1. Distribute car bingo cards; they're available for $2 each from Restoration Hardware (888/243-9720). "Power line, tree grove, van, 70 mph speed-limit sign, overpass—bingo!"
2. Count cows: every one you see is worth a point. Divide passengers into two teams, one for each side of the road. The first team to reach 25 wins. (Horses and dogs can qualify, too.) Sudden death: If you pass a graveyard, deduct 10 points.
3. Test everyone's memory by adding in turn to an alphabetical list: "We're going to Yosemite, and we're bringing air, bellybuttons, Chap Stick, dill pickles . . ."
4. String together the alphabet by finding words beginning with each letter (in order) on signs and billboards. You can skip X; first one to Z wins.
5. Play Name That Tune: one person hums a few bars of a song (and a few more, on request); whoever correctly guesses the tune takes a turn at stumping everyone else in the car.
6. Sing along with the bands in the vanguard of today's tot rock: Dan Zanes and Friends, the Sugar Beats, Trout Fishing in America, Ralph Covert. No earplugs required, but a Walkman or two—or better yet, an iPod—is always handy.
7. If your kids already know the Beatles catalogue by heart, isn't it time you rediscovered Carole King, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Mamas and the Papas?
8. Borrow books on tape from the library, and trade your own copies with friends. There's nothing more absorbing than E. B. White himself reading Charlotte's Web.
KEEP 'EM BUSY
9. Hand out Xeroxed maps (or print them from www.randmcnally.com) and highlighters. Have each child trace the route as you go—and offer navigational assistance.
10. Stock a backpack with invisible-ink books, brainteasers (check out Binary Arts' Coast to Coast puzzle at www.puzzles.com), and other amusements. Klutz Press (650/857-0888; www.klutz.com) produces the funniest, most jam-packed back-seat activity books for kids eight and up.
11. Distribute spiral-bound sketch pads and pencil boxes with art supplies so each traveler can keep a trip journal. Paste in postcards, leaves, food wrappers, feathers, ticket stubs, and other mementos.
LEARN TO LOVE ELECTRONICS
12. For a long ride on the interstate, consider adding a television to your car. The average cost is $1,500 for parts and installation. Portable units, while considerably cheaper, aren't as safe: on impact they can go flying.
13. Download free or inexpensive PDA games—solitaire, Race Time, Bubble Shooter—onto your Palm. These are available at www.zdnet.com/downloads/pilotsoftware.
14. Be the first in your traffic jam to own a Flipster (from $399; www.pogoproducts.com/flipster.html), an entertainment center that looks like a cell phone. Use it to play games, MP3 files, videos—or to pretend you're the new 007.
15. Along with cooler basics, consider edamame (addictive—and healthful—soybeans in the pod; available in frozen-food sections) and Japanese vegetable rolls (at restaurants and supermarkets). But don't forget some treats.
16. You have to get out of the car at least every few hours to run sprints, toss a Frisbee, buy sickly-sweet drinks, and, of course, inspect all roadside curiosities along the way.
WHEN YOU HAVE A LONG HAUL AHEAD
10 Things You'll Be Glad You Kept in the Car
Band-Aids • Bottles of water • Children's Tylenol • Extra film • Hats
• Paper towels • Sunblock • Sunglasses • Towelettes • Ziploc or plastic grocery store bags—for wet clothes, garbage, shell collections