“If we bought this car, I would never spill my yogurt down the seat cracks,” vowed my five-year-old solemnly.
“If we bought this car, I would never let you eat yogurt in this car,” I deadpanned back.
We were taking a road trip in a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, and my kids and I were all impressed with the Tahoe’s tech toys. With 14 hours on the road and three kids under the age of nine in tow, I pulled out all my road trip resources to ensure we’d still love each other when we reached our destination.
Here are my top 5 tech tips for road trips with kids.
No tech first
While my eldest can now plug in for many hours (she gets her mad Netflix marathoning skills from me), the younger too can only go so long being plugged into their tech before they get bored. We start all road trips with the no tech options first – cheap craft kits, new colouring sheets, travel bingo, etc. – before turning on the devices.
Preload your rest stops into the GPS
If you’ve got OnStar, it’s easy to use their turn by turn navigation system to get to your rest stops for hot food, bathroom breaks and playgrounds to let them run the sillies out. If you’re using a GPS or your phone’s map system, look up the addresses before your trip and preload them into your device to make it easier to set the destination without breaking distracted driving laws.
Our ancient minivan has a single outlet at the front – but on long road trips, I want continuous charging for three devices or more. If your vehicle doesn’t have outlets along the side panels, invest in a charging splitter and 30 foot charging cables (we purchased ours from ThinkGeek.com, and use them only on road trips to save the wear and tear on these more expensive cables). This way all five of us can continuously charge our devices, and we’re not constantly switching out cables when someone’s device goes into the red.
Download new content
The night before a trip, I line up the kids’ iTouches to charge in the kitchen and download five to six new games each (the same games for all three kids, a lesson I learned the hard way) and rent them a new movie, which I download to each device.
Watch your Wi-Fi
If you want to download a new movie, songs or games while on the road on a device without Wifi, you can turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot or swing into a store that offers free connectivity, like McDonald’s, Indigo, Chapters, Starbucks or Tim Hortons locations. Some newer vehicles offer a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot with a monthly data plan through OnStar. If you’re travelling to the States especially, the OnStar plan is likely a more affordable option than having everyone in your group purchase their own data plans.