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The Teen Traveler On Entertaining Gadgets

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WiiFew people know the games and gadgets world better than our teen travel correspondent, 13-year-old Ben Mason, so on special assignment from, he has tested and reviewed some of the most entertaining gadgets on the market.

Remember, if you keep the kids entertained while traveling, it can’t help but make your travel experience better.

Nintendo Wii

Many of you reading this review have already heard about or read another review for the Wii. After all, since its November 2006 debut, the Wii has had plenty of press coverage. So it may not be a surprise that the Wii has received nearly unanimous good reviews, and I couldn’t agree more. The Wii is an excellent video game system. But I’m not here to tell you more of the same. I’m here to take the Wii to a place that no home console has ever gone before: Outdoors.

You probably didn’t know this, but the Wii is the first home video game system that you can actually travel with without it being incredibly awkward. This is due the small mass of the Wii, approximately the size of three DVD cases stacked on top of each other. This featherweight machine is capable of fitting suitcases of all sizes, and the required (and included with purchase) cables and controllers are compact as well. Nintendo has the reputation for building durable hardware, and that tradition continues with the Wii.

Of course, the above information only applies en route to your destination, so what about when you arrive at your destination? Isn’t the whole point of traveling to NOT spend time indoors with technology? That’s true, and I’m not at all suggesting that you allow your children (or yourselves) to get distracted with the Wii.

However, I am suggesting that the weather will be unpredictable, especially right now on the East Coast, and just as you may let your kids bring a handheld video game system or a book along, the Wii will keep them occupied and playing together (not to mention getting a workout that the travel items mentioned above won’t provide).

So along with being a brilliant home gaming console, the Wii makes a swell travel gadget. It’ll cost you about $250, which is very inexpensive in the current world of gaming and gadgets in general. Before you go ahead and take it along, though, make sure that you contact the hotel and ask if your room TV is Wii compatible.

That means that you need an electrical outlet relatively close to the television, and the television itself needs to have the correct spots for composite video cables (which is extremely likely in this day and age, and I would bet money that even your own TV has them). If you enjoy FUN, then I would strongly suggest purchasing a Wii, be it for travel, for your home, or for both.

Playaway Audiobooks

The idea of the audiobook is nothing new. For years, the alternative to reading a book was to simply plop in a tape that is a narrative of your favorite novel and listen to it being read by a comforting voice.

Well the next generation is here, folks, and it’s called the Playaway. Similar to a book on tape, the Playaway is an audio recording of your typical bound story, simplified into a compact and sleek looking digital device. Just plug in your headphones and turn it on like it’s an Ipod. Great, right?

Not necessarily. In theory, the Playaway is a cool little invention, but it has two major problems.

The first is its sound quality. The Playaway audio has some fuzz to it, and the letter “s” tends to sound like the narrator has a lisp, making words like “certainly” or “sizzled” difficult to understand. To fully enjoy the sound, you’re going to need a pair of some good noise canceling headphones, especially if you’re on a plane.

The second big problem with the Playaway is its price. Many Playaway books have an MSRP of $29.99, and go all the way up to $49.99. That’s a lot when you consider the price of a regular paperback book. The good news is that the Playaway has an enormous variety of titles, and its “Mp3 player” look is appealing to kids. But when it comes down to it, nothing beats two covers, pages, and your imagination. For more information on the Playaway, log on to

For more ideas on keeping teens and tweens entertained, see Traveling with Tweens. For more fun gadgets, check out our Gadgets section.

By Ben Mason for