Techie Traveling

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Ahh, technology.  In many ways, it’s made our lives easier.  From our mobile devices, without ever talking to a real person, we can now accomplish tasks such as making airline reservations, checking the weather, monitoring our heart rate, and most importantly – we can even order a pizza.  It’s amazing stuff, and all indications are that we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg.

Our family of six has just returned from our annual January pilgrimage to Disney World in Florida (I’m freezing right now), and I thought it’d be fun to talk about a little of the technology that definitely made our lives easier as we navigated the friendly skies.  For all of you moms and dads out there, I think you’ll agree – whatever can help make our lives easier, is of great interest!IMG_0019_2

So the day before we were scheduled to leave out of Chicago O’Hare, I received an email from United, saying that our aircraft was part of their “Personal Device Entertainment” program.  The techie side of me, and the dad side of me rejoiced in the possibilities that this might offer for in-flight distractions for 2.5 hours.  I saved the email, made sure our devices met the minimum requirements (more on that in a minute), and prepared for the following day’s flight.

We boarded the plane, and second on my priority list was figuring this entertainment thing out (first on the list was making sure all four of our boys made it on the plane).  So once we made it to our seats, and stowed our carry-on bags, I fired up my iPad, and … nothing happened.  This wasn’t exactly the experience I was hoping for, and I later realized that the service doesn’t become active until the aircraft is airborne.  Probably a good idea.

IMG_0021But once we got connected, and understood how to work things, this system was really cool.  The amount of content is pretty impressive, and there seemed to be a little something for everybody (including kids) available for viewing.  A few things to note before you stream movies on United to your heart’s content:

  • Make sure you download the latest version of the United app to your smartphone or tablet.  This was clearly stated in the directions, and somehow I totally missed that.  Without the app, you’re stuck with nothing but a complimentary beverage and a bag of peanuts to entertain you during your flight.
  • Right now, this service is limited to those with laptops, or iOS devices.  According to United, full support for Android and “other devices” is coming soon.

So there you have it.  United’s got a great system, and if you read the directions (don’t follow my example), you’ll be in good shape.

As a quick follow-up, I recently flew on Southwest Airlines back to Florida (I told you I was cold), and they have a similar system, with a few differences.  Southwest makes you pay to watch a movie; 5 dollars to be exact, which is reasonable, but a bummer.  On the positive side, though, they give you about 10 channels or so of free live TV!  Watching a live college basketball game was a great way to pass the time, while my co-traveller caught some shut eye.

Got a great techie travel story?  We’d love to hear about it!