Make tech work for you the next time you hit the road with this selection of essential road trip car gadgets.
With international travel mostly off the books until at least mid-2021 many of us are planning shorter breaks that don’t involve getting on planes, but instead into the family car.
Again, there are obvious constraints – travel between states is a somewhat tricky affair, and there’s not a whole lot of point planning an interstate trip that includes a mandatory 14-day quarantine in the middle – but the reality of the size and scope of a continent like Australia means that there’s a lot of places you can take a road trip to in your very own state.
The size of the country is a benefit in that way, but after a while the sweeping vistas of our proud and dusty land can get a little wearing, and that’s when you turn to the items you’ve packed to keep you sane – and possibly keep the back seat passengers entertained.
We’ve got plenty of guides that can take you through car essentials that you should always have, and it’s a good idea before you embark on any road trip to have your vehicle of choice properly serviced too.
If you’re flush with enough cash to afford a high-end vehicle, a lot of technology will come packed in with it. If you’re driving a more modest vehicle, however, you don’t have to buy a whole new car to get hold of a lot of those same beneficial features. All you need are a few key car gadgets for a DIY upgrade.
Using your phone as a GPS to make sure you take the right route? That’s admirable, but without a proper phone mount you’re risking an accident and serious fines if caught. Phone mounts don’t have to cost a lot – this simple Divi Mount is just $9.95, quite literally hundreds of dollars less than the fine you’d cop for not having it.
Want to throw some funky road tunes to your car, but there’s no audio input, or your phone lacks a 3.5mm headphone jack needed for it? This $19.95 FirstE Bluetooth FM Transmitter makes it easy to pair your phone via Bluetooth and then use the car’s FM radio to listen to whatever you’d like.
FM Radio broken or non-existent? You can still listen to whatever you’d like with a simple portable Bluetooth speaker, like this $39.99 Anker model that promises up to 15 hours of playback time. You definitely shouldn’t spend 15 straight hours driving, so its endurance will last longer than yours should.
While some fresher cars come with Amazon Auto or Apple CarPlay preinstalled, and it’s an upgrade option for vehicles with only a few years on them, pretty much any car with a cigarette lighter can grab access to Amazon’s Alexa assistant with its $79 Echo Auto adaptor. As an added bonus, the adaptor is double headed, so you can also use it to charge another gadget in-car alongside its Alexa features.
If your charging needs run higher than just the one or two phones, consider a multi-port car charger, like this $46.19 Aikenuo Quick Charge 3.0 USB Car Charger. Just be careful not to overload the fuses in your car by throwing too much demand onto it.
Being out on the open road means that you could be some distance from the nearest medical help – or even from the nearest chemist. A simple first aid kit, like this $18.99 Roobuck set could get you out of a number of simple and not-so-simple scrapes if the worst happens.
If you’ve got backseat passengers – and especially if they’re kids – then keeping them entertained on longer road treks can be more challenging than the road conditions. With so many streaming services offering offline playback, you could easily load up a tablet with suitable viewing choices before you travel, but then they’ll most likely fight over who gets to hold it.
A simple solution for that is a car headset rest, like this simple $24.30 TFY Universal Car Headrest, designed to keep a tablet safe and stable. As an added benefit, they won’t spend the whole trip with heads bent over the tablet, only to complain of a sore neck at the end of it.
If you’ve got considerably younger kids, consider a full back of seat organiser with a tablet mount, like this $29.99 DentJet organiser that gives your kid access to whatever toys, books or entertainment options you want them to have on the way.
Editor’s note: Descriptions and features are as taken from manufacturer/seller claims and user reviews on Amazon.