‘Are we there yet?’ How to keep children occupied on long journeys

Have you got a holiday or a long trip coming up? And have you got some young travellers accompanying you? Turn the journey into an adventure everyone will enjoy!

Puffin team
A photo of two little girls sitting on an airplane whilst they write and draw on a notepad
Image: Getty

Gearing up for a long journey can become a bit of a mission. From arguments and boredom to toilet stops every 15 minutes, it’s not surprising that even the most cool, calm and collected of us are left feeling stressed.

So, if you’re looking to make your next journey as smooth – and as fun – as possible, there are a few things you can prepare in advance. Here are our tips for some on-the-road activities everyone can enjoy!


Healthy or unhealthy, snacks are often the solution to all parenting dramas and it’s especially essential to have some close to hand when travelling. No one wants to deal with hangry kids! Be creative with what you prepare – you could even get the kids involved as well – and make sure you have plenty for any unexpected delays.


Books are an easy activity for children of any age to enjoy on the go. Why not buy a few new ones to surprise them with? And a joke book or a story with funny rhymes will provide everyone with a laugh if you’re stuck in traffic or bad weather. Audiobooks are a great option if travelling with children who are too young to read by themselves. Everyone can listen and you can discuss the story together as a family.


Audiobooks for on the road

I Spy

It’s an oldie but a goodie – provided that your children are old enough to know the alphabet. But even if they don’t, it can be highly entertaining and still makes for a fun game which kills some time.


Plan your pit stops in advance. Research places which offer child-friendly food and space for little ones to let off some steam and run around. If you’re driving with your partner or a friend, it will also give you a chance to swap turns at the wheel or just have a break. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents recommends taking at least a 15-minute break every two hours if you’re driving with a young baby.

A photo of a mum strapping her child into his child seat in a car
Image: Getty


While electronic tablets can be a godsend for keeping children occupied when driving, they may not be suitable for those who get car sick. They can also run out of power and you’ll need to have one per child to avoid the inevitable arguments. Instead, get in the requests and create a playlist of music everyone can sing along to. Make sure you have a good mix of tunes though – there are only so many times you can listen to ‘Baby Shark’…

Travel toys

Put together a travel bag of toys to fill up the time – but make sure they’re ones that won’t matter if they get lost on the trip. You don’t need to spend much money. Throw in some small picture books, finger puppets, stickers, magnetic games and puzzles, crayons and colouring books, or cards. And best of all, none of these toys will run out of battery power!


Activity books

20 Questions

Kids tend to ask a lot of questions – particularly 'are we there yet?' on journeys. So, try the classic game as a family to quell their probing minds. Think of a person, place or object, and let everyone take a turn to ask you a 'yes' or 'no' question until someone guesses who or what you are thinking of. The person who wins gets to be the next one to think of someone or something! 

Would you rather?

Once everyone gets bored of '20 Questions' try 'Would you rather?'. You can have lots of fun with the questions you ask your children, plus, it’s a great way to get them thinking. 'Would you rather hold a spider or a snake?' or 'would you rather have dinner with Peppa Pig or Igglepiggle?'

A photo of a little girl sitting in an airport reading a book
Image: Getty


If you’re travelling with young children try to coincide your journey with their nap times. Ensure they have plenty of blankets and comforters, and hopefully, the whir of an engine will lull them into a deep sleep for at least a few minutes! Travelling at bedtime can also make journeys easier. Dress your children in their pyjamas and they might nod off as you're setting off or once you're up in the air. Plus, driving in the evening can mean lighter traffic and – a bonus in the middle of summer – cooler temperatures. Put on a relaxing audiobook like Puffin Sleepy Tales for some extra help in winding children down.

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