Family travel is no small feat.
Long car rides can be tough for kids because they can’t move around as freely and they need to entertain themselves for hours at a time. It’s a good idea to plan ahead to keep meltdowns to a minimum.
If a family road trip is in your future, you’re in the right place.
Our favorite road trip activities are simple, engaging, mess-free, and easy to pack.
Here are the 50 best car activities for toddlers to do on your next long drive. This article includes affiliate links.
Best Travel Activities for Toddlers
This epic list includes old favorites like coloring books and new cars, modern wonders like magnetic wooden blocks and kinetic sand, and why-didn’t-I-think-of that ideas like masking tape and post-it notes. Happy travels!
1. Audio Books
Audio books are a fun way to pass the time on a long car trip. You can either play it from the car stereo system and listen to it together, or give your child headphones to listen to on their own device. Here are the best audio books for toddlers from Audible.
2. Road Trip Games
Before you bust out the iPads, play a few road trip games with your toddler. A few of the best road trip activities for this age group (and for the whole family) are:
I Spy – In this simple game, a family member says “I spy something that’s (insert color)” and everyone tries to guess what it is.
What color is it? – Someone says a list of things that are the same color, and the toddler has to guess what color it is. (Example: “apple, barn, stop sign” = Red)
Category ABC’s – Choose a category and name something in that category that starts with the letter A. The next person has to name something in that category that starts with B, and so on.
Name That Tune – Play or sing just a few seconds of some of your toddler’s favorite songs. See if they can guess what song it is!
Story Starter – Begin a story with a sentence, but don’t finish the sentence. Have your toddler finish the sentence for you, and create a story together.
3. Color Wonder Books
For a long haul car trip, these mess free coloring books are a must. They allow your little artist to easily color with markers without making any kind of mess.
They each include 18 coloring pages and 5 “color wonder markers” that only appear on the pages provided (not on the airplane and car seat!). There are many great options of themes to choose from like Paw Patrol, Baby Shark, Peppa Pig, etc.
Scratch art is also great for toddlers because it is tactile and any design they create will look impressive.
The scratch art papers feature bright colors that hide beneath the matte coating. Toddlers use the wooden stylus to reveal the colors with a simple scratch. It’s very satisfying!
A dry erase book is great because it can be used over and over again by simply wiping off the dry erase markers. Kids can practice and learn things like letters and numbers, fine motor skills, counting, and more.
Many of the books lie flat, and the pages are wipable so if your child makes a mistake they can simply wipe it away and try again. This is great for developing a growth mindset!
4. Road Trip Scavenger Hunt
The internet is full of road trip scavenger hunts for toddlers, where they mark off items as they see them. For example, a police car, traffic cone, cow, train, stop sign, etc. Here is one example for you. It’s a fun activity to help pass the time.
5. Reusable Stickers
Bring a sticker book and some computer paper for your toddler to peel off and place onto the paper. It’s always better if they’ve never seen these stickers before!
There are also reusable sticker books that your toddler can spent a lot of time peeling and sticking over and over again.
6. Model Magic or Play Dough
Pack a few bundles of Crayola Model Magic or some play dough for your child to play with. Older toddlers can use play dough tools to level up their formations.
We prefer Model Magic for travel because it is less crumbly and messy than play dough.
7. Window Clings
These window clings are removable and reusable, so your toddler can stick them to the airplane windows or car window over and over again. There are many different options like jungle animals, butterflies, and more.
8. Screen Time
Leave the guilt at home! A little screen time is a great option for helping your long road trip go more smoothly.
Make sure you’ve downloaded their favorite shows and charged the device! This will come in handy during downtime in the hotel room, too.
9. Window Crayons
Yes, your toddler can write on the window without damaging it. These nontoxic window crayons instantly decorate a glass surface and easily wash off.
10. Silicone Darts
These soft silicone darts can be used to stick on any surface, and help kids practice grasping, motor perception. They just might keep your toddler busy for a long time. Older kids will love them, too!
11. Suction Cup Spinner Toy
These suction cup spinner toys can be used on a window (or in the bath) to keep your toddler entertained. They are colorful with interactive buttons and sounds to keep your child engaged.
12. Writing Tablet
This LCD Sketch doodle board is one of the best travel toys on the market right now. Young children can scribble and doodle with no mess, and it can be used more than 120,000 times like an endless sheet of paper. There is no glare, no radiation, and no blue light. It’s kind of a miracle!
13. Fidget Toy Cube
Surprising 1-2 year olds with a new toy, like this fidget toy cube, can be the difference between a smooth travel experience and a nightmare This compact wooden toy packs punch, with a Fingertip Gyroscope, Spring Bolt, Swutch, Wheel, Screw Cap, Water Tap, plus a Key and Lock.
