Travel Tips | Screen Time on Vacation

Often when families vacation, certain rules or routines may be put on hold or even forgotten during the time away. Diet and exercise routines may get a break, and bedtimes for kids might be a little more flexible. Parents with children under the age of 18 likely have some established household rules about screen time, whether it’s a time limit for television or games for younger kids, or restrictions related to social media and cell phone usage for teens. Should these limits on technology remain in place for kids on vacation, or should parents ease up a little and let the kids indulge? Here are a few ways to strike a balance between letting the kids have fun and relax, without everyone spending the entire vacation staring at a screen.

A young boy and girl are wearing flying goggles while outstretching their arms to attempt flying while on skateboards. They have large smiles and are imagining taking off into the sky.

  1. In transit? Let them watch! Even parents who limit screen time the most will admit to letting their kids indulge while on a long car ride or on a flight. Of course, parents can still have a say in what kids watch or what games they play, but allowing for entertainment during long travel times will help keep everyone sane.
  2. Cell phone = Camera. Kids with smart phones have the ability to capture vacation memories in a way that earlier generations never did. Encourage your kids to take photos of themselves, their siblings, and you, the parents. You’ll be surprised at the perspective they might capture that will make lasting memories for the whole family.
  3. Set Guidelines. These guidelines may be different than what’s enforced at home, but it’s a good idea to have some kind of structure. Set a designated time period each day for social media, or limit games and television to rainy days.
  4. Designate phone-free times. Meals are a great time for everyone to put away the phones and be present with one another, talking about the previous vacation adventures while planning the next one.
  5. Follow your own rules. Parents should be cautious of their own screen time, especially during vacation, when you’ve already set aside that time to be with your family. By all means, take lots of photos and videos, but that status update or work email can wait.

Sara Little, editor of RTX Traveler, has taken her 2-year-old son on several road trips and flights. While his screen time at home is almost nonexistent, he did enjoy several episodes of “Daniel Tiger” on a recent cross-country flight, and he’ll say “cheese” when he sees a smart phone in camera mode.

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About the Author

About the Author: Pat Barcas serves as staff writer and photographer for RTX Traveler Magazine, based in Asheville, NC. In his spare time he enjoys photography, astronomy, hiking, hanging out with his family and dog, and of course, traveling! His favorite RTX spots to visit are Orange Beach, Alabama, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, but he's visiting new places all the time. .

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