I can remember the good old days when staying occupied during long car rides consisted of my brother and me punching each other. My, how times have changed. Kids today still revert to the age old practice of tormenting their siblings, but at least nowadays there are plenty of distractions to keep them from making a road trip a living nightmare. IPod's, PSP's, DVD players, and the like have made travel quite a bit easier on parents. I have to say that my wife and I have fully embraced the new tech-age and our travels honestly are better off for it. But, at the same time, we don't want our little darlings to turn into drooling zombies from staring at screens for hours on end.
How do we do that? Well, it's not easy. Once the media gets its hooks in, it's hard to get them out. The key is moderation and regulation. Keep time limits and make sure there are ample breaks in between. You know your children best of all, so you’ll know their threshold before becoming over stimulated by games and movies. You’ll also know how long a media break to take before they start to turn on each other. For long road trips, this is an absolute necessity. For shorter road trips, it may not be necessary at all. It really depends on your situation. For example, if the road trip is any less than 2 hours, the DVD player doesn’t get any use. Likewise on long trips, when the DVD player is in use, take a break between movies before allowing the next one to be played. We’ve been guilty of not following this rule more than a few times, but it’s a sound rule.
Have chargers and/or batteries on standby as well. Portable media devices gobble energy like PacMan and you don’t want to be three hours into an eight-hour drive with the red light blinking.
Most of all, make sure your kids take notice of any special scenery that comes to pass, such as beautiful mountain views, the coastline, a 30-foot tall donut, or even a rare license plate. It’s still a family trip, so include them and make them feel like it is. Portable media can be a great thing for long trips, but if unchecked, they can also be a major detractor from your trip. Find the happy medium and your travels will be smooth.
Now, if there was only something we could do about the traffic.
Ted Hardy also covers his family's travel escapades at Have Family, Will Travel.