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When you’re a child, road trips are a nightmare. There’s nothing worse than being stuck in the back of a hot car for hours on end, as you’re dragged across the country to see a long-forgotten auntie or visit an uninspiring “place of interest”.

The experience is similarly horrible for parents. While you might be considerably more excited about your end destination than your little darling in the back seat, your child’s incessant moaning, questioning, and need for bathroom breaks is sure to drive even the most patient guardian to the edge of despair.

Thankfully, smartphones are revolutionizing the experience. Here’s our MakeUseOf-certified list of seven apps that are sure to keep kids entertained 8 Awesome Android Apps To Keep Your Kids Entertained 8 Awesome Android Apps To Keep Your Kids Entertained Read More while on a long car journey.

Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars (Ages 5-11)

Get in the road trip spirit and help your kids get excited about driving with the Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars app.

The player is able to explore four huge city-worlds, each of which have unique features and hidden items. There are twenty different vehicles to choose from — including child favorites like police cars, fire engines, motorbikes, and boats.

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The idea behind the app is that kids are free to use their imagination to create their own story lines. For example, they can interact with lots of the scenery to create the world they want and play without time limits or rules.

YouTube Kids (Up to Age 11)

As intelligent and discerning adults, we all know what a fantastic resource YouTube is. It can help you learn a new skill Want to Learn Web Design? 7 YouTube Channels to Get You Started Want to Learn Web Design? 7 YouTube Channels to Get You Started YouTube has thousands of videos and channels for web design beginners. Here we look at some of the best ones for getting started. Read More , research about something you’re interested in, or provide you with endless TV shows and movies Love Movies? 4 Awesome YouTube Channels You Need to Watch Love Movies? 4 Awesome YouTube Channels You Need to Watch While there are a lot of YouTube channels that focus on reviewing movies, there are some YouTubers who go beyond simple reaction videos and dig deep into what makes films special. Read More . Of course, we wouldn’t dream of using it for anything nefarious or disreputable.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of content on there that children really shouldn’t be watching. Thanks to the official Google app “YouTube Kids”, that’s no longer an issue.

It’s perfect for kids on two levels — firstly, the app’s navigation has been simplified with big buttons, easy searching, and instant full-screen mode. Secondly, all the videos have been run through Google’s complex algorithms and have been approved as being kid-friendly 5 Fantastic Learning Channels on YouTube Kids 5 Fantastic Learning Channels on YouTube Kids YouTube Kids is a mobile app, available for iOS and Android, which curates educational and entertainment content for kids and teens. We pick the top five channels you should catch today. Read More .

Best of all, you’ll always be in control; you can access the app’s settings via a password-protected login Everything You Need To Know About Passwords Everything You Need To Know About Passwords Passwords are important and most people don't know enough about them. How do you choose a strong password, use a unique password everywhere, and remember them all? How do you secure your accounts? How do... Read More and tweak them until they’re exactly right for your child.

Give your kid this app, and you’ll never hear “are we nearly there yet” again! Just be sure you’ve got enough mobile data 4 Ways To Reduce Your Mobile Internet Data Usage With Android Apps 4 Ways To Reduce Your Mobile Internet Data Usage With Android Apps You can reduce your mobile data usage without doing anything differently on your Android device. Read More for them to stream without charging you overages!

Road Trip – Car vs Cars (Age 8+)

No list of road trip apps would be complete without some games, and what better than a game that’s actually called “Road Trip”?

The premise behind the game is to drive a car as dangerously as possible along a highway, racking up points for airtime, combo moves, and close shaves with other cars. You can unlock new cars, tracks, and other goodies as you progress.

The listing on the Google Play store does warn that the game is processor-intensive thanks to its high-end graphics and soundtrack, so make sure you’ve got your in-car phone charger with you.

Plates Free Family Travel Game (Age 3+)

We all know kids love to feel like they’re in control, and this app gives them that feeling while still providing entertainment to all the other occupants of the car.

