Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Electronics for traveling kids & parents: tips and resources

Up until now, I've been fairly gadget-less when I travel with my kids. They are not into hand-held games, I don't own an iPad, and I usually leave the laptop at home. I do carry a cellphone, and occasionally an mp3 music-player, but that's about it.

However, with the right kind of content, electronic gadgets can make excellent pastimes for traveling kids.

Apple iPhone 4 Black Smartphone 32GB (AT&T)HTC EVO 4G Android Phone (Sprint)
1. Apps for phones
There are a lot of choices when it comes to kid-friendly apps for your phone (as well as other electronic devices).

Apple iPad 2 MC979LL/A Tablet (16GB, Wifi, White) NEWEST MODELApple iPad 2 MC770LL/A Tablet (32GB, Wifi, Black) NEWEST MODEL
2. iPads & apps
I know many kids really love iPad's, especially the simplicity and intuitive control of the touch-screen. There are many sites that offer reviews and recommendations of iPad apps specifically for kids, for example:

New Broderbund Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs & Ham Acquire Essential Learning Skills While Having FunNew Scholastic Clifford Thinking Adventures Over 100 Reading Lessons 15 Printable Activities

3. Laptops
If you're bringing your laptop on-board, you can obviously access any games you have installed on it, and a lot of online content (if you have access to wi-fi: many airports do offer wireless Internet access these days). For my next trip, my laptop will probably be traveling with us on the plane, including my kids' current favorite games:

Nintendo DS Lite Cobalt / BlackLeapFrog Leapster Explorer Learning Game System (Green)
4. Handheld games
A lot of kids take their hand-held games everywhere, and it can definitely be a good way for them (or you!) to spend the time on a long-haul flight. Lots of systems are available, just make sure to pick one that your child likes (I still haven't been able to find one that holds my kids' interest!), and that isn't too bulky or heavy to bring in a carry-on.

Sony DVP-FX750/L 7-Inch Portable DVD Player, BlueCoby TFDVD7009 7-Inch Portable DVD/CD/MP3 Player (Black)
5. Portable DVD players
If you're going on a long trip, movies are usually a sure-fire way to keep your kids occupied. There are tons of portable players, and just like with anything else you're bringing on board an airplane: make sure it's reasonably sturdy, not too bulky, and not too heavy. Also, bring some kid-sized headphones!

Pirates of the Caribbean III - Disney Mix Stick MP3 PlayerApple iPod nano 8 GB Graphite (6th Generation) NEWEST MODELSweetPea3 2 GB MP3 Player for Kids (Violet)

6. Audio players
Audio players can also be a great way for your child to pass the time while traveling, listening to music, books or stories. There are many different players on the market, and you'll just have to decide which one you think works best for your child.

Kindle 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 3G Works Globally, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl TechnologyPandigital Android 7" 1GB Color Multimedia eReader - White (R70D200)
7. The Kindle (and other e-readers)
Many of my friends are totally sold on the Kindle, and I think e-readers can definitely be great for traveling kids, whether they can read themselves or you are still reading to them. (Because of the constant engine noise, it can be a challenge to read to a child on-board, but it can be done.) Check out kids.kindlenationdaily.com for news and tips on using a Kindle for kids.

Tips for airplane-travel with electronics 

  • Electronic devices, like laptops, phones, hand-held games and the like are usually allowed on board. However, they do have to be turned off completely at take-off and landing.
  • Laptops often have to go through the security screening separately, meaning you have to take them out of your bag and out of their carrying case. Just be ready for this and you'll save yourself a lot of time.
  • The TSA's website has the latest regulations for what you can and can't bring on board, and what electronics must be screened separately.
  • Small electronic devices, like iPads, audio-players, etc. can usually stay in your hand-luggage when you go through security.
USB Travel Charger for Apple iPod, iPhone, iPod Shuffle 1st Generation, iPod Photo/iPod U2, iPod MiniKensington 33117 International All-in-One Travel Plug Adapter

  • Remember to bring any wires and battery-chargers you need. Also bring adapters and converters if you're traveling to a foreign country: an electronic gadget really is no good to you or your kids unless the battery is charged!
  • Make sure you check with your cell-phone provider if you can use your phone abroad and what it will cost you. The rates for making calls, texting and using the Internet can become quite astronomical if you don't watch out!

Final thoughts
If you are traveling with kids, especially if you're the only adult or if you're traveling with an infant, carefully consider what electronic devices you bring with you. Your carry-on can become quite full even without any electronic gadgets.

Also consider that if you are traveling as the only adult, you might have to lug your carry-on with you everywhere (including inside a washroom to change a diaper), if you don't want to leave your electronics unattended.


  1. When I travel with the kids I always make sure I have my iPad. I know the kids get pretty restless and bored, so with the iPad they have so many options to choose from. They can play games, watch movies, read, and even watch TV. The TV Everywhere app through my provider/employer DISH Network is their favorite app. They can watch all our subscription channels live from anywhere we are at. They can even access our DVR from there. They love that they can watch all their favorite shows from the car. This one app keeps them quiet for hours.

  2. Very cool tip! I'm definitely itching for an iPad myself... :)


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