Yes, it can be done!
In September our family took a quick (13 hours each way) road trip from Seattle to San Francisco for a wedding. We didn’t let the kids bring any electronic devices. Our car doesn’t have any built-in screens either. And we all survived!
First off, we left after dinner on a Thursday night. This way my husband didn’t have to take as many days off work, and the kids would sleep during more of the trip. I am a night owl, so I did the late night driving. Driving while the kids sleep is a good way of covering a lot of ground with minimal boredom for the kids. As a bonus, the roads aren’t crowded in the middle of the night, so less traffic to worry about. On the way home we left at 5am, the kids slept a little in the morning, but not nearly as much as they did on the way down.
Next, we brought along activities for the kids. I had a bag full of things for the kids to do while we drove. They didn’t like all the things I brought, so at least I now know what interests them. Some of the things they liked:
Books to read. 3 of my 4 kids can read, so they were good with just reading books.
Road trip games like the license plate game, eye spy, road trip bingo and a list of ‘would you rather’ questions (great list of questions for here).
Magnetic blocks. I found a small metal lunch pail in the dollar section of target, and a collection of small wooden magnetic-backed odd shaped blocks at the dollar store. Who knew this would turn out to be the favorite activity of the trip. Seriously, even the 13 year old had fun making things with the different shapes. After the trip I even went back to the dollar store to buy more packages of the block for later trips.
Brain Quest. We have 3 different collections of BrainQuest questions, kindergarten, 2nd grade, and 4th grade. We brought them and had fun trying to stump the others with the questions. My kids now know I am a master at random trivia (thank you high school knowledge bowl). The “For The Car” edition is on my Amazon wishlist for future roadtrips.
Coloring books. I got a couple cheap coloring/activity books and a package of crayons. These weren’t used as much, but enough to warrant a place in the next road trip activity bag.
Between these activities and just talking and looking out the windows at the scenery my kids survived a road trip without electronics (and we parents survived it too!).