Backseat Boredom Busters: How to have FUN while road tripping with kiddos!

Summer vacation is almost over, and if you’re anything like me, you are just desperate to get one last trip in before school starts!  Now, while we are super lucky to live in Austin – by far the BEST place to live in all of Texas, it takes FOR.EVER. to get out of this giant state to go anywhere!  I am a transplant, so we road trip often.  Flying is ridiculously expensive these days, especially when you tack on the mega high luggage fees, so, for our family, we primarily travel via the open road.

AMB Boredom Buster Collage

I’ll be the first to admit: my kids are AWESOME travelers.  Maybe because we started them out early?  I don’t know, but once we got Finn over his fear of the car, these kids have been/continue to be rock stars on the road.  I have an arsenal of tricks – as does google.  But, I gotta tell you – some of those lists…just, wow.

See, I am not one of those A+ moms who whips out two weeks of craft prep in order to keep my kids entertained in the car.  I also am not a mom who would ever consider giving my kids window markers (Seriously?  What kid wouldn’t “accidentally” draw on the seats/headliner/themselves?)  And, I absolutely, positively would not allow bubbles or playdoh in the car.   Are you crazy?!  So, without further adieu, I give you…..

My top travel tips and boredom busters for road tripping!

1.  You gotta look the part.  Dress kids in comfy clothes, easy on/off shoes and layers, and bring them their own small pillow and blanket.  As much as I get annoyed with having all of that stuff in the backseat, it makes the kids feel more comfortable and they will nap much better.

2.  Snacks, snacks and more snacks!  Avoid filling up with junk from the gas station (although I do love me some Muncho’s on a road trip), and bring healthy snacks that your kids love.  Applesauce/Fruit Pouches (like Buddy Fruits), single serve bags of goldfish crackers, kix cereal, pretzels, and Simply Fruit Roll-Ups are great.  Granola bars, juice box/pouches, and bring each kid his very own reusable water bottle.  (I like bobble  water bottles – because of their built in filter, I can fill it up anywhere.)

3.  I Spy something fun.  Get the whole family in on it, and play some fun, classic road trip games.  Some of our favorites include:

  • I Spy
  • The ABC sign game- everyone has to find a letter in order on a sign- you all look for “a” and whoever sees an “a” first gets to move to “b” but the others can’t use the same sign and they have to keep looking until they find “a” on another sign. Everyone has to be able to see what the person saw or they can’t move ahead. The first one to “z” wins!
  • Play the alphabet game with animals or foods….go in a circle name an animal that starts with a, b, c, and so on.
  • Another alphabet variation: Hi my name is Amy, I come from Alabama and I like to eat Apples, etc. : )

4.  Find their inner Picaso.  Provide each kiddo with their own paper and writing instruments.  Based on age, you can decide if Color Wonder is the way to go (genius!), or if your kids can be trusted with pencils, pens, crayons and markers.  Just be careful to not leave crayons in a hot car.  Been there, done that.  :/

5.  Diary of a Wimpy Kid style, start a Journal.  For older kids, give them a blank notebook and have them record the cool things they see, write about each State that you drive through, each stop you make.  They can add souvenirs along the way.  We gave Hudson a journal on our last Colorado trip, and he had a lot of fun writing about each of his “adventures”.

6.  Get your read on.  Kids love to look at new books, and magazines are always fun.  Find a few age appropriate magazines at Barnes & Noble and let them go to town.  Hudson still enjoys Highlights (remember that one!?) and his Lego Club magazine.  Another spin on books, is to listen to a book on tape CD.

7.  Bring on the electronics!  Most of us deep down want to be perfect parents and not have to pull out the electronics and just be so creative and interactive that we are like the Partridge Family singing our way down the road.  However, after about 8 hours, you may have exhausted all efforts – in which case, I say bring ’em on!  Portable DVD players, Kindle‘s, Leapster‘s, DS‘s, iPad‘s, and iPod‘s are wonderful not just for movies, but for games, books and music.  Just don’t forget the headphones!  (By the way, they have kid headphones that have a volume control so your kiddo can’t blow his eardrums out by turning the volume all the way up.)

8.  Bribe them with gifts.  Buy several little gifts from the $1 section at Target or the Dollar store.  Wrap up each item/trinket.  For every hour or two that the kids are well behaved, they get a new gift.  It gives them something to look forward to without breaking the bank.

off road calisthenics

9.  Get your calisthenics in at every rest stop!  Every time you stop to go to the bathroom or gas up, plan to stay for a full 10-15 minutes.  During that time give everyone a chance to get out, and stretch out and do some exercises.  I have Hudson do jumping jacks, stretches, sprints, high knees, jumping/jogging in place.  It’s a great for him to exert some of his pent up energy, and gives us all a boost before getting back in the car.

silly face car trip collage


10.  Don’t set yourself up for failure.  KNOW that they are kids, and they are squirmy and get bored, and that you will most likely have a meltdown or two.  Be ready for it, be patient, be loving, and most importantly, HAVE FUN!  You will ultimately end up at your destination, and it will totally be worth it.  Plus, you just saved about a grand on airfare, so treat yourself to something extra on vacation – you deserve it!


What are some of your favorite backseat boredom busters?  And no, benadryl is not an option.  🙂



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