As an airline pilot, I’m one of the thousands of Dads who travel for work and I have used an iPad to stay in touch with my kids very successfully. There are many benefits of my travel for my family including stability, travel benefits, and much more. But there are also some challenges for being away so regularly. The goal isn’t to avoid work. The goal is learning to be away, but not apart.
Use an iPad to Stay in Touch With Your Kids Helps Keep Us Together
The toughest part of my job as an airline pilot is ironing. It’s just awful. But the second hardest part is being one of the many pilot – dads who travel for work anywhere from 12 to 18 days per month. The flip side of that time away is that, when I’m home, I’m home and I don’t even think about work. They can’t call, and I don’t care what happens. Plus, I often get at least one 5-10 day block of time at home almost every month. We make good use of that high-quality time. But, when trips get much longer than a few days, it gets kind of hard for the kids. Dedicating an iPad just for them has really helped us stay in touch.
Dedicate an iPad Just For the kids
We have one dedicated iPad to stay in touch. We keep it in the living room and it’s always available for any of the kids to FaceTime, text, or share images with me. They can also see my schedule and look up my flights to track me live at work. We don’t use this Ipad for anything else. It is just for the kids to use. This has helped us stay close, even though I may be thousands of miles away.
Buying an iPad
The cool thing about using an iPad is that you don’t need a top of the line one. The programs you use are very simple and most are built right into it. If you want to try this, don’t go buy a brand new iPad, a certified refurbished one would work just fine. But I will say having a nice camera is a big plus. Here are some from Amazon:
How To Set Up an Ipad for Kids
This isn’t a tech blog and I don’t want to put information up that will get outdated so I am linking to Apple’s own article on setting up family sharing on an Ipad. They have the whole thing worked out. Basically, you clean off an Ipad by disconnecting and erasing all data from iCloud accounts on each app (photo’s, contacts, etc…). I manually added back just a few contacts the kids could access like mom, dad, and grandparents. Then, I used the parental controls to tighten the reigns of what can be accessed from the Ipad. It took me about 1 hour to fully set up a new Ipad and I had no idea how to start. If I can do it, you can too. Alternatively, if you have problems with the family sharing, just set up a new apple ID from a new email you control. That works too.
The Apps We Use to Stay In Touch
The obvious apps we use to stay in touch are FaceTime, Messenger, and the Camera for live conversations or just sending messages and pictures. We also use Roster Buster and FlightAware to teach the kids more about being a pilot and what I do when I travel. I think it has really helped the kids stay close to me just knowing where I am. Unlike most business travel, I could be all over the country in any one day. It would not be unusal for me to start in Chicago, fly to Denver, to North Dakota, then to Texas before ending up somewhere in the South. Being able to see my flights helps everyone understand what I do.
Roster Buster can share my calendar across devices and is controlled by my own phone. This means, when I download my schedule to my phone, it is also synched with my wife’s phone and my kids’ iPad so they can look up my schedule anytime. It has been a great way for the kids to learn about the country and see where I am each night. It has also taught them a lot about being part of a flight crew.
FlightAware is the other app we use. The kids can look up my flight numbers on Roster Buster (or I can text them through Messenger) and the kids can track me while I’m flying. They like to critique how the airplane flies compared to the route on the site.
Make sure to allow rosterbuster.com and flightaware.com to be accessible if you close off the internet. Yes, there is an option to manually put in the sites you allow.
You Can’t beat the Camera For Staying In Touch.
We send a ton of pictures back and forth. I love it because I get to see my home and garden from the kids perspective (literally) and they get to share what is going on in their lives while I’m away. I take pictures of all the cool places I visit and they get to enjoy seeing what other parts of the continent look like.
Being a parent and traveling can be hard, but there are a lot of way’s to keep your relationships with your kids strong and to teach them about work. Having an Ipad to stay in touch has really been a good thing for our family.
Want to learn more about what it’s like being a pilot? Read any of my “Perfect Day” articles about our layovers.