For some families, loading kids into the car for an hours-long ride is a recipe for crazy time. But it doesn’t need to be. With some forethought and judicious application of technology, you can safely detour around tantrums and meltdowns and arrive at your destination with the whole family’s sanity intact. We’ve put together a list of clever tech-infused ideas that might just save your next family road trip from disaster.
Download shows, songs, and apps in advance
Kids are used to constant Internet access at home, so it’s hardly surprising that some get upset when you tell them they can’t stream shows in the car. Happily, media services ranging from Netflix to Spotify offer a downloading feature that will let you load up plenty of shows and songs on a phone or tablet in advance so they’re there when you need them. Also consider downloading apps ahead of time to avoid eating into your data plan.
Consider signing up for in-car Wi-Fi
Newly launched Rogers Smart Drive offers plenty of cool features, but the one parents with younger kids will be most interested in during road trips is in-car Wi-Fi. Up to five devices can connect at once, meaning your kids will be able to stream music and shows drawing from the family data plan, which, for a limited time, gets a 1 GB boost when you sign up for Rogers Smart Drive. It’s essentially a gateway to endless content while on the move, and could prove extremely handy on a cross-country trip.
Buy a backseat tablet mount—or make one yourself
Sad you didn’t splurge on the tech package that would have added screens built into the backs of your seats? There are easy ways to fix that. You can choose from a huge variety of aftermarket backseat tablet and phone mounts, most of which are designed to fit a variety of devices and car seats. Or you can go an even cheaper route by sliding your phone or tablet into a Ziploc bag and hanging it from your headrest. This latter might be your best solution if you just need it for a couple of days—or you don’t want your kids getting used to the idea of having access to a screen in the car. Note: Many car safety experts recommend that parents firmly secure the tablet to the vehicle, as opposed to allowing the child to hold it; this reduces the risk of the device becoming a projectile in the case of a collision.
Make one device go further with an earbud splitter
Your kids may not get tired of endlessly repeating Peppa Pig episodes and Wiggles songs, but you will. And buying a separate device with earphones for each child is not a cost effective solution, especially for larger families. The answer? An earbud splitter, like the Belkin Rockstar. It lets up to five kids jack headphones into the same device, letting you and your partner relax to the sound of grown-up radio while your kids get their media fix fed via wired buds.
Let Nintendo do the heavy lifting
Nintendo may have created the ultimate road trip game system with Switch. It’s got great games for all ages, and—this is the truly fantastic part—more than one kid can play at a time. The controls on either side of the tablet-style console slide off to become discrete controllers, letting brothers and sisters be social while playing a game like Mario Kart 8 together. Granted, letting games mind your kids for a few hours in the backseat hews uncomfortably close to lazy parenting, but sometimes you’ve got to do what works to keep the vacation wheels turning smoothly.
Try IRL emoji bingo
In the normal flow we rely on technology to emulate the real world. But this car bingo game flips things. Have your kids pick their favourite emojis on your phone—crying, smiling, flowers, thunderclouds—and draw them on a five-by-five grid. Then switch off all your devices and get your family to start scanning the scenery for real world versions of your kids’ chosen emojis. It’ll take a long time to find them all, and all the while your kids will be reminded that the virtual world has its roots in what they see around them every day.
(Rogers is the parent company of both Today’s Parent and Rogers Smart Drive.)