The game is simple enough; you need to see how many different vehicle license plates you and your family can spot while you’re on your trip. It includes all 50 US states, all 10 Canadian provinces, and all 33 Mexican states, as well as government plates, all overseas territories, and various other special ones.

You can either play as a team or individually, and if you splash out for the paid version, you can save your game and make it an ongoing project.

Toca Nature ($0.99 USD, Up to Age 10)

Games don’t just have to be mind-numbing timewasters – they can also be educational 6 Educational Console Games For A Fun And Successful School Year 6 Educational Console Games For A Fun And Successful School Year Contrary to popular belief, video games aren't a useless form of entertainment responsible for sucking precious time away from children and adults alike. Even generic first-person shooters such as the Call Of Duty titles could,... Read More .

Toca Nature tries to take children out into the wild and teach them something useful, letting them shape their natural surroundings the way they want and then watching it grow.

For example, it’s possible to grow a forest and learn about the effects of the environment on its development, climb a mountain to enjoy the view, or learn about which animals eat what food and at which time of day.

Mechanic Max (Ages 5-10)

Sometimes road trips go wrong and you break down. Mechanic Max teaches your kids about such pitfalls, while also providing plenty of fun along the way.

The app is packed with representations of what you’d expect to see on a typical trip to a garage. For example, you can wash your car, weld sheet metal and fix scratches, lacerations, and dents, tune-up your car with new tires, bumpers, and headlights, and repaint your car in a different color.

The app comes complete with four workshops that each have different tools available, and it includes a way to save your creations and share them with family and friends.

LEGO Juniors Create & Cruise (Age 4-7)

We looked at the excellent LEGO Duplo Trains in our rundown of apps to keep toddlers and young children entertained Top 5 Android Games To Entertain Toddlers & Young Children Top 5 Android Games To Entertain Toddlers & Young Children Ever been stuck in a situation where you needed to keep your children entertained for long spans of time? These apps can help with that. Read More last year.

The Create & Cruise app is aimed at slightly older children, and it’s arguably a bit more appropriate for a road trip.

The concept is that children can use the app to create their own vehicles and characters. It’s perfect for letting their imaginations run wild if they’re bored of sitting in the back of a plain-old car; if your child is inclined to design a helicopter with wings that’s being flown by a dog, this app is ideal.

The more your kids play the game, the more items and worlds they will unlock, thus making it great for passing hours without realizing.

What’s Your Favorite Road Trip App?

That’s the end of our list. Hopefully if you download all of these, you’ll arrive at your destination without having torn out your hair.

Have you used these apps? What did you think? Perhaps you have some of your own recommendations to add to the list? We’d love to hear from you. You can let us know your thoughts and feedback in the comments below.

Image Credits: boy playing smartphone via Shutterstock

  1. Bob E
    September 1, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Mihir, said kids sometimes describe me starting with something with "wise" but not ending the same way!

  2. Bob E
    August 31, 2015 at 9:39 pm

    Gee, wonder what folks did before personal electronics? Hmmm, well, in the OLD days, we played the license plate game with the kids by writing them down. Some of you may remember that - you did it with a pencil or pen on paper! We also had a competition to see who could first find a word containing the letters on a license plate (in the order they appeared on the plate). Another amazing invention was music (CDs and cassettes earlier) that one could sing along with. Of course, those ideas required more interaction than staring at a screen.

    • Mihir Patkar
      September 1, 2015 at 6:40 am

      Ew, human interaction, ew.

      • Bob E
        September 1, 2015 at 6:35 pm

        As for "human" interaction, I am certain of my wife and me. OTOH, as for the kids, I must admit to having had a few spells of doubt!

        • Mihir Patkar
          September 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm

          Spoken like a wizened parent, good sir.

    • Dan Price
      September 1, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      I didn't know horse-drawn carriages had license plates ;)

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