Activities to do on a Long Car Ride

This post is a part of a student-written series, 20 Ideas for Travel Bliss. Grace Yates is a student at  Taylor University in Upland, Ind. Check out Grace’s personal blog — Unobserved Grace.

Yates1You are four syllables away from insanity as the familiar refrain sounds again. “Are we there yet?” You try to answer patiently while internally swearing that you’re going to lose it if you ever hear those words again. Unfortunately, part of you is probably echoing that whine, too.

Long car rides can be almost unbearable sometimes, particularly if you have young children who become bored quickly. There are many ways to make long car rides more enjoyable. Below are a variety of individual and group activities to pass the time as you travel.

1. Movie

Many vehicles come with built-in DVD players, or you can bring a variety of portable devices to play a movie. Unfortunately, sometimes there can be problems agreeing on what movie to watch or whether to watch a movie at all. My family settled this by purchasing headphones so that only those interested in the movie would hear it.

2. Book

Long car rides can be an opportunity to catch up on your reading list. This can be an individual or group activity. If it is for the group, one person could read out loud to everyone else. On the other hand, some people cannot read in cars. In this case, I would suggest getting some audio books. You can purchase audio books at most book stores or borrow them from the library. Some devices such as a Kindle or an iPad can also read an e-book aloud.

3. Music

This common choice can also be an individual or group activity. Perhaps you could vary the pattern; spend some time listening together and some time listening separately.

Another option is to sing with the music. Though not everyone is comfortable singing in public, a long car ride usually only includes your family or good friends. This could be a unique way to interact as a group.

4. Talking

Hours can fly if you have an up-beat, enjoyable conversation. This might be harder with children, but it can still be an option for parents when the kids are doing other activities. Is there something you have been thinking about or wanting to process? Miles of road can present an opportunity to find the time you may not usually have.

5. Portable Games

  • Handheld electronic games or mobile device apps
  • Paper puzzle games, like Crossword or Sudoku
  • Travel games – Many traditional games have versions created for car rides. When I was young, we had a set of travel games which included tic-tac-toe, checkers, and chess, among others. The boards and pieces were all magnetic so you did not have to worry about the pieces falling or being lost.
  • Educational Games – There are also learning games that a family can play together. For example, my family used several versions of Brain Quest on vacation. Brain Quest packs are small, so they were perfect for storing in the car.

6. Road Games

Many games can be play using the road as you travel. These options can be done on an interstate, but it is often easier on more scenic routes. For this reason, you might consider non-interstate routes to your destination if the alternate route does not take any longer. Some options include:

  • I-Spy
  • Spotting landmarks/objects – You could choose a common landmark (e.g. a city hall, a Walmart, or a cow), and see who will spot the next one first. This also works if you know of unique landmarks coming up. On the interstate, you could play this with cars. For example, see who can spot the first blue truck or the next yellow semi.
  • License plates –When I was young, each person in my family had a list of all 50 states, and we would check off each state as we saw its license plate on the road. At the end of the trip, we would see who had spotted the most.
  • The alphabet game – This game has several variations. (1) Look for letters of the alphabet in the signs you pass. Usually, it is best to make the rule that each letter (except for the unusual ones like Q or X) must start a word on a sign. The first one to spot all the letters in the alphabet in order from A through Z wins. (2) Look for objects that start with a letter of the alphabet. You might see an Aldi, a building, a car, a drugstore, etc. Again, the first one to make it through the alphabet wins.

7. Silently Observe

The world is full of unique sights and places, but we rarely slow down to notice them. A long car ride through unfamiliar territory pulls us out of our normal routine; it can be a chance to take in more of the world than we are accustomed to.

Unfortunately, young children are often unable to be quiet and reflective for very long. However, the games mentioned above can still provide opportunities to observe the area through which you are driving.


Long car rides can be tough, but they don’t have to be miserable. There are ways to make getting there just as fun as being there. If you mix-and-match some of the options above, you may be able to take your trip without facing hours of boredom.

Do you have any other ideas of activities to do on long car rides? Share your suggestions in the comments below.

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