Road Trip Tech: 8 Must Have Tech Tools for Families
Trying to fit in a final dose of “happy family memories” before the kids go back to school? There are few options with as much potential (and that require as little planning or upfront cash) as the good old-fashioned road trip. And thanks to modern technology, even the long stretches can be painless at a minimum, and downright educational if you do ‘em right! Coming off of a 30-day, 18-state and nearly 5000-mile journey with a 5- and 8-year-old, our marketing guru Lauren lists her tech and gadget must-haves.
1) Wifi on the Go
This is crucial, especially if you plan on literally working from the road. Some newer cars have wifi built in, but we relied on a Verizon 4G LTE jetpack to keep me on video conference calls while my husband streamed Spotify, our older daughter Pokemon-went and our little watched all 65,438 episodes of the Octonauts (bonus - she was very impressive at aquarium visits).
2) An iPad, or some other kid-assigned tablet
Make sure there are parameters here. We expected 30 minutes of math per leg (highly recommend Dreambox for iPad), and research on each state as we crossed into it (we required population, state bird, flower and tree, fun facts, and most importantly – things they wanted to see and do).
3) Blog setup.
We used Wordpress – or should we say, our daughters did. They took photos throughout each visit and then crafted a full journal entry as we left.
We built our itinerary in Google Maps, shared the details in Google Docs, planned out costs in Google Sheets, and shared parts of the Google Drive folder with anyone we were planning to descend on in advance.
5) Great headphones.
For everyone but the driver. The idea that everyone will congenially listen to an all-ages audiobook together is lovely. And about as likely as the state bird landing on your windshield as you cross the border. I used a great Plantronics bluetooth set that took me from phone to laptop automatically and drowned out the Spotify.
6) The right apps.
- Waze for accurate directions that rule in traffic (key when you’re somewhere unfamiliar and don’t even know if there’s rush hour traffic)
- Yelp for restaurants, boat tours, and to avoid the tourist traps (or “famous shrimp dip”).
- HotelTonight to ensure that you can stay loose with plans, stay an extra day where you want to and book it home a little sooner if you’ve hit your roadtrip limit (no judgment).
- Weatherbug. Our standard weather apps would show nothing but rain in places that were actually 90% sunny with occasional pinpointed showers. Especially if you’re new somewhere, it pays to get more granular with the weather when making plans.
- MyFitnessPal. We realized we should start using this when our clothes from the beginning of the trip didn’t fit by the end of the trip. That’s what you get from shamelessly sampling the local fare!
7) Extra connections.
Depending on what’s built into your car. We had built-in Bluetooth and lots of plug-in options, but these are all things that may be worth purchasing or borrowing if you’ve got an older model. Be sure to review whether you’re hooked up for 2-or-3-pronged power supplies (or could use a little extra juice for those iPads in the back). Consider an external Bluetooth connection like this Bluetooth car kit or an adapter that plugs into lighter slots, like this one from Sirius XM.
8) A Kinsa thermometer - of course!
Not only did we bring them as gifts for our hosts throughout the trip, we had our own Kinsa to stay on top of our health and make sure that the extreme crabbiness was due to bedtime agnosticism and an ice-cream-for-dinner nutritional lapse instead of actual illness.
Bonus: The low tech must-haves for even the highest tech family:
- Wipes. Doesn’t matter how many years out of diapers you are - they will come in handy
- Snacks. Preferably foods that aren’t allowed at home, so they are impressed instead of distressed when they realize goldfish crackers ARE lunch.
- Clipboards with storage. Craft stores have the kind you can store pens and paper in. There was a lot to draw and write and hangman and tic-tac-toe and create secret codes for.
- A packing “system.” We used Ikea under-bed boxes instead of suitcases for easier packing, unpacking, and organization (and to be fair - everyone had the same size box to fill at their will).
- A shiny pebble or shell or bead or otherwise magical item you can use as your “sleep-in-the-dark stone” or “bravery button” when, for example, your children stop sleeping through the night 3 weeks into a 4 week trip and you’re still 1500 miles from home.
We’re glad to have Lauren back, but it seems like it was quite the trip! For more wisdom from our mom-in-residence, check out her louse-y adventures here. Learn more about how to keep your family’s health in check while on the road with Kinsa.