Frugal Road Trip Fun


Yesterday we survived a sixteen hour road trip. (To be honest, I’m typing this yesterday, so I’m assuming we’ll allow our kids to survive the whole trip. We’ll see.)  We woke up at 2 AM, and drove, and drove, and d.r.o.v.e.


But, since my kids are expert travelers, I’ve leaned a few tricks along the way. We borrowed a DVD player from a friend, however across eight states they only watched a movie for about an hour. (My hubby is old school and thinks they need to look out the windows to see the scenery instead of being not be glued to a screen.  Definitely a sore spot at times, but they do pretty well with it because that’s the way they’ve grown up!)


So, to make the trip go a little smoother, when I’m on top of things I pack little “surprises”. Every hour or so, they each get a paper sack to unpack.  Thanks to the Easter clearance sales at Target I was pretty stocked up, and they loved looking forward to their next treat! Here’s what was included:

  • Dollar Tree markers and coloring books
  • Pez Dispensers and a few other candy treats (the Pez were clearanced at Easter and a HUGE hit)
  • a Kumon workbook for my two younger girls (this was my one splurge, and I let my older son choose a new book for his Kindle)
  • an old Rubix cube and some game cards I found in our kids craft cabinet
  • Dollar Tree sunglasses
  • a few free printables (free summer Mad Libs & Color by Number worksheets)
  • a pack of gum
  • a water bottle with lemonade mix
I kept it really simple, and just labeled each bag with a time in a different color for each child. It was such a small thing, but they looked forward to each new treat throughout the day, and really did so well traveling!
Here are a few other activities we did along the way:
  • Played “home or away” ~ the kids watch for cars from other states and try to figure out whether they’re on their way home or away
  • The states game (of course!)
  • Colored pictures of their “dream” home
We also had them work on learning the Books of the New Testament in order. I realized that my kids really didn’t know the order of the books of the Bible a few weeks ago, so we decided they could “earn” extra spending money if they memorized the New Testament books in order. (I still struggle finding a few books in the Old Testament, and it bothers me so much that I didn’t learn it well as a kid!) All three of them got it (ages 13, 10 and 6), and sure enough my six year old mastered it a few hours before her big brother and sister. Now, we’ve all sung this song 8 jillion times, but at least they can mark that off their bucket list. 😉
Do you have any suggestions on how to pass the hours a little more smoothly on long road trips? I’d love to hear them, so leave a comment to share!



This post is linked to Living Well Spending Less Thrifty Thursday (thanks for the opportunity to link up!)  See previous penny pinched home ideas.





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  1. Love this! What a great idea! I wonder if my 3-year-old is old enough for this! We’re going to CO next month! Thanks for sharing!

    • I think I started it when mine were about 3 Randi! At that age they’re so easy to impress – but I definitely would do them once an hour to keep them going! We drive to CO when my kids were 5 and 2, and somehow they survived but these definitely helped. Good luck!

  2. What items do you give your 13 yr old on road trips? Learning the 50 states: they are easier to remember if you do them alphabetical. Twin Sisters Production (and others) have the states sung to the tune of Turkey in the Straw. There may be a few extra words in their version, which is how I learned it. (You can see the words here; other versions, only have the states in the song, I believe–no extra words.) Then you can always play “name the states” whether it is alphabetical, or naming a different one. I am sending you an email.

    • Those are great ideas Tammie! I struggled with e
      What my 13 year old would enjoy, but he loved the gum and candy (of course!) and I challenged him to draw a map of the United States and label as many states as he could. We’ll have to work on learning those states!

  3. Suze Harris says:

    Hi Laurie, I just happened upon a really cute blogspot the other day that had FREE printables for vacation (or as she calls it Funcation). Its called Go the tab called “Free Printables” and then page down for a bit. She has some super cute ideas for things/games to do in the car. My son is too young to enjoy these but your kids might really like them.

    I think you should pass on the link to your “followers” too. I’m guessing the other blogger wouldn’t mind since she has them there for free anyway. Please comment and let me know what you think. My favorite thing for now is to look around the internet for all the adorable FREE printables that people give away all the time. Thank you for all your tips and ideas. I really enjoy your site. Suze Harris (Austin TX)

  4. Cynthia Miller Smith says:

    My daughter and I just talked about this last week being that we are driving to St Louis from Florida, a 16 hour road trip which we will be taking a break to sleep at night. A dear friend of mine had done this for us when my kids were little and we had driven from Florida to St Louis. It was perfect to break up the boredom. For this trip we will have the hourly bags to open along with the DVD player, the leap pad charged up, the leapster and the Ipads all charged up. We have many educational apps making learning fun.

  5. you can play I spy… another old game. I also have a couple of travel bingo cards that we reuse… but I bet it would be easy enough to make some and print them out. ….. red car, blue car, texas plates, barn, stop sign, water tower, red roof, you get the picture… I always read in the car so I always have a few magazines and a book.

  6. Kellie Avon Alexander says:

    I just remembered while reading this that we used to play an ABC game where you try to find words that begin with each letter in the alphabet in order along the road — billboards, highway signs, bumper stickers, etc. For example, A might be found on a billboard that says Alabama, then go to B and so on. That was a good way to keep little (and not so little) brains busy — we used to drive from Dallas to Dayton several times a year. 🙂 Hoping (expecting) to hear that the trip went well and you all are enjoying your new adventure. Check out the Dayton thrift stores (not too far from Columbus). They are the best in the country in my opinion.

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