Video Devices for the Plane Trip

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Portable DVD or Ipod touch for plane trip?

Jan 2010

We are flying to Europe again soon to visit family and given that we will be on an airplane for 12 hours with a 4 year old we have decided to buy a portable DVD player. We have already chosen which. However, some friends suggested we might look into an ipod touch.

I am wondering if anyone has feedback/suggestions on this. While the ipod touch is $100 more, if it is something that would make sense i am all for it given the size. Is it durable and strong enough for a 4 year old? Or should i go with the dvd player which is heavier but bigger?

I just want to buy whatever makes the most sense overall and technology wise/ thank you

With a 4 year-old, it is a tough call. Personally, we used the DVD player at that age, but now we might choose differently. Take some time, too to explore what the airline offers in the way of in-flight entertainment. On Virgin and Air Tahiti Nui among others, they offer a wide range of kid-friendly entertainment in coach through sophisticated seat back consoles thus obviating the need for a portable device. That being said, I would nowadays lean towards the iPod Touch for the following reasons:
- you can rent or buy movies on iTunes that download to the device. Thus you don't have to carry around a bunch of DVDs (even if you remove them from the jewel box and put them in a small DVD pouch.
- you can buy music for their entertainment (you can also buy a matchbook sized speaker that plugs into the earphone jack for a little bedtime music. We also take kids books on CD and upload them to our iPod.
- the iPod is more scalable - As the child gets older, you can upload game apps or other activities for road trips
- the battery life is much better - since the ipod is solid state, you don't have to power a DVD drive and the bigger screen.
- The major downside is that the screen is pretty tiny and you have to rely on earbuds which have to be cranked pretty high to offset engine noise. That could have undesirable hearing ramifications later on. The device is also pretty small so unless you duct tape it to your child's hands, it could get lost easily.

As for the DVD player, the screen is much bigger, which is nice. You can play CDs as well. But it is larger, heavier, and has poor battery life. You can carry an extra battery, but that is yet another thing to cart around. My advice, coming from someone who owns both, is to buy the iPod Touch for yourself and then ''lend'' it to your child. That way you can feel better about any issues of getting your child hooked too early on electronic devices, etc. You might also wait a bit and look into the Apple Tablet. It is rumored to do all that the Touch will but with a larger form factor. That way you get the best of all worlds plus the ability to read books. Kiddie Koncierge

We have both. Or my kids have the DVD and I received the Touchpod for my birthday (and love it) for business and personal travel. Simply the DVD may be cheaper because you'll bring your own movies and if you're like us we have a bunch of dvds. You can buy movies through itunes (about $15/movie) but the touchpods only have so much space for movies (and downloading does take awhile)and I bought the one with extra gb. The battery also doesn't seem to last past one movie (which is a complaint of iphone and touchpod users). You can rent movies through itunes for 3-5 $ but you have to watch them within 30 days and once you start the movie you can watch it as many times as you like within 24 hours - which won't work for your return trip. So I do like the touch for short travel but the DVD player seems to be more practical and the touchpod just fun. I have two boys so I seem to need both now but we only had the DVD for many years. Felicia

I used the Ipod touch for my 5YO daughter when we went to Asia last year and I thought it was great. I didn't want to get the portable DVD player because of luggage space. The touch is so small it fit in my purse so I could pull it out easily during layovers. The picture and sound are very clear and it's very easy to use. Ipod rocks!

We have both, and my son always wants the iPod touch. He uses it to play games, draw, and watch video. Plus, they are much smaller than DVD players. Good luck! Deb

Bottomline, kids are rough on their dvd players. We are on # 2 in two years, and the door hinges just broke (but it still seems to work). We travel a lot so daughter uses it in the car as well as planes. No advice on Ipod vs DVD as I don't own an Ipod, but keep in mind whatever your choice, you will need to provide earphones for your child on the plane. We found kid size/friendly earphones for our portable DVD player, not sure Ipod can provide the same. Also give ample warning to your child before you need to shut it down (on the plane) to avoid a major melt down. anon

If you're only looking for entertainment for the plane trip don't bother with either of those gadgets. Most planes nowadays have personal screens on the seat in front and channels for kids' programs/movies and games. I fly regularly to Europe with my two kids and always buy tickets with a European carrier, that way the long flight goes more smoothly (+ the food usually is better!). maman

Our five-year-old son loves the iPod touch, although he plays games on it more than he watches movies.

You can convert your DVDs into iPod format easily with a free application called Handbrake. I think the Apple website's estimates of 6 hours of battery life for video watching is accurate, but playing games drains the battery more quickly.

