Technology has made travel a lot easier, and not just when it comes to researching vacations and booking hotels. A wide range of gadgets and gizmos are available to educate, entertain, and generally make our lives that little bit easier when traveling with children. Here are our techie tips and tricks to keep everyone from toddlers to teens occupied with our top picks of the best travel tech for kids…
Gone are the days of stuffing rucksacks full of enough games, books and toys to keep an entire school assembly happy; with a tablet, they’re all in the same place – with music and movies to boot – and are an indispensable piece of kit in any family’s travel arsenal (or suitcase). There’s a great range of tablets available to suit all ages, with enough applications to shake a USB stick at. iPads are generally accepted as the best in the market, with the best range of child-friendly apps and ebooks available to download.
For younger children, we’d recommend looking at a tablet designed specifically for them, such as the Leapfrop, which packs educational and entertaining applications into a colourful and – crucially – sturdy package. It’s full of interactive puzzles and games; your little ones will have so much fun, they’ll forget they’re learning. Barnes & Noble’s Nook Table is the best bet for bookworms, featuring e-book reading experiences full of colour and animation. You can also record your own voice reading a story, which comes in useful at bedtimes.
You’ve charged the tablet, you’ve downloaded Frozen, you’ve strapped the kids into their seats. All set? Not quite – unless you’d prefer to listen to squawking cartoons and shrieking choruses echoing from the backseat, you should invest in a pair of headphones for them. There are some great options designed for smaller heads, featuring funky colours and sturdier builds. If you have a cabled pair, a splitter is a worthwhile investment so more than one child can plug into the same device. Puro Wireless Kid’s Headphones are our favourite; these top-of-the-range headphones avoid tangled cables, have a great battery life, have built-in noise reduction and hearing protection – and look so grown-up, you might get a bit jealous.
Pique the children’s curiosity by giving their very own camera; it’s a great way to get them out and about and up close to their surroundings. They will delight in exploring, pointing and clicking as much as possible, and it’s also quite a wonderful way to see their world and their experiences through their eyes. You might even discover a hidden talent. Depending on their age, you might want to invest in a camera that can take a bit more punishment than usual; we like the KidiZoom Action Cam, a great GoPro-style piece of kit for the juniors. It has a waterproof case allowing underwater photos and can be mounted to bikes and helmets to capture action shots on the move, before they get creative with cartoon effects.
Prevent mid-movie meltdown (of both batteries and children) by investing in a good portable charger, to ensure you never run out of juice while on the go. It’s also generally a very useful bit of kit on outdoor expeditions, such as safaris or long treks, to make sure not a single photo opportunity is missed. Besides, let’s face it, without a functioning phone as a map, calendar, diary, alarm … we’re a little bit lost. There are lots of options, but the Anker PowerCore is our pick of the bunch; it’s the smallest charger of its (considerable) capacity in the world, able to charge any two devices at high speed – useful for keeping the tablets topped up during a long flight – and comes in a sleek, sturdy case. If you’re going to be away from the mains for a while, this should be in your backpack.
A portable sound machine can be a saving grace for families travelling with small children, soothing little ones to sleep with white noise, leading to deeper and longer sleeps for both of you. The LectroFan, which electronically produces fan sound and white noise in 20 different variations, is the best for travel; it has dual voltage settings and can be powered by USB (time to dig the portable charger out).