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You’re about to embark on one of America’s favorite pastimes: the road trip. Whether you’re spending it with friends, family, or a special someone, a road trip isn’t complete without fun ways to stave off boredom on an hours-long journey.
Here’s how to find fun things to do on a road trip:
- Ask your loved ones for road trip ideas.
- Turn off the GPS (for now).
- Get help from mobile sightseeing apps.
- Sing-along to a playlist of everyone’s favorite songs.
- Listen to an audiobook or podcast.
- Play a movie (for passengers only).
- Play games that involve counting, spotting, naming, etc.
- Livestream your journey.
- Take photos along the way.
- Check out every restaurant you see.
- Take the most exciting souvenir you can find.
- Chat with the locals.
- Have a picnic.
- Stop and see the scenery.
- Watch the sunrise or sunset.
- Take group photos in different poses.
Want to plan the best road trip ever? In the following sections, I’ll provide you with some of my top, fool-proof suggestions.
1. Ask Your Loved Ones for Road Trip Ideas
The first rule of road trips is that everyone — and I mean, everyone — should have fun. If even one person isn’t enjoying the drive, it can bring down everyone’s mood.
Before starting your road trip, gather everyone who’s coming with you and ask: “Hey guys, we’ll be on the road for x days or so. What do you suggest we do along the way?” That way, if you need to bring anything for any activity (e.g., a board game set), you won’t forget to do so.
Of course, not all of you will enjoy the same activities. Some may prefer games like “I Spy With My Little Eye,” while others will probably spend the whole trip sleeping. What matters is that everyone experiences at least one thing they’ll enjoy throughout the ride.
2. Turn Off the GPS (for Now)
Planned trips are fantastic. Unplanned ones are even better. When you’re not stopping at the same places every other road tripper is visiting, it makes for a spontaneous and unique experience.
If you want to have a road trip unlike any other:
- Put away the GPS.
- Use the GPS only if you’re lost or need to get back on track.
- Take every detour you see.
3. Get Help From Mobile Sightseeing Apps
Maybe you don’t like the idea of not knowing where to go at all. No worries: You can always turn to your trusty phone for help.
A couple of apps to help you map out road trip around the most attractive destinations are:
- Roadtrippers. Need a bird’s eye view of places off the beaten path? Roadtrippers has a database of “millions” of destinations you won’t find on most travel guides. The app is free to download for iOS and Android.
- Roadside America App. Unlike Roadtrippers, the Roadside America App is only available for iOS. You’ll also have to shell out $6.99 to use it. However, the knowledge you’ll have at your fingertips will be priceless.
4. Sing-Along to a Playlist of Everyone’s Favorite Songs
It’s a road trip, and you’re all inside a locked car. Who cares if you belt your lungs out to a Whitney Houston ballad and miss a dozen notes or so? You’re not American Idol contestants; you’re amateur adventurers out to have fun.
Go to Spotify, ask everyone to look up their favorite tracks, and put them in a playlist. Hit “Shuffle” and get the gang to sing along. If you want to make it extra challenging, pick instrumental versions of the songs and see how well everyone knows their lyrics.
5. Listen to an Audiobook or Podcast
If you want to spend your journey “reading” without taking your eyes off the road, listen to an audiobook. The average audiobook runs for about 11 hours, more than enough for most road trips. You can download one from Audible, where you can access countless audiobooks for free within the first 30 days after you try the app.
Alternatively, you can tune in to a podcast or two. A handful of the best podcasts for road trips are:
- Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell. Since you’re searching for destinations off the beaten path, why not listen to an award-winning podcast about seeing historical facts in a new light? Besides, the host is Malcolm Gladwell. Why wouldn’t it be good?
- Duolingo Podcast. Are you visiting a place where most people speak Spanish? The Duolingo Podcast will allow you to greet locals with something other than “Hola.” Oh, and it has a French-to-English version too.
- Myths and Legends. Hosted by husband-and-wife team Jason and Carissa Weiser, the “Myths and Legends” podcast retells, well, myths and legends from around the world in a fun yet child-friendly way.
- Ask us Anything by Popular Science. Need a nerdy conversation starter? If so, you’ll love “Ask Us Anything,” which is what it sounds like — a podcast on random science factoids you never thought you needed to know (but should).
- Radiolab. If you can’t decide on a topic, listen to anything from Radiolab. The show tackles different subjects like an investigative journalist would — thorough, analytical, and in a way that challenges your worldview.
Of course, there’s a plethora of other options depending on your topics of interest. You can find countless fiction podcasts online and nonfiction ones on topics like true crime, psychology, history, science, and more.
6. Play a Movie (for Passengers Only)
The designated driver shouldn’t watch a movie while driving for obvious reasons. Otherwise, if anyone has a mile-long “Films To Watch” list, now’s a good time to catch up.