They are bulky, but choosing a couple of your child’s favorite books, checking out some new ones from the local library, or purchasing a few new books can be the perfect activity when you’re on the plane.
In the car, picture board books with texture are a good options. Lift Flap Books and I Spy Books are also great option.
Here are the 100 Best Books for Your Baby’s Nursery that are also great for your toddler.
15. Magnetic Wooden Blocks
These magnetic wooden blocks are the perfect size for airplane travel. They are high-quality, non-toxic, and perfect for open-ended and imaginative play. Young kids will love building with them on the go because they stick together easily and won’t topple over. There are no small pieces in this set.
16. Activity Book
An activity book with puzzles, fun illustrations, and search-the-page activities is a great way to keep your toddler entertained on long-haul flights or car trips. This is a good option:
You can usually find lots of options at the dollar store, too.
17. Magnetic Picture Scenes
Your toddler will love playing with magnets that tell a story, placing them over and over again in new places on an exciting scene. We love these Funny Face Magnetic Tiles.
18. Chalk and Chalkboard
To switch up a traditional approach to drawing a doodling, you can provide a small chalkboard with colored chalk for your toddler to use.
19. Post It Notes
Sometimes it’s the simplest non-toys that make the best toys. Post-it notes are perfect for toddlers because they can scribble on them and then post them all around the car or airplane without damaging anything.
20. Painters Tape or Masking Tape
File this under veteran parents tricks. Masking tape, painter’s tape, or decorate tape can keep younger children busy for hours. Peeling, ripping, and sticking the tape all around them helps them practice their fine motor skills and it’s really fun.
You may get some strange looks from the flight attendants and fellow passengers, but then again, they’ve probably encountered stranger things.
Pro Tip: Instead of giving the tape directly to your toddler, take it out and pretend you are using it for something very important.
21. Baby Wipes
Bring an extra pack of baby wipes on the plane with you and see if you can engage your toddler in a game of “Let’s Clean This Plane!”
22. Fun N’ Fly Travel Tray
This toddler travel tray is a must for a long road trip in the car. It has padded side walls for keep travel games and toys from falling off. There are large buckles to keep it this car seat tray in its place and a bottom base for stability. It’s great as a snack or toy tray, and also serves as an organizer with side pockets and a back pocket for a tablet. There’s even an erasable clear top to insert coloring pages, use dry erase markers, and then erase and start over!
For a DIY version, use a magnetic cookie sheet so your toddler has a hard surface and magnet to keep their paper in place.
23. Snack Spinner
A Snack Spinner is a must for any long trip because it has space for several different snacks in one small container. The best snack ideas for a long road trip are protein packed, like string cheese, trail mix, and hard boiled eggs.
24. Kinetic Sand
Kinetic Sand is truly amazing material. It feels just like sand and is totally moldable, allowing you to build and form things easily, but without the mess. Perfect for travel.
25. Erasable Doodle Book
Erasable doodle books are the perfect travel activity. They include several pages of drawing pads, color pens for painting and tracing, and blank pages for free drawing. The drawing pencils wipe off easily with a wet cloth. It’s lightweight and will easily fit in a travel backpack.
26. Toy Cars
If your child likes to play with little cars, be sure to throw a few in to their travel backpack. It’s a great activity for the airplane. If you’ll be in a car, pack a cookie sheet to give your child a hard surface to play with them on.
27. Lacing Cards
Lacing cards are fine-motor-skill machines, prompting your child to practice lacing a thread through fun colorful cards. There are lots of different themes to choose from.
Each set includes wooden animal cards with that are relatively durable and laces. They are designed to develop lacing and sewing skills, and some say it’s the best way to teach kids to tie shoelaces sooner. It also helps develop hand-eye coordination.
28. Figurine Toys
Whether your child likes dogs, dinosaurs, pricesses, or superheroes, pack a few small toys for them to play with and use their imagination.
29. Small LEGO DUPLO Kit
Consider packing LEGO DUPLOS in a ziplock kids so your toddler can build during your trip.
30. Wikki Stix
Wikki Stix are a soft and pliable fidget toy that are easy for toddler to manipulate. They are made of waxed yard that sticks to smooth surface with very light pressure, and they stick to each other. They are safe and non-toxic, and made in the USA.
31. Koosh Ball
You probably remember Koosh Balls from when you were a kid. Part ball, part fidget toy, they are soft, colorful balls that make catching a breeze, and they are really fun to play with or squeeze.
