Apps for Summer Travel With Kids

Ah, summer. Longer days, going to the beach, cookouts. And travel. Here are some of my favorite apps to help you arrive with your sanity (mostly) intact.

For Parents:

How do I love thee, let me count the Waze. This crowd-sourced traffic app is a miracle for helping avoid the worst traffic jams (when possible, of course, sometimes you have no other route and then it just prognosticates your future inevitable misery). In one case, it warned us of a giant broken tire that had sprawled across three lanes of traffic, right before we reached that spot.

For Toddlers:

My son is only allowed to have my iPad on flights or long (2 hour+) car trips, a fact that he has quickly picked up on. “Let’s go visit Mimi” is now code for “I want to play Endless Alphabet.” But the Endless apps are so great that I don’t feel too guilty about strapping him into his carseat and handing over the device. Yes, I know all about the Playdoh and sticker books and making puppets out of an airsick bag using triangle crayons that don’t roll. I even have all those things in my bag as backup. But those activities still require me to actively entertain the kid like a party clown for three hours, and you know what? After wrestling him and his stroller or carseat/wheelie combo past check in, through security, onto the plane and into his actual seat – I don’t wanna. I want to read my Kindle, and I want to not deal with hate stares from other passengers because my kid is screaming or kicking their seat.

This app accomplishes both. He drags a letter to its outline in the word, and when he completes a word, the app rewards him with a cute animation and verbal description that explains what the word means. He knows all his letters and can identify some words on sight now. Endless Reader helps with non-phonetic words, and Endless Numbers boosts early counting skills. In a word, A-W-E-S-O-M-E.

Ages 5 +

Now that they can read a little on their own, get them the Reading Rainbow app. The subscription fee may seem hefty over time, but the books supplied are endless, and they offer recommendations by  age range and interest, grouped into cool little “worlds” that kids can travel between. The video field trips you remember from the classic PBS show are here too, available at the tap of a play button.

Ages 8+  

If you’ve got a kid who is into dinosaurs, you may succeed at pulling him/her away from Minecraft with this app: Dino Walk: Continental Drift. The display is a 3D model of the earth. Slide the time line to the left, and the continents morph back in time from present day, through the Ice Age, the back into Pangea and the dinosaur Eras. As you move through time, the dinosaurs that existed during that Era pop up in the places where their fossils were found. Tap on the dinosaur and you get a beautiful 3D rendering of the species, with a flip side describing the attributes, where it was found, and when it lived. The app is also searchable by dinosaur name. Be prepared for a lot of “Dad, did you know that the T-Rex actually lived in the Cretaceous Era?” coming from the back seat.

Well, that’s my list – what’s yours? Safe and happy travels this summer!