Top Things To Do On A Road Trip: Rounding Up The BEST Ideas

Setting out on a new road trip is an exciting time to disconnect from the daily grind and instead focus on yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you. Of course, depending on how long your road trip will be, you may also feel a little anxiety trying to think up things to do on a road trip. I get it.

When I was a kid, my family didn’t vacation. Instead, we took 15-hour road trips to see our grandparents twice yearly. And now I take my own kids on long road trips to see family. Sure, the trips can get a little long, but they also offer fantastic bonding opportunities.

And now, when we have a free weekend, we routinely drive two hours up to the mountains or 4 hours down to the beach. Along the way, we’ve come up with creative ideas for things to do on a road trip. And today, we are glad to share some of those ideas with you. So buckle up, and let’s ride.

If you are worried about things to do on a road trip, starting by creating a detailed packing list.

Planning Things To Do On A Road Trip

Some people prefer to plan out a detailed itinerary for a road trip, while others prefer more freely follow the open road. There is a place for both; however, if you are worried about things to do on a road trip, it makes sense to put some planning into your trip.

Here are a few planning considerations to keep in mind:

  • Budget: Your budget will impact how far you can go, what you will see, and whether you have any wiggle room for add-on activities. 
  • Attractions: Do you hope to stop at unusual roadside attractions like Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas? Are you ready to discover the trolls at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens? You should at least search whether there are any unique local attractions between you and your destination and plan your route accordingly.
  • Accommodations: Similarly, would you consider staying the night in an old train locomotive, an upscale treehouse, or even a tepee? Search for unique accommodations between you and your destination; you might change the game.
  • Your Travelers: And lastly, you have to consider your travelers. You might have more leeway when your kids are older than when they are small. Also, some of your travelers will want to stop more frequently than others, and these are things you have to consider. 
If you are looking for things to do on a road trip, look up local attractions along the way.

Fun Activities To Enjoy

While it’s fun to think of unique ways to break up your road trip, the truth is you will likely spend most of your time in the car and taking regular breaks along the way. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite activities to do in the car and at stops along the way. Here are some of our best ideas:

Car Games and Entertainment

It’s essential to have some entertainment options to pass the time. Of course, we recommend you focus on deepening your relationship with your fellow travelers. This might mean asking insightful questions and offering deep conversation.

Still, that might not feel appropriate in every situation. And sometimes, it takes a little time to work up to those opportunities. After all, you don’t want to force the conversation or relationship. Here are some ideas for when you want to keep things light:

  • License Plate Games: Try to spot plates from different states or countries and keep track of who spots plates from the most places.
  • Mad Libs and Other Word Games: Plus, you can always play fun word games like Mad Libs. The driver may not be able to participate in every game. Still, they can participate in the laughs and will appreciate you passing the time. 
  • Fortunately/Unfortunately: This is a creative way to explore the things you see along the way while taking turns telling a story that alternates between good and bad events.
  • Twenty Questions: Another great way to pass the time is to play 20 questions, and this is a game that the driver can participate in as long as someone else keeps track of the number of questions. 😀

Really, the possibilities are endless, and most of these road trip games will be fun, even for the most serious adults. After all, what’s the point of a road trip without a little whimsical fun along the way? For those looking for things to do on a road trip, this is a good start.

License plates from across the country.

Activities For Kids

Naturally, some of the games and activities that will appeal to adults might not appeal to kids. With that in mind, we’ve also included this list of age-appropriate activities that the whole family will enjoy:

  • I Spy: This first one is obvious, and while we admit that it might get a little old for adults, I will be the first one to attest that kids love this game. It’s a great way to pass the time between “Are we there yet” questions. I recommend setting ground rules that whatever player’s spy must be in the car. Otherwise, your crafty 3-year-old will likely choose items you are passing as you drive by.
  • Activity and Color Books: Who doesn’t love to color and create new things? Secretly, I think most adults love to color, too, but it is definitely a kid’s favorite.  
  • Punch Buggy: Some of you may prefer to avoid this game, but it is a long-time favorite for a reason. Compete to be the first to identify Volkswagen Beetles, and when you win, offer a gentle “punch buggy” to a nearby arm.
  • Get Creative: Really, the potential list here is limited only by your imagination and largely depends on your kid’s personality. Let me give you an example – One time, my son and I took turns drawing items in a fictional battle in which each new element we drew was designed to beat the last item the other drew. I don’t even know how this scenario unfolded, but it kept my son busy for multiple hours.

You can try playing the “Quiet Game,” too, but that only ever worked one time for me. After the first time, my kids were on to me, and I had to try something else. 😉

Outdoor Activities At Stops

Eventually, you will have the chance to stop and rest your legs. I recommend making the most of these opportunities. Hopping back in the car immediately rarely helps anyone feel any better. Instead, get some fun exercise and some fresh air. Here are some potential ideas:

  • Go For a Hike: This will take a little planning or a little luck, but going for a hike is a great way to experience a road trip fully. If you drive a scenic route like the Blue Ridge Parkway, hikes are easy to find along the way.
  • Have a Picnic: Planning for a picnic along the way is a great way to save money while spending some time outside your car.
  • Throw a Frisbee or a Ball: Take a football or a Frisbee in the car. Then, any time you stop, you know exactly what to do after using the restroom. Enjoy some time outside while bonding with your travel mates.

