It’s summer and here are two words for you: road trip! That may mean staying at a hotel with a pool, meeting your cousins at the Golden Gate Bridge, discovering how big the sky is in the Midwest and — let’s be real — long, boring hours riding in the car. How are you going to get through that 17-hour car ride to Iowa without getting totally annoyed with your big brother, who insists on putting his backpack at your feet? It won’t be easy, but we’re here to help!
The family iPad or Mom’s smartphone can offer nearly endless entertainment options. But how do you choose? We waded through the many options out there to come up with some good geography-based apps that can keep you occupied (and learning) for hours. We also threw in a couple of apps good for just killing time. So sit back and enjoy the scenery!
• Barefoot World Atlas, by Touch Press. Age 8 and older. $4.99 for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone.
Want to impress your teachers this fall with your knowledge of the world? Spend some time with this app. It features a globe that you can spin. Tap the many countries, land formations, animals, people or buildings in order to learn more about them. Mellow music plays as you learn about a man named Wally Herbert who spent 16 months in the freezing Arctic to become the first person to walk to the North Pole, or such things as how a hippopotamus’s skin produces a natural sunblock. There’s a lot to learn here. A good way to start may be picking a country that’s in the news today.
• Geography Drive, by Spinlight Studio. Age 8 and older. $3.99 for iPad and Android.
First things first: Choose a color and decoration for your car. This app feels like a great game show, complete with a host asking the questions and congratulating you, with fun music in the background.
Correctly answering questions about a state allows you not only to drive to a bordering state but also to earn money. With enough cash, you can buy gas, a new car or a plane ticket to California. The U.S. map is so clearly marked and easy to read that you will surely learn a bit of geography as you drive your cool red, blue or orange car from state to state. Your goal is to earn enough money to see the whole country.
• Jazzy World Tour, by The Melody Book. Age 6 and older. $4.99 for iPad.
Take a musical tour of seven countries. Tap a flag on the world map, and listen to the unique musical sounds of that place. Then learn about the instruments that make the sounds. Listen to how different music sounds from around the globe.
• Puzzleography Lite, by Free Range Eggheads. Age 6 and older. Free for iPad and Android.
This is not a new app, but it’s a cool one for the car. Looking at an unlabeled map of the United States, drag and pull out a state shape from a pirate’s chest and match it to the right spot on the map. The game tells you which state you have, so you are learning its shape while trying to figure out where it belongs on the map.
• State Bingo, by Niyaa. Age 7 and older. $2.99 for iPad.
Take a road trip in a cool red car! Choose your difficulty level and then a route you want to drive, such as eastbound or westbound. Answering questions correctly will get you from one state to the next.
Or you can just answer questions about states to fill up a card with stars. It’s like bingo, except you have to think a little. If you get stuck, you can always check out the well-marked map for hints.
• Ultimate Unblock My Car, by Huang Zhiqiang. Age 7 and older. Free for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad. (A similar game called Unblock My Car by Easymobi is available for Android.)
Your red car is blocked, and you have to move a dozen cars and trucks forward and back so you can get yours out! Choose how hard you want to make it, and lose a couple of hours trying to get out of that parking lot and onto the open road.
• Tap the Frog, by Playmous. Age 6 and older. 99 cents for iPod, iPod touch, iPad and Android.
Hang out with some silly, cute frogs. Dozens of mini games in one, the game will have you tapping a frog fast to get him jumping to the finish line, or tapping flies onto his long, red tongue so that he burps. You will need to use your brain a little for some of the games, such as the one that asks you to tap the frogs in numerical order as fast as you can. The game is funny, random and a perfect distraction in the car.