Hitting the Road with Kids: Travel Scavenger Hunt!

Travel scavenger hung from Our Best BitesSo remember last summer when I was, like 43 months pregnant in Louisiana in almost-July? Yeah, that was fun. My poor kids…aside from swimming lessons, I pretty much kept us locked inside the house with the shades down while I poked at the thermostat, wondering why 72 degrees felt like suffocation.

So in an attempt to make this summer more fun than last summer, we have a lot of plans. We have places to go. We have people to see. And we’re really excited about it.

During our most recent travels, the kids and I went to Utah and stayed with my parents for a few days


before taking the 5 1/2-hour car ride up to see Sara for a few days, then we headed back to Utah to see the awesome teenage boy who pulled my son out of the water last October receive a life saving award from the Boy Scouts.

clark and greg 2


clark and greg

All in all, it was a pretty amazing trip.

But guess what is kind of not amazing?

Traveling with kids. It’s hard. It just is. There’s no good way around it. Every time I’ve done it, I’ve reached a point where I don’t care what the kids do as long as they’re not bothering anyone (read: donuts for dinner in the airport when our flight was delayed).

One thing that really helps is just keeping them busy and un-hungry. Funny story: my husband and I have flown fairly frequently our whole marriage because his family has always lived a plane ride away. And every single time, we’ve gotten dried mangoes and Lance Crackers–it’s like this unspoken family tradition.

Lance Crackers

So when we had the chance to partner up with Lance Crackers with kid-friendly activities, especially as we’re getting into Travel Season, it was a perfect, serendipitous fit!

Growing up, we always played the license plate game or the ABC game, but the license plate game always took too long and the ABC game always ended too quickly. So as I was thinking of travel activities with my kids, I thought it would be fun to do a little of both–a travel scavenger hunt where they can keep their eyes open for interesting (or not-so-interesting) things along the way, with plenty of snacks on hand to keep everyone happy.

I got a couple of cheap ice cube trays and some labels from the office department of the store…

labels and ice cube trays


and then I just started listing things they could keep their eyes out for. I actually made two sets, one for the plane and one for the car trip.

scavenger labelsThe labels fit perfectly inside the ice cube trays…

labels in ice cube traysand the ice cube trays fit perfectly inside their backpacks that they had both on the plane and in the car.

IMG_2206 labeled ice cube traysThen, the kids have a little bag/box of snacks and as they find different things along the way, they can fill in the ice cube wells. See??

snacktivityMy kids LOVED it! One of our favorite parts was that just for fun, I put alpacas on our car version, totally thinking that would be the ONE THING we wouldn’t see. Well, when we stopped to get gas on the lonely, desolate, human-free road between Northern Utah and Boise, these guys were there to greet us:


My kids were so excited and it was such a fun way to engage with each other and enjoy the trip (instead of everyone being off in their own Nintendo DS/iPod world).

kids on the roadBefore anyone calls CPS, we were stopped safely when I snapped this picture. Promise.

You can totally label your ice cube trays however you want, but if you’re looking for ideas, click here for a printable version of the list I made:

travel scavenger hunt

This was such an inexpensive, fun way to keep the kidlets busy on the road (and in the air) and they’re already looking forward to the next time we get to use them, which is a total win for me!

I want to hear (I really do) about your summer plans–where are you going? What are you doing? Where have you been?


We partnered with Lance Crackers for this post, but all the opinions are completely our own.





  1. Wow! You have hit this one out of the ballpark! Your kids are super lucky to have such an engaged mom!

    Okay, so I am definitely using this idea but with a twist: Since I am not the one traveling with a child but my daughter will be as she, her husband, and little boy drive ten hours to get here, I’m going to have my daughter use the ice cube tray idea and reward her four-year-old with a penny for each find along the way. Then when they arrive here, he can spend his earned pennies on a fun “welcome” toy I will have waiting for him! I think I will prepare a treasure hunt around the house to find the toy, thus also letting him get reacquainted with our house after six months of being gone.

    Thank you for a brilliant idea!

  2. What a great idea! I’ll be taking a train trip half way across the country with my kids — which can be scenic and long — so this will be perfect!

