All seven of these family-friendly gadgets share a common secret: They appear to be for the kids, but are really for you. Even if you don't physically use each product as you travel, they benefit you in some way. And hey, if you're happy and they're distracted, err happy, that's what it's all about!
1. Crayola MyPhones
Why We Like It: As opposed to the boring, black headphones we adults tend to us, youngsters can customize these colorful cans. From the ear caps to the band to the carrying case, they'll have fun decorating their pink/purple or blue/green headphones with dozens of stickers and paper inserts—which they can design with the included Crayola markers. The audio, art, and travel aspects of MyPhones offer three ways to explore new worlds. And best of all, they're kid-sized; designed to only pump out sound at a safe volume; and come with soft, washable ear pads.
How Much: $24.99
Buy It: Visit Store.GriffinTechnology.com.
2. Crayola ColorStudio HD
Why We Like It: Just as e-readers give us easy access to tons of e-books, this digital marker and companion app open up a world of coloring possibilities. The special stylus can act like a crayon, marker, paintbrush, pencil, or eraser. It can activate endless hues. Of course, the coolest part is not having to worry about schlepping a bunch of supplies, chasing them as they roll under a seat or cleaning up afterwards. For them, it's getting to creatively color tons of still and animated pictures accompanied by music and sound effects—with new pictures automatically added in ongoing app updates. Along the way, you can print out your favorite masterworks—or save space on the fridge by sharing them with your friends and family over email and Facebook.
How Much: $29.99
Buy It: Visit Store.GriffinTechnology.com.
3. Kurio Kids Tablet
Why We Like It: Don't let the blue bumper fool you, this full-featured 7-inch tablet running the latest version of Android is for the whole family. Up to eight different profiles let you control different users' content and time spent with the device; advanced web filtering makes for safe surfing. And a password-protected parental area and hand-curated app marketplace give you peace of mind (when you're not looking over the kiddos' shoulders). Play high-def games and movies on it, or pipe them over to a big screen TV. Just like most other tablets, you can also use this multi-touch screen device as a repository for email, e-books, photos (taking or viewing), videos (recording or watching), and music.
How Much: $200
Buy It: Visit ToysRUs.com.
4. Piggyback Rider NOMIS Hydrider Bundle
Why We Like It: Amusement parks have a way of turning not-so-amusing when you struggle to remember why leaving the stroller in the car seemed like such a good idea at the time. This backpack emerges to save the day for as long as both piggy and your back can hold out. The light and highly portable Piggyback Rider—recommended for 2 ½ to 6-year olds under 60 pounds—is a smarter, more ergonomic touring method. It lets your child stand in a stable, safe, and restful way when they don't feel like walking (or you feel like bonding). It takes a little practice to mount/dismount, but it's well worth it. The new model features a front cellphone pocket, handy rear pockets on both the main apparatus, child safety harness, and a multiuse storage satchel.
How Much: $150
Buy It: Visit Store.PiggybackRider.com.
5. Tropisounds Emma in Africa Book Puzzle
Why We Like It: This iPad app combines the educational nature of books and interactive challenge of puzzles into an entertaining and enlightening ride through The Dark Continent. It's the true story of an adventurous preschooler documenting her journeys. Emma features real pictures and animal facts paired with fun sounds and multilingual songs—or turn off the audio for a classic (yet colorful) reading experience. Either way, nowhere in your travels will you find a better use of two bucks.
How Much: $2
Buy It: Visit iTunes.Apple.com.
6. Kids Cooler Backpack
Why We Like It: Rather than squishing snacks into a diaper bag—icky on a few levels—or lugging a separate food pouch, these carryalls offer an insulated front compartment. So you won't have to go scrounging when your toddler tells you their tummy's growling. They feature breathable mesh in their lumbar section and padded straps. And these backpacks—available in 14 designs, from soccer balls to rhinestone stars to camouflage—have plenty of pockets and storage compartments for drinks, clothing, electronics, and other knickknacks.
How Much: $30
Buy It: Visit Shop.O3USA.com.
7. 4moms Breeze Playard
Why We Like It: In theory, playards are great to travel with, cause it's always handy to have a place for your babe to relax. In practice, most pack 'n' plays—even with practice—are a pain to open and close. By contrast, this simple 35-second video shows how the Breeze got its name. When it officially debuts in mid-September, this simple, straightforward porta-crib will come with a removable bassinet, changing pad, and travel case.
How Much: $300
Buy It: Visit Shop4Moms.com.
Fodors.com Travel Technology Columnist Scott Tharler is an expert in gadgets, gambling, and travel. He's written four books, plus hundreds of mobile and wireless tips for Sony and PC World. In addition to his daily Discovery News gadget blog, you can find links to other gadget articles, social feeds and lists of his current favorite gadgets at about.me/gadgetfans.
Photo credits: 1. Griffin Technology; 2. Griffin Technology; 3. Kurio; 4. Piggyback Rider; 5. Tropisounds; 6. O3 USA; 7. 4moms