Electronic Entertainment

Many people feel that having electronic entertainment of any kind on a camping trip is a sacrilege, but let’s face it, most guys have to have their sports, if nothing else. That means a minimum of a radio, but preferably a TV, so they actually see what’s going on. The great news for travelers is that since they came out with LCD screens and solid state components, we can now have our TV for longer times without draining the battery! Well… at least not as fast. shown below is just one example of a suitable TV for minivan use. It works with 12-volts or 120, and also has a DVD player built in. If that’s not what you want, then search the Amazon site. They have thousands more!

But there are so many products on the market these days… things that we hadn’t even though of ten years ago. Many times they are battery operated and totally portable, but there are also many 12-volt versions available so you can run them from your vehicle instead of buying batteries constantly. The example of one of the new TV’s above is only one of many available through Amazon.

Even many of the old board games, like Battleship and Clue, now come in electronic versions. We have one similar to Clue, called “Stop Thief” that we bought years ago, and it’s still fun to play…at home. The problem is that many of those old board games are just too big to carry along in our minivan camper conversion. Below are some other examples of the newer electronic travel games available. If you don’t see what you like here, Amazon has thousands more!

Most of our entertainment comes from our laptop, from reading to games, to watching television, and even movies, both online and on DVD. That’s right…television. And you don’t need that fancy software that people are always trying to sell you. Most of the time it’s about 80% foreign channels that you couldn’t understand anyway. All you need to do is search for the major TV networks online and most of them will have full episodes of most of the major programs…24 hours after they air on regular TV… for free. And then you have some third party providers, too, like Hulu.com, InfinityTV.com, and movie channels like Crackle.com, plus many others that have a huge library of both current and past programs that you can go back and watch anytime. It’s almost as good as having your own digital recorder! As a free bonus for following our site, here are just a few of the TV and movie networks on which we can get full episodes and movies: (Hint: if you’re looking for a particular show, use the “shows” links or “full episodes” links at the top of most home pages. Once you find the actual show page, you may have to scroll down to find the episodes. Sometimes they’re hard to see.)

Online TV Networks

CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video NewsNBC.com - NBC Official SiteNational and Local Weather
ABC.com - Television Shows & ProgrammingCBS.com - Official Site of CBS - in
PBS.orgTravel Videos, Shows, and Guides - Travel Channel.comUSANetwork.comWB.com - Full episodes of Veronica Mars, One Tree Hill, The O.C., Sorority Forever, Friends, Gilmore Girls, Smallville on TheWB.com. It's TV Online.XFINITY TV Watch Full TV Shows and Movies Free Online Streaming
Crackle.com - Watch Free Movies, Television, Original Series NowCW Television Network, CWTV.com - Home of Gossip Girl, America's Next Top Model, 90210, One Tree Hill, Melrose Place, The Vampire Diaries and moreFOX.com Broadcasting CompanyHulu.com - Watch your favorites. Anytime. For free.Lifetime Movie Network – LMN Original Movies & TV Schedule myLifetime.com

The networks above are only a sampling of what’s available. I have OVER 75 TV networks in folder on my desktop! I also created a spreadsheet like one week of a calendar, where I have inserted the programs that I watch regularly as links. All I have to do is pull up my spreadsheet and I can see what I watch on TV for every night of the week, and then I just click the link to go straight to that network! The time doesn’t really matter, as the programs play on demand, and most networks keep the programs available for as much as six weeks. I can basically watch them whenever I want to, so my time isn’t limited to a broadcast TV schedule.

One thing that I have noticed in the last few months, is that some channels are going to paid service, such as Xfinity TV and TNT. Many of the shows I see are coming up with a gold key or a padlock symbol in the corner to indicate that they are subscription channels. Some will still release the program eight days after it airs. Some won’t. If it has the gold key, like many of the TNT.com programs now, you have to log in with a ComCast account number in order to watch them online. If you have a home account with them, that’s fine, but I’m not going to waste money paying for cable TV. Comcast just won’t get my business, and I’ll have to watch other entertainment. Besides most shows will end up in syndication anyway, and then places like Hulu and USA Network will pick them up eventually. But getting TV on the web is still not bad if you can get fast enough speed to do it, as they are available anywhere in the country, and even out of it!

But computers and signals can sometimes be slow, and for good steady TV watching, you should have at least 3 Mb speed or above, or at least a very fast processor on your media-ready computer. Most of the cell towers, air cards and WI-FI might give you 1 Mb… if it isn’t too busy. If there’s any slow-down in speed, you may get a lot of “buffering” while the download catches up. If you’re really desperate to see a program, you might be better off to download it first onto your computer (rather than watch the live streaming), and then you should be able to watch it without interruption. When you’re done, you can just delete it. 

So for good “smooth” TV watching on the road, a digital antenna is still best.  The new digital standard for TV broadcasting is supposed to provide clearer reception and for longer distances, but I’ve heard pros and cons. Most people use a satellite dish for TV watching these days, unless they are near a major city that has enough stations available to satisfy their needs. But satellite also comes at a cost, something which I am bound and determined to eliminate from my life so that I don’t have to work harder to pay for it! So if “over -the-air” digital works OK, then I’m going to use it! According the video on the Wineguard site, the Sensar IV with Wingman (for UHF) is supposed to be the best digital “over-the-air” antenna available. However, I’m not into putting holes in the roof of my minivan, or take away from it’s “stealth” ability when needed. But you can read my free book to see how I plan to overcome that obstacle and still have free TV reception when I want it.

I figure that between a digital antenna and TV, and my laptop, I will have more than enough programming to keep me occupied. I’m not a TV sports watcher, so that eliminates a good deal of it right there. After all, I’m not interested in continuing a couch potato life and endangering my health! There’s too much world to see and to little time to do it! I plan to be on the go during the day (weather permitting) and the only time I will watch TV is “IF” I have any time left before bed, and after I catch up on web work! We’ll have to see how that goes.

And of course, there are  video players and video games, MP3 and MP4 players and now even smart-phones can be entertaining. There is literally too much out there to even think of it all. And I won’t even suggest what you “should” have, because everyone has their own opinions. As for me, a TV and my computer has all the entertainment that I can handle. You have to do what works for you.