10 Geeky Gadgets for Road Trips with Kids
One of the top questions I’m asked when I do an interview goes something like: “How do I keep the kids entertained in the car?” So, for expert advice on the gadgets, I talked to Jody Halsted at Have Kid Will Travel. Jody knows a thing our two about entertaining kids the new-fangled way. She’s been all over the world, and tested gadgets the old-fashioned way — with her kids. Here are her recommendations for technology add-ons to your next road trip.
Ear Phones for Kids — Ear phones are essential for long road trips. Do an Amazon search on “kids ear phones” and you’ll see a great selection ranging from fun animal headsets to chic ear buds. Unless you want the theme from The Backyardigans or Strawberry Shortcake to remain in your head forever.
Handheld Games— From LeapFrog’s amazing learning games to the Nintendo DS and GameBoy, there is something out there for every child. Just because it’s a game doesn’t mean it can’t be educational. We love our VTECH Write & Learn Letter Book and the Hooked on Phonics – Touch Screen Learner.
V Tech camera– If you have a young budding photographer this is the kids camera I recommend. It’s easy to use, takes both photos and video and it has games. You can also add graphics and distort photos. The photo quality isn’t what you have in your digital camera, it doesn’t need to be. For the price and durability it’s the best little kid’s camera out there.
iPod Touch or iPhone— Until I got the iPod Touch I really had no idea what all the fuss was about. Now, what can I say but I LOVE it! What a versatile little gadget! Not only are there tons of free apps, games to keep the kids (and yourself) occupied, maps, GPS, a Kindle, audio books, flashlights and a level (because you just never know when you’ll need to make sure something is, well, level) but the ability to load movies, video, photos, podcasts and music… It would take an awfully long trip to run out of options on a 16 GB. The only downside? Sharing. The upside? Earbuds.
Mini Laptop — I like to stay connected to practically everything even when I travel. And, while I love my laptop with the big hard drive, the 17 inch screen and tons of power I really, really hate dragging it around. Luckily there are now a plethora of mini-laptops out there. Some are even in super-cute colors! Like the 8.9 inch Acer Aspire One I bought. At under $400 the price is nice. The size easily fits into any bag and the weight… No more aching shoulders! It may not have all the power of my “professional” computer but it’s perfect for checking email, Facebook & Twitter, downloading photos and video and watching a movie on Netflix or Hulu.
Free Wi-Fi— When toting a laptop or an iPod Touch around it’s always helpful to know where the free wi-fi is. And, honestly, it’s pretty easy to find. Of course there is a free iPod app for that- you just have to check it while you actually have wi-fi. I check the Free Wi-Fi Hotspot website. It’s helpful, mostly up-to-date and I can plan our stops before we head out. Seeing a Panera along our route is always a plus…
MobiStories — Almost like Kindle for the little ones. MobiStories are books that have been converted for iPod Touch, iPhone , iPod Nano, portable DVD and computer viewing. Some are even available as free apps in the iTunes store (search MobiStories and choose the “lite” version). It’s like a book in video format.
Hazel Mail — We love to send postcards from our trips. And we love to share our photos. Hazel Mail makes it easy to do both! Simply upload a photo to the website, write your “wish you were here”, add the address and Hazel will print and send. Check out the step-by-step here. It’s very cool, more personal and costs less than a glossy postcard from a souvenir shop.
Xshot — I don’t know about you, but many of our family vacation photos are missing someone… Me! Yep, I’m usually the one behind the camera. With xshot I can get in more family shots without that “look I’m stretching my arm out to get in the picture” look. It’s small when closed (9 inches), stretches to 3 feet and weighs just 5 oz. Great for families!
Flip Video — I like my Flip. It’s small, easy to use and takes nice videos. I’m not a videographer, I don’t need much else. It’s also incredibly affordable, easy to upload and edit and I can get a video online in mere minutes.