Seven Top-Rated Road Trip Activities for Teens

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Boring road trip coming up?  Not if I have anything to say about it!  (And I do!  Read on!)

Airline seatback entertainment
Fun aircraft seatback entertainment

Flying from Dallas to Atlanta?  Sailing from Memphis to Cincinnati?  Summer vacations are all about the road trip.  Even flying to a fun destination necessitates getting from point A to point B via car, train, donkey, or rowboat!

Enduring the time spent to get to your ultimate vacation spot can cause much joy or much frustration for you, but especially for your teens.  The electronic babysitters game gadgets you’ve relied upon for years may let you and your family down if they run out of juice in the middle of a lengthy voyage.

board game road trip

Under the circumstances, you’ll want to be sure to bring something analog to keep your youngster entertained.  But we’re talking about teens, here.  They’ve been enjoying their highly interactive digital treats for years!  How in the world will anything non-electronic do?

For my ideal road trip entertainment rankings, no batteries, chargers or plugs of any kind are allowed!

Additionally, now that you have spent untold quantities of money, blood, sweat and tears to cut loose, it sucks to see your son or daughter focusing exclusively on their iPad screens, eschewing the breathtaking scenery outside.  You’re on vacation for Pete’s sake!  This is the time for teens to take full advantage of the opportunities provided to bond with you, your family, and your destination.

Girl reading map Road Trip

Keeping these factors in mind as well as the obvious ones related to travel gear, I use the following criteria to rank teen entertainment possibilities:

  • Is composed of materials that are light weight/compact/sturdy

  • Is easy to keep together to minimize lost pieces/parts

  • Is age appropriate for teens, yet entertains other ages as well

  • Educates, even a little bit, or stimulates thought

  • Encourages players to make use of their surroundings/scenery

The following seven travel games and activities are listed in no particular order.  All are above average Amazon offerings that should keep your crew amply entertained while fully unplugged!

Loaded Questions is a game that asks participants quirky questions (many frivolous, but many that require some thought) that they answer, and you have to figure out who answered what.  This is a simplistic explanation for what is a very fun game, which, for the purposes of your epic road trip, you should get in its “On The Go” version, as below.  This series of cards poses amusing yet gently challenging questions that all will enjoy, even if you’re bringing along your grade schooler and your grandma!

Materials: 10

Lose: 3

Entertains:  8

Educates: 8

Surroundings:  4

Total: 6.6/10

Another game perfect for your loaded-up minivan of ages 4-94 is the Travel Scavenger Hunt Card Game.  It’s pretty simple, obviously – your card will indicate something you’ll be likely to see on the road – say, a green minivan – and the person to collect the most cards wins!  It’s a tougher game to play in more remote areas, but at least you can alter the rules as you see fit, adding time limits and such.  Teens will probably become bored with this faster than the rest of the family, but it will hold up for at least an hour for most of them.

Materials: 10

Lose: 3

Entertains:  5

Educates: 6

Surroundings:  8

Total: 6.4/10

Rubberneckers also demands players keep an eye out for particular things on the road, such as a limousine or fire truck, or in the distance, such as a weathervane on top of a building.  Great for keeping kids focused on their scenery!  This game takes the wackiness up a notch, however.  Not only must you find this, that, and the other in your observations, but you will also get cards requiring you to make the passenger in the next car over flash the peace sign, or gesture to the truck driver you’re passing to honk his horn.  Fewer illustrations are involved in this game so it will be trickier to involve very little kids in it.

Materials: 10

Lose: 3

Entertains:  8

Educates: 6

Surroundings:  8

Total: 7/10

Games on the Go is a collection of 50 (yes, 50!) games on 5″x6″ cards for a good pastime on the road.  Its most promising feature is the fact that the games are each on cards kept bound together on one compact clip.  So none of the components gets lost, and the whole thing can clip to a backpack or purse for extra security!  Multiple ages will enjoy the plethora of guessing games, word games, memory challenges, trivia, searching games and more.  Great for the longest of road trips, because there are 50 of these challenges, and no materials other than the lightweight cards are required.  Games on the Go is an ideal way to enjoy the journey!

Materials: 10

Lose: 10

Entertains:  9

Educates: 8

Surroundings:  5

Total: 8.4/10

A collection of classic activities and newer board games comprise Kidsthrill 12 Mini Magnetic Travel Fun.  This bundle of 12 magnetic board games (each measuring 5″x5″) includes old fashioned hits like Solitaire, Backgammon, Snakes & Ladders, and Tic Tac Toe.  Playing pieces are small and stored within each board, and directions for each game are included.  It should go without saying that a major flaw with this type of amusement is the ease with which small pieces tend to get lost.  Also, the entire game package weighs about a pound and a quarter – not much in the whole scheme of things, but when included with other travel gear the weight doesn’t help.  

Materials: 5

Lose: 2

Entertains:  8

Educates: 7

Surroundings:  4

Total: 5.2/10

Not just a game, but also a fun yet educational boredom buster: the National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas, which provides fascinating details about all 50 states with its cool photos, silly facts and wacky roadside attractions.  Also included are easy-to-use maps so kids can follow along with the journey without you having to relinquish your own map.  Luckily the author added a number of games to the book – you’ll note the ubiquitous scavenger hunt – but also an intriguing one called “Stump Your Parents.”  I think this colorful, educational book will appeal most to the preschool to tween set.  Older teens will probably scoff at first, but don’t be surprised when they snatch the book away from little Timmy and get lost in it for some time.  7.5/10

Materials: 10

Lose: 10

Entertains:  7

Educates: 10

Surroundings:  10

Total: 9.4/10

Sometimes we all need a brain break from literature, deep thoughts and reading.  We really just wanna roll the dice!  For times like these you’ll want to dig out your Yahtzee to Go Travel Game.  The road trip version of this strategy dice game weighs less than half a pound and comes with everything you need to play, fitting easily within the provided cup and lid for shaking up the dice.  Appealing to virtually all ages, mini Yahtzee fits easily into your carry on and just requires some care not to lose its pencils, scorecards, dice and parts.  8.5/10

Materials: 8

Lose: 5

Entertains:  8

Educates: 8

Surroundings:  2

Total: 6.2/10

I am confident these simple, non-electronic travel tools will provide a pleasant diversion for your teen as well as the rest of your family for all your upcoming journeys!   Playing games and sharing of yourself while on the road is a great way to maximize your time spent together, away from the stresses of home, school and work!

What is your favorite aspect of road tripping, and how do you usually keep entertained on the road?  Let me know in the comments!




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29 thoughts on “Seven Top-Rated Road Trip Activities for Teens

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  1. I mentioned on the Facebook page for Totally Teen Travel that the National Geographic game looks interesting and that I think Boy would get a kick out of the Stump Your Parents section. Haha. Now that I am reading again, Rubberneckers looks funny. I wonder how passengers in other cars would react!

  2. My kids are younger, but we usually pack books, coloring books and activity books along with a portable DVD player for long trips. And a ton of snacks!

    1. You sound very nicely set up, Kristi! And you reminded me of one advantage of the entertainment I recommend: nothing has to be read for more than a moment or two, thus obviating any potential carsickness crises. 😱 Thanks for the comment! ❤️

  3. We are certainly guilty of using electronic devices to keep our kids “calm” during our LONG road trip to Florida. Now that my daughter is a little older flash cards are the much better choice. The magnetic cards with the games looks so much fun. I’ll consider getting them for our next road trip.

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