Family travel: media

The latest and greatest books, apps, films and gadgets to make travelling easier and inspire the little ones

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 6 Jan 2014, 11:15 GMT

Tech traveller: on the pulse

Technology reporter Kate Russell is a pro at finding the best websites and apps to recommend to viewers of BBC Click (and us!). Check out her site or tweet her @KateRussell

In-app purchases – Game over for rip-off titles
How much would you pay for 1,200 bananas? How about virtual bananas in a smartphone game for children aged four and over? Would £69.99 shock you? That's the cost if your toddler gets busy making in-app purchases in Madagascar – Join the Circus!, just one of many high-profile titles that have come under fire recently for making extortionate premium content accessible in a game aimed at children.

Known as 'Freemium apps', the basic download is free, with gameplay enhancements available for a price. There are lots of examples that don't rip you off, but stories have hit the headlines, including a five-year-old who racked up a £1,700 bill playing Zombies vs Ninja on his dad's iPhone. Apple has since tightened the rules: you'll now see a pop-up message if there's paid-for content in any apps you install. The safest option is to disable in-app purchases with a password. This can be done in the Restrictions menu on Apple devices, which you'll need to enable to access the relevant on/off sliders. For Android, open the Play Store and find settings/user controls/set or change PIN. Once set, you can tick the box next to 'Use PIN for purchases'. For the Kindle Fire, look for menu/settings/parental controls inside the app store; turn these on to find the 'Use PIN' box to tick. Forget this and you'll run the risk of going bananas when you get your bill. 

We love…
For big kids…
Learn to recognise global landscapes with GeoGuessr. Using Google Street View/Maps, the site serves up five random locations to pinpoint on the map. The closer you get, the higher the score.
For little kids…
Bring colouring to life with the augmented reality colAR App, which turns coloured-in scenes into 'living' 3D scenes. The free version has a few printable colouring pages; the paid version offers many more. iOS/ Android.

Arty apps to occupy kids in the car
Burt's Coloring Book HD: This colouring app has 75 free pictures to be filled in. A setting that fills areas in neatly when touched means little ones needn't struggle to stay inside the lines. Android FREE
ColorBook Free: Turn your favourite photos into a digital colouring book. The app takes just second to turn a snap into a line picture your kids can colour in by rubbing with their fingers. Android FREE
Art of Glow: Finger-painting, digital style. Create swirly, glowing images by dragging fingers across the screen. If you pay to upgrade, you get extra brushes and features. iOS/Android FREE

Websites – Travel activities for troublesome toddlers
Change4Life: NHS website with a 'fun generator' of indoor/outdoor activities. Search 'travel activities for kids' to find tons of user-generated articles on keeping children occupied.
Pinterest: Links to dozens of great ideas, all of which have been road-tested by families.

Books: Rhonda Carrier's buy the book

Rhonda Carrier travels widely with her young sons and has written and edited for Frommer's, Time Out, The Guardian and more

Parent-free exploring
When you're launching a series entitled 'Not for Parents', this results in instant kudos by virtue of its very name, and Lonely Planet has done well in exciting my kids with this range. Open one up and your kids will be transported to exotic climes and learn all kinds of compelling facts without suspecting you're sneaking in an extra bit of homework. The books, filled with great images and illustrations, are aimed at ages 8–12.

My 11-year-old has devoured several of their offerings: Extreme Planet, How to be a World Explorer, How to Be a Dinosaur Hunter and USA: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know. I could tell how rapt he was by the number of facts he regaled me with — things I more often than not didn't know and found just as fascinating as he did. Only through Ethan reading The Real Wonders of the World, for instance, do I know about base-jumping in Rogaland, Norway, and wing-suiting over Lake Elsinore in California. October saw the launch of four new titles in the series: Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. But even more exciting is that his younger brother will soon be catered for with a new series of lift-the-flap books for ages five and up, called World Search — Incredible Animals, Busy Places and Amazing Jobs are first up. So even when we're not travelling physically as a family, we'll be travelling together, in our imaginations. And imagination is where it all begins. RRP: £9.99. (Lonely Planet) 

Take me away – we recommend

Early Teens 15+ – Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong : Enthuse your teens with this first book in a new fantasy trilogy set in medieval Japan. RRP: £6.99. (Atom)

Tweens 12-14 – The Story of Captain Nemo by Dave Eggers: Eggers and illustrator Fabian Negrin reinvent the Jules Verne sci-fi classic for the modern era. RRP: £14.99. (Pushkin Children's Books)

