The Digital Nomadic Family – Which Tablet is Best for Kids and Travel?
Do the kids really need a brand new Kindle Fire HD?
Should You Purchase a Tablet Device for Each of Your Kids?
Technology has become so cheap and abundant that it is hard not to justify purchasing a tablet device for each member of the family.
Also, if your children need to use a device for school, Skype, reading or even for some long car ride amusement, if they don’t have their own, it will mean they are using yours.
If you are considering roadshchooling while traveling the decision becomes even harder.
As we all know, technology can be a very big distraction that can work against you and your child’s best interests.
On the other hand, it can be an invaluable tool to help unleash a child’s imagination and creative potential.
So this questions, the question of whether or not you should purchase a device for yourself, your kids, your partner’s or spouse and even your parents back home is a big one.
And if you do decide that this is something you want to do, what are your best options?
Here is some of what I have concluded while planning:
The Big Three: Google, Apple, and Amazon
Google Nexus Tablet
At less than US $200 this is a great option.
For the first time, Android devices are becoming an attractive for the digital nomadic family than an iPad running iOS.
The main reasons are price (there is a huge difference here) and compatibility.
I own an iPad and I love it, but it has limitations and some annoyances that Android devices have overcome. The touch screen on an Android tablet is now just as good as an iPad and the screens are crisp, responsive and just plain beautiful.
The Google Play app store is rocking and rolling and will soon overtake the Apple store in it’s vast selection of apps available for your entire family.
My only hiccup with the Nexus tab though is its lack of expandable storage in the form of an SD card slot. Honestly, had Google made this part of the tablet it would be in my mind a simple decision and this is where a Samsung Galaxy tab starts to pick up some leverage.
If you own my most recommended phone for traveling internationally (The Google Nexus Phone) then you will start to see the advantages of running all Android.
I will still have to say, that the Google Nexus tablet, is probably the very best choice for tablets if you are planning an around the world family experience and don’t already have an iPad or are part of the Apple infrastructure.
The iPad or iPad Mini
Had I been writing this blog post 1 year ago I think this would have been my number one choice. For kids, I would go with an iPad mini over the full-size iPad.
The advantages here are if you yourself own other Apple products (specifically the iPhone) you can link the iPad with your account and run apps on all your devices saving some money on redundant purchases.
Subscription apps like MeeGenius can be great for families and kiddies who like to read and why not spread the joy of a single low monthly $4.99 subscription plan across all of your devices?
If you have a Macintosh computer again the advantages become even more apparent and if you have family that are all Apple fans having the ability to talk very simply over FaceTime can be pretty great.
Although, remember things like FaceTime are not limited to Apple devices, if you are smart and downloaded Google Hangouts you can easily connect with anyone.
The problem with the iPad is its high price.
This really may be the only problem besides the fact that at some time you are going to have to download iTunes. Which, you may already know can be really slow and painful on a windows machine. If you are smart download this program (Syncios) and make life and your iPad even better.
The iPad does work well, and I love mine. It syncs (sometimes) my pictures automatically with iCloud and if you install third-party apps like Google Plus and let it upload your photos you will backed up at all times with absolutely no thought on your part.
The Apple store still has some advantages over the Android marketplace especially when it comes to apps for your kids and if you are a parent reading this chances are you are more likely to have an iPad yourself than a Google Nexus Tablet. So these may all be advantages, but when you compare price, features and possibly even durability the Google Nexus tab still looks better in my opinion even as an iPad owner myself.
The Kindle DX
The kindle is attractive for one big reason in my opinion – Kindle Free Time – Free Time Unlimited ($2.99 a month for one child, or $6.99 for a whole family with an Amazon Prime account, $4.99/9.99 without), you gain access to a massive library of hand-curated movies, television shows, and books that are constantly updated and require no extra effort from the parents to maintain or curate.
This is huge and it is what makes me want to bring one of these small and relatively inexpensive devices on the trip.
Amazon was very smart for making this “kid layer” for their kindle tablets and not allowing you to run this on another tab running the kindle reading software.
Also, since I am a prime member and will be using my sisters membership while we are overseas we will be able to wiggle this from our kids’ hands for a read ourselves from time to time.
Samsung Galaxy Tablets
I don’t know why but I haven’t given the Samsung tablets the time of day. They often have expandable storage and are fast, proficient tablets overall (at least they look that way) but I really wouldn’t place them on my table of options. Stick with one of the big three above.
Microsoft Surface Tablet
These keep getting faster, lighter and more versatile by the day. Would I buy one just yet? As an owner of a Zune that has long been put out of commission, my answer is no. For the money, an iPad is still the better, stronger and longer lasting option.
What about Chromebooks or a Cheap Windows Laptop?
This is becoming a more attractive option, I think there is a lot to be said for being able to create versus just “consume” media on a tablet. But when it comes down to portability, durability and ease of use for kids I would stick with a tablet device.
If your kids are 12 and over then at the current moment a laptop is probably a must, and in this case, a nice Windows Ultrabook is light on the pack and on the budget.
Of course, you could get that MacBook Air as well if you have the money.
Final Note – Our Digital Nomadic Family
On our trip, our digital stock seems a bit bloated but this is how it looks at the moment:
Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro
Unlocked iPhone 4s
GoPro Hero 3
Canon Digital Rebel DSLR with a 25-260 telephoto lense and a cheap 50mm lens for shooting portraits.
Old and heavy Acer Aspire One laptop.
Old but unblocked iPhone 4
Nikon FinePix XP70 (underwater and tough cam) from Costco
Layla (7 years old)
Has access to mom and dad’s iPad mini to download and read books. Does Splashmath and reading assignments as well as skype on our devices.
Has a small $50 digital Nikon Camera for shooting photos.