Caring For Our Kids

Favorite family friendly apps for summer travel

Kids? Check. Canoe? Check. Dogs? Check. Wait, where’s mom? (photo: Laurel Frazier)

School is almost out for summer and that means many families will be hitting the road. No matter where your travel takes you, getting there with children in tow can sometimes be challenging, especially during the summer months. Navigating long lines, delays, and the inevitable question, “Are we there yet?” can all be frustrating. As parents, we have to pack some patience along with an arsenal of fully loaded technological devices — iPads with movies and phones fully charged with plenty of games, which seems to be a staple for family travel these days. Technology can also be used to help explore a city, send memories back to loved ones, and increase enjoyment of family time together.

Here are three of my family’s must-have travel apps to ensure everyone enjoys the ride:


Whether you want to venture to a new neighborhood in the city or you are packing your bags for back East, this new app, geared primarily for families with young children, is one you will want. It’s free and uses “mom experts” from each city to find the best kid-friendly resources. Parents use their location to find restaurants, indoor/outdoor activities, doctors, and even the nearest changing tables or nursing areas. Mommy Nearest CEO Josh Milstein, says, “We want to be a community for parents by parents, so think of it as a combination of Yelp and Four Square geared to kid-friendly resources.” There are resources for New York, Chicago, and now San Francisco with more cities coming later this year.


Everyone loves receiving mail, especially grandparents. This app makes sending postcards as easy as a click and a signature. Gone are the days searching for the perfect postcard and then trying to find a stamp and a mailbox. This new-wave app is a great way to share your summer adventures with family and friends at home — especially those who may not be on Facebook or Instagram (gasp). It uses your custom photos to send hard-copy postcards that can be personalized with a message and even your signature. The app is free, but you need a credit card or PayPal to pay for the actual postcards and mailing.

Families might even want to send postcards to their home address — this will make for a great surprise when you get back to relive the adventures and fun memories with keepsake postcards.


This app includes instructions for over 100 creative games that can be played anywhere. What I love about this app is you don’t actually play the games on the device; the app gives you the ideas and the directions and then you can enjoy some “device-free” family game time. There are games for all ages, and no one has to fight over the phone or tablet. It does cost $1.99, but the variety and fun it will bring is well worth the nominal cost.

We recently used this on a road trip, and it was great because we could all play together and it kept everyone in the backseat happy and distracted. There are some classics like I Spy, Rock Paper Scissors and Tic-Tac-Toe, but it also includes some fun new games like Grandma Is So Weird! and License Plate Addition.

Apps can be a great way to access information and entertain — two musts for summer travel. However, summer is also a great time to unplug and create memories that can’t be found on a screen. Sometimes as parents, we need to not only remind our children but also ourselves the importance of putting away the technological devices and to just be present.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a television producer in Washington, DC, and San Francisco. E-mail: [email protected]