I don't understand how this has come to be a universal question for kids on road trips.

"Are we there yet?"

I don't understand how this has come to be a universal question for kids on road trips. The answer is apparent to any child able to verbalize the query. If we are still driving down an unfamiliar road, then no. We are obviously not there yet. If we are pulling into a driveway or hotel parking lot, then yes. We have arrived.

And yet my two kids lob that question unceasingly from the back of our Honda Odyssey. I've begun answering in the affirmative every time.

"Are we there yet?"

"Yep. Here we are. This is it. Right here on the highway. Doesn't this look nice?"

"Daddyyyyyyyy! We're not here!"

"Oh, we're not? Then why did you ask?"

I'd be OK with alternatives. "When will we get there?" or "How much longer?" are fair, understandable questions on vacation. We've got a few trips on the calendar this summer, but my wife and I recently decided we need a word other than "vacation" to describe travel that involves kids.

Vacation implies relaxation and rest. Our family usually manages to incorporate some pockets of rest into our vacations, but as anyone with children younger than 10 knows, activities must be planned. Too much lounging and downtime turns kids into life-size wind-up toys stuck in the "go" position. But activities can be exhausting, too.

Much of that exhaustion is due to the actual act of traveling. Even if you somehow manage to make all vacation-related activities relaxing and restorative, at some point you have to turn around, and that trip home is the real tranquility eraser. I've joked with friends about launching a company to solve this problem: On the last day of vacation, customers are sedated, given an IV and not awoken until they're home in bed with suitcases unpacked, pets back from the kennel, etc. This would be the only way to truly retain the benefits of vacation.

Our family makes the trek on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Philadelphia quite often, and we have but one surefire tactic for making the trip go smoothly: the DVD player. For a time, we'd ration the movies and use them only when things got dire. Now we flip that screen down the minute we hit the highway.

We've tried other strategies. Car Bingo worked for a few minutes, but getting five squares in a row required more patience than our pre-Ks could handle. One time we simplified the game and challenged our son, Liam, to look solely for animals. Squirrels and birds are only exciting for so long, so Liam revised the premise: He began naming animals he didn't see.

"I don't see a dinosaur. I don't see a jaguar. I don't see a polar bear…"

Maybe we don't need a new term for vacation. Maybe we just need to always put "family" in front of "vacation." That simple modifier changes the mental image from palm trees and umbrella drinks to Clark Griswold's station wagon. And until someone knocks me out and sticks an IV in my arm on the last day of a trip, "National Lampoon" will probably be a more accurate point of reference than Corona commercials.

-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer. His two kids refer to Bob Evans as Bob Dylan's and still don't know the purple dinosaur's name.