The SUV is packed up, filled with gas, and a large cooler with snacks and drinks is in the back. You are hitting the highway for the ultimate summer road trip! But, you’re going to be on the road for hours or days… How will you keep yourself and the other humans in the automobile entertained with things to do on a long car ride?
With the invention of the smartphone came several new forms of entertainment. That little (but expensive) device we all have in our pocket can be your best source of entertainment. Just a quick note here. You may need to do some preplanning.
There are many areas around the US and other countries where cell service is sketchy at best. Set yourself up for success by downloading your entertainment before you head out. There is no end to things to do on a long car ride with a smartphone.
This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a commission. Please see our disclosure policy for full details. Thanks.
To start with, head over to AAA and get the maps and TripTik for your trip. Next, download them to your phone. This way you won’t get lost!
Things To Do On A Long Car Ride – By Yourself Or With Others
1. Listen To A Podcast:
Podcast, what’s that? If you haven’t already gone down the rabbit hole with Podcasts, here is what they are in a nutshell. A podcast is a spoken word digital audio file of a particular topic recorded in episodic series. You can download podcasts to your personal device (i.e., smartphone) for easy listening.
There is probably already a widget on your smartphone named “Podcasts.” You can access podcast series in AppStore or Google Play depending on your phone. You can also use apps like Spotify or Overcast for listening.
Many of you already have favorite podcasts you listen to on the way to work or the gym. Figure out which genre suits you and your road trip team (True Crime, Comedy, History?) and download away. Because Podcasts are set up as a series, you can choose to listen to one episode, or if you’re really into it, binge listen!
2. Learn A New Language
You’ve meant to learn Spanish, or French, or Mandarin forever, but who has time for classes? Well, now you do! When we drove from Anchorage, AK to Bend, OR, we had six (6) days, times eight (8) hours of uninterrupted time watching the road go by.
Grab an app like Babbel and you can put those long hours on the road to work learning that new language. I am not blessed with the gift of tongues. But if you are, and if your car drive is long enough, you could be speaking a second or third language in no time!
Things To Do On A Long Car Ride Without Electronics
3. Stop At Odd Roadside Attractions
Have you ever heard of the Flintstones Bedrock City in Coconino County, AZ, Carhenge in Alliance NE, or the Dinosaur Kingdom II in Natural Bridge, VA? Every state in the US has some weird roadside attraction waiting for you, and you should totally stop and see them.
Google which sites are along your drive path and plan to stop. In addition to the main attraction, these kitschy stops are usually a good place for a bio-break or to pick up a tasty snack. Please take a photo and post it on Instagram!
4. Journal the Journey
Noting where you go and what you see is an excellent way to keep busy as you drive down the road. But these notes will also help you plan future trips. Keep track of all the things, good and bad, on your journey.
5. Play A Game
It may seem childish at first, but playing a game is one of the age-old things to do on a long car ride. The License Plate Game is an old standard. You know the drill: collect license plates from as many states as you can find. It’s that simple.
Or you can pick up a Road Trip Kit like the one to the right. This kit contains Tic-Tac-Toe, Battleship, Hangman, and more! Lots of fun to keep your passengers entertained and no electronics required!
I know this section is not supposed to involve “electronics,” but with the advent of smartphones and apps, you can do even more than just cross a plate off the list. Plates Free is one of several apps on the market. Each time you claim a plate (state), you get fun facts about that state along with how far the state is from your home.
But don’t stop there; after all, it could be many miles between “plates.” With A quick look through the AppStore or Google Play, you can find Trivial Pursuit, Never Have I Ever, Mad Libs, and many more games that will keep the team amused and engaged while you tool down the road.
6. Brainstorm Relationship Goals
Are You traveling with your “SO?” This is an excellent time to review, update or create those “couples goals.” Does your life plan include things like traveling the world? Ours did. Are you happy in your jobs and living in your dream location?
Now a long car ride isn’t the time for couples to be learning the basics. You might end up at your destination wondering if you’ve chosen the right person! But, if you’ve been together for a while, this could be an excellent time for a route check on your life journey. You may find you are on the right road or need to make some course corrections.