At the very least, spend a few minutes walking around before you hop back in your car to continue your journey. And while I know many will disagree with me on this, I recommend frequent stops. The stops are good for your mind and your legs.

Hiking in a canyon on a family road trip.

Packing Considerations

While it might not be a completely intuitive observation at first, putting some forethought into your packing list may impact things to do on your road trip. For instance, some people enjoy looking at maps or atlases as they travel. And naturally, you need to plan ahead if you plan to have a picnic or throw a frisbee at your stops.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Navigational Tools: Ensure you have a GPS device to find your way to your destination, but consider a map or atlas. You might find that you enjoy looking at a map as you travel.
  • Versatile and Comfortable Clothing: I recommend packing layers and comfortable shoes, but let me point out that this goes beyond comfort in your car. Wearing comfortable layers will enable you to go for a hike or throw a frisbee. You never know exactly what your road trip will hold, so be ready (and comfortable) no matter what happens!
  • Entertainment: Don’t forget any supplies you might need for your favorite road trip games. In general, take a notepad and pens for adults so you keep score and write down ideas. For kids, remember those coloring books, crayons, and coloring pencils. Just take them out so that they don’t melt!
  • Food and Drink Supplies: Last but far from least, pack your favorite non-refrigerated road trip snacks, a reusable water bottle, and any gum or other favorites that will help you stay full and satisfied along the way.

The best-laid schemes of mice and men often go awry! You might have the best intentions for fun things to do on your road trip, but if you don’t pack the essentials, you might regret it. Create a packing list so that you remember everything that you need!

Road Trip Themes: Things To Do On A Road Trip

Often we think about road trips as an affordable means to get from point A to point B, but in doing so, we miss many opportunities. If you are really looking for fun things to do on a road trip, I recommend considering a themed road trip.

What do I mean? Well, you could do a food-themed road trip, a music-themed road trip, or a road trip focused on local attractions and history. A little creativity goes a long way.

Food Tours

I love food, so this idea really appeals to me. Several regions of the country are known for their local food. Consider road-tripping through a region to taste-sample the best of what the region is most known for. We touch on this idea in our list of surprising tips for road trips, but here are a few possibilities:

  • Southern BBQ Road Trip
  • California Wine and Cheese Tour
  • Maine Lobster Roll Tour
  • Midwest Pizza Exploration (Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis styles)
Try a barbecue-focused road trip!

Music Tours

In a similar way, you could also plan a road trip around your favorite music genres. Nashville is home to country music, but other areas throughout the United States might be worth visiting. Here are a few music road trip ideas:

  • Motown Road Trip: Drive from Detroit to Chicago, stopping at Motown landmarks. Visit the music studios where legends like Chuck Berry recorded. If you feel extra adventurous, include Cleveland on your journey to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • Blues Highway: Drive from Memphis to New Orleans listening to live music. Check out the Delta Blues Museum and B.B. King Museum. You can visit Graceland (Elvis’ home near Memphis) while you are in town.
  • Austin to Nashville: From the live music capital of the world to the home of country music. Visit the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry.

Exploring Local Attractions

Of course, taking a food-themed or music-themed road trip is just one way to go, and your trip doesn’t have to be quite that orchestrated. Nearly every region offers local attractions and historical landmarks that are worth visiting.

For instance, in coastal regions, you might find a few lighthouses to visit. And in the mountains, you might find waterfalls to see. You will be surprised by what you find when you spend a few minutes researching. Quirky museums, street art, and murals exist across every community.

Mural in Downtown, Concord, NC.

Making the Most Of Your Next Journey

Road trips can be some of the most memorable experiences of a lifetime. Along the way, you will find breathtaking scenery, unique stops, unforgettable moments, and important bonding experiences.

Still, they can also be long, uncomfortable, and even stressful. Planning fun things to do on a road trip will go a long way toward creating the best experience possible. Ultimately, the trip is what you make of it. Keep a list of road trip questions, trivia, and ready-to-play games for when the road gets long.

The Verdict: Top Things To Do On A Road Trip

The key to a successful road trip is to approach the journey with an open mind, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to adapt to whatever comes your way. Even so, planning things to do on a road trip will help.

Plan activities, like word games, to pass the time while you travel down the road. For kids, I recommend coloring sheets (and maybe the occasional tablet time 😉). But lastly, plan for your stops. Your stops along your journey may be the most memorable experiences.

Take a frisbee or football to toss around while you stretch your legs. You can also research the most popular local restaurants or unique lodging accommodations that might be more exciting than the typical hotel.

Our parting advice is this: Seek adventure, and enjoy it when you find it.

Jeremiah moved to the Charlotte area with his wife, Erin, back in 2013. The family has grown over the years, and they now call the Carolinas home. They enjoy hiking and adventures, road trips, backyard fire pits, and pizza night. Jeremiah loves to explore, and looks forward to sharing tips, tricks, and resources for your next trip.