40 Things to Do on the Ultimate American Road Trip

things to do on road trips

Do you remember watching Britney Spears and her crew in Crossroads? The characters made taking a road trip—with a guy they met at their school dance, no less—seem like an absolute blast. There’s even that scene where Britney’s character completely nails her karaoke version of “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” at a random bar along the way. But although real road trips have tons of perks like beautiful views and fun pit stops, the hours on the highway can get a little dull. We’ve put together a foolproof guide so the next time you choose to travel a distance by car, you’ll know how to keep yourself (and the other passengers!) totally occupied. Scroll through to see the things to do on road trips to save yourself from boredom.

Woman applies face mask.
 By Creative-Family / Getty Images

1. Put on a sheet mask—when you emerge at your destination, at least you’ll have glowing skin. We like this brand.

Woman listens through earbuds while looking at her phone in a car.
 Boogich / Getty Images

2. You can’t listen to the radio the whole time. Instead, take advantage of the longer trip and listen to a podcast that's new to you. S-Town—a mystery series from the creators of Serial—is worth a listen.

Google Maps shows directions from a phone mounted on the dash board.
spukkato / Getty Images

3. Use Google Maps to plot places you are thinking of visiting once at your location. It will be so much easier to try famous restaurants, food trucks, bars, and so much more.

Couple cuddles in car on road trip.
 By Jacob Lund / Getty Images

4. If you’re driving with your S.O., now might be a good time to take an emotional intimacy Q&A—experts insist it’s the best way to spice up your relationship.

Two women examine a paper map placed on the car's hood.
 By Witthaya Prasongsin / Getty Images

5. Go technology-free when it comes to navigation. Using only a map will give you and your travel companions that much more of a feeling of satisfaction when you arrive!

Parent and child gaze at the stars.
Nang Saw My Chu Wsu Ma Sri Thn / EyeEm / Getty Images

6. Use the Star Chart app to identify the stars and planets you see in the sky—perfect for nighttime breaks.

Man orders at food truck.
By Spiderstock / Getty Images 

7. Stop at random places on the way—straddle state lines, peruse fireworks kiosks, and try the taco stand just off the interstate—and post photos on social media doing each of the above, of course.

Two women's hands scroll on mobile dating and social media apps.
By Grindvalds / Getty Images

8. Offer to critique a friend’s dating profile. They’ll thank you. If you’re feeling really generous, offer to help them find someone to date with the cool new app Vouch that allows you to “swipe” for your friends.

Friends hang out in back of van.
By Jecapix / Getty Images

9. If you’ve got a full car, play a little Cards Against Humanity. Even though the driver won’t be able to partake, he or she will get a few chuckles from the front seat. If you’ve got a crew that’s engaged or married, Cads About Matrimony may be even more entertaining.

Woman drives a car.
 By Madrolly / Getty Images

10. Play license-plate bingo. Whoever spots all 50 states’ worth of license plates first wins. For quick note-taking, print out papers with state names on them so you can easily cross one off at a time.

People raise their hands and laugh as they ride in a convertible car.
By Alessandro Biascioli / Getty Images

11. Make up a scavenger hunt and determine prizes in advance (like treating the winner to a fancy dinner at your final location). Things on the list? Ask a stranger to pump your gas, get five people to wave back to you on the highway, be the first to spot 25 red cars—you can get really creative.

Woman naps while leaning out of the window of a car.
 By Francesco Capobianco / Getty Images

12. Let yourself drift off to sleep. It’s one of the best things to do on road trips (as long as you’re not the driver). How often do you get the opportunity to just relax?

Woman smiles as she looks at smartphone.
 By PIKSEL / Getty Images

13. Brush up on your language skills for your next international escape. We like Fodor’s Travel Phrases app.

Two women pose with paper map and camera.
 By Bobex-73 / Getty Images

14. Brainstorm a list of the next 10 places you want to visit.

Woman writing in notebook.
 By EllenaZ/ Getty Images

15. If no one in your group has any kids yet, play the “what will I name my baby?” game. (Go for first names and middle names, since parents seem to be using both lately).

Couple sings in car.
Milkos / Getty Images 

16. Sing along to an entire musical soundtrack while pretending you’re at the show. Feel free to applaud at the end of each track.

Woman driving car.
By RafaPress / Getty Images 

17. Play the silent game. See who can keep quiet for longest (you can use funny gestures to taunt your opponents).

Woman sleeping while wearing neck pillow on bus.
 By Antonio Diaz / Getty Images

18. Use a label maker to leave funny notes on your way. Put one with a friend’s phone number on your signed dinner receipt, or stick one on your sleeping friend's forehead.

Woman picks wildflowers at the side of the road.
By Cavan Images / Getty Images 

19. Pick state flowers. Press them in a book as you go for a fun souvenir when you get home.

Woman gets popcorn from theater employee.
By SolStock / Getty Images

20. Pull into a drive-in movie theater. Make sure to bring in greasy local food and treats—the total road trip package.

Friends hold lollipops at a fair.
 By urbazon / Getty Images

21. Search for signs for local events—and then attend one. Is there a nearby carnival, pancake breakfast, or farmers market? Find one that best suits your interests, and then interact with the area’s residents.