7. Knit or Crochet – Creative Things To Do On Long Car Ride
Knitting and crocheting have grown in popularity after being somewhat forgotten in the past few years. If you are one of the many new enthusiasts, grab your needles (or crochet hook) your yarn and get stitching. By the time you get to your family’s house for the reunion, you can have new scarves for everyone!
You may be new to writing. The last time you wrote anything may have been that time in high school when your English teacher made you write 500 words on some random topic, and you hated writing. My topic was why I loved taking a cold shower in the morning. I aced the assignment, but the truth here, I hate cold anything!
As a blogger and writer, it’s natural for me to take this time to write. Give it a try. Maybe you’ve always wanted to keep a journal, now’s as good a time as any to start. A big caveat, though, if you are prone to motion sickness, activities that take your eyes off the road may make you nauseous.
Yes, you can totally ignore anyone else in the vehicle, pick up your book and read. The same caveat as above, you may feel a little queasy when reading. But if you’ve been itching for a good block of time to get into “War and Peace” or “Shogun,” the time may be now!
The Non-Driving Person Has Even More Options of Things to Do On A Long Car Ride.
10. Organize Your Smartphone
Most of us keep adding apps and let them fall where they may. Sometimes we may even group apps under one widget. Like I have all my travel apps in a widget called “travel.” I know very clever.
If the native widgets on your phone aren’t sufficient to make your home screen “pop,” there are loads of new apps for both Android and iPhone that you can download and use to get fancy. For someone who likes organization and that certain aesthetic, the road trip may be your time to perfect your phone’s home screen.
11. Meal Planning and Prep
Don’t you wish you had a frig or freezer full or ready to make meals? Yes, you can order these from several different companies these days, but face it, that’s expensive. Instead, you can invest the time on the road trip to put together lists of meals and their components.
Pinterest is an excellent source of inspiration. Just type “meal planning” or freezer meals into the search function, and away you go! Add filters like “healthy,” “breakfast,” or “lunches,” and you can refine your search to exactly what you are looking for.
Choose your meals and make your shopping list. Set aside a long Sunday afternoon for shopping and prep when you get home. Yes, meal prepping initially takes a bit of time. But the payoff for preparing is big: once you are done, you won’t have to cook all week!
Things To Do On Long Car Ride To Keep Your Mind Active When You Are Driving Alone
12. Keep Track Of The Ideas That Pop Into Your Head
Have you ever noticed how your best ideas pop into your head when you can’t write them down, like when you’re in the shower or driving? At least when you are driving, you can get these great morsels of wisdom saved for future use. (Reminder: hands-free use of devices while driving is the law in most places.)
Open an app on your smartphone like Evernote or Notability (both available in the AppStore or Google Play) that accepts verbal commands. When great thoughts and ideas pop into your head, speak them aloud and save them for future use.
If you’re not getting any great ideas but do have a bunch of things you forgot to do before you left, like pay a bill or call the plumber, you can just make a to-do list.
13. Do A Visualization Activity
Ok, this may seem odd – A “Visualization Activity” while driving? Sure! Before you put the car in drive, take some time to write out a few different things you hope to accomplish, do or be in life. Put each item on a separate slip of paper and drop the slips into a box or jar for safekeeping.
When you’re ready, take out one slip and do a visualization exercise that thing. How will you tackle the objective? What will your life be like when you’ve achieved your goal? Using the app from #12 (Notability), you can track your thoughts about the goals
14. Audio Books – Reading By Listening
Never have time to read those books, like Dante’s Inferno, you’ve always meant to read? You can’t actually read while driving; that would be dangerous and may be illegal. But now you can have those books read to you! Yes, you can download and listen to thousands of books.
There are many places you can find audiobooks. I like listening on Audible. With Premium Plus subscription, you choose a new book each month for just $14.95. Depending on how long you will be on the road, you could work your way through the whole set of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Arthur Conan Doyle!
15. Catch Up With Friends and Loved Ones
When you’ve exhausted all the other things to do on a road trip, and you are craving the sound of another human being, tell your smartphone to make a call. In seconds you can be laughing with your best friend, Mom, or brother.