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Road trips have changed a lot since you were growing up. In the modern world, kids don’t stare wistfully out the window and imagine a figure running and jumping along the horizon—they’re too busy staring at their mobile devices. In some ways, it can feel like the magic of the Great American Road Trip has been lost, but that doesn’t have to be the case. While the vehicles we travel in and the ways we entertain ourselves have changed, family-friendly apps can combine the best of the old and the new, and help you recapture that same road trip magic through a different medium. Some of the following apps are paid, some are free, but all are great fun.

RELATED: These 10 roadside eateries are why we love road trips


Looking for a fun way to pass the many miles and hours? Start with these.

Smule (Google Play Store)

Singing along to the radio is a classic way to pass the time on a road trip. While FM radio is still around, along with satellite radio and Spotify, Smule presents a compelling alternative with its karaoke app. Families can record themselves as they sing and even make road trip music videos. The brave among us can even stream their karaoke live for the world to see. Smule is a free app with millions of songs and effects to choose from. And built-in auto-tune means that even the worst singers can rock out like the Beatles.

Road Trip Travel Games (Google Play Store)

All of the classic road trip games you know and love can be found in this app. They might have different names than you’re used to, but you’ll find Punch Buggy, iSpy, and many more. The app explains the rules and helps keep track of the score. No need to fish out a notepad and pencil, and struggle against a bumpy highway. There are a total of 11 games, built-in timers, and even an added gas trip calculator to help figure out how much it will cost to go from one place to another.

Trivia Crack (Google Play Store)

This is the tried-and-true trivia app that everyone loves to play. Better yet, it’s great for a road trip. Play against family members or team up on a single device to pit your collective wits against the world at large. It’s a fun way to pass the time and learn something along the way.

Roadtrip Bingo (Apple Store)

B-I-N-G-O. It’s a classic game that provides hours of entertainment, and this iPhone version is just the thing to keep the entire family entertained. Keep an eye out for strollers, streetlights, shopping carts and many more common items along the way. The best part of Roadtrip Bingo is that it keeps kids’ eyes on the world around them instead of focused on their phone. Who knows what kind of exciting things you might see on the road?

ALSO: Road-trip ready? Check out the latest car rental deals here!


If you want to have fun and learn something on your trip, these apps can help.

World Atlas (Google Play Store)

You see a lot of interesting things on road trips, including license plates from other states and even countries. World Atlas is a great way to find out what another country’s flag looks like and learn about its capital and currency. With coverage of dozens and dozens of countries, the World Atlas app is a fun, educational way to learn more about the world around us.

Geo Touch (Apple Store)

While World Atlas is great for learning about the world at large, Geo Touch is a fantastic tool for teaching kids about individual states, their locations, capitals and much more. It makes it easy to take quizzes on where states are, what their flags are, what the capital of a given state is, and much more. While kids can do it on their own, you can turn it into a family game and ask everyone what they think the answer should be.

Duolingo (Apple Store | Google Play Store)

Duolingo is one of the best ways for beginners to pick up the basics of a new language, and it can be a great tool for road trips. The app challenges users to type out words and say them back to learn the proper pronunciation. If you’re road-tripping abroad, look for words you don’t know along the way and ask your kids what they think it means—and then use that as an opening to start teaching them another language. It is always beneficial to speak more than one language, and Duolingo is a fun, free way to practice.


These tips will help you make sure you don’t drain all your data along the way.

Download interesting apps before you go

Most people have finite data plans, which means you don’t want to waste any of your precious data on downloading. If you want to download any additional apps while on the road, wait until you find a hotspot along the way.

Use your carrier’s free WiFi hotspot network

Hotspots allow you to automatically and securely connect your device wherever their hotspots are available. This allows you to save your data, which in turn helps save you money on overage charges.

Use public WiFi hot spots

If your carrier doesn’t offer access to secure hotspots, you can still find WiFi through public hotspots. You can find these at most major gas stations, chain restaurants, public libraries, some parks and more. Starbucks and McDonalds are always safe bets for public WiFi, but be warned: Don’t access banking or credit card information while connected to a public WiFi network; it’s not as secure as your home network. For the sake of downloading apps, however, it’s just fine—and will save you a lot of data.

Use hotspots to download movies through Netflix or other streaming services

While on a hotspot, download movies and shows directly through apps like Netflix and then watch them later without using data. This is especially important if you need something to entertain the kids for a while (or lull them to sleep). Streaming high-quality video over a data plan can use as much as 1 GB per hour.

Consider an unlimited data plan

Of course, if your kids are obsessed with technology and spend the majority of their time on their phone playing games, watching YouTube, or other data-intensive activities, you might want to consider temporarily upgrading to an unlimited data plan. These plans vary in price but offer a certain speed with no data cap. However, above a certain amount of usage, your service provider might throttle your plan and limit your data speeds to lower-than-normal rates. But even with lower than normal speeds, an unlimited plan is better than the usual $15 per gigabyte overage charges you might rack up if kids spend the whole road trip watching Netflix.

Road trips have changed, and the things you need to consider before you depart are not the same as they were 25 years ago. Even so, road trips still offer the allure of incredibly fun family activities. Roll with the times and download a few of the apps mentioned above to ensure your kids aren’t bored and, most importantly, that the entire family has a vacation to remember.

Orbitz, app, iPhone, travel, deals


When Patrick Hearn isn’t exploring the latest arrivals to the gaming world, he’s relaxing with old favorites like the Legend of Zelda. He’s an Atlanta-based tech writer who covers the ever-changing world of mobile connectivity for Xfinity Mobile.


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