Are we there yet? How many times do you hear this on a road trip with the kids? Too often, right? In-car entertainment goes a long way to keeping your kids happy on long trips, but there’s a lot to take in. With these tips and tricks, you can keep the kids entertained (and your sanity intact) while you travel.
Technology has come a long way from your childhood days of either staring out the window for hours on end or listening to music on a well-worn Walkman. That means there’s more for you to keep on top of, though, and way more gadgets that require regular charging. The last thing you want is an irate child that’s tantalizingly close to their favorite form of entertainment, but you’re out of charge or data.
With a few easy steps, you can circumvent such issues and simply enjoy a (relatively) peaceful trip. At least that is, until your kids get bored of the wealth of entertainment you’re throwing their way. Here are some neat tips and tricks for slowing down the boredom train.
Update, 5/12/22: Verified content and links up to date. Swapped out some images for newer ones, and added new links for charging cords.
One of the easiest ways to keep the kids happy is to hand over your iPad or Nintendo Switch. Either gadget will keep them occupied for many hours, with plenty of options of things to do. Your kids can opt to hold the device in their hands the whole time, but a mount will make things so much easier. Even more so if they’re planning on watching their favorite shows on Netflix.
We’ve previously covered the best iPad mounts out there but you’d probably prefer one designed with car headrests specifically in mind. In which case, the iKross Universal Tablet Mount is perfect for such an occasion. It fits pretty much any tablet you could think of, and you can slot your Switch onto it too. Mounting clamps keep things secure, and it’s easy to install and attach to your headrest.
Your kids are desperate to watch Minions or Paw Patrol while on a long journey, but oh no—there’s no signal. Or, even if there is a signal, you’re paying for the privilege of downloading the large video files on the road.
The best option here is to plan ahead and download content in advance. Before you run out and spend more money buying content off iTunes, take advantage of the stuff you can grab for free from your existing services. Use Netflix’s offline mode to get ahead of the curve. Amazon Prime has a similar offline mode too. We’ve covered both Netflix and Amazon Prime over at our sister site, How-To Geek. And if you happen to have an Amazon Fire Kids Edition Tablet (which is a fantastic deal for parents), the included media software has an offline mode so you can load it up with media before you hit the road.
Not all content is available offline, though. There’s a chance your kids will want to watch the one show you didn’t download, but it should help in cutting down your charges and general data woes.
You don’t really want to hear the not-so-dulcet tones of a kids’ movie while you’re driving, do you? And it’d probably be pretty nice to be able to talk to your partner up at the front while the kids are quietly watching something in the back. The best method for this is to use some form of adaptor to split the single audio stream coming from your tablet across multiple sets of headphones. There are a few neat options for doing this, depending on your budget and needs.
The cheapest option is to buy an AmazonBasics 5-way headphone splitter. It’s as straightforward as it sounds. Slot the plug into any device with an AUX port, and you can plug in up to five wired headsets through the adaptor. It’s a little costly but a tiny price to pay overall for peace and quiet.
Alternatively, you can buy a Bluetooth adaptor that supports multiple headphones. We recommend the Aisidra Bluetooth Audio Transmitter. It’s quick to set up, and you can use it to split audio between two sets of Bluetooth headphones simultaneously. It’s a little pricier than going through the old-fashioned route, but it solves a problem fast.
Overexcited kids can be a disaster for your gadgets. They don’t mean to drop it or throw it around, but it happens. There are literally hundreds of different screen protectors out there, depending on the size of your device. Something like the JETech Screen Protector is great for an iPad.
While you’re being extra careful, consider investing in an iPad case specifically with kids in mind. We covered a great selection earlier in the year. If you’re brave enough to hand over your new iPhone 13, check out our pick of rugged cases too.
Remember to pack all the chargers, adaptors, and cables you could possibly need. It’s a particularly tedious part of packing, but the last thing you want is to run out of charge mid-road trip. If you don’t already own one, buy a car charger like this Anker Car Charger. That way, you can charge while on the move. Provided you have cables, that is.
There are plenty of good Lightning, USB-C, USB-A, and micro-USB cables out there that’ll keep all of your devices connected as needed. You can never have too many, and the sturdier cables the better when dealing with kids. And if you run low on juice, be sure to pick up a portable battery bank, too.
Whatever kind of cables you need—Lighting for the iPad, USB-C for the Switch— it’s a solid headache preventative to make sure you have all the cables (as well as all the accessories and downloaded media you need) ahead of time. No sense having the iPad, but no Paw Patrol queued up, after all.
With a little prep work, you’ll be ready for your next cross-country trip (or at least a trip to the next town over) with entertainment for everyone and sanity for you.