  3. We’re taking our first big road trip ever with 4 kids (1-11) from Virginia to Utah in July, and I’ve been pinning road trip activities onto my board for weeks now- thanks for the idea!

  4. What a fun idea! As soon as school is out (this Thursday) we are heading out for a multi-family camping trip with friends from our ward. As soon as we’re back from that my husband is going on a work trip. As soon as he is back from that I’m going to YW camp with our Stake. We’ll have a few days of a reprieve before we’re off on a 12 hour road trip to an extended family reunion. July will be crazy, but hopefully in August we can have lots of lazy, I mean relaxing days! Thanks for the fun ideas for the car and plane!

  5. My kids have enjoyed the road trip scavenger hunt but adding snacks, that is perfection. I will definitely have to use this on our way to Florida before summer is out.

    My key to road trip peace has been book podcasts and books on tape. The girls and i completed The Wind in The Willows, Anne of Green Gables, and A Wrinkle in Time one very busy summer of road trips. They look forward to what we will hear and it keeps the negative energy down – who can hear the story when you are squabbling?

  6. What an amazing idea. Also, thank you for sharing the story about your son. It is so awesome that a boy scout was near to help him and knew the signs because as I’ve learned it’s not like in the movies/tv and can be quite silent. All of this made me tear up as my 4yr old son has a preschool friend that nearly drowned on a Disney cruise this past March. He is fighting his way out of a vegetative state and your story makes me believe even more that he’ll be ok. You can find his story on Facebook on his page: Chase Lykken.

    1. Oh my gosh. 🙁 I went and checked out his FB page and it just breaks my heart. We talked about going on a Disney cruise this year, but after our experience, I was just too scared–I felt like with us, we were so close to such wonderful medical care (I’ve checked my phone and it was literally 4 minutes from the time we called until the time I started making other phone calls at their request…I wasn’t exactly in the state of mind to be doing it without them telling me to) and then another 10 minutes to a first-rate hospital. Hugs and prayers to you and to their family!

  7. Our roadtrip adventure begins Friday when we drive to North Carolina for a week, then we hit the road across the country as we move to California! My 6 kids are good travelers, but every little thing helps! So thanks for sharing!

    I agree with the comment about audio books! They are amazing and the Harry Potter books are the BEST!!! Jim Dale is the best voice guy ever! Since most of our kids are young we play a car color game too… it started with shouting out “banana!” every time you see a yellow car and the first one to 5 bananas wins… but we’ve added variations where everyone gets to build their own banana split and they have to find all the different color cars to build a banana split (yellow=banana, brown=chocolate ice cream, red=strawberry, white=vanilla, etc.) and the 2 year old loves to just name the colors of the cars now… I love hearing him yell out “blueberry!” whenever he sees a blue car.

    Happy trails y’all!

  8. We have plans to travel to Michigan, camp a few weekends,celebrate our cities 100th anniversary, attend and host family and friend barbeques mostly over the 4th of July and get a bedroom ready for our foreign exchange student!!

  9. This idea came at the perfect time. We are planning a long plane trip to Washington D.C. with our four(!) kids. We are so excited, but a 5 hour flight with littles is a bit intimidating. This will be a fun thing to pack for the trip. Thanks!

  10. We are driving from VA to UT with 6 kids ages 1-13. We did it a couple years ago and had some fun things. I printed out fact/coloring sheets for each state we drove through so every time we entered a new state the kids could color their page and learn a little about the state we were driving through. We also sing The State Song every time we cross a state line. The kids get a green ticket for every hour of good behavior and I have a “store” that I open every hour where they can spend their tickets on little prizes, most of which come from the dollar spot at Target. My kids LOVE the green ticket store and it almost completely eliminates petty arguing.

    I love the scavenger hunt idea and will definitely do some form of it. Do you put the snacks in at the beginning and they get to eat a snack when they find the thing or do they put the snacks in when they find it?

    Oh, I just remembered my best trick. When it’s time for lunch we stop at whatever fast food has a playground. My husband drops us off and I take everyone to the bathroom then straight to the playground. My husband goes to get gas, then comes back and orders the food and eats his. As soon as he finishes eating we all get back in the car and the kids eat in the car. It gives everyone a chance to run around and play without taking extra long stops and eating in the car gives the kids something to do for a while.

