Last week we were away on our annual road trip with our two boys, ages 8 and 11. We went to Washington DC and saw a lot of great, interesting and historical things. The drive to and from DC was long but tolerable from our home in Michigan.
As a kid who grew up in the 70s and 80s, the experience of our annual car trip made me reflect. What the heck did our parents do to keep us occupied when we went on vacation as kids? We always drove (at least until I was much older), and yet we didn't kill each other. How did we not get lost constantly without a GPS?
I can remember quite a few car trips with my parents and sister, without any technology to pass the time. We didn't have laptops, iPads, iPods, DVD players or anything else to pass the time. I think I read, since I'm lucky enough that I don't get carsick, but I don't remember. One of my sons can't do much or he does feel sick, so he has to be careful. He can watch a movie on the built in DVD player in the car, but he can't read or play on his iPod. Poor kid.
For the four of us, we had so much technology along with us that just the number of chargers was ridiculous. We had three digital cameras, two iPads, 1 iPod, 1 3DS gaming device and 2 iPhones with us. Plus the car has a built in DVD player and GPS. Plus my husband brought along his work laptop just in case he needed to work a little. All of this for a 10 day trip!
It does help that most of our devices are Apple products, so at least the chargers are interchangeable (except my iPad which has the new Lightning style plug).
If you're thinking of a long car trip with kids, I highly recommend a movie player for the car. Even if it's not built in, it really is a lifesaver. IPads or other tablets can be an easy substitute for a built in, since they're light and easy to use. Our kids are never quieter than when they're watching a movie (unless they are unconscious).
Digital cameras are a must so that you can capture pics while you're away, although I think the fact that my husband, my son and I each have one now is a bit ridiculous. The good thing is that I can browse through all of our photos and only use the best ones when I scrapbook. I've had good luck with one or both of them capturing something that I missed in the past.
If you don't have to work while away, it's great to leave your laptop at home. Some things can be done on just a tablet - I've used my iPad with Logmein remote control software to support an emergency request from a customer while away from my laptop. It's slow and awkward without a mouse and keyboard, but it allows me to satisfy a request that would otherwise have to wait a week or more.
One last thing - headphones! If your kids have music or game devices, or are watching movies, decent headphones are a must. I personally can't stand to hear all of the noises from most of those video games, they drive me crazy. Also since my kids tend to watch the SAME movie over and over, I can't take the audio track of most movies either. If your kids don't like to wear earbuds, you can get over-the-ear headphones for about the same price. My boys hate earbuds since I don't think they're ever the right size for kids. We've had better luck with the over-the-ear style, although they are bulkier to pack.
Good luck and drive safely!