Road trips are one of my favourite things in life, especially with my kids along. I love to pack up the car, hit the open road, and drive for hours. When you’re on the road every day is a new adventure, and even if you’ve been down the same road before, there’s always something new to see and experience with your family.
The best road trips are those you take while completely prepared, and because I’ve done them once or twice a year for almost a decade, I’ve learned a thing or two about what tech you really need to take along on a road trip. Especially with kids, it’s important to keep them happy. You can’t really relax and enjoy the drive if everyone is yelling in the back seat.
Here are my choices for top road trip tech to take along on your summer vacation.
My kids have an iPad and iPod they use while traveling. Every time we’d go away I’d download a bunch of TV shows so they have something to watch. Without access to Wi-Fi for streaming, it was challenging to download enough shows to keep them entertained. These devices only have so much space.
But that’s where Leef iBridge comes in: you can store all of your favourite media on this handy 128GB memory stick, and it plugs straight into your iOS device. I reviewed the Leef iAccess recently and it’s become one of my go-to devices when taking photos and video on my phone. The Leef iBridge goes one step further with a lightning to USB 2.0 connector that plugs into your computer.
I’ve driven on a lot of highways and I’m great on the open road, but city traffic terrifies me every time. My van doesn’t have a built-in GPS, so I take along a Garmin GPS.
The Garmin nüvi GPS has a 6.1” LCD screen, doesn’t use cellular data to work, and it comes with pre-loaded colour maps of Canada and the United States. My favourite feature on Garmin GPS is how it will tell you when there is traffic issues up ahead, so you can avoid a major traffic jam.
Wireless travel router
When you stop for the night on a road trip, you really need to make the most of your down time. We usually go for a swim in the hotel pool, get something to eat, and watch a streaming movie on Netflix. I also answer email or work most of the time, and because of that I’m not a fan of sharing a hotel Wi-Fi connection.
That’s why I always bring along my travel router. The StarTech wireless travel router creates a Wi-Fi hotspot using the hotel’s existing wired network connection, and it gives you your own secure and speedy network that no one else in the hotel can access. You get up to 150Mbps data speeds, so it’s fast enough to stream Netflix too.
A portable charger is a must-have on a road trip. I have multiple places to charge my own phone in my car, but the kids don’t have one in the back seat. I take along two portable chargers, and they both have different uses.
The DualCharge 2 from GoPole is a solar charger with 2 USB ports. If you take along your GoPro camera you can charge it with the Dualcharge, but it also has another USB port so you can charge a tablet or smartphone. It’s so powerful you can charge your GoPro or phone three times before it needs to sit in the sun again, and it’s the perfect portable charger for camping or surviving the back seat.
I also take along a smaller charger like the PNY PowerPack. It charges your smartphone four times on a single charge, and it’s my favourite theme park accessory when I’m doing a day at Disneyland or the beach.
The sound of silence: that’s what I want to hear on a road trip, and headphones on the kids help us avoid squabbles and let me drive while listening to my own favourite music.
For the kids I like the Skullcandy Uproar Wireless on-ear headphones. They connect via Bluetooth, which I like because there are no cords to untangle, and they give great sound without disturbing others.
My husband and I trade off driving, and when we’re in the passenger seat we use our Bose QuietComfort Noise Canceling ear buds. They cancel out all of the noise in the car so you can have a quiet nap if you need one, and it’s the best option for peace and quiet until someone invents a glass privacy partition for mini vans.
Portable DVD player
I’ve done road trips in a van with a DVD system and without, and I have to say that movies are a must on long drives. The problem is that not everyone wants to watch the same movies.
I’ll never forget the time my youngest was going through a Thomas the Tank Engine phase. We put in a six hour DVD that took us straight from Bakersfield, California to Los Angeles, and with every new episode my older kids would go crazy from the monotony. If I’d had another portable DVD player like the 7” Philips DVD player along, I’d have been able to make everyone happy.
USB Travel Hub
Hotels never have enough plug-ins for devices. I’m not a huge fan of swapping out the iPad for the smartphone just to get a charge, so I bring along a central hub for everything. The Belkin 4-port travel hub lets you plug in all of your devices in one area, so you never have to switch out.
As long as you’re prepared, a road trip is a wonderful experience for everyone. Yes there can be boredom while driving, but the fun of waking up somewhere new and seeing thing you’d never think you’d see makes you look forward to each passing kilometer or mile.
Check out my top 3 road trip appliances
Take a look at Brad’s post on 5 ways a tablet will save your sanity of a road trip
Don’t forget about road trip snacks