Unscientifically speaking, the number of times you're asked, "Are we there yet?" rises and falls in direct relation to how well you keep children engaged.

Car travel mug, keys, map and air freshener
Credit: James Baigrie

Megan Riede, director of education for KinderCare Learning Centers, which oversees almost 2,000 early-education programs nationwide, likes these games.

  • The Leader Game: Everyone in the car gets to be the leader for an hour “in charge of choosing the travel games, the radio station, the DVD, and, if you’d like, the seating arrangements,” says Bergen.
  • I Spy: For kids, run through the alphabet, such as “I spy something that begins with the letter A.” For adults, up the challenge with a line like “I spy something German.”
  • Who Are They?: Choose another group on the road and make up stories about where they’re from and where they’re going.
  • License-Plate Game: Print out a map of the United States. Each time someone spots a license plate from a different state, mark the map.
  • Vehicle Count: Have kids practice their counting skills with goals like “Find 25 green cars.” Older children can guess how many pickup trucks or police cars will pass in 10 minutes. The winner chooses the music.
  • Destination Education: Print out some fun facts about the areas you’ll drive through and have children read them and find the relevant places on a map.