Turning vehicles into wi-fi hotspots? Yes, please.

Those were the (highly questionable) days, kids. Back then, family road trips meant stuffed-full station wagons and playing the license plate game on long, empty stretches of highway. If you got bored, you had two options: 1) Stare out the window, or 2) Sleep. Good times.

Today, family road trips have gotten way easier. Cup holders. iPod docking stations. In-car DVD players. THOSE ARE GOOD THINGS. With four kids, traveling in a car for any distance longer than an hour requires some distractions. Entertaining my kids on the road is still a chore, it seems, but we have it so much easier than our parents. While we’re all about screen-time rules at my house, during a long drive, those screen-time rules fly out the window (along with my patience). You can be sure that, of the six of us in the car, a maximum of five Howertons will be wanting to use certain Internet-equipped electronic devices to pass the time. Obviously, the driver will NOT be using any devices. Please. And yikes. Because as much as we like limiting the kids’ time with electronics, we’re also realists. Making everyone power off in the car works for about 10 minutes, followed by screeches of "She touched me!" or "I’m bored" or (God forbid) "Are we there yet?" So: Anything the car companies can do to make traveling with kids easier? I’m for it. Which is why I’m intrigued about the fact that the people at Chevrolet have begun turning their newest cars into traveling Wi-Fi hotspots. 

Here are some of the ways I’m imagining we would use it:

1. Entertainment. Unless you spring for an iPod or iPad with vast memory, there’s only so many movies that can be downloaded on a device at a time. With Wi-Fi, the kids could stream shows or movies directly and not have to take up all the space on their devices.

2. Communication. My kids could talk with friends or pull up Instagram…eventually. My kids are still too young to use electronic devices with their friends, but I know the day is coming when that’s all they’ll want to do. Sooner rather than later, I suspect.

3. Gaming. My kids can play games that require an internet connection like Minecraft, Words With Friends, NBA Game Time, and Watch Disney apps. They can even play games against each other. 4. Geography. I love the idea of pulling up Google Maps and letting our kids follow along as our little blue dot moves down the road. I want them to be aware of where we are, geographically speaking, and think this would be a really interesting way to pass the time (much like we stare at the plane tracker videos on airplanes).

5. Music. We can create Pandora stations for each kid and they can listen to their own music (or share it with everyone else in the car). And our family uses Spotify instead of itunes so wifi would be a big bonus.

6. Planning. "Hey, kids. See if you can find a good place for lunch." They pull up the map. Or Yelp. Or TripAdvisor, and off we go. (Maybe this isn’t the best idea after all. Left to their own devices, we’d end up heading toward the local candy store.)

7. Destinations. This might be especially fun on a road trip. We can read reviews of activities or accommodations as we drive to a new place or unfamiliar city. Sometimes it’s fun to just drive around and look at what’s available in a new city. But I would much rather know ahead of time if a museum is well-reviewed—or if they a restaurant serves anything my kids will eat—before we show up.

8. Homework. We’re getting to the stage where the kids will be relying on basic online research for some of their school projects. We’re also at the stage where picking up four kids from school can take awhile. I like the idea of one kid getting started on her research while waiting in the car for her brothers and sister to get out of school.

9. Education. It seems like every time we drive somewhere, we end up passing some historical marker or scenic geological feature and wonder what in the world it’s about. Hello, Wikipedia. That way, when someone asks, "Dad, what is THAT?" Mark won’t be tempted to just make up some kind of nonsense. He can just say, "Look it up." We can learn as we go.

10. Geocaching. Our family got into geocaching last year, and it’s one thing everyone still gets excited about doing. I can see us whipping out a smart phone, loading up our geocaching app, and seeing if there are any nearby locations as we drive. Which could turn a quick trip to the supermarket into a fun little adventure.

What would you do if your car had that kind of online connectivity?

Chevrolet is merging the physical freedom of the car with the virtual freedom of Wi-Fi to become the first and only car company to bring built in 4G LTE Wi-Fi to the largest vehicle line-up. Visit http://s.chevy.com/TBX  to learn more. This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Chevrolet. The opinions and text are all mine.