It may not really be a travel gadget, and it certainly isn’t essential, but from years of experience I can vouch for the benefits of letting your children bring along one of the many different versions of Nintendo’s portable gaming system when travelling. That being said, it’s important to have rules about when it’s acceptable to fire it up and start playing Zelda – there’s a time and a place for everything.
A train ride through beautiful surroundings isn’t one of them, whereas waiting to be served in a restaurant after a long day could be. Our daughter Rebecca first discovered the digital delights of the Nintendo DS about four years ago and it’s been a faithful companion when travelling ever since. Of course we’ll always favour conversation and human interaction – I mean just go ahead and try getting the attention of a kid playing Nintendogs – we have our books or newspapers to read when we have time to kill so she should have something to do too, right?
It may seem strange to recommend a games machine when we have iPads and smartphones, but for the pre-teen age group an iPod or one of the latest phones seems an excessive investment just for games. Most children (and most adults too actually) much prefer playing games on a dedicated unit with properly designed controls and an ergonomic shape rather than trying to pinch, sweep and whatever else on a touchscreen. And if they have their own machine they won’t keep nagging you to play on your phone either.
The DS is not just a games machine either – the newer models have a pretty decent camera and you can have oodles of fun manipulating images after taking them just by dragging the pen around the touchscreen. You can also record the sounds around you, which makes for an interesting souvenir from a trip abroad.
One piece of free software that you can download from the store (but still has yet to be released for the 3DS for some reason) is called FlipNote, which allows users to make simple cartoon animations by sketching successive images which are then put together rather like the old trick of drawing images on many pages and flicking through them. Rebecca and her friends are addicted to this and it’s actually a very creative outlet – you can also record a soundtrack.
The later models also allow wireless communication between devices so that players can compete or communicate with other DS players in the vicinity. Several times we’ve found Rebecca playing against fellow passengers on a train, for example.
Just don’t forget that you’ll need a set of headphones, some games, a carrying case and probably a memory card too when you’re on the road. Oh and don’t forget the charger and an adaptor to suit the power sockets where you’re headed. If you keep all that in mind and reach an agreement on when and where it can be used, a Nintendo DS makes a great gadget to have with you when travelling with children. Or on your own – we won’t tell anyone.
What gadgets do you just HAVE to take when you’re on the road? Let us know below!
All images (c) Andy Higgs, Grown-up Travel Guide