5 Fun Car Activities for a Summer Road Trip

These activities will not only keep the peace, they'll also help you make great memories together.
Tamela Rich
Hosts of "Charlotte Today," Eugene Robinson and Colleen Odegaard model aluminum foil crafts that Tamela made for them—perfect for kids to make during a road trip

Memorial Day is the traditional kickoff of the summer vacation season, just three weeks away.

Parents traveling with kids might hope that a road trip will bring them closer, yet be at a loss for what to do in the car without plugging in an onboard entertainment system or letting everyone bury their noses in their own devices.

And of course every parent's fear is mile after mile of complaints that, “She’s touching me” and “He’s looking at me."

Never fear! These tips will not only keep the peace, they'll also help you make great memories together.

Five Tips for Better Road Trips

1. Play car games. If you never played the 50-state license plate game or Car BINGO here’s your chance to become a kid again. And car games don't have to be competitive, which can sometimes lead to arguments.

2. Pack aluminum foil. It's a fantastic art supply, as you'll see in the video above. 

3. Pick a vacation theme that your family is interested in, such as dinosaurs, Civil War history, or your personal genealogy, and visit relevant stops on that theme. This makes traveling to and from your destinations a vacation experience unto itself, and gives you something to talk about along the way. If you’re headed to a family reunion, plan a road trip that includes towns where your ancestors have lived. 

4. "Read" a book together. Listen to audio books from the public library or Audible.com based on the region you’re traveling and the theme of your vacation. For example, if you're crossing the Mississippi River you might read Tom Sawyer together. Conversations will ensue as you listen together. Some books include reader's guides, and of course, Spark Notes is a great resource, but if you choose the right book you won't need any of these tools. 

5. Stop at "Welcome Centers." Let the kids grab travel guides and maps that interest them. They will pore through them as you roll down the road. Not only will this keep them quiet and engaged in the trip, they might find something worth pulling over to see. If you're traveling through Virginia, be sure to get your family photo with the "LOVE" sign.

Plan Ahead, But Don't Over-Plan

A little bit of planning will save a lot of heartache, but don't plan down to the last minute.

Stopping the car to take a picture of a hot air balloon, meeting someone with an exotic pet at an unplanned rest stop, or simply lingering at a planned destination allows for Road Magic to happen. Sometimes the Magic happens inside the car, within the family, thanks to that shared experience. It is the opposite of how we schedule our kids and lives the other 51 weeks of the year.