The average film runs from 96.5 to 120 minutes. Meanwhile, most road trips take about seven to nine hours per day. Doing the math, you can watch around three to four movies every day you’re on the road.
For example, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is a good film series to binge. At the time of writing this article, there are 27 Marvel movies, each clocking in between two to three hours. In other words, you can marathon all of the MCU films (excluding the Disney+ shows) within the entire road trip, no problem.
7. Play Games That Involve Counting, Spotting, Naming, etc.
Playing mobile games on the road is excellent and all. But if you’re not going to join in on the classics you can only play on a road trip, why go on a road trip at all?
Fun road trip games anyone can play include:
- I spy with my little eye. Someone says something like, “I spy with my little eye… something red,” and everyone else has to guess what it is.
- Count the number of X things (that are Y). Ask people to count the number of things that possess a specific color, shape, or feature. You can spice it up by asking them to qualify it further (e.g., “Count the number of green things that aren’t trees or road signs.”)
- The license plate game. This game isn’t only fun: It also helps the participants learn about license plates from different states. Players need to check out license plates, identify which states they’re from, and count the number of plates from each state.
- 21 Questions. The cool thing about 21 Questions is you can adjust it to the age of the participants. You can ask anyone anything about themselves, from something as innocent as “What is John’s favorite color?” to a saucy one like “Who was Jane’s first kiss?”
8. Livestream Your Journey
Social media live streams are as ubiquitous as road signs. If you think this road trip is worth remembering, ask someone to record the whole thing and livestream it on sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, etc. Next thing you know, you’re going to have a ton of likes and (jealous) comments in your feed.
Who knows, maybe the livestream garners enough attention for you to continue streaming the whole vacation. Perhaps this experience can open the doors to a new, social media-based career!
9. Take Photos Along the Way
Maybe the Internet connection in the locations you’re driving through is weak, so you can’t livestream (there goes your influencer career).
In that case, take photos of the surrounding scenery instead. You can always delete or edit the images if they’re not in the quality you want. Besides, photographs are timeless keepsakes no matter the era.
10. Check Out Every Restaurant You See
If you’re traveling off the beaten path, you’ll likely encounter an eatery that doesn’t have a listing on Yelp or Tripadvisor yet. Why not try it and help out a small (and possibly struggling) restaurant while you’re at it?
Who knows: If you like their food and write about your experience online, the eatery may get the traffic it deserves.
11. Take the Most Exciting Souvenir You Can Find
Notice that I said “take,” not “buy.” You should pay for souvenirs whenever you can (i.e., they’re from a store).
But if you pull over, pick up something that looks intriguing (e.g., a pearlescent rock), and you’re not violating any regulations, it won’t hurt to take home a free reminder or two of your road trip.
12. Chat With the Locals
The locals are more familiar with the area than you (or any mobile apps) are. You can ask them about the best places to visit, foods to try out, the do’s and don’ts of traveling in the area, where you should go next, etc.
If the locals speak another language, ask them to teach you basic phrases. Ask them about seasonal events you shouldn’t miss. You never know when you’ll drop by again and need their help.
13. Have a Picnic
Can’t eat in the car because of motion sickness? If you hear “I’m hungry” more than you’d like, pull over, ask everyone to take out their favorite snacks, and whip out the picnic blanket. Most importantly, give people time to rest and digest, use the bathroom, or recover from motion sickness (if they’re still experiencing it).
14. Stop and See the Scenery
Speaking of picnics, take this stop as an opportunity to look around and appreciate your surroundings. Check out the sights you would’ve otherwise missed if you stayed inside the car. Ask the best photographer of the group to take pictures so you can preserve these memories forever.
15. Watch the Sunrise or Sunset
Okay, I’m cheating a bit because the sunrise and sunset are technically part of the scenery. But if you’ve ever seen the sun up close (or as close as you can get), there’s nothing like it.
Something about how the sun looks at dawn or dusk makes you feel sentimental and contemplative. Look at the sunrise or sunset while driving — or better yet, while you’re at a stopover.
16. Take Group Photos in Different Poses
You’re far enough along the road trip that you feel a group picture is warranted. You can take the group photos inside the car (as long as everyone can squeeze into the image) or at a stop.
In any case, ask everyone to huddle and say “Cheese.” You can take serious shots, silly shots, and pictures where everyone is jumping as high as they can. A group photo is concrete proof that you all shared this road trip.
If during the drive you come up with other, better ideas to make your road trip fun and memorable, then, by all means, do those.
Every approach I mentioned above is only a mere suggestion. You can use the tips you like, adjust others, and discard the rest.
Every road trip is different. You can plan every detail to perfection or make it up as you go along. Regardless of what ends up happening along the journey, always try to make the most out of the situation, as you never know when the next time you’ll get to share such a close experience with your loved ones will be.