It is again winter holiday time here in Finland, and as our land is mostly flat, you need to travel a long way to reach any hills suitable for real downhill skiing. For me that means ~12 hour drive from my home town Lohja to Finnish Lapland, more specifically Ylläs ski resort. You can get there by train or with an airplane, but as some of our friends live half way there we usually end up driving the whole way.

My kids are now 4 and 6 years old, and even though they enjoy skiing and being on holiday, they do not enjoy sitting inside a car for such a long time… so technology to the rescue. Here is a list of gadgets we carry with us; this is not to say you should have these, this is just the way we roll. Of course we also have traditional content (books etc.), but as this is a technology blog I’ll only introduce the techie side.

Seating & loudspeakers

While the car of course has loudspeakers all over the place, most of the time parents do not want to listen the same stuff kids do (or vice versa). Therefore a dedicated sound system for kids is a good idea. We have Recaro Monza booster seats that have loudspeakers built in:

A booster seat with integrated loudspeakers.
A booster seat with integrated loudspeakers.

This is a great idea, but unfortunately the quality of speakers in these chairs is really bad, and the wiring has some connectivity issues. Therefore we also carry some headphones with us for backup.

Amplification

Many times we only have one audio source and we need to divide that to both kids. A headphone amplifier with two outputs satisfies this need. I carry a Fiio E7 amplifier/DAC. This thing is highly recommended, I would happily buy the same again if I lost this one:

A headphone amp with dual outputs.
A headphone amp with dual outputs.

Gaming, video & audio source

As you are not supposed to carry your work laptops to holidays (to ensure holiday stays holiday), we carry tablets with us. Kids have a Nexus 7 as their personal gaming device, and then we have a Windows 8 tablet for bigger screen movie watching and parent’s surfing needs.

Small tablet for kids.
Small tablet for kids.

At home we have strict tablet usage rules (hours per week), but while travelling kids are allowed to spend much more time playing and watching videos. For our 6 year old Minecraft is currently a big hit and keeps him occupied for hours.

Many families have dedicated DVD players and such in their cars, but for us just attaching a tablet to back of the car seat (or between seats) has worked really well.

Content

Every child has their favorite music & movies: my daughter would watch Pippi Longstocking animations over and over again (if I let her). For long car trips I tend to copy all the favorite stuff to the devices, and then something new that they have not previously seen/heart. Audio books are always a good choice: they are long, and one must concentrate while listening to them, which is to say kids stay silent for a long time.

Network

Internet access for all the devices is not a must, but makes life much easier. For car trips I carry a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot with an unlimited data plan. Currently I have a ZTE MF60 which does the job:

Portable Wi-Fi hotspot.
Portable Wi-Fi hotspot.

Power

All the devices need power. Most of the stuff we carry last for a long time without charging. Also, most of the devices can be charged with standard car USB chargers. Unfortunately this is not true for all devices (e.g. the Win 8 tablet), so we also need a regular power outlet. For this purpose I always have a (cheap) 300W car power inverter in the car:

Car inverter.
Car inverter.

I hope this helps your family life. Happy travelling!

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