I'll admit it: I kind of like road trips with my kids. It's fun to see what they notice as we drive through unfamiliar territory, and the few hours in the car allow us to focus on each other in a way we can't during the usual hustle and bustle of our lives.
That said: If they don't eventually fall asleep on at least one leg of the trip, or if anything happens to make the trip longer, like traffic or car trouble, forget it. For the most part, we're pretty lucky that a) our kids don't mind being in the car and b) we're only a few hours' drive away from all of our families, so long drives aren't a common occurrence.
I'm a pretty big believer in the power of boredom, and don't go in for DVD players or game systems in the car. However, I'm no Luddite; I love technology and enjoy all the great ways to keep kids amused anytime there are long tedious stretches before all of you, like waiting at the doctor or at a restaurant...or enduring the 40th repetition of "how soon will we beeee therrrrree???" from the peanut gallery in the backseat, and you haven't even been gone 30 minutes.
Common Sense Media has a list of the best road-trip apps here, broken down by age. Of course, both my kids like Angry Birds; the six year old plays and the three year old giggles (he calls them "Funny Birds"). And there's a Talking Robot one my robot-obsessed little boy loves. Also, Toy Story 3 lives on my iPod Touch, just in case.
There's also the games we all played in the pre-DVD player area, like the alphabet game (find a word starting with each letter of the alphabet, in order...you can make it easier by just specifying the letter anywhere in any word, otherwise you get stuck for a looonng time on X); I Spy, 20 Questions, or the License Plate Game (see how many plates you can find from different states; summer travel is great for this) or travel bingo (there are commercially-made games for this, or make your own using things you're likely to encounter on your route).
And if all else fails? Snacks. I am normally quite stingy with the processed food and juice; on a road trip, it's free for all.
What are your best road trip survival tips?