Whether you're taking the kids on a day trip or a trip around the world, if you're bringing a smartphone or tablet, you'll want to be sure you have these great apps for getting them involved and engaged in your travel adventure.
Planning your trip
As the grown-up, you'll do most of the heavy lifting here. But in the days or weeks before you leave, letting kids get in on the planning will build their excitement and engagement about the trip. A good geography app is a fun way to help kids get a sense of where they're going and how the location relates to the rest of the world. If you're traveling in the United states, Stack the States and Learn the States with Flat Stanley are terrific choices.
Another app that's perfect for the planning stages is Google Earth. Kids can see a satellite view of your destination, famous landmarks, and more—all with astonishing detail. And you can opt to display information about notable places, businesses, and relevant outside websites, including Wikipedia entries.
Staying sane in the car (or on the plane, train, bus, etc.)
Sure, there's something to be said for taking in the scenery. But on an hours-long trip, mobile devices come in handy in so many ways. Kids can listen to music, play games, read books, watch movies, draw, etc. Here are some key apps to include, as well as some tips:
- A virtual library app will let kids bring along good stuff to read without lugging tons of books in their backpacks. Reading Rainbow is a great choice; download books before you leave home.
- An mp3 player is good to have, but my kids have so much more fun with radio apps like Pandora on road trips. They work together to program their own kid-friendly stations. And while they're listening, they'll read the artist bios and song characteristics -- it makes listening to music a more active experience. (Just keep an eye on your data usage if you'll be on a long trip!)
- Stock up on games. If you have more than one kid, include some games they can play together. And longer trips are a good time to break out the more engrossing games.
Getting around town
A pocket map can come in handy, but with an app like Google Maps, you can do so much more. Where are you headed? What are the nearby landmarks in the area? Show kids how you use Google Maps to plan your route (driving, walking, or using public transportation). Cool extras like street view let kids get a preview of what they'll see when they get there.
Are you driving? Make your kid a deputy navigator. I like Waze for navigation, but participating in the crowdsourced alerts can be distracting. Your kid can follow the route, let you know what's coming up, and report hazards or traffic conditions—while you keep your eyes on the road.
Sharing and preserving memories
Older teens may chronicle their adventures on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, which are great for sharing in the moment. But scrapbooks, journals, and photo and video apps will help your kids make a creative keepsake of the trip—keepsakes that are easy to share with others electronically.
From the planning stages to post-trip reflecting, apps can help make family travel an even more engaging, fun, and special experience for your kids.