Heading out on the open road with your kids? iPads (or Leapsters for the littler kids) are an obvious bring-alongs for kids. Here are a few extra tech items to grab for the trip you may not have thought of.
What’s an inverter, you ask? It’s a device that converts your car’s Direct Current (DC) power into household Alternating Current (AC) power. You plug this bad boy into a car’s 12V power plug (the older set will call this a cigarette lighter socket) and it gives you a household plug. You can charge laptops, camera batteries, Nintendo DS handhelds, etc. with it. What’s more, the household plug will typically charge your phone faster than the USB plug found in most cars.
Some cars already have one built in, but if you don’t have one, you won’t regret picking one up.
Get a smaller one with USB chargers built in if you only plan to charge small electronics and laptops. The USB charger will keep your phone alive while you charge something else. Get a bigger one if you want to run a kettle off it to make coffee or tea on the road. Just check the specs and line them up with what you want to run off it.
Portable DVD Player
I know iPads, iPods, and iPhones are amazing at keeping kids distracted, but there’s nothing quite like sharing a movie in the car.
“But you can play movies on an iPad!”
Sure, you can load up movies on an iPad before you go, assuming you have enough storage on your devices and the time to load them.
The great thing about a portable DVD player is that you can just grab your old DVDs from around the house and go. We have a CD/DVD/BluRay book that we load up before road trips and take with us. The kids watch movies together, and on long, boring stretches (like Quebec City to Moncton), the movies provide a nice way burn up 2 hours. Alexandria and I enjoy the soundtracks, too.
As an added bonus, DVDs are typically very cheap now. We picked up a few more movies for the drive home at the thrift shop for $1.99 each. On our last drive home from Florida we were desperate to see Aristocats. A Target stop and $9.99 later and we were learning our scales and arpeggios.
A “Real” Camera and an SD Card Reader
Again, you might be fine with your iPhone photos, but there’s no substitute for a great camera. On this trip we’ve been wowed by the photos coming off our bigger digital camera. After months off from using it, we were shocked by how much better the pictures were than the ones our phones were taking.
The problem was, our photos were trapped on the camera. Thankfully, most cameras these days have defaulted to SD cards, and Apple make an adaptor for that! The Lightning to SD adaptor allowed us to transfer our camera photos to our phones on the go, so we could review, edit, and share our photos. Android users can probably get a Micro SD card and adaptor for their camera and just slide the Micro SD card into their phone to make the transfer.
Some cameras have built in wifi for getting photos from your camera to your phone, but the process is slow and cumbersome compared to using the adaptor.
A good Bluetooth speaker can be a great addition to your road trip gear roster. Whether your in hotel room or in a picnic area, good tunes make for a great time.
As an added advantage, you can usually plug your portable DVD player into your Bluetooth speaker with an auxiliary cable and make the watching experience way better with the deeper bass.
The stores are full of these, and you can get cheap ones pretty much everywhere – even gas stations. I recommend splurging on a good one. Bose’s models are popular because they deliver good bass out of tiny packages. We’ve been really pleased with the Bose SoundLink Color.
My favourite source for buying advice is The Verge’s This Is My Next, which recommends the UE Boom, so I would check that model out if you’re in the market, especially if you want waterside music, since the UE Book is water resistance.
Or, head to the store and try a couple options out and pick the right one for your ears and your budget.
A small USB backup battery is a great addition to your road warrior bug-out bag. So much anxiety can be avoided by always having juice for your phone.
This is a great take-long for plane rides, too. I’ve actually had a circumstance where my flight was delayed and my phone, with my electronic boarding pass stored on it, ran out of juice. Thankfully, I was packing my backup battery and was able to revive my phone in time for boarding.
A backup battery also helps avoid having to spend longer than you want to tethered to plugs in restaurants and coffee shops. And hey, you can charge you backup battery with your snazzy inverter between stops on your road trip.
I would suggest not going for the cheaper models. I’ve had many given to me over time, but they have all crapped out over just a few uses. The one I recommend is the Mophie Powerstation XL – it looks great, and has more battery capacity, and can charge all your USB devices (two at a time, even!).