Travel is changing. Actually, travel is evolving. The manner in which people go about planning each detail of their journey – from booking up, to returning home, and everything in between – has rapidly revolutionised in recent decades, the technological pace quickening still in the last five years. High street travel agents are forever glancing over their shoulder, as holidaymakers turn to the internet in pursuit of bargain getaways; the popularity of satellite navigation, meanwhile, has rendered any driving trip infinitely less stressful.
When travelling with the family, the importance of such creations is thrown into sharp focus. Cast your mind back to when you were a child. To days when the seemingly unquenchable excitement at the prospect of a holiday suddenly turns to deathly boredom within an hour of departure. That sinking feeling when your frustrated father assures you, for the umpteenth time, “No, we’re not there yet.” Or perhaps you yourself were the parent, trying frantically to conjure up some riveting variation of ‘I Spy’ to keep the little ones in the backseat entertained. Regardless, it’s an all too familiar scenario.
Kids will, of course, be kids; but in 2014, there’s little excuse for the onset of such tedium. Whether you’re flying, driving or sailing, you can rest assured that out there lies a variety of gadgets guaranteed to spare you the trauma of a very public temper tantrum.
1. Gaming on-the-go
Take the PlayStation Vita as an example. Although the Game Boy has been around for the best part of 25 years, never before has gaming on-the-go been quite so stylish. Having reached the point where the quality of games on handheld devices virtually matches that of home consoles – and with the welcome boost of extended battery life – a few immersive hours of Football Manager or Minecraft make many a journey pass that much quicker. What’s more, all games are downloaded, removing fidgety cartridges and discs from the equation once and for all. Even if excessive use leads to an energy outage, the solar-powered PowerMoney Extreme back-up battery is on hand to supply some extra juice. Just perfect for sun-kissed hours on the beach!
2. Stay safe in the sun
On that note, it’s never been easier to ensure that both you and the kids don’t subconsciously overdo it in the searing heat. The RAR813 pocket monitor, from uk.oregonscientific.com, is a nifty and affordable gizmo to keep tabs on the weather; not only does it notify you of the risk level based on UV readings, your skin type and the factor of sunscreen you’re wearing, its handy countdown timer serves as fair warning to find some shade after basking in the full glare.
3. Crazy for the kindle
Not all children are overly enamoured with the lures of console gaming, of course. So if your brood falls into this category, you might instead prefer to invest in the now ubiquitous Amazon Kindle. Although the primary purpose of this wonderful device remains the mass storage of countless e-books, the latest Kindle Fire 8.9 model has expanded to incorporate video streaming, internet access, apps and music.
That being said, for tunes I’m good to go with my trusty ‘old faithful’ iPod Classic: essential travel playlist at the ready. The iPod isn’t exactly the ‘it’ product of 2014, but whether driving to the south of France or wedged into an economy seat on a 19-hour flight to Sydney, you can enjoy all of your favourite music without fear of sacrificing any songs. Oh, and if it’s a family playlist, the bargain £9.99 Belkin Rockstar headphone splitter lets up to five people pipe into the same appliance. Good luck on finding a tune you’ll all appreciate, though!
5. Happy snapping
One of the greatest pleasures of any family holiday, however embarrassing it may seem at the time, is documenting the occasion in photo and video form to be reminisced over for years to come. Smartphones have admittedly made this as simple as it’s ever been, abolishing the charming but outdated grainy footage of old; but if you really want memories to cherish, it’s worth taking the hit for a more professional camera. The options are plentiful, and naturally depend on your budget, but if you can afford to drop a little extra coin, the Panasonic Lumix GX7 is one of the best all rounders. Falling into a similar price range as the Sony Cybershot RX100 II, it’s a terrific “point and shoot” camera that makes life easy for the casual photographer without compromising on picture quality.
6. It’s all about apps
While all of the above are designed to simplify the journey itself, more often than not the most stressful element of a holiday is the planning before you cross the threshold of your own abode. Enter Tripit, the ultimate app for condensing your entire itinerary into one manageable and convenient view. Any flights, train tickets, routes, plans and bookings in between can be stored on here, all but eradicating any confusion and drastically slashing the chances of a disastrous misplacement. In a similar vein, TouristEye will help inspire you as you seek out ideas for family activities in your chosen destination; think of this product as creating a collaborative wish list to keep everything organised – and the whole pack happy.
In summary, there’s a piece of technology to cater to almost any situation you can imagine. Whether you’re striving to keep the children happy, staving off your own boredom, or simply resolving to minimise your stress levels, something is out there – if you know where to look. Just remember your damn chargers!