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.
1. Put on a sheet mask—when you emerge at your destination, at least you’ll have glowing skin. We like this brand.
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.
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.
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.
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!
6. Use the Star Chart app to identify the stars and planets you see in the sky—perfect for nighttime breaks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
13. Brush up on your language skills for your next international escape. We like Fodor’s Travel Phrases app.
14. Brainstorm a list of the next 10 places you want to visit.
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.
17. Play the silent game. See who can keep quiet for longest (you can use funny gestures to taunt your opponents).
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.
19. Pick state flowers. Press them in a book as you go for a fun souvenir when you get home.
20. Pull into a drive-in movie theater. Make sure to bring in greasy local food and treats—the total road trip package.
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.
22. Stay overnight at a fancy-ish hotel whenever you get tired. Use the One Night app to find something swanky last minute.
23. Download the Glympse app. Now your parents or significant other can see where you are without your having to constantly check in.
24. Give yourself a pedicure. Then hang your feet out the open window a bit to let them dry. Freedom!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
Klimova B. Learning a Foreign Language: A Review on Recent Findings About Its Effect on the Enhancement of Cognitive Functions Among Healthy Older Individuals. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018;12:305
Mantzios M, Giannou K. When Did Coloring Books Become Mindful? Exploring the Effectiveness of a Novel Method of Mindfulness-Guided Instructions for Coloring Books to Increase Mindfulness and Decrease Anxiety. Front Psychol. 2018;9:56
Niles AN, Haltom KE, Mulvenna CM, Lieberman MD, Stanton AL. Randomized Controlled Trial of Expressive Writing for Psychological and Physical Health: The Moderating Role of Emotional Expressivity. Anxiety Stress Coping. 2014;27(1):1-17.
Daniels D, Saracino T, Fraley M, Christian J, Pardo S. Advancing Ego Development in Adulthood Through Study of the Enneagram System of Personality. J Adult Dev. 2018;25(4):229-241
Nakamura K, Kodama T, Mukaino Y. Effects of Active Individual Muscle Stretching on Muscle Function. J Phys Ther Sci. 2014;26(3):341-4.
Schrager S, Sadowski E. Getting More Done: Strategies to Increase Scholarly Productivity. J Grad Med Educ. 2016;8(1):10-3.doi:10.4300/JGME-D-15-00165.1