Portable DVD Player To Amuse Kids On Car Trips

by Mike Holman

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We recently bought a Dynex portable dvd player for my son to use in the car on long trips.  This isn’t something that I really wanted to do since I grew up in the era of playing road kill identification games and making fun of people in other cars to help pass the time on long trips.  The idea of watching the “moving pictures” in the car still seems fairly alien to me.

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The problem is that my son is often extremely loud in the car and it drives both my wife and I nuts.  We take a lengthy road trip several times a year to visit my parents so we have to deal with this fairly often.  It got so bad that my wife and I seriously considered drawing straws to see who got to ride the bus on the next trip.  My daughter doesn’t seem to be as loud in the car, although with a bit more training from her older brother – I’m sure that will change.

I bought a fairly cheap player from Best Buy which cost $70.  Even though this will only get used in the car, if it can create some peace and quiet then it would be worth paying $700!  You can pay quite a bit more for these kind of players but the main differences seem to be the screen size (ours is 7″) and battery life. Larger ones with better sound and picture (and more weight) can run $200 or more.  I can tell you and  that the screen and sound quality for our dvd player is quite adequate.

The unit itself is pretty small and light which is great since my son holds it in his lap.  It has an internal rechargeable battery which is supposed to last for a few hours.  It also has a cigarette lighter plugin so you can keep running it after the dvd internal battery has run out of juice.  I believe you can also get some sort of splitter in order to have 2 players plugged in at the same time.

We tried the dvd player out on our last big trip at Christmas and all I can say is wow!  It worked so well that I bought another one for my daughter.  The kids were surprisingly well behaved on that trip so we didn’t whip it out until the last hour of the return trip.  Next time we’ll bring it out a lot sooner!  I’m not a big fan of too much tv for little kids but on road trips things are different.  I don’t care if they watch movies and eat french fries the entire trip – whatever it takes to get them quiet!

What kind should I buy?

Portable dvd players come in all sorts of sizes and quality.  It really depends on your requirements.

Here are some considerations:

Screen size – Ideally it would be nice to have a larger screen size but the drawbacks are more weight, batteries won’t last as long and higher cost.

Battery/plugin – If you are using the player exclusively at home and in the car then the battery life isn’t that important.  On the other hand if you are using it in a plane or camping where you can’t recharge easily, then getting a longer life battery will be more important.

Weight – Obviously, the bigger the unit is and the bigger the battery then the more it will weigh.  A larger player isn’t necessarily ideal in an already crowded car.

Summary

I definitely recommend a portable dvd player for someone who wants to watch movies when they are on the go or don’t have access to a tv.  I can’t state enough how useful they are to get the kids to shut the f*** up in the car.  :)

The type you buy is really dependent on your usage and needs so think about what is important for what you want it for.  I would suggest that unless you have a specific need that requires a more expensive player then just buy a smaller cheap one.  They don’t cost much so you can always upgrade to a better unit later on.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Canadian Dream

Our oldest got a portable DVD player from his Grandma a few years back for the long drives (8 hour days) to her house. My gods, I was stuck dumb with the difference with the kids in the car with that thing. On a trip just last year we actually were going to stop the player just 15 minutes from Grandma’s house and our youngest screamed. We put it back on and he shut up. Drugs don’t even work that fast!

I don’t care what she paid for that thing. It is worth its weight in gold for long car trips!

Tim

2 Wooly Woman

Oh my goodness, I read post this to my husband, we have had a similar experience and were laughing at your reasons for getting a dvd player for the car. We went through the same thing with our son (who isn’t even 2 yet) and SCREAMS and SCREAMS and SCREAMS on any car ride over half an hour. This makes any trips or visits away from home unbearable, my husband resorted to wearing ear plugs on some trips.
But we got a portable dvd player with a Thomas the Train dvd and wow….. peace in the car. Well worth it!!!

3 guinness416

I will give you some football (soccer) dvds so he doesn’t end up a hawkey player. Can you still bring portable players on planes to the US? Bet the new rules are stressing out a lot of parents.

Did you read the new article on Toronto Life’s website about Leslieville parents and their fear of plastic? Was sort of riding the fine line between “new-school frugality” and “insane yuppies with too much time on their hands”. Was wondering what the official 4P line on the story would be!

4 Kathryn

Just recently my husband and I were discussing inventing some sort of sound proof barrier that could go up between the back seat and the the front seat. That way they could be as noisy as they wanted and we could drive in peace.

We have a portable DVD player too. I won it in a writing contest so I didn’t pay for it but it’s awesome. Great for those dreadfully long drives to the in-laws. It really helped with my daughter’s car sickness too. Now they have i-pods and DS’s (thanks to Grandparents) and those keep them plenty entertained along the way. I’d still love a soundproof barrier if we have any inventors reading here.

5 Mike

Guinness – all I can say is “wow”.

http://www.torontolife.com/features/totally-freaked-out/

6 ethan

I am still waiting for the portable dvd player that can also play divx and priced comparably like a normal portable dvd player.

7 The Rat

@ Wooly Woman: All I know is that most young kids just go crazy over Thomas the Train. I watch the show with my 2-year old nephew and he loves it!

I think the actual programming/CDs you buy will be equally important!

8 Craig/FFB

True story – My wife is driving back from a friend’s and is stuck in ridiculous traffic on the GW bridge (if you’ve been to NYC you know how bad this can be). Thank goodness for the DVD player! On other trips the kids would be driving each other and my wife crazy. This time the kids were occupied watching a movie. Traffic is not fun when you have kids in the back making a ruckus.

Bonus: One of our little guy’s favorite things to do is watch a movie in bed with his older sister on the dvd player. It’s so cute watching the two of them in the covers with the player on the bed. (And they actually stay quiet too!)

9 Ted

My wife and I use one of our laptops for the kiddos in the car. Our only rule is that we do not use it just riding around town. I feel bad seeing all the mini vans with something on the tv when they are going to Target. But when we are heading to the in-law or rents house, it goes on at least for one movie. Sometimes two if they are bonkers.

We also try to leave closer to their bedtime so they (hopefully) zonk out for a few hours providing an awesome sense of peace in the car.

10 Mr. Cheap

I have a portable DVD player I like to use when traveling and it’s great for passing the time.

One thing to keep in mind is that children experience time differently than adults (it feels much longer to them). That’s why a 5 or 10 minute time-out is reasonable (it feels to them like 30 or 60 minute time-out).

I once took a 45 hour bus trip (from Poland to France), and if that’s what kids experience on a long trip to the relatives, I don’t blame them for freaking out! (I almost freaked out myself)

11 Nina

We have a 3 1/2 year old son and he just loves the portable DVD player that used to belong to my husband. The thing is, he likes to watch it at home instead of watching his DVD’s on the tv. We have never used it in the car because he still likes to look out the window, especially at trucks, schoolbuses and railroad crossing signs. I hate to bring a dvd player into the car because once we do, that’s what he’ll expect all the time. I’ve always thought kids shouldn’t watch videos in the car on everyday trips, but I’m sure if we take a long trip this summer, we’ll give in, if only for our own sanity. I’m sure they’re lifesavers then. The old dvd player has stopped working due to being dropped on the floor numerous times. I didn’t even know they made Thomas ones or other ones just for kids, but I just saw some online, and they are supposed to be able to withstand all or most of the torture a kid can put them through. We’ll see!

12 Mike Holman

@Nina – The dvds are a bit of a hassle, so it’s definitely not worth it for short trips. We drive about 5 hours to my parents several times a year – They often will only watch about 45 minutes of video in total, but it really helps.

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