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Family travel tips: Best travel apps for kids

Posted by Melanie Nayer  July 17, 2012 05:42 AM

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Summer travel is in full swing! As you pack up the kids for the mapped-out road trip, or get them geared up for long security lines at the airport, make sure you've got enough on hand to keep them occupied and entertained. Nothing grates on the nerves quite like the repetitive "Are we there yet?!" and "I'm bored!" announcements from the backseat.

To help keep kids entertained while traveling, I went straight to the experts to round-up the best iPhone, iPad and Android apps: the parents. I asked Twitter and Facebook fans and followers, as well as travel-savvy moms and dads, for their favorite apps and collected the top 10 based on recommendations.

Jen Leo, co-founder of and mother of a 3-year-old girl, offers a plethora of app reviews on her website, and gave me a few tips for travelers before setting off on vacation:

"I make sure to load our iPad with a few new apps and TV shows/movies before a long flight or road trip. It's important to load them at home because if you leave it to do once you get to the hotel, WiFi can be weaker and take much longer to download. Also, if you load your apps at home a few days before your trip, you'll find out if you have any memory obstacles. It's a waste of time to be sitting on hotel WiFi deleting apps to make room for more when you could be out and about discovering a new town."

For that time in between home and vacation destination, here are the top 10 travel apps for kids that moms and dads suggested when I asked for their favorites:

Instagram: This trendy app was a recommendation by almost everyone. One mom said she gives her kids photo assignments to keep them engaged. Ideas include photographing certain items found in airports, types of cars on the road, historical monuments, food, and even not-so-touristy things like graffiti and street signs. At the end of the trip, the kids get to "Instagram" their photos and add their favorites to the family photo album.

instagram.jpgWith the Instagram app, you'll see the family vacation through your kids eyes

The Night Sky: Working in some education alongside electronic games is always a priority for parents. For those families heading out on camping trips (or just pitching a tent in the backyard), The Night Sky is a fun and educational app. "You hold it up to the dark sky and it tells you the constellations you are looking at," said Beth Katz, owner of Katz Design Group and mother of two grade-school aged boys. "It's much easier then guessing which planet is Venus or Mars, and great for a national park vacation or just the staycation in the backyard."

nightsky.jpgThe Night Sky app shows constellations and planets when held up to a dark sky

FlightTrack: As adults, we know the frustrations of flying. But the younger kids still find the concept pretty cool, which is why a simple app like FlightTrack can mesmerize your little one for hours. Jonathan Epstein of Celebrated Experiences turns on this app when he's waiting around the airport with his son. "We love playing with the maps. It is great for showing my 4-year-old where we are flying, and what mountains or bodies of water we are flying over." Not to mention, it's a great practical app for parents to keep up to date with flight schedules and information.

flight-track-app.jpgKids have no reason to wonder "are we there yet?" with the FlightTrack app

MONOPOLY Hotels: Admittedly, I had a fascination for hotels at a young age (which might explain why I grew up writing about them). When my family would go on vacation, I was more interested in what I could find at the hotel than anything else. Had MONOPOLY Hotels been available to me, I might not have annoyed my sister as much as I did on road trips. This app, which was recommended by Kim Marie Evans of, is for the young teen or teenagers who have a fascination with hotels (or just dream of living in luxury). You can buy, build and manage MONOPOLY’s iconic hotels, and customize them with attractions.

monopolyhotelsdia.jpgThis hotel app gets kids excited to check in to their next destination

Moody Monster Manor: This app by ALEX Toys takes the fear out of whatever monsters may or may not be under the bed. Recommended for ages 3-8, this app allows kids to create their own monster, teaches them about emotions by zapping bad dreams with a "magical monster flashlight", throw a "Monsterrific" party to help the monsters make friends, and help the monsters with their homework (a great educational edge). "Even the littlest players can achieve winning results with our Moody Monster Manor games, which are simple enough to handle on their own, reinforcing a positive experience, all while quietly building their cognitive and motor skills," said Janet Simon, vice president of marketing for ALEX Toys.

Melanie Monster.jpgMoody Monster Manor app by ALEX Toys allows kids to name, create and educate monsters in new places.

Other app favorites for keeping kids occupied while traveling include:

Match It Up: A memory game for toddlers to age 9
Jetpack Joyride: The various jetpacks make this adventure ride a ton of fun for ages 9+.
My PlayHome: A virtual dollhouse for the tech generation. Kids organize everything from their parent's bedroom to the CDs in the stereo.
Stack the States: Educational and fun, kids aged 3-6 years old can play this game when traveling to learn more about geography and where they're spending their time away from home.
Around the World with Lilup: Parents of younger kids raved about this story-book app, which takes you around the world with Lilup the traveling pup.

Readers: What are your favorite apps for traveling with kids? Add them to the comments section!

Photo credits: All screen shots are courtesy of the individual app from the iTunes App Store

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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