A big part of family travel involves keeping everyone calm, happy, and comfortable while exploring new territory—easier said than done, right? Fortunately, family travel apps are at your click-and-call, perched on your mobile device like little knights in shining armor. Springing to action on a moment’s notice, they can ensure smooth rides, trouble-free transitions, access to family-friendly activities, and info on getting around in new places.
With travel apps, hitting the highway or flyway no longer requires extensive research, lugging around guidebooks, and carrying overstuffed backpacks brimming with favorite toys and diversions. Trade all that for downloading the best family travel apps, and then “pack” those little soldiers right into your smartphone or tablet. Here’s a look at the 10 best family-friendly travel apps and how they can make traveling with kids what it’s supposed to be: fun!
Travel Essential Apps
Chances are pretty good your kids already know which apps they want to load onto their own tablets, but what about apps for the “responsible adults” on this journey, the planners, the ones in charge? That would be you. So check out these handy travel apps for everything from navigation to trip planning and airport insights.
We all like to think that we’re organized—until that little scrap of paper with the hotel confirmation flutters behind the kitchen counter or we accidentally forget to choose airline seats until it’s too late to sit together. Fortunately, you can have your own virtual travel assistant in the form of the TripIt app. Every time you make a hotel, rental car, airline, theme park, or Broadway show reservation, you simply forward the confirmation emails to TripIt, which transforms it all into an extremely organized, chronological trip itinerary that you can print out and keep stored in your mobile app.
Getting the best airfares can often mean making at least one connection in a major city with a huge airport. When traveling with kids, it can be a challenge to find family restrooms, play areas, kid-friendly food, and a caffeine boost for mom or dad. Gate Guru fixes all that with a simple app that tracks your arrival and departure gates and automatically shows airport maps, layouts, amenities, restaurants, nursing stations and more. You can also get updates on flight delays, gate changes and security-line waits, or book a last-minute rental car for discounted rates.
Sleep and Nursing Apps
We know: you hate being that person who interrupts the natural flow of a journey by having special needs. When those needs involve nursing babies and soothing night-time fears, the needs are more than “special” – they are your primary concern. But gone are the days when you have no option but to stumble through unfamiliar territory, desperately hoping it won’t ruin your trip. Here are two of the most specialized and intuitively helpful apps when traveling with children.
Breastfeeding in awkward places such as public restrooms can frighten a baby and throw things off-kilter on what would otherwise be a fun family vacation day. The Mamava app helps you find safe, comfortable and quiet places for pumping and breastfeeding your baby, based on GPS location. The app also helps you find lactation suites and “Mamava Pods” in airports or other prominent places, which can be unlocked straight from the app with a Mamava SmartLock.
The Marpac Dohm White Noise machine is our favorite device for travel naps, but sometimes there might not be a convenient way to plug it in. In these situations, the Sound Sleeper app comes in like a sandman with a bag of slumber tricks. This fascinating sound machine, created for babies, plays the serene sounds of nature or white noise and turns on automatically with the sound of crying. You can also record personal sounds and track your baby’s sleep patterns. The only downside to this app is the loss of your own personal screen time while the baby is snoozing.
City and Attractions Guide Apps
You could spend endless hours researching your destination online both before and during your family vacation. But why do that when others have devoted their entire careers to doing it for you? With these two family-friendly travel apps, you’ll discover the city and regional tips from techie travel entrepreneurs who quite likely have kiddos of their own crawling around beneath their desks.
We all know what it’s like to do an online search for family-friendly activities and end up with a slew of Web links giving the same-ole tourist-trap options. The Trip Advisor app provides their classic booking and search tools on your phone. Reviews are a big part of the app, written by locals and previous travelers, meaning you’re likely to find affordable or free fun without the crowds and hyperbole.
My Disney Experience
As one of the most family-friendly places on earth, Walt Disney World surprises nobody with its comprehensive, user-friendly app that utilizes GPS on your mobile device. My Disney Experience provides an interactive map, tracking device, directions, wait times on specific rides, and an up-to-date schedule of parades and character appearances. A big plus is that you can reserve your rides through FastPass+, saving potential hours of waiting in long lines with weary children.
Road Trip Apps
A road trip is the quintessential family vacation, and for good reason. You’re stuffed into a speeding bullet with the people dearest to your heart, so it’s the perfect chance to reconnect, tell tall tales, laugh about Uncle Bob, and maybe even remember why you chose to become a family in the first place. But all that is in jeopardy if you spend the whole time stressing over directions, finding amenities, locating interesting roadside attractions, and tracking down foods your kids will actually eat. Here are some apps that can help with all that.
We all know the feeling of driving forever and needing a break, only to find that the exit you passed 5 miles ago was the only one serving food for another 50 miles. Those “doh” moments are gone for good when you have the RoadNinja You’ll know exactly what’s coming up at the next exit – and for all exits up to 3,000 miles ahead. From gas stations to restaurants, roadside parks, outlet stores, and more, you’ll find where they are and can even filter by your preferences. Get gas prices, coupons, and special offers from retailers all along your journey.
Part of road-trip fun is accidentally coming across outrageous and unexpected roadside attractions. But what’s even worse is discovering after the fact that you breezed right past the world’s largest avocado, a cowboy hat the size of Dallas, or the armadillo hall of fame. With the Roadtrippers app, you can avoid those kinds of lifelong regrets. All you have to do is input the starting and ending points of your journey, and the app finds everything from quirky anomalies to historical monuments, amusement parks, fruit stands, craft outlets, and hiking trails.
Family Togetherness Apps
The last thing you want during family travel is for everyone to be isolated through technology in their own little worlds. Family vacations are the perfect chance to bond, laugh and play together, and to catch up on one another’s lives, thoughts, and feelings. Mobile technology can hinder that in a big way – but it doesn’t have to. With these family-friendly travel apps, you’ll actually be enjoying electronics together while bonding over old-fashioned things such as “writing” postcards and learning foreign-language words and phrases.
Remember what it was like to send postcards back home from your travels instead of dashing off a text or email? With the Postagram app, your children can make Grandpa or Aunt Suzy’s day by sending a postcard via snail mail, created from photos they take along the way. Just snap a picture with a smartphone camera, upload it to Postagram, and type in a message. A real-life postcard makes its way within one week to any address you designate.
If broadening your horizons through travel is a key part of the journey, then the Duolingo app is an excellent way to jumpstart that process. It introduces the whole family to conversing in foreign words and phrases, with an uncomplicated, entertaining, and kid-friendly approach. With DuoLingo, you’ll all feel more confident when journeying overseas, and your children will learn the respect and courtesy of reaching out to people in their own language. This can go a long way toward fostering peace and understanding between people of different cultures.
Raising a generation of tech-savvy children carries both challenges and rewards whether at home or when exploring the world. But with a little bit of forethought and insight, you can guide your children through rewarding and successful journeys using the best of modern technology. Travel apps are just one more tool for rearing informed youngsters who travel with open minds and a sense of adventure.