Affordable Tech for Family Travel
Does back seat boredom drive you to distraction while travelling? Do you sometimes wish you could hibernate the kids for long journeys and reboot them when you get there? Or do you boot up your tech and hand it over? I’m never that comfortable giving them my phone or tablet for fear they’ll delete all my contacts, fill it with selfies or download games that use up my data and storage, so I love the idea of affordable tech for kids for travel. Kit to keep them amused and you sane on long journeys. In this paid content collaboration with Alba, we serve up some of our tips for gearing up kids for a trip…..
Accidental road trippers
We are a family of accidental road trippers. While it’s not our favourite form of transport, the open road is a seductive thing, and we often find ourselves on it, heading for an adventure in a foreign land. In the past we have road tripped in the USA, Japan, New Zealand and across much of Europe. We pile the kids in and expect them to amuse themselves in the back. But we do give them a little help with that.
I’m all for taking the brakes off social media in the holidays and we try to wean the kids off their addiction to computer games every summer, but I’ve learnt through experience that a journey is not the right time to de-tech the kids. On the contrary, in my view you should take as much electronic distraction as you can pack into the foot-wells and glove compartment!
Don’t take anything priceless
But I’ve also learnt not to take kit that’s precious, expensive or full of files that aren’t backed up. If losing it will make you weep for a week then it really should stay at home. In a simple equation that even my 11 year old could understand:
Kids + Multiple Locations + The Outdoors = Broken or Lost Stuff.
It has happened to us many times. Matthew dropped his phone into a glacial river in Iceland. And then, rather alarmingly, went in after it to try and get it back. Cameron has demonstrated a great talent for losing his tech in fields. Both boys love taking tech on adventures; the time they took their devices for a swim in a tupperware box comes to mind. What I’m saying here is top of the range gizmos may be nice at home but out on the road affordable and replaceable is probably a wiser choice.
Give the kids their own stuff
My advice is to equip the kids with their own stuff for trips and give them the responsibility of looking after it. I know! It’s not cheap, especially if you have a big family. But tech is getting more affordable all the time and some of it is cheaper than you think.
I’m not talking about expensive laptops or gaming systems. If you have a pre-teen child all they need is a simple, durable device that doesn’t conk out before you reach the end of the holiday. (or even in some cases the driveway!) A tablet maybe, or a phone, some headphones and a charger. That kind of thing. And I have some ideas for gear that won’t break the bank. Because I’ve been chatting to the guys at Alba, the British consumer electronics brand exclusive to Argos, who produce kit well suited to kids. Specifically pre-teen kids – or ‘tweenagers.’ And specifically starter technology designed to be durable, affordable and safe, with parental control options as you can’t always see what they are doing in the back seat and beyond.
Tweenage wants and needs
Needs for this age group are short and sweet, according to the brand who conducted a study of over 1,000 UK parents with children aged 7 and over. The poll confirmed that tweens have fallen out of love with the conventional media with demand among this group for tablets three times higher than for TVs, (based on a year-on-year comparison from Nov 2015 to Nov 2016.) With tweenagers using the devices to watch TV shows, play games and engage with friends online, parents revealed a third (31%) of their child’s money is put towards this ‘must-have’ tech, including mobiles, headphones and tablets. And perhaps unsurprisingly mobile phones top the league of most coveted tech for tweenagers as pay as you go deals become more competitive and sim-free options appear.
If this is all sounding rather familiar, along with the pressure to kit them out, then here’s some ideas we’ve come up with when researching this post, to see you through the holiday time without leaving you too broke to go anywhere.