    Happy travels and safe journey to everyone!

  11. I’ll be flying (sans Spouse) from PHX to FL in a few weeks with a 1 year old. I pumped and scared at the same time and have been actively mastering my ergo back position.

  12. The pics of your son with the teenager who saved him made my eyes well up with tears! That is so cool that you got to be there for the ceremony. And I just love that your son put the medal around his neck. ANYWAY, I also want to say that I am almost 38 weeks pregnant right now, and I laughed at the beginning of this post because I am the same way with the thermostat: “Is it REALLY only 71 degrees in here? LIAR!” Ha ha! Thanks for the fun traveling idea. My son is still too young, but I’ll keep it mind for when he’s older!

  13. Great idea! Love the scavenger hunt idea. Way better than watching a DVD the entire time. We’re driving this weekend; I need this!

    When we travel I swear my kids eat their way in snacks. I don’t know what it is about traveling but eating A LOT of food goes with it.

  14. We get out of school in early May, so we are mid-summer! My very favorite thing we did is meet up with my dearest friends in St. George (Halfway between Salt Lake where they live, and Los Angeles, where I live.) No husbands allowed on this trip, and we played hard with the kids, swam all day, and went out for dinner each night. I think it was great for our kids to see us bonding with our friends, and they saw us less as “moms” but more as people… does that make sense? There were 10 kids between the ages of 4 and 12 and everyone had a playmate. No rules about how long you could play video games or watch tv and surprisingly, the kids were more into playing with each other, than tv screens. Favorite memory of that trip? Peeking in on the boys in the basement at midnight to see that they had all drawn on each others faces with Sharpies. They thought the moms would be so mad, but we just laughed and laughed, and then laughed some more as we took them out to dinner while they were still all “tatted up with Sharpie”.

  15. Love the travel idea. BUT… any ideas for a toddler? I have a couple 4-5 hour drives coming up with my 19 month old. We plan around nap times but that still leaves us with a moany boy for a couple hours.

    1. At that age we did a lot of night drives for 8 hours or less. For a drive that length, I’d leave close to their bedtime (earlier if a longer drive). Let them sleep in the car, and then transition to a pack & play when you arrive. They get some sleep and, when you arrive at your destination, you can sleep too. Worth a try. Other than that… we have a travel DVD player and break it out when they hit that point you’re talking about. Helps them hold it together until you arrive! Good luck!

      1. Another fun idea for that age is to wrap up their toys and snacks like a present. The unwrapping can be an activity for a few minutes before the new toy or snack. The longer you want the unwrapping to take, the better you wrap them — extra tape, ribbons, etc. Also, if you make a few of the toys they really love disappear for a few weeks before the trip, then when they unwrap them they are excited to see/play with them because it has been a while.

      2. We have a bag of toys the is only for road trips. For that, stuff they can chew on, hand puppets are fun especially when mom gives them funny voices!

  16. Thanks for sharing!! Looks like a great idea! I also had the same question as a previous commenter — when did/do you fill the trays? Before (and they eat as they find)? or as they find (and they eat after it’s full?) I guess you could do either way!! I am thinking that my little ones would probably appreciate the instant-gratification approach of eating as they find!

  17. fun! I can relate to your story of last summer. I’m there right now. Thermostat and all. Swim lessons are over, so hopefully I don’t have to go outside anymore! 🙂 Thanks to your site, we made magic shell topping “dipped cones” today…so I still feel like a fun mom! Thanks!

  18. What a fantastic idea! We used to play car bingo, but one of the items was a water pump. Really?!? Nobody ever got that one after they removed the water pump that was along Hwy 101 a hundred years ago! Really about 50 years ago and I still look to find it when I drive south from San Luis Obispo and know it’s not there. Love how you combined a snack and a game.

  19. First of all, let me say “how awesome is that boy scout?!” What a fantastic kid.

    Now about travelling with kids… Mine are older – 18 and 20 years old – so travelling is so much easier. We’ve bought them several big books to read and they’ll bring their ipods and computers and help drive and all.

