If you are like me, traveling with kids stresses you out. This stress & anxiety can take away from what should be fun. After all, that is why we go on vacation, to have fun, right? You may be wondering why, when information about traveling with children is available all over the place—in books, magazines, and on the internet just to name a few—I keep on posting this stuff? Simple:  I am still learning and need the tips & tricks as much as anybody. I have learned a lot over the years and my ability to lighten up and go with the flow is growing. I am in a unique position to share my knowledge with others and to learn more from your feedback as well.

This week I want to discuss a little more about packing for the plane; specifically, I want to talk about technology. As soon as I posted my last blog on packing, I could just hear the thoughts, judgments, and opinions. “I do not let my kids watch TV or play video games.” “I didn’t need them when I was their age and I was fine.” I didn’t either; however, when we were kids there was nothing good on TV except for a few hours a day and of course Saturday morning cartoons. There were no DVD players. There were not even VCRs for that matter.

So, what was travel like back then? Let’s see – well, my family did not go many places and 99% of our travel was by car. Our regular family getaways were to my grandparent’s mountain cabin, which was only a 30-40 minute drive. Since we didn’t have any games or movies, we played group games. For our regular trip we all guessed how many cars we would pass on the one main road to the cabin. Grandpa would give a dollar to the one whose guess was closest without going over. Yes, it was fun and yes, a dollar was a lot back then; it was four candy bars!

I can go on with all the games we had to play back then; everything we had to create using our imagination. I am from that time so I understand why some parents want to shelter their kids from the evils of technology. I get it; the imagination and all of its wonder seems to be heading towards extinction.  That can be a whole different post: what I want to ask today is how stoked would you have been if you had a little device the size of a Hershey bar and played Pong, Breakout, or Space Invaders on it? Pretty stoked right?! How about if you could have watched Star Wars on it?  Even better!

We have to embrace technology – it can make our lives easier and more peaceful. The key for our family is balance. I am sure you could get a degree at some university that will teach you how to balance everything! Wouldn’t that be nice? Anyway, travel is one of the times that we definitely embrace the technological advances of our time. It helps entertain the kids, which, in turn, helps minimize my anxiety so I can relax and enjoy the ride! Enjoyment. That is what vacation is all about, right?

Now that I have hopefully converted all the anti-techs, I’ll share two invaluable tips on the subject:

1. Smartphone.

It seems that most people these days have a smart phone or some device that allows them to play games or watch videos like the iTouch or iPad. If you have an iPhone or something similar, load it up with free apps for the kids. Our kids would rather play games on our phones than use their older hand held games like the Nintendo DSi.

2. Handheld Game Player

I recommended in my last post to get the Sony PSPgo. It is so easy to use, and if you have a PS3 it is even easier.  I hate to bash a product, but our kids have the Nintendo DSi and, as I mentioned in the previous tip, they would rather play games on our smart phones. We broke down and bought the PSPgo before our last trip, and it was the best decision we have made for a while. It is great for all of us. Games and movies are reasonably priced and you just download and go; no more microscopic game chips to keep track of. The resolution is great for videos, also.

Think about the benefits: fully occupied kids for hours at a time; far fewer “are we there yet?” or “how much longer” questions; and you and the wife can relax! So, just embrace it. We didn’t have the technology when we were kids, but you know we would have loved to; it’s the kids from our generation that have grown up and invented this stuff after all.

– Kevin Williams
VP & Dad