Woman holds hands above her head in excitement while taking in the city view from a hotel room chair.
 By noipornpan / Getty Images

22. Stay overnight at a fancy-ish hotel whenever you get tired. Use the One Night app to find something swanky last minute.

Women look at smartphones.
By ijeab / Getty Images

23. Download the Glympse app. Now your parents or significant other can see where you are without your having to constantly check in.

Woman's freshly painted blue toe nails are accentuated as her bare feet rest on the dashboard.
By PBNJ Productions / Getty Images

24. Give yourself a pedicure. Then hang your feet out the open window a bit to let them dry. Freedom!

Woman listens through over the ear headphones while riding in a car.
 By Westend61 / Getty Images

25. Listen to an audio book you've been meaning to read. Borrow it for free with your library card, or use an app like Audible to gain access to the story.

Hand uses colored pencil to fill in adult coloring book design.
By serezniy / Getty Images 

26. Color in an adult coloring book—or if you have kids traveling with you, why not color the same thing? Print off some coloring sheets pertaining to your trip before you leave, so you can chronicle the voyage and who was there.

Woman walks through city street.
By GCShutter / Getty Images 

27. Research the most interesting thing about your next stop. As much fun as it is to stumble upon a good find while you're traveling, why not look ahead to find something great? This can help boost morale within the vehicle, so there's something to look forward to on the long-haul days.

Woman examines grapes that are still on the vine.
 By Xu Furong / Getty Images

28. Follow a weird billboard and see where it goes. A road trip is an opportunity to see a family-run peach orchard, a chocolate emporium or the world's largest alligator. If a billboard piques your interest, why not see where it leads? If nothing else, you'll have a story to share.

Fresh veggie bowl drizzled with sauce.
By Maskot / Getty Images

29. Use the opportunity to load up on good snacks—not just healthy ones. Travel is a great time to try something new. Why not buy some treats along the way to share with your fellow travelers? While you're at it, develop a ranking system so you can decide the best snack of the journey.

Person knits in the car.
 By Sharon Mccutcheon / EyeEm / Getty Images

30. Knit or crochet a new item, and consider passing it along to your fellow passengers à la Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Not sure how? Pre-load your phone or tablet with content that will show you the step-by-step process.

Woman looks at smartphone while sitting in car.
By ibnjaafar / Getty Images 

31.While you have service, download a photo editing app, so you can get all of your pics from the previous stops ready for social media.

Person holds pencil over a journal and looks at smartphone.
 By serezniy / Getty Images

32. Start a travel journal—one in a physical journal. Use the down-time in the car to process the day before, and log everything you did, funny things that were said, and how it all made you feel.

Hold on to all of the tickets and paper items you collect along the way and paste them in a journal with a glue stick once you get home.

Woman watches screen with two girls on either side in car.
 By Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

33. Watch a movie. If your vehicle has a DVD player, perfect. If not, no problem. Simply pre-load your phone or tablet with the media you wish to watch before your trip. Don't forget the headphone splitter!

Woman looks at phone and smiles.
 By Antonio Guillem / Getty Images

34. Figure out your Enneagram type—and everyone else's. Taking an Enneagram test is an eyeopening experience, and can help you better understand yourself and others—especially those who you're traveling with! If you're already hooked on Enneagram, read up on the latest from dedicated Instagram accounts covering the types.

Woman holds reusable thermos.
 By Karl Tapales / Getty Images

35. Strategize ways to reduce plastic in your life. Each year, the world produces 300 million tons of plastic, and only half of it is disposable, according to Plastic Oceans International. Think of ways to reduce your dependance on plastic, starting with the car. How about adding in reusable water bottles and limiting packaged goods to start?

Woman listens to music via her smartphone while standing in a field of flowers.
By helenaak / Getty Images 

36. Craft the perfect playlist for the next leg of your tour. Maybe you're road-tripping for fun, or for something necessary (like a move). Either way, there's music for that, and why not pick out the best to keep a good thing going or lighten the mood?

Friends hold arms above their head while sitting in a field next to a Volkswagen bus.
 By Jozef Polc / Getty Images

37. Maximize stops by stretching every time you stop. Get the blood pumping again by stretching, taking a brisk loop around the parking lot, or doing some jumping jacks. Your body will thank you.

Woman reads while resting in the back of a parked vehicle.
 By Counter / Getty Images

38. Go analog and read a physical newspaper or magazine. Grabbing a local paper from a stop will help you gain better understanding of what it's like to live there, or you could grab a copy of the New York Times from a Starbucks for national news. If nothing else, bring the magazine that came in the mail that you never got around to reading. Now's your chance.

Girl smiles while looking at tablet.
 By monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

39. Play MadLibs. Have everyone else in the car join in to create a silly story. If you forget to pick up a copy of a MadLibs book, the company has an app, and similar companies create storytelling templates you can access online.

Hand with nail polish writes to do list on terrazo countertop.
By Putthipong Wiriya-Apa / EyeEm / Getty Images

40. Create a to-do list to make transitioning at home a little easier. No one wants to think the good times are coming to an end, but having a plan in place will help you hit the ground running.

Be sure to read about 50 things to do on a Sunday night to start the week off right. What are your favorite things to do on road trips to keep busy? Tell us in the comments!

Article Sources
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