Five ways to keep kids entertained on long journeys

Family, #DiscoverGoodTimes

children playing games on a car journey

"Are we nearly there yet?"

You’re off on a family adventure and three mins after leaving the driveway, someone needs the loo and the dreaded cry of “Are we there yet?” is whined for the first time. It's enough to send shivers down even the most patient of parent's back, as the winding road stretches ahead. Sibling rivalry then breaks out, arguing over who is going to sit where and who is the most squashed, and so the long, long, long journey begins!

It doesn't have to be a stressful trip, though. Here are our top five tips for keeping the peace, and your sanity, on a lengthy journey; whether by road, sea or air:

Top Tip 1 - The Hard Way:

Family Car Journey

If you live your life in a technology-free way and feel that you should engage your children by talking to them and playing games whilst travelling, the best way of doing this is by giving them something to do that is lead by them. Here is a play on I-Spy that we think works well.


This plumped-out version of I-Spy involves some prior planning and making a book that will have your children spotting and ticking things off along the way. Vary the degree of difficulty and make sure that at least one thing is near and unique to your destination, i.e holiday cottage. Your parental input can be as involved or as distant as you choose.

Games on a plane

The downside to I-Spy is that there are only so many times that you can spot a cloud or another plane. A variation of this would be to see pictures in the clouds, but your fellow plane passengers may grow weary of this game very quickly. Colouring-in, puzzles and magnetic games are always a good choice as pieces are less likely to get lost. Make up a story between you or, if you lack a literary mind, audio books are amazing, easy to pack and don’t really count as technology.

Top Tip 1 - The Easy Way:

Child with Tablet

Technology, though, is all around us. There is no escaping from it, and it does work brilliantly at keeping our children entertained for hours. Structured screen time can actually be educational and beneficial. (See this interesting article in The Independent for more details). Just make sure to audit their downloads prior to leaving and to keep a tentative ear and eye on the games they are playing if you have Wi-Fi available on your journey.

Full charge ahead

Make sure that devices are fully-charged before going starting out. You'll need chargers for the car and for your destination, ready to use for the return journey.

A portable DVD player that can be plugged into the 12v port of the car ensures a quiet couple of hours. It may sound like a cop-out or a luxury for spoilt children, but it seems that anyone who has at least one child, swears by them. You may think that all family time should be quality time whilst on holiday, but give yourself a break on the journey there and back. Martyrdom is highly over-rated.

Important: Remove all devices upon arrival. You are spending the day/weeks together after all.

Top Tip 2: The Overtaking Game


As previously mentioned, motorways present fewer opportunities for spying games outside of the car. Getting your children to keep score of something keeps them occupied for a surprisingly long length of time. The Overtaking Game is a good one to try. The premise is for one person or group to count and keep score of how many times you are overtaken, the other person or team scores how many times you overtake and the winner(s) get a treat at the destination.

It’s a good idea to exempt the driver from the game in order to discourage cheating and to ensure a safe journey!

Top Tip 3: Pen and Paper Games

Bus, train and plane journeys offer a bit more flexibility, although it will need to be a passenger-friendly activity. Anything that involves pen and paper is good for passing the time and usually socially acceptable. Games such as Hangman, Noughts and Crosses, and the Square Game, where you have to make squares on a dotty grid by taking it in turn to join the dots, will while away a few minutes.

The scribble game is also a good one, where you make a picture out of someone else’s doodle. The initial scribble must be done with eyes-closed and be one quick, continuous line.

Top Tip 4: The Adverbs Game

Playing games

A game that doesn’t involve looking outside the car or is dependent on a variety of window views, is this simple and effective one. The Adverbs Game is great for extroverts and aspiring thespians. One person covers their ears – headphones or fingers are best, although headphones ensure less cheating.

The remaining crew chooses an adverb between themselves, such as ‘sarcastically’ or ‘quietly’, and the person who wasn’t privy to the word has to ask questions that then get answered in that manner. They have to guess what the word is.

A treat for guessing the right answer lengthens this game too.

Top Tip 5: Bribery!

A treat at the end

Resort to bribery. This could work in either of the following forms. Give each child a stack of 20p’s and for every pre-decided rule they break on the journey, i.e. uttering ‘are we there yet?’ or fighting, they lose 20p.

For parents/drivers/carers of a more generous nature, for every mile that is covered without incident, 10p is received and they get to spend it on whatever they wish at the service station/train station/airport/destination.

Parental Advisory Notice

As a footnote and travel hack as opposed to a tip, ALWAYS drive at night. Dress them in their pyjamas, take a flask of tea and enjoy the inevitable silence that will eventually occur. Long journeys at the dead of night can be almost rejuvenating and the most relaxing time in a parents’ life!


If you would like to make your children really happy, why not book one of these family-friendly cottages with play facilities. They can entertain themselves in between family days out, giving you plenty of time to plan the journey back home.

Kibbear Farmhouse
Kibbear Farmhouse in Taunton, Somerset

Posted by Kat W on 25th April 2018