32. Quiet Book
This Montessori toy is a zippered interactive cloth book with padded handles that will help your child develop fine motor skills like buttoning, buckling, color recognition, counting, matching, telling time, and more. It encourages quiet play, and you don’t have to worry about losing parts.
33. Triangular Crayons
Thank you to the genius who created triangular crayons, helping us all avoid the frustration of crayons that roll off the tray table!
Fidgets like a Pop-It are great for the airplane or car ride. Usually it’s better if your toddler has never played with the fidget before and are seeing it for the first time. Children of all ages love these!
35. Water Wow Books
You’re definitely going to want to throw some of these books into the diaper bag. Similar to the mess-free coloring books listed above, water books allow little kids to draw and color with a water pen, revealing color underneath! It’s magical, satisfying, and perfect for a long plane ride.
Best Apps for Travel With Toddler
From old favorites to brand new apps, these ideas range from free to just a few dollars.
36. PBS Kids
The PBS KIDS Game App has hundreds of education games based on shows like “Daniel Tiger” and Wild Kratts”. The games build STEM skills, help with social concepts like kindness, spark imagination, and encourage healthy habits. The interface is safe and kid-friendly. The best thing about it? It’s totally free!
37. 123 Numbers
The 123 Numbers – Counting and Tracing app is a free app to help younger kids learn numbers, counting and tracing. They learn the shape of numbers in a tracing game, practice number matching, and there is also a more advanced fill-in-the-blank activity for older kids. The games are bright and colorful and there are no third party ads or in-app purchases.
38. Nick Junior
The Nick Jr. App is the home of PAW Patrol, Shimmer and Shine, Peppa Pig, and more. Kids can watch full episodes, play educational and interactive games, and more. The audio and interface make it easy for your child to navigate.
39. World of Peppa Pig
You’ll find an easy to navigate menu with age-appropriate activities, puzzles, and videos.
40. Fun For Toddlers
This app includes 15 jigsaw puzzles, 15 games, and hundreds of fun animations and sound effects.
41. Lego Duplo World
Toddlers can explore the Lego Duplo scenes, discover how everything works, and build structures using 3D bricks. It’s so much fun!
42. Breathe Think Do with Sesame
This resource app helps teach skills like problem solving, self-control, planning and task persistence.
43. Dr. Seuss Treasury
This app features 50 classic Dr. Seuss titles to laugh and read-along to.
44. My Town
The series of My Town apple lets kids build their own city, doll house, farm and more with characters and dress up games.
45. ABC Animal Toddler
This award winning app lets kids trace letters, count number, connect the dots, do jigsaw puzzles, play with alphabet flash cards, and more.
46. Baby Games: Bubble Pop
Bubble pop will catch the attention span of kids of all ages. It’s a great game to pass the time on a long flight or car ride.
47. Disney Coloring World
Bubble pop will catch the attention span of kids of all ages. It’s a great game to pass the time on a long flight or car ride.
Kids will meet all their favorite Disney characters in this app and can choose from brushes, crayons, markers, and magic tools to bring them to life. Once a character has been colored and decorated it turns into a sticker that can be played and played with in magical 3D sticker books.
48. Crayola Scribble Scrubbie Pets
Kids will have a great time designing their own pet pals, bathing and feeding them, and taking them on adventures through fairy tale castles, jungles, and winter wonderlands.
49. ABC Mouse
ABC Mouse is an award-winning learning program that covers reading, math, art, music, and more for kids ages 2 and up. It was created by educators and has thousands of learning activities. It’s free for 30 days.
Starfall is for kids preschool and up with phonics and math games, sing-alongs, an interactive calendar, nursery rhymes, and more.
Best Tips for Family Travel
1. Pack plenty of snacks.
No amount of toys or activities will help if your child is hungry. It’s a great idea to pack plenty of snacks and beverages (and special treats!) to keep them satiated and hydrated.
2. Set realistic expectations.
Travel days are tricky. A meltdown is likely. Things won’t go 100% smoothly. Jet lag happens. Knowing that ahead of time and expecting the unexpected will help you stay calm.
3. Move around.
Being in a confined space is tough for anyone, especially a busy toddler. Do what you can to move around a little bit, whether that means walking up and down the airplane aisle or stopping off at a gas station or rest stop every couple of hours. Getting energy out is key to avoiding emotional meltdowns.
4. Let them discover the toy.
Rather than presenting them with toy after toy, play it cool and set the toy out somewhere casually for them to discover it on their own, or begin using it yourself until they try to steal it from you.
We hope you enjoyed this list of the best activities for toddlers for your next road trip. Wish you a wonderful family vacation!