Primary School Kids 5-11 – Ir e Vir by Isabel Minhós Martins : This compares the incredible journeys of animals with how humans travel. RRP: £9.99. (Tate Publishing)

2-4 Preschoolers – Around the World with Ant and Bee by Angela Banner : An insect duo globe-trot in search of a lost umbrella.  RRP: £4.99. (Egmont Books)

Infants 0–2 – Where? by Leo Lionni: Based on artwork by the late Italian illustrator, it challenges tinies to find the mice.
RRP: £4.99. (Random House)


After the icy pre-Christmas treats of the Norway-inspired Frozen, early 2014 promises more adventuring around the globe from the snug, warm comfort of your cinema seat.

In time for February half-term comes The Lego Movie, with Lego superheroes including Batman helping a minifigure save the world from the evil tyrant Lord Business.

March sees Lady Gaga and Sean Combs join Ricky Gervais in Muppets Most Wanted, with the gang touring grand theatres around Europe, and getting mixed up in a global crime caper.

And for an Easter treat, April brings Rio 2 and the continued exploits of Blu and Jewel, who leave their native Rio de Janeiro so their kids can learn to be 'real birds' in the Amazon rainforest.


In style

Want it, need it, must have it! We pick our favourite travel accessories, gadgets and goodies for you and your kids

01 BattleBox: These den-making kits come with all manner of low-fi fun, from camouflage nets and tarps to compasses, 'danger' signs and outdoor survival packs. Designed by mum, Emma de Vere Hunt, who wanted her son to have some low-fi fun, BattleBoxes have different themed contents (Survival, Ambush, Dangerous Dens) with tips and tricks from Bear Grylls. RRP: from £49.99.

02 Pacapod: This three-in-one bag includes two detachable pods for feeding and changing equipment and was created by outdoor clothing designer and mum, Jacqueline Waggett, Pacapod. We love the Oban, a lightweight bag that converts into a rucksack, and the cute Toy Pod, which slots into a larger PacaPod — great for tots who want to carry their own gear — with reigns, too. RRP: from £24.95.

03 Kids Compass Amsterdam: The latest in this excellent city-guide app series reveals that Amsterdam can be a kids' playground — if you know where to go. It comes with a GPS-supported map (no internet required), a public transport system guide, plus 'top 10' attractions and practical travel information, including plenty of fun facts for children. RRP: £1.99. Available for iOS (App Store) and Android (Google Play/Amazon).

04 3-D Travel Buddy: Tired of your Trunki? Then you might like to try one of these shiny new critters, designed by TrendyKid with help from children. Functional, fun and possibly just silly enough to keep them happy travellers. Possibly. RRP: £20 (backpack); £40 (suitcase).

05 Sled Buddy: With the UK getting increasingly used to snowy winters, it's time to ditch that battered plastic sleigh in favour of one of these sleds, featuring a 3D penguin or polar bear image and high-vis yellow base. Cute, but clever too: patented Arctic Groove Technology, which offers quicker water displacement, for greater straight-line speed and turning control. They're a compact 90cm long and made from lightweight foam, so weigh just 500g, meaning those uphill drags should be easy on little arms. RRP: £24.99.

06 Rollerskis: Get your kids (and yourself) in shape for the slopes with these roller skates that emulate cross-country skis. Standard rollerskis give the best ski feel, while the multi-terrain rollerskis let little legs explore further afield.
RRP: £124 (£255, including boots and poles).

07 Otto London Poncho: These sleek, urban-look waterproof hooded ponchos, made by Otto London are inspired by South American designs. They come in all-weather, hard-wearing Oxford Nylon fabric, which makes them great for cycling, skateboarding or just your regular Caped Crusader-style capers. RRP: £88.

08 Love Brand & Co: Luxury beachwear for boys (and men) based on a 'trunks for trunks' eco-ethic — 5% of profits are donated to elephant conservation charities. The signature Classic Short has nickel-free alloy drawstring aglets in the shape of elephant tusks, and feature the Love Brand & Co logo — two elephants forming a heart. Pricey? Possibly. Beautiful? Definitely — and with a feel-good factor too. RRP: £49.

09 Autographer: Clip this intelligent wearable camera onto your clothing and it will capture images automatically. Five in-built sensors (fused by a sophisticated algorithm) activate when something interesting is happening, so you can live in the moment and relive it later too. RRP: £299.

Published in the Spring 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller Family (UK)


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