Tech Tips for Family Travel Success

Striking that balance between screen time and family time
Col Tt Shutterstock 1006876168
Image courtesy of Maria Gerasimova/

There’s nothing like a family vacation to help us unwind, strengthen bonds and create memories. In addition to making travel plans, many parents think ahead about how much technology — if any — they should allow during family vacations. After all, we want to unplug and relax, not stare at our screens the entire trip. 

Let’s face it, downloading a movie for the kids while stuck in endless traffic or hanging out in a hotel room is pretty convenient. So, how can today’s parents strike the right balance between screen time and family time? Follow these four simple guidelines. 


Embrace technology for good. 

Empower your kids to help plan your trip itinerary by researching local culture, cuisine and activities. You can also have each family member create and share a music playlist during the trip. That way, kids can expose parents to songs by their favorite artists, while parents share theirs with the kids, too. 


Ask for kids’ permission before posting photos. 

Family trips create a multitude of photo opportunities. You may think the picture you snapped of your kids sleeping in the backseat is adorable but, chances are, they do not. The older your kids get, the more sensitive you need to be about getting their permission before posting to social media. Explain what it is about a particular photograph of your child that you like and makes you want to share it on social media. In addition, ensure that your photos show only what you don’t mind the world knowing about, including your current location and the fact that you are away from home. 


Designate family tech-free times. 

Family vacations provide the perfect time to rest and restore. So set your email to “out of office,” turn on your phone’s “do not disturb” feature and prepare to unplug. Some families like to implement
tech-free days, or portions of days. Be sure to reveal the plan in advance, so the focus will be purely on fun, adventure, exploration and family interaction — and not on creating Instagram-worthy pictures. Another idea: Consider using airplane mode. One mom we work with allows her kids to bring phones along on special outings so they can take pictures, but they must put their phones on airplane mode. This has multiple benefits: The kids can still access their cameras, they aren’t burning through data and, best of all, they eliminate the constant distraction of rings, pings and dings. 


No phone behind the wheel — period. 

Need to rely on Google maps? No problem. Have your partner or child be your co-pilot. Received a text? Cool. Ask your co-pilot to respond on your behalf or, better yet, activate the “Do Not Disturb” feature while driving. Kids follow our examples more than our words. Set the example that the driver doesn’t touch the phone, no matter what. 

With these tech travel tips, you can enjoy the best of both worlds while soaking up the best of family time.


Laura Tierney, a digital native who got her first phone at age 13, is founder and president of The Social Institute, which offers students positive ways to handle one of the biggest drivers of their social development: social media. She also recently became a mom. Learn more at


Categories: Family, Kids + Media, Lifestyle, Solutions, Travel