Planning a Summer Family Road Trip? These 9 Free Apps Will Make it More Fun

Watching cartoons on their car trip
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Nothing ruins a car trip more than being asked “Are we there yet?” a half dozen times before even reaching your halfway mark.

Keeping the kiddos entertained during a family road trip is a top priority. Here are nine free apps that’ll help make your next long car ride go a little smoother.

‘Read’ a Book

Just because the kids are on summer break doesn’t mean they can’t get some reading in. But some children — and grown-ups — experience motion sickness if they try to read words on a page — or a screen. The solution: audiobooks.

  1. Hoopla: If your local library uses the Hoopla app, you can check out audiobooks at no cost. There are hundreds of titles for kids and teens. There are even children’s audiobooks in Spanish. Hoopla also offers access to music, TV shows and movies — but you don’t have to tell the kids that.
  2. OverDrive: OverDrive is another app that public libraries offer to patrons for free. This service is similar to Hoopla (and also provides access to streaming videos), but The Penny Hoarder contributing writer Emily Young tells us there isn’t a monthly cap on how many titles you can check out like with Hoopla. Contact your local library to see if it partners with this app.

Make Your Own Music

If you’re on a long trip, listening to the same songs on the radio can be tiresome. Let the kids create their own music with these apps.

  1. Piano: With Gismart’s Piano app, your back-seat passengers can learn to play popular songs on the keyboard even if they’ve never had a formal lesson. The app turns music lessons into a game. Just make sure to pack a set of headphones! If your kid isn’t into the piano, Gismart also has similar apps that teach people to play the guitar, ukulele and drums.
  2. Karaoke: The whole family can get in on the fun with Gismart’s Karaoke app. Let the kids take turns selecting the genre and song. They can also play around with different animated masks and audio effects. Don’t forget to hit the record button for future embarrassing playback. This app is available to download only via Apple’s App Store.

Learn a Language

You may be trapped in the car, but you can still take the time to try something new. After all, you probably have plenty of time on your hands. These kid-friendly apps will help the kiddos pick up a new language — or at least a few foreign vocabulary words.

  1. Duolingo: The Duolingo app uses games to teach children (and adults) how to speak over 25 different languages. It’s even testing a course in Klingon for “Star Trek” fans. Make this a learning opportunity for the whole family, because even with headphones on, your kids will be repeating words and phrases aloud.
  2. Stories by Gus on the Go: This language learning app uses classic children’s stories to help kids learn Spanish, French, Greek or Hebrew. Though this free app was built as a sequel to the original Gus on the Go app (which costs $3.99 to download), it can be used by kids who already understand some words in another language. This app is available to download only via Apple’s App store.

Prevent the ‘Summer Slide’

Studies have shown that some children have trouble retaining knowledge after being away from school all summer. These apps can help them use what they’ve learned on the way to that vacation destination.

  1. Mad Libs: Adjective? Adverb? Your kids can practice using the right word choices with the tech version of the classic Mad Libs game. The goofy stories they create will likely cause back-seat giggles.
  2. Money Pieces: This app from The Math Learning Center will help your future Penny Hoarders understand the value of different pieces of currency while reinforcing basic math skills, like counting and addition. The Math Learning Center also has a variety of other free apps to teach more advanced math skills, like fractions and geometry.
  3. Geo Touch: Going on a road trip is the perfect opportunity to teach kids a little geography. Young travelers can learn about U.S. states, state capitals, state flags and other countries around the world with the GeoTouch app. This app is available to download only via Apple’s App store.

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.