Got a new phone or tablet and kids just begging to play with it? Forget slogging through the entire internet to find the best kids apps. We’ve been there — we can help.
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Apps and travel go together like summer and pool time. There are so many app choices out there with very different uses when it comes to travel. I’m going to skip the travel booking apps and get straight to the apps that you’ll use while you’re actually in the car. From driving directions and dog-friendly restaurants to last minute hotels and crazy road side attractions your kids will love—pack these handy road trip apps to keep the drive smooth, steady and fun.
Waze | Free | iOS, Android, Windows
This is the superhero of navigation apps. Not only does it tell you how long it will take to get to your destination, and offer alternate routes if you don’t like the main one, but the info is derived from other drivers. Get warnings of upcoming police and hazards on the road. Older kids might have fun adding updates themselves. Just watch out, it’s a battery suck. Have it plugged in to battery juice from your car if you’re going to use it for any length of time.
Roadtrippers | Free | iOS, Android
Your road trip is way cooler than you think it is. Use this app to plan your route and your pitstops. From suggestions for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives to Route 66 Attractions and Offbeat hotels – this is a one stop shop road trip app whether you’re using it ahead of time or on the road. Check out the website before you download for lots of inspiration. I’ve used it to find great kid-friendly restaurants and parks.
Road Ninja | Free | iOS, Android
This app helps you find out what kind of services are coming up at future exits. Need a McDonald’s break? How about some cheap gas? I recommend setting this app up in advance of your trip so you can control the amount and type of options you want to see in your app for upcoming exits and budget travelers can even scroll through promotions for nearby deals.
Hotel Tonight | Free | iOS, Android, Windows
OK, I said I was going to stay away from travel booking apps, but I used this app on a road trip last year and I find it incredibly handy. Hotel Tonight helps you find a last minute hotel room at a discounted price. Handy, right?! I particularly love that they classify the hotels by easy to distinguish categories like Solid, Hip, Luxe. Check out all the different destinations they cover across the U.S. and worldwide. https://www.hoteltonight.com/
Bring Fido | Free | iOS
If you’re bringing your dog(s) on your next epic American road trip, you’ll want to find pet friendly hotels, parks, and dog friendly restaurants. This app has you covered. Find photos and user ratings of the hotels, too. Go ahead, make your life easier.
Tales 2 Go | Free trial (subscription $99.99/year) | iOS
What? Your kids get car sick looking at books and apps in the car? No sweat. Tales2Go is here to help. It’s the Netflix of audio books. Follow your favorite book characters, listen in Spanish, choose books by celebrity narrator or by grade level. It really brings the whole family together not to mention makes your road trip more educational. Win win. There is a subscription fee but they also give you a free 30-day trial.
Mad Libs | Free, $1.99 for 21 pack story additions | iOS
Bridge the gap between the old school road trip fun you used to have when you were a kid and the digital age version for your own children. Type in nouns, take pictures or use photos from your smartphone or iPad’s photo gallery, and watch the comedy ensue. It even saves your story as a photo for recalling the fun after the trip has ended.
Roadside America | $2.99 + $1.99 for certain sections or $5.99 all access | iOs
Ever wanted to take your picture next to a crazy large object on the side of the road? This is your app. Introduce your kids to the weird and wonderful across our United States of America. Editors review their favorites and you can check off which ones you’ve already visited. And there’s even a sunset alarm so you get the heads up for your last photo opportunities. They also make it easy to share your discoveries through Facebook and Twitter.
Visited States | $.99 | iOS
It’s OK if Dad said you couldn’t plaster a magnetic States map across your car. This app lets you mark off which states you’ve already been to. It’s a simple app but does the trick. And you can brag to your friends about where you’ve been by sending them images of your map.
Happy and safe travels!
Chances are your kids are already using lots of media. And chances are you haven’t yet found time to explicitly outline your online expectations of what they are and aren’t allowed to do, in writing.
When we got our child her first smartphone, we wrote and signed the following family media agreement. Our goal was to create a flexible agreement that didn’t get bogged down in the details, and I think we did a pretty good job. Feel free to copy and paste it into an agreement of your own and customize it for your kids.
We were most concerned about computer and smartphone use, but it could easily be tweaked to encompass television and video game usage too.
I am never allowed to give out personal information (phone number, home address, or school name) or make plans to meet anyone I do not know in the real world.
I will unfriend, block, and/or stop talking to anyone who makes me feel pressured or uncomfortable. I will tell my parents if someone is persistently bothering me.
I will never use my phone while riding my bike, crossing the street, or walking through a parking lot.
I will be respectful to myself and others, even people I don’t like. I won’t be cruel online and I won’t tolerate, “like”, or otherwise encourage cruelty in others.
I will be a good online friend. I will respect other people’s privacy and feelings when posting photos or other content about them.
I will tell my parents immediately if anyone I know seems to be in trouble or in need of help, even people I don’t know well or like.
I understand that the photos and videos I post, and everything I write about myself and other people online can be saved and shared without my knowledge. Therefore, I will not post anything online that I wouldn’t want my family, teachers, college admissions officers, or future employers to see.
I will protect my passwords so people cannot pose and post as me. I will never pose as or post as anyone else.
I’ll be careful not to spend too much time online. I won’t let it interfere with sleep, schoolwork, hobbies, and my offline relationships with my friends and family.
I will not use my phone or computer recreationally after 9pm at night. I understand that if I cannot respect this rule, my parents will hold my devices overnight.
In social situations, I will make conversation and pay attention, even when I am uncomfortable. I understand that it is rude to look at my devices when others are talking, especially family friends, grandparents, teachers, coaches and employers.
I understand that my computer and phone belong to my parents, who trust my judgment and respect my privacy. However, if they are ever worried about my safety, I promise to answer their questions calmly and honestly. I understand that this family media agreement is subject to revision at my parents’ discretion.
When we gave our teenager her first iPhone, we had her sign a family media agreement. This agreement highlighted our expectations in terms of safety, kindness, time management, and privacy, among other things. We especially impressed upon her the importance of locking her phone with a passcode and never sharing it with anyone so that people could not pose or post as her.
Two months ago, when iOS7 came out, I updated the first day it was available. It was different, but I got used to it. About a week later, I started having problems with what I thought was autocorrect.
Do you know about keyboard shortcuts? In general, they are awesome. You type a word or abbreviation, and your phone fills in any phrase you program it to when you’re texting or typing. Wu becomes “Where are you?”, omw becomes “on my way”, tu becomes “Thank you!” and so on.
Here are the shortcuts my daughter stealthily set up for me one night when I was busy in the kitchen making her dinner:
There —> they’re
Their —> there
They’re —> their
Are —> our
I thought I was going crazy. I spent hours Googling stuff like, “homonym problems iOS7 update”, lurking around on Apple discussion boards, and asking everyone I knew if they were having similar issues. They weren’t.
It was weeks before I figured it out, yelled at her, and fixed it. Although I was exasperated, I was also kind of proud of her subtlety. After all, if she had made the word “you” turn into “I like big butts and I cannot lie”, I would have figured it out right away.
Today, I discover two new shortcuts:
No —> yes
ok —> #YOLO
It’s obviously way past time for a password, or maybe an iPhone 5s. If you love iPhone pranks and practical jokes as much as my daughter, you’ll want to check out Mashable’s “5 Pranks to Play on Your Friend’s iPhone.”