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An 18-Hour Roadtrip With 2 Tweens? No Problem!


Taking a break from Angry Birds.

Our home in New Jersey is 1,000 miles and just over 18 driving hours away from Orlando, FL. Double those numbers and that’s how much driving my husband and I did this fall with our children, ages 10 and 11. Tweens are too young to be interested in looking out the windows and too old for games like travel bingo or I spy.

Thank goodness for the promise of Disney and the power of technology. My tweens aren’t yet using Facebook and Twitter to pass the time, but a few select handheld devices kept them entertained and distracted enough that they didn’t ask “are we there yet?” at all (well…not as often as they might have).

Check out the FG Hotel Guide to Orlando

Mobile Couch Potatoes

A portable DVD player is almost as good as being home on the couch.  The two girls peacefully shared a 7-inch screen  in the back seat for blissful 100-minutes stretches of time where we could talk or enjoy the scenery up in the front seat.

Part of the allure was the novelty: The only time the kids experience TV in the car is on long trips like this; never for around town. Borrowing movies from their friends is great because they have a built in recommendation and no late fees. Borrowing movies they haven’t yet seen is better still. They’re almost guaranteed to mesmerize and hold their interest.

Ipod? Try I-can’t-live-without-it

I’m now convinced that the greatest invention of all time is the iPod Touch. It’s the size of their little hands but is a lifeline to their universe.  Games like Angry Birds (popular and free), music on Pandora (free) and Hanging Free With Friends, a hangman game where they compete with friends (free) were popular pastimes and cost us nothing.

The app they liked best was Text Now (free). It allows them to use the iPod for texting so they can keep in touch with their friends even though they don’t have cell phones. Cool stuff!

We opted for the streamlined and personalized iTouch instead of bulkier video games because it’s more versatile. In addition to the games and music they could also have downloaded movies and TV programs. As they grow they’ll find new apps to reflect new hobbies and new downloads to meet their changing taste in music. Plus, they actually took some nice photos with it.

Staying Wired at 75 MPH

We provide a wi-fi connection for the ITouches with a cool little toy of our own, the Samsung Galaxy Tablet. It can handle up to 8 wi-fi connections at once via a 3G phone link. (Higher-priced versions of the iPod Touch have their own 3G capabilities).

The one drawback of the Galaxy is that it can’t connect itself to the internet while serving as a hotspot for other devices, so I had my laptop and smartphone and used the tablet as a hot spot for those. (Yes, we’re a very wired family.)

Tween Trip Tech Notes

For really long trips like ours, make sure you can charge your many different devices in the car. This might mean a stop into Best Buy before your trip, but a dead ITouch when Mickey Mouse is still 10 hours away isn’t very much fun.

On a parental supervision note, we maintain the passwords for their account so they need prior approval on anything they download. It means they pester us more than we might like, but we know that what they’re downloading is appropriate and we haven’t yet gotten socked with triple digit ITunes bills.

We of course did play our share of games and pulled their heads out of their devices regularly. But when a trip of this length is broken up by entertainment and quiet time, it’s easier on everyone. It’s said that a trip of a thousand miles begins with one step. For me that step is revving up the wi-fi and making sure our batteries are charged.

Mary Petto is a social media consultant and addict from Marlboro, NJ. She can’t wait for her next family roadtrip.




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4 Comments

  1. tara marlow
    December 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm — Reply

    I have to share with you – I took a 13 day, 3k mile roadtrip alone with my tween last summer (I also read your roadtrip article with 2 tweens) – it was the best trip I’ve ever had. I used some of the same techniques as you. YAY! If you want to read about my experience, check out my travel blog: aussiekidonline.com (http://www.aussiekidonline.com/mid-western-america-is-calling/). I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  2. Ann M in NYC
    December 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm — Reply

    This is all very good advice, thank you, for an upcoming NY to OH road trip for Christmas — with young teens.

  3. rose
    December 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm — Reply

    Any kind of gadget is good for a long road trip. I use my iPad for the kids when we want some peace and quiet in the front. They can play games, watch movies, and watch TV through my provider DISH Network. With the Sling Adapter hooked up to my employee account I can access all our subscription channels from wherever we can get a Wi-Fi connection. The kids love to watch live TV on the road and catch all their favorite shows. They can access all our DVR recordings as well.

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