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How to Make Long Drives and Road Trips More Fun

Friends on a road trip, driving down the highway in a convertible
EpicStockMedia/Shutterstock

Dreading an upcoming road trip? Don’t be discouraged by the endless hours ahead of you. Car trips can be fun if you get creative and plan them well. These tricks will help transform your next car ride into an exciting adventure.

Devise a Flexible Plan

Map out your route, including places to stop for food and breaks. Allow yourself to be spontaneous. If you see a quaint town, or a farmer’s market, pull over. Talk to the locals, buy a nifty souvenir, load up on homegrown veggies, and eat some local grub.

Part of flexibility is limit driving time to eight hours or less a day. Not only is it safer to drive less, but it also allows you some free time to stop and enjoy a diversion here or there. On top of driving less, alternate drivers if possible, having everyone do 2-3 hour shifts to minimize fatigue.

Avoid driving late into the night. Pulling an all-nighter means the other passengers doze off, leaving a lonely driver yawning and blinking into the night. Scheduling a healthy dose of sleep on any road trip is crucial for everyone’s safety—and sanity. Trust us; it’ll be more fun if everyone is rested.

Don’t Forget the Tech

Car travel has come a long way. Now that we can charge tablets and smartphones in any car, we have endless entertainment at our fingertips. Consider investing in a multi-way charger to keep all devices ready to go. This will also ensure your navigation stays right on track (although getting lost can be an adventure in itself).

Download movies from Netflix in advance, in case you hit areas with limited Wi-Fi and reception. Load up your phone or tablet with plenty of new apps and games. This is especially handy for kids who aren’t used to sitting still for many hours.

Create a list of podcasts or audiobooks that will appeal to everyone in the car. Pause every thirty minutes to discuss the material. While podcasts aren’t huge and downloading them on the road won’t put much of a dent in your data, you can download a bunch of your favorites ahead of time.

Take lots of pictures, during pit stops as well as from the car. You can edit them along the way, creating a fun album or collage of your trip.

Online trivia is an engaging and educational way to keep everyone awake. Pick your topics and let everyone take turns answering. Some top choices include geography, history, music, Disney, and pop culture. It’s okay if you’re not super brainy, you’re bound to learn new facts along the way.

Old-Fashioned Car Games Are Still Pretty Fun

Want to unglue everyone from their devices? There are plenty of classic car games from the days before portable gadgets.

The license plate game: see how many states you can find.

Alphabet signs: point out signs and billboards that start with the next letter of the alphabet.

Scavenger hunt: make a list ahead of time of things to point out or collect during pit stops. Get creative, such as a plastic fork from every gas station, or a list of fast food restaurants you see.

Solo Activities Can Keep You Sane

If you need a break from engaging with others, consider some of these low-key activities (obviously just for the passengers—it’ll be a few years yet before the driver can read a book safely).

  • Read a book
  • Do some journaling
  • Complete a crossword puzzle
  • Knit or crochet (watch those needles on bumpy roads)
  • Write postcards to family and friends back home
  • Coloring (it’s not just for kids)

Whatever you do, it’s nice to have a mental break and focus on a task that doesn’t need a second player or conversational partner.

Adventure Along the Way

Mom and daughter taking in the sites at a scenic overlook
Mostovyi Sergii Igorevich/Shutterstock

Compile a list of hiking trails, museums, national parks, iconic attractions, and popular restaurants along your route (or within a short detour). Try to include exercise during your breaks; this will help stretch those achy muscles, get some oxygen to your brain, and break up the monotony of the endless highway. Why not engage in a quick game of mini golf after lunch? The loser gets to empty all the trash from the car.

Sing! Sing! Sing!

Who cares if you sing off key? This isn’t an American Idol audition. Open the windows, crank up the volume, and let loose. Have everyone in the car create their own playlist to keep things new and fresh. Or add songs to one playlist, hit random, and see what happens. There’s a reason road trips in the movies include lots of singing—it’s a ton of fun.

Activities for Kids

Many of the mentioned tricks will work for both kids and adults. Here are a few extra tips to keep those kids from whining, “Are we there yet?”

  • Use muffin tins as an activity tray for stringing beads, organizing play-doh, small trinkets, stickers, etc.
  • Keep plenty of snacks easily accessible, in a portable snack cup or a lunch box.
  • Invest in a bottle warmer to keep milk ready for babies and toddlers.
  • Wrap up new toys in bubble wrap. Offer one every few hours. Your kids will be excited to open a “present,” and then have hours of fun popping the bubble wrap (now would be an excellent time to turn up that playlist).
  • Consider games like hangman, magnetic checkers, and tic-tac-toe. It’s never too early to start them on the Rubik’s cube.
  • Find places for the kids to expel excess energy, such as a playground or a rest stop with plenty of trees for climbing.

Now go ahead, pack those bags, and hit the road. You’re all prepared to have a fun-filled, exciting road trip that won’t be the least bit boring.

Jill Chafin Jill Chafin
Jill Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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