inspires lots of drawing. Each child has their own travel pencil case filled with markers and crayons. When we arrive at our destination we have a lid hunt in the car so that the markers can be capped before they dry out.
Ideas for road trips with kids
Clipboards: I have two bright pink clipboards that I use for longer road trips. Before we leave I fill them with blank, coloured paper and a variety of colouring/activity sheets. This doesn’t take too long as I have a number of regular sources for kid-friendly activity sheets:

Stickers: My kids love stickers. I always buys a few sheets of stickers in preparation for a road trip. To avoid frustration (mine and theirs) I only buy stickers that I know they can remove by themselves. I buy the cheap stickers from 2 dollar shops for my 5 year old. I spend a little more on my 2 year old’s stickers because she can’t remove the cheap stickers from their backing.

And when all of that fails I feed them snacks!

What music, games or activities do your family enjoy on road trips?

If you are looking for more inspiration and practical ideas for travelling with kids as we head into school holidays and summer vacation time, be sure to check out the Childhood 101 Road Tripping & Family Travel board on Pinterest.


  1. We also do a fair bit of travel. Last year we went overseas with our then 5 and 3 year olds. We also need a good supply of blank notebooks, coloring pages and pencils etc. We have also found children’s magazines to be popular, especially if they come with a cheap novelty plastic toy! These magazines are a treat as we only but them for holidays. Our next trip is a drive to the snow, approx 11 hours. I have bought A4 size whiteboards to add to the mix this time. We also like story cds to listen to and have a set of travel activity cards that include games like each person tells one line of a story then the next person continues the story or one person draws half an animal, folds the paper and then the next person draws the other half and then you unfold the paper to see what sort of mixed up animal you have created! Our children also have access to iPads but these are used after all other activities have been exhausted!

    1. Fabulous ideas Jane, I love your story/animal game, I am going to try that one on our next trip. I forgot all about story CDs, my 5 year old really enjoys them and hopefully my younger one will grow into them. 🙂

  2. We’re lucky small boy is a good traveller; he loves to describe all the things he sees in the “countryside”. Particularly useful is the hunt for falling down buildings (much like your yellow car). Even better is one of those iron-filings/magnet wand drawing boards with magnet stamps. Next trip I might try an etch-a-sketch. And soft cover books (I hate to admit the current favourite is a LEGO catalogue…but he’s been poring over it for six months now).

    A friend swears by audio books she gets from the library. And my parents still play the “white horse” game: whoever spots a white horse on their side gets a quarter from the occupants of the other side of the car. Can be played in teams (front + back seat) or have two separate games going. I think the same quarters (they live in the door handles) have been being passed around my folks’ car since my childhood…

    And then there’s the iPod, with movies. And music, children’s and otherwise; we like Putamayo, Justin Roberts, and small boy’s beloved “rock and roll” on satellite radio.

  3. Thanks so much for all your ideas.,Frances. Your white horse game sounds like great fun and could be adapted for anything.

    And you have to go with what works… I love the idea of a lego catalogue, I think my 5 year old would like that too. She is currently obsessed with old gardening magazines.

    1. You’re welcome. Can you tell I grew up with regular 10-hour drives across Saskatchewan?

  4. Great post, Ali! We’re huge road trippers, too, and have been “training” our two sons to travel well in the car with fairly limited entertainment. This year we even came up with our own game – a version of car bingo called “nature bingo.” I love that the kids are now coming up with their own entertainment!

    1. We are going on a campervan holiday soon, I hope my girls start making their own games too.

  5. Great ideas Ali. Keeping the children amused is an integral part of travelling as a family and these suggestions are great. I used to love car games when I was little and they would keep me occupied for hours.

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