04/09/2024 Updated on  04/09/2024|Responsible Business|Parenting in a Digital World

Rethink road trips: Tech and tips for traveling with kids

By: Beatrice Moise

A cognitive specialist shares her road trip routine with a mix of tech activities for keeping kids entertained on long drives.

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Tech For Road Trips

On road trips with kids, it’s easy to put on a movie and stream the trip away. But there are better ways to get there. Switching up the tech every hour or so—using a mix of audiobooks, music with headphones, screen-time activities and tech breaks—can soothe eye strain and boost feel-good hormones like serotonin.

Here are my four tips to make your next trip a better experience.

Cool gadgets for traveling with kids

Backbone Mobile Controller | Road Trip

Backbone Mobile Controller Bundle for Android

Backbone Mobile Controller Bundle for iPhone

1. Start road trips with screen time: Smartphone, tablet or gaming console

At the start of road trips, let kids choose their screen-time activity. For mine, that usually means watching educational programs on a tablet for kids (more about headphones later) or playing a game on their smartphone. If there’s a gamer in your house, you can use on the trip. We limit screen time to hour-long intervals to reduce eye strain. After the first hour, we switch to another activity.

2. Take 20-minute tech breaks with road games

Making the switch from screen time to off-screen time is hard for kids—especially since screen time causes the brain to release dopamine. The transition is easier when kids can look forward to the next thing, like playing a game, reading a favorite book or connecting with a parent or friend.

Tech Is An Excellent Addition To The Experience, But Not The Experience Itself’ By Beatrice “Bea” Moise, M.S., BCCS | Road Trip

We play road games that encourage looking out the window and off into the distance, inspired by this guidance to prevent digital eye strain: Take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

Here are a few great road trip games we use:

  • State the Plate: If we’re driving from North Carolina to Florida, for example, we’ll see who can spot the first Florida license plate.
  • Counting Cars: How many 18-wheelers will we see in 20 minutes? How many red cars? How many pickup trucks?
  • States Away: Look for a license plate from a state nowhere near your home state, like Montana if you live in Vermont, or Florida if you live in Alaska.
Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones And Beats Fit ProNoise Canceling Wireless Buds | Road Trips

Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones (white)

Beats Fit Pro Noise Canceling Wireless Buds

3. Switch it up with noise-canceling headphones and earbuds

After a road game, kids can listen to music or podcasts on their wireless headphones. Both of my children prefer Bose QuietComfort 45 Headphones. From my perspective as a parent, the sound quality is great, and the noise-canceling features and volume control are essential for protecting their developing auditory systems.

My husband usually drives and gets full control of the radio. Personally, I love listening to podcasts, especially educational ones, but not everyone wants to listen to that. So I love using noise-canceling earbuds, too. I also have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and eliminating background noise helps me focus and decreases my anxiety, which can increase the quality of travel.

4. Take step challenges at rest stops with smartwatches and activity trackers

We’re all a little competitive when it comes to our daily step counts. So we’ll take walking breaks at rest stops or nearby parks and see who can rack up the most steps by the end of the drive. And then we just repeat the whole schedule when we get back in the car again, until we arrive.

Gizmo Watch 3 | Road Trips

I started putting this road trip schedule into the kids’ Gizmo Watches, and they love using the timers to know when it’s time to switch things up. It gives them an important role to play on the drive.

Unplugging is also a big part of traveling with tech. We have quiet dinners with no distractions. The Gizmos are on school mode, phones are away, and my smartwatch and phone are set to “do not disturb.” We all enjoy the moment knowing that tech is an excellent addition to the experience, but not the experience itself.

Keep them safe at home and on the road with Smart Family.

About the author:

Beatrice (Bea) Moise, M.S., BCCS., is a Board-Certified Cognitive Specialist, parenting coach, national speaker, and author of Our Neurodivergent Journey. Her UNIQUE parenting channel on YouTube is dedicated to educating individuals on neurodiversity.


The author has been compensated by Verizon for this article.

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