Five Suggestions for Affordable Travel Tech
1 An Affordable Tablet with WiFi
The kids may put phones at the top of their wish lists, but tablets have been the most use to us on our travels. There’s no need to splash out a fortune for one of these. The Alba 10 Inch 16GB HD Wi-Fi Tablet is available new from as little as £79.99 (RRP £89.99) and will enable your child to update social media, play games, and enjoy TV shows. The front and back cameras can take selfies for posting online. Talking of those endless selfie shots, 16GB of internal storage can help them save and catalogue every angle of their new haircut. (There’s also a micro SD slot to expand storage up to 32GB.) And that parental control app enables you to manage what they watch and download. It also comes with red and blue silicone bumpers which won’t protect it if it falls into a glacier, but should come in handy it falls onto the car floor.
Fun things to do with a tablet in the back seat
This summer we drove to Austria. And you know what we did on the backseat? No we didn’t sing. No we didn’t fight. We played a two day, never ending word game using Mystic Words, an app that crosses anagram fun with crossword puzzles and is available on android. And you know what? We didn’t notice any of the limes passing us by. Or the miles for that matter.
We do a lot of travel in our home county. Our home county is the birthplace of Eddie Stobart, the trucking king. We have been playing his bingo game for years. Believe me when I tell you a tablet will help you keep a family tally of your lorry spotting successes. Capturing authoritative record of who spots what is very important when it comes to deciding who’s the winner.
We like to do art on the road. Our kids have their own blog and an Instagram account and enjoy creating images overlaid with graphics. Our favourite apps like Over and Colorsplash (which you can buy or download for free on the android store) let the kids create multi layered Instaposts and add selective splashes of colour. We used this to create a series of daily haikus while travelling in Japan.
2 The Mobile Phone
The Alba Sim Free 2.8 inch Mobile Phone comes in fun colours that are green as the grass and blue as a summer sky. The phone has two SIM slots, Bluetooth connectivity and a built in FM radio and MP3 player. It costs £19.95 and is simple and durable. It won’t give your tweenager unlimited access to the internet, but it will give you peace of mind when you can contact them if they get lost in an unfamiliar place.
Fun things to do with a mobile phone in the back
Load talking books onto the MP3 player for your child. Hannah’s favourites are My Naughty Little Sister and the complete works of Harry Potter. They can also download their favourite music and you can throw in a few tunes in to surprise them. There’s a road trip album that we love containing 50 songs related to the road. Movie soundtrack compilations also go down well. Kids can sing along and annoy everyone. Or kids can phone their friends obvs.
3) The Headphones
Alba On-Ear Headphones are simple, functional and good value at £4.99. They have cushioned ear pieces, a lightweight design and save you from having to listen to your kids musical choices.
Fun things to do with headphones in the back
On the other hand kids can put them on to drown out the noise of parental in-car karaoke sessions, lectures about the effects of too much screen time or commentary on the educational merits of the next scheduled stop.
4) The Battery Charger
Your Alba tablet will give you five hours of use on a full charge. Beyond that you’ll need a way to top it up. On the road it’s not always practical to plug in so we have various PowerMonkeys for topping up on the go via USB and have found a compact e-can inverter with USB charging capabilities useful for journeys where plug sockets were not very available but something just needs to be plugged in. (Our Iceland Ring Road tour springs to mind where the campsites were basic and while hot water was free it was hard to get a charge.)
5) The Talking Toy
Our final choice and wild card for affordable tech is the talking toy. Particularly fun if it talks in the language of the country you are visiting. We bought a singing camel in a souk in Dubai. It drives us crazy but we love it. At least for the first ten minutes.
Fun things to do with the camel in the back
Learn to speak the language of your toy. Hide it under the seat and invite the rest of the family to find it when it sings!
Get your own affordable gadgets
If you like the idea of affordable tech then you can find many of these products online at the Alba store at Argos. (Sadly not the singing camel but then you’ve probably had a lucky escape.)
Want more family travel tips? Try this…
Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you in a paid collaboration with the electronics brand Alba. Alba provided us with products to photograph and to run a giveaway and some research information about pre-teens and technology. The other ideas, opinions and experience of using tech for family travel are entirely our own. As are the photography and singing camel games.