    But when they were little we always had to drive to visit family or go on vacation so we had to deal with long trips in the car. We would do the ABC game and all, but you’re right, it goes fast. We found some “Travel Bingo” cards at either Target or Cracker Barrel and they were fantastic! We had several versions for rural roads or interstates and we gave prizes for the one who called bingo. It really makes the time fly by.

    We also had age-appropriate books, coloring books and crayons, and small toys like Pokémon or Matchbox. Stopping at highway rest areas was also nice on a frequent basis as most of them have playgrounds or at the least the kids could run around the building twice.

  20. Haha. We have totally seen those alpacas. And the “little rattlers.” Nothing like being in the middle of nowhere.

  21. My husband is just finishing his residency and is now the low man on the totem pole so we will not be heading out anywhere. We did, however, get a new car so that makes a short trip to walmart fun.
    Growing up, we drove from Utah to Canada every summer all we had was a coloring book and the McDonald’s toy we got from our happy meal. Now as a mom I freak out if we drive more than a half hour without a DVD player and 18 different snacks!

  22. My kids have always loved a scavenger hunt on long drives. They also like having a map so they can follow along with where we are. I also do a “surprise sack” for every day we’re gone. It has a treat or game or something fun in it so when we “hit the wall”, we open the surprise sack for that day. It cures the crankies every time!

    My husband sings with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, so we just got back from tour. Other than that, our summer will be full of sending children to their individual camps and a big, family camping trip over Labor Day!

  23. We don’t have any video game systems, though we did get the kids leap pads for Christmas, but we try to “hold out” on using them as long as possible.
    We do a trip scavenger hunt and the kids LOVE IT.

    I use the cozi app on my phone, and use one of the shopping list options, and we have a master list-at the end of each trip, we delete all the check marks, and start fresh.

    Examples of our “items”:
    Fire Truck
    Railroad Bridge
    Pile of rocks
    Construction Sign
    Log Truck
    Christmas Tree (usually in a farm)
    Cake (can be on a sign, like for a bakery)
    American Flag

    We have a great time trying to mark them all off!

  24. Last year we moved across the country and made an epic road trip if it. We have four kids 6-1 so entertaining them can be difficult. I always make a custom coloring book of things we’ll see and do along the way. It helps them stay excited. This last time I gave the older kids disposable cameras. They loved being able to take their own pictures.

  25. We did our “summer trip” in May before school was out. We visited friends and family in Florida (how convenient) and cleaned up puke throughout & made trips to the ER/walk-in clinic (not convenient). We’re doing some camping trips closer to home and a day at the zoo to fill up our “real” summer.

  26. My husband just graduated from dental school, so after spending several weeks in Idaho with family, we are moving across the country to Tennessee for his first job! Luckily I get to fly with the kids but I will definitely be using this someday!

  27. My kids are a bit older (13 & 11), but I like the idea of a Scavenger Hunt to entertain them when they’re not glued to the screens of their electronics. Our summer vacation will take us from Texas to New Mexico & Arizona and back. I might make a grid like Bingo, with more squares & award a prize for the most items found.

  28. Once again, you’ve posted something right when I need it! We are taking a road trip in July for a week and mixing tent camping (I saved berry cartons for your portable s’mores idea) and hotels around the northwest and then we’re flying to Maine for a week in August so I am very excited to use both car and plane versions!

  29. We stumbled upon that same gas station in Utah with the alpacas last year when we were traveling from Portland, Or. This summer we are making the drive again, except in a moving truck!

  30. I loved that your son was able to present the award to the boy who helped him last year. What a nice way to honor him.

  31. Weddings, weddings and more weddings! In particular, my little sister. And I’m happy to say that I am in charge of the food and some of your recipes will be making an appearance. 🙂 Then some camping here and there, and finally, a family trip to NYC, Palmyra and Boston. I might need a nice travel game for my niece and nephew!

  32. awesome awesome awesome. Love the icecube scavenger hunts. my girls are toddlers but think I will try it with pictures….lets see how long the bikkies actually last. Thanks

  33. Just used these on a trip and they kept the boys engaged for at least 2 hours going. My husband added his own ideas for the return trip and we gave them each a treat as they spotted the item and took the label off. Made it easier to track and I could dole the treats to keep it fair. AWESOME!!!

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