Written by Doctor G

TV in the car?

Is it OK to use a DVD player in the car for long drives?

Miriam, from NYC, NY

A: Yes.


I was going to leave it at that, but here is the rationale in case you are wondering.

First argument in favor: Remember the car trips of yesteryear?  The bonding, license plate games, mom reading aloud from Little House on the Prairie?  Stretching out full length in the back of the station wagon and giggling with your sister, travelling from interesting site to fascinating small town destination?  Me either.

Second argument in favor: When travelling for hours as a passenger in a vehicle (plane, train or automobile) do you focus on the sights and making interesting conversation with your travelling companions for the entire trip?  For myself, I bring books, work, my phone, a computer to watch movies, snacks and anything else I can think of that I’m looking forward to doing.  This makes travelling pleasant instead of DREAD boring.

Third argument in favor:  Do you regularly enjoy your children’s company when they are strapped down and bored?  Me either.

Argument against: “They MISS everything while we are driving.”  I’m not impressed.  Hit “pause” and show them the cool thing you wanted to show them.  Stop the car and stretch your legs.  Unless this is their only access to movies ever, they will also want to get out of their five-or-three-point-restraint torture devices and move around a little.  Or take a ten minute break between each video to talk and play games and read aloud.

Whatever you do, if you have access to a DVD player and a library, bring some visual entertainment for any ride over 1 hour.  It will make for happier family-vacation memories.

What do you do to make vacation travel go more smoothly?



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9 thoughts on “TV in the car?”

  1. YES – I am in favor for all long trips….
    I despised the license plate game growing up and dislike it even more as an adult. I totally agree – if you want to see something, get out and see it. It does not mean anything to see it at 65 miles an hour through a car window.

    I typically try to mix things up – little video time, little reading, lots of eating and alternate whose music we are listening to in the car. Mostly, I try to avoid saying “are we there yet?” myself.

    1. Variety is a great idea. You feel like you are all getting the most out of the cross-country driving and yet the kids are not bored out of their skulls.

  2. Mixed feelings. Yes, it does give them something to look forward to during travel. Yes, my wife and I can finally have a conversation. But, yes, they do miss stuff, because if you stop to point it out, even the wonderful sighting cannot compete with the comforting, compelling moving images that allow their little brains to slip into passive oatmeal mode.

    1. I completely understand the slack-jawed, glazed over look you are picturing on their faces when you say “Look kids, a beautiful rainbow!” That is disappointing for sure at times, especially when you can’t safely pull over to let them get out and check out whatever it is you’re seeing. However, I have had frustrated, just got snapped at by an older sibling or parent, tired and bored kids stare at me with the same look on electronic-free car rides. It isn’t any more satisfying ot show THOSE kids the amazing sites we are passing!

    1. Absolute torture. We used to drive in the winter from Chicago to NY and back. Boring does not begin to describe I-80.

  3. When my children were old enough to be introduced to a wrist watch I bought a cheap watch for each of them. I explained to them how to use them and told them what the watch would look like when we “got there”. I did overestimate the arrival time so that the arrival before the estimated time would be a nice surprise. There was little or no “are we there yet?” and the drive was pleasant.

  4. This is definitely a generational thing as I do remember the long car rides, conversations with parents and younger brother, the license plate game which I still do even when by myself, and looking at the scenery regardless of how many times I’ve seen it before. At the same time I understand your attitude about the DVDs and remember how they helped as when I traveled in your van. In the olden days we made do with what we had, each other, and today we make use of what is now available. Happy and safe travels to all.

  5. And if you use a portable DVD player (for those who can’t or don’t buy the high-end model that comes with the built-in one) remember to charge the BATTERY beforehand, otherwise every time you reach for your drink in the front cupholders you knock the adapter out of the DC socket and the whole thing shuts down . . .

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