Nobody knows the world of family travel apps like Jen Leo. I mean, nobody. She’s a mom (her daughter is almost 4). She’s a (decorated) travel writer. She’s also a co-founder of Best Kids Apps, a site that reviews all the kid-oriented iPhone, iPad and Android apps as they become available. Naturally, then, when I set out to try and cull some of the best apps for traveling families, Leo hooked me up. She also answered a few questions about what we parents should seek in a travel app. Here’s a part of our chat.
Q. What would you say is the single most important attribute of a family travel app?
A. For family travel apps, or apps for kids during travel, the most important attribute is depth. Does the app have enough to engage the child for an extended length of time? Whether you're on a road trip, or a cross-country flight, if the app doesn't hold the child's interest, it's not going to be of much use to you. For toddlers and preschoolers, My Playhome or any app from Toca Boca [such as Toca Kitchen] is great for lengthy engagement. For grade school kids, try Stack the States or Tales2Go, an app that lets your child, or the whole family, listen to audio stories of familiar books and tales for kids aged 3-preteen. For general travel apps like city guides, I think the most important attribute is accuracy with the map functions. You don't want to be in a city you don't know and follow the map directions religiously to an attraction only to not have it anywhere close to where the app says it should be.
Q. Generally speaking, in your experience, for what kinds of data are traveling parents using family travel apps?
A. I think traveling parents use apps to research travel opportunities on their mobile device, and then separately, find apps for their kids to use on the road, and those apps can be either educational, entertaining, or both. And it's not all about apps and games. I think parents are turning to buying TV shows, books and movies for their kids' tablets, and Smartphones too.
Q. A majority of the apps on your BestKidsApps site are iPhone and iPad apps. To what extent are there worthwhile offerings for Android and -- gasp! -- BlackBerry? Should traveling families even consider these devices, or are iPhones really the best bet right now?
A. I am an Apple fan. My personal opinion is that the apps available for iOS devices are superior and easier to use on an iPad or iPhone vs. an Android. And I can say that having used an Motorola Android phone for more than a year. However, not everyone can afford an iPad for their child, nor should they feel pressure to buy one for them. We've just published a list of great tablets for kids with moderate prices that will please both parents and kids alike.
Readers, what are YOUR favorite family travel apps? Leave a comment and let us know.