A couple of favorite toys that occupy my children during travel are AquaDoodle products...we have (and love!) the fold-up Travel one available here and a couple of smaller coloring ones like these available here. Just fill the pen with water and start drawing or coloring. The page has to dry before you can re-color it, but it doesn't take long if held up to the A/C vent. Great for ages 2+.
Another coloring activity that my kids love are these Crayola Color Wonder products for ages 3+. They are available at toy stores, drugstores, Walmart, etc. The pictures are really shimmery and cool. It's virtually mess-free since the markers color only on the special paper. Also, the markers last a long time...even when the lids are left off for awhile (not yet tested in a hot car!).
Magnetic Car Bingo is a great little game we found last summer for a 18-hour roadtrip to Wisconsin. It occupied my children for some long stretches of driving. The magnetic tin opens into 2 bingo cards with objects seen on a trip. There are little magnetic chips to put on each square. I can't remember the store where I found it or $5, but it's also available here. The game is engaging, fun for a variety of ages, and lasted for a good amount of time. However, the tiny magnets are easily lost in the car. Also, it must be meant for kids sitting next to each other...we had to pry ours apart with pliers so the kids in their carseats could each have one. For this time around, I'm thinking of picking up this better Melissa & Doug version here. I like the interchangeable bingo cards for more game options, and sliding windows instead of little game pieces.
You could easily make a paper version of the travel bingo and give each player a game card on a clipboard with a pen to cross off squares. Or make a tally game by dividing a sheet of paper into 6 boxes, with each box containing a picture of one object seen on a trip: Mcd's sign, airplane, motorcycle, etc. Make a copy or a variation for each player and have them put a tally mark in the box each time they see the object. They need to get 3 tally marks in each square to win.
Have your children tried lace and trace cards? This set is similar to ours, but you can easily make your own. Gather magazines, paper plates or posterboard, a hole punch, and shoe laces or colored laces found in the craft section at Hobby Lobby. Cut out large pictures from magazines, or use images you download and print off the computer. Glue them onto posterboard or paper plates. Take a hole punch and punch around the edges in one-inch spaces. Pack them with the laces for some carseat entertainment.
A tip I heartily recommend is wrapping up a couple of small surprises and stashing them away for when the kiddies have reached their limit of coloring books and movies. This was a lifesaver on that verrrry long trip last summer. After a pit stop, it was easy to get the kids to hop back into the car for another 3-hour stretch of driving if they had a little gift to open.
This brain teaser Peg game was one present...others included a disposable camera, the travel bingo game, and new sunglasses. Also, I had a few things I'd saved from yard sales and a dollar store trip. Speaking of brain-teasers, wouldn't these metal ones be great time-passers for older kids?
Finally, you could try a Car Game. An alphabet game that is a little different than the typical find a letter on a sign/vehicle is to take turns going through the letters and making up sentences. First person says: "A...my name is Amy and I'm from Alabama and I came to buy Apples.” Next player is B and says “My name is Brent and I'm from Bolivia and I came to buy Binoculars.” Have fun coming up with hilarious sentences.
We'd love for you to add your road trip game or toy ideas as a comment below or on our FB page, so we can all be equipped for happy travel with our kiddos this summer!