We have headphones for our son, because the earbuds that come with the iPod don't fit his ears. If you do get replacement headphones, be sure to test them with the iPod. The headphone jack is fairly standard, but we had one pair of headphones that didn't quite work with the jack. Karen

We have an almost 4 year old and have used both a portable DVD player and an ipod touch on airplanes. I think the ipod touch is the better choice for a few reasons:

1. size - easy to carry, not heavy, holds a charge for about the same amount of time as a portable DVD player

2. if you wanted to, you could download a movie to a touch. Better to go to the iTunes store for smaller chunks of media - 1/2 hour shows, free snippets from Sesame Street, etc. Little ones don't generally have movie-length attention spans and you can easily get low cost and free age-appropriate media for the touch

3. GAMES! My daughter loves to play games on the touch. This keeps her more engaged than watching something. Her current favorites are a matching game (like memory where you flip over virtual cards of animals) and a letter tracing game that is teaching her letters and numbers.

4. PHOTOS! You can load photos of your kid, family members, friends in the touch. My daughter loves to scroll through these photo albums.

The interface is intuitive enough that my daughter can run the touch by herself (remember she is 3). She can turn it on, go through the menus to pick what she wants to do, and when she's done she knows how to exit out and turn it off. I'd go with the touch

I usually just carry the Touch for my girls (4 & 6). It is easy for them to use. I have loaded music, 'books on tape,' tv episodes & fun apps for them. It is great on the plane. And, most importantly, I find that it is great when I am dealing with sleep needs that differ from theirs. for instance, this summer, we took a road trip. I ended up driving until 2 in the morning and they were awake and raring to go in the hotel room at 6. I plugged them into their Ipods (they have nano's...I have a touch that I share with them) and went back to an extra two hours out of it -- much needed!!! Jan

Ipod ALL THE WAY. I'm gonna sound like an itouch commercial here, but there's really sooo much more they can do on them. They can play games, watch movies, experiment with different apps(there's so much to learn) listen to music, learn about things on the internet, draw, paint, crop, edit, and make music and films! Need more reasons?? AND you're opening the door to many many future possibilities. Just look at that shiny new ipad!! The future is in the hand held device and you'd be helping your kids out big time. They will learn to tinker and experiment. In fact my wife and daughter are in the other room watching something on my daughters itouch right now! Told ya it would sound like a commercial! ;) All of that great creation behind photoshop, illustrator, web design, film making, music, will soon be common place on things like the ipad.

my parents had a very VERY early mac, and I loved it. I got such a tremendous head start on everything in the computing world as a result. So YES itouch ALL THE FREAKIN WAY. Oh, and think about this... it is terribly loud on planes.. it will be hard to hear a movie on the plane for dvd or itouch... even with the best head phones, but games and all that other stuff wont really need sound. Let us know how it works out! Sean

Game Boy for 6-yr-old on long flight?

March 2006

My husband and I will be taking a long (14-18 hour) trip this summer to South America with our 6-yr-old (almost 7 by then) son. He is highly active and not good at sitting still for long periods of time. I've asked other parents who've taken kids of similar ages on long flights how they've kept the kids amused, and one answer that comes up is ''Game Boy.'' I'd previously thought on general principle (and precious little actual knowledge) that I'd keep him away from Game Boys as long as possible. My question is, are they really so bad? Worse than letting them play games on sites like ''Power Rangers'' on a laptop, which is what we were considering as an alternative (along with playing a DVD or two)? We used a Leapster for a similar purpose two years ago and it was a great hit, not only for the flight but also for waiting at restaurants and other places. Granted, the Leapster games were all ''educational,'' but I'm wondering if there's really much of a difference. Having never even seen a Game Boy or the games one gets for it, I'm at a bit of a disadvantage. Any help from those of you with more experience would be greatly appreciated. Low Tech Mom

My boys have a hand held game called DS...I think it's a grade up from Game Boy (what do I know?) DS has a game called....something about dogs...can't remember the title. In these games you have virtual dogs...many breeds that you train, buy things for, take care of. You get points when you do things right and with the points you can ''buy'' things for your virtual dog. (of course my kids train their virtual dogs and mom is left to walk the REAL dogs!!!) They also have other DS games that are not violent (though they have some that are too). You can check it out at Game Stop at El CErrito Plaza. I definately recommend electronics for long plane trips. DVD's, computer games, Game Boy etc. Bring extra batteries. Good luck also low-tech mom

My son is too young for me to have tried this yet, but I always had an idea in my mind that maybe I could rent a Gameboy and some games just for the trip. Then it would be more of an extra perk for trips instead of a permanent addiiton to the household. Anon

I don't know much about real game boys and the games available for them, but for long flights I've given my kids a variety of different handheld electronic games: Connect Four, Battleship, Uno and Chess/Checkers... They are usually between $10 and $20 each (e.g., at Games of Berkeley) but sometimes I've seen some for less. Before you leave for trip, make sure to check the instructions for how to turn off the sound. Deborah