5 Essentials for Your Summer Road Trip

It’s that time of year again, the time for family camping and road trips. While road trips can be great bonding opportunities, they can also be extremely stressful. Just think about it—you have the kids piled in the car, impatiently waiting to arrive at your destination,all while complaining that they’re bored. It’s enough to put anyone on edge. To help you get through these adventures, I’ve compiled a list of useful tech gadgets.

1. Garmin HUD+ GPS

Price: $199.99

There’s nothing worse than being lost on a road trip. At least one person in the car needs to use the restroom and the troops are threatening a coup if they don’t get some food right now. The situation has high pressure written all over it and the only way out is to figure out where you are and where the nearest restroom and fast food joint are located. To help you navigate this situation, Garmin has created a great little GPS device with the Garmin HUD+ GPS.

While there are many GPS devices on the market, the Garmin HUD+ GPS is just a little bit different. It beams navigation information from your smartphone onto your windshield.  This is great because you don’t have to familiarize yourself with using another GPS device if you’re already comfortable with the GPS provided by your smartphone. It also puts all the pertinent information right in front of you on the windshield of your vehicle allowing you to keep your eyes on the road.

2. Smartphone Mount

Price: $14.97-$49.95

While you might be able to keep your mitts off your smartphone during short drives that are part of your day-to-day routine, a road trip means that you could be stuck in the car for hours. To help you keep an eye on your phone while keeping both your hands safely on the steering wheel, there are a number of dash mounts for smartphones. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose the mount that suits your needs best. You might prefer to set your phone up vertically or horizontally, on your windshield or your dashboard. Regardless, it’s important to get that phone out of your hands and mounted somewhere accessible so you can keep your precious cargo, your family, safe!

3. Jabra Freeway Bluetooth Speakerphone

Price: $99.95

It’s very simple, distracted driving laws throughout Canada ban the use of handheld devices while driving. With the exception of Nunavut, all provinces and territories in Canada require the use of a Bluetooth, hands-free device while driving and the fines for using your handheld without one are substantial. If you’re going on a road trip, getting a good quality Bluetooth device that works for you is essential. Personally, I’m fine with using in-ear headsets on short trips, such as my daily commute, but I find that having a device that clips onto my visor and functions as a speakerphone is much more comfortable for long hauls.

That’s where the Jabra Freeway Bluetooth Speakerphone comes in—this device pairs to your phone and clips to your sun visor. It offers echo and wind noise cancellation and allows you to stream music, turn-by-turn directions, and podcasts from your phone as well.

4. Road trip apps

Price: free-$1.99

There are many Android and iOS applications available to improve your road trip experience. Some apps offer reviews, recommendations, and deals for places to stay and eat while others simply provide entertainment on the road.

When it comes to reviews and deals, two apps you can’t go without are TripAdvisor and Hotel Tonight. TripAdvisor started as a hub for online reviews of tourist destinations, such as hotels and restaurants, and has now expanded to include an app for both iOS and Android devices. TripAdvisor provides you with rankings and reviews from other guests of restaurants and hotels. Basically, it’s like word of mouth on steroids. Hotel Tonight is another great travel companion that shows you daily unsold rooms at great rates. If you’re traveling on a budget, this is a great little tool to help you get the most bang for your buck.

If you’re looking to entertain the troops on a long trip, there are many games available from the App Store and Google Play. One app I’d definitely recommend for iOS is Family Car Games. This app is fun and interactive and puts 100 different game options right at your fingertips. There’s a great selection of guessing, memory, word, and radio games for all ages and skill levels. It’s a great tool to keep the “are we there yet?” question at bay.

5. Tablet

Price: Various

OK, this isn’t news but it’s probably worth mentioning again—a tablet is essential to keep the kids entertained. Regardless of whether you choose an Android or iOS tablet, there are many apps to keep the whole family entertained. Apps like YouTube will keep the kids busy with videos while others, such as Flappy Bird, will have them playing for hours. There are even some classics, like Scrabble for mobile, that the kids can play together—no travel sized board game necessary.

With these five road trip essentials, this summer’s road trips will be a lot less stressful than those of previous years. Happy travels and stay safe!

By Mike Agerbo

June 17, 2014