For the last 6 years we have been the kooky family that packs up our entire car for an annual road trip up the East Coast of the United States. We started when Ruby was just 2 months old, and really, never stopped. We mainly travel to see our extended family, making new stops in between. Road trips are my sweet spot and since my children have been going on them every year of their lives, we have some good ideas of what works and doesn’t for our family. Surprisingly enough, not bringing along our kid’s technology like personal tablets is one our most successful tactics.
You might think this sounds crazy. While we aren’t completely tech-free, we find that personal tablets and headphones kind of take the magic out of the equation for us. It happens at home, too. Nothing is more infuriating than calling to my children’s attention and being totally freezed out by “learning games”. I totally admire their focus, but the tantrums and battles that we have to endure to get them to answer a question or to call it quits is just to much for me.
You have read the reports that iPads are like crack for kids? Well, when my son would get angry and yell at us because he couldn’t have his fix, or my daughter was declining some of her favorite activities for sitting on the couch alone with her device, I knew it was something that we needed to limit for our young kids.
Basically, they can’t handle their shit. And, I don’t blame them. They are six and younger. Even six years old is too young to care for a piece of equipment that cost hundreds of dollars. It is a lot of responsibility for them.
However, the car is not a place for iPads in my family. Not yet, at least. I differ from a lot of parents, and I am going to say it – you don’t have to give your kid’s technology to keep them entertained when they travel. Traveling is hard work. It can be grueling. There is so many moving part. But, there are countless teaching moments and by giving my child a tablet or smart phone, I am afraid mine will miss out on valuable learning opportunities and bonding moments with our family.
My children are ages 6, 5 , and 1, and they are still really entertained by “Eye Spy” and pointing out water towers. We rock out to the radio and have epic sing-a-longs. And when all that has failed, we do pop in a DVD so they can zone out, together.
The Benefits I See of Not Bringing Along Your Kid’s Technology when Traveling
- I can barely keep my own cell phone charged, so it is one less thing I have to worry about.
- Children’s imagination soars when they are bored. You won’t imagine the songs, stories, and things they build and draw when stuck in a car or on a plane for hours at a time. Warning: Sometimes they have to do with butts and farts. I think it’s the age?
- Family Sing-a-longs rule!
- Th meaningful conversation. I can’t tell you the questions and observations that are discussed with me and my children when we are in the car.
- Your kids can learn navigation and processes. One of the most important skills in being a traveler.
- Less fighting – I don’t know about you, but my kids just don’t have the ability or maturity to understand that a game is over, or we aren’t in a place with wi-fi, or that their turn is done. For whatever reason, they become addicted to the iPad super quickly, and easily turn into techno-zombies. Maybe they are sensitive? But, I would rather avoid that scenario, especially in a small car or at the airport.
- You don’t have the added weight in your carry-on. When traveling, moving around with ease is really important. The few times I did bring our tablet on an airplane, the children did not even use it. I love traveling light, even though I am an over-packer.
What We Bring Instead
For the Plane:
- A small set of Legos on a Brick Board
- Coloring Books
- Melissa & Doug Water Wow Books
- Wikki Stix
- Usborne Books Dry Erase Activity Books
- Reading Books
And, in the Car:
- Books on tape
- DVDs (Yes, this is technology and entertainment, but one that is consumed together).
- Satellite Radio – another form of technology for the group and the inspiration for epic sing-a-longs.
At the Hotel:
- We do bring our Amazon Firestick or whichever streaming television device you may have. After a long day of traveling or exploring, downtime is nice. Netflix and such, comes in handy.
Ultimately, we are fans of the “you do you” parenting strategy. In our experience though, there isn’t quite such a place where the best conversations….and fights occur, than in the Car. Go ahead and embrace it instead of distracting from it…until they are just too old, and we can’t anymore.