9 Books to Keep Kids Entertained During Summer Road Trips
by Keith Rice
With grandparents who live in a different state, road trips are a fact of life for my little guy, and I spend a good amount of time figuring out ways to make these drives as entertaining — and meltdown free — as possible. While that’s a bit tricky with my toddler, I can’t wait for the day when I can start adding books into the mix. They’re the perfect way to make those hours on the turnpike fly by.
Whether activity books or travel-themed readers, there’s an entire world of engaging and super fun options to keep beginning and growing readers busy on your next family trip. Here are a few of our favorites.
Summer Fun Mad Libs Junior
A must-have for any road trip, this iconic series has brought fun to family vacations for decades. In Summer Fun Mad Libs Junior, your family will love creating silly stories all about summer in stories like “My First Plane Ride,” “A Day at Oceanland,” and more!
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go
Our little ones are invariably fascinated by all the different vehicles you’re likely to spot on a road trip — whether it’s other cars and trucks, police cruisers and buses, or massive tractor-trailers. As always, there’s a classic from Richard Scarry to help cultivate your child’s interest. With hundreds of colorful and sometimes fantastical vehicles, this is a terrific road trip companion. And for even more vehicle spotting with Richard Scarry, check out his Cars and Trucks from A to Z.
Some of my best childhood memories begin with family road trips. Go! is a colorful, activity-filled travel journal geared toward growing readers. Featuring fun writing prompts, adventure badges to earn, postcards, and tons of other activities, it’s an engaging way to not only entertain your little travel companion but also chart the memories you’re making together.
Shapes, Colors, Counting & More! (Disney/Pixar Cars)
In this boxed set of four board books, your little one can join Lightning McQueen, Mater, and all their friends from Cars as they learn about colors, numbers, shapes, and opposites. A great way to keep even the littlest child entertained.
What Kind of Car Does a T. Rex Drive?
A great choice for early readers and read-aloud sessions, What Kind of Car Does a T. Rex Drive? is a must-have addition to your road trip activity bag. Your child will join Ava and Mickey — two dinosaur-obsessed kids — as they help a group of dinosaurs shop for their ideal vehicles at Uncle Otto’s car lot. Bright colors, fun illustrations, and tons of witty details ensure there’s plenty to keep your child amused.
The Travel Activity Book
We’re big fans of DK — my little guy is particularly obsessed with the Pop-Up Peekaboo! series. For sturdy, enticing picture books, DK is hard to top, and The Travel Activity Book is a road trip essential featuring doodles, games, and puzzles alongside a wealth of information about various cultures and real-world destinations. It’s an educational way to keep your child occupied on family trips.Preorder from:
Mad Libs on the Road
Mad Libs is the perfect travel companion. These hilarious games can be played alone or with the whole family, and provide hours of entertainment. In this collection of 21 hilarious stories you’ll help create car songs, visit historical sites, and even go to a roadside diner.
This collection of mazes from the publisher behind Highlights Magazine engages young readers with age-appropriate puzzles. Including over thirty-five colorful, travel-themed mazes of all types, it’s an absorbing distraction for those long drives. Your child will guide vehicles along twisty roads, help a roller-coaster stay on track, and even launch a shuttle into outer space.
Ultimate Sticker Puzzles: License Plates Across the States
Growing up, my family loved to play the License Plate Game on our road trips, looking out the window to see how many states we could find. This fun activity book includes full-color license plate stickers from all 50 states that you can use to take the classic license plate game to a whole new level. In addition, the book is chock-full of mazes, word searches, crosswords, and more. With so many fun things to keep kids entertained, we promise they won’t be asking the dreaded, “Are we there yet?”.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2021.