Now that school is out for summer, families are about to cram into cars together on their way to the beach, the Grand Canyon, or that shining metropolis in the travel guide Mom bought six months ago. The family road trip is a rite of passage akin to the hero’s journey into the underworld, where untold horrors must be faced and tribulations overcome before reaching the desired destination. Games of “slug-bug” become full-on fist fights, riotous filibustering occurs with each change of the radio station, and every three minutes the tormented scream of “Will you stop touching me?” reverberates through a vehicle that, no matter its actual size, will always be too small. It’s enough to make you turn that car around and call the whole thing off, and just like your parents before you, you will issue that threat word for word. Or, you could just stock up on a few essential supplies to make the long trip as pleasant as possible. Here are a few tips to help your family reach its vacation destination on time and with minimal psychological trauma.
Get a Plan in Place
The first real challenge of a road trip is getting from point A to point B. You’re going to need a strategy to get everyone there in one piece in time for the hotel checkin. First, it’s already going to be a long trip, so don’t complicate things by improvising a shortcut. The Garmin nuvi 50 5” GPS Receiver will show you the fastest route to your destination, and if you decide to go off the beaten path, it will recalculate your route and get you back to civilization.
It’s also a good idea to hook up a Cobra ESD9270 9-Band Radar/Laser Detector so you can watch your speed. We all go a little over the speed limit sometimes, but knowing you’re being clocked will remind you to take your time and drive safely.
Finally, Waze is a handy app for Android and iOS that combines GPS and social elements to connect you to other drivers. Users keep each other updated about traffic jams, changing road conditions and speed traps, making Waze a real-time navigation tool that gets you where you need to be faster and with fewer headaches. There are even a few fun geo-gaming elements like leveling up after you’ve driven a certain number of miles.
Keep the Troops Entertained
Once your plan’s in place and you’re on the road, the next trial you’ll have to face is keeping everyone in the car entertained. Enter the iPod touch. You’ll get valuable hours of peace and quiet from the family if they all have their own music to listen to, games to play and videos to watch. A good game of “Angry Birds” will help everyone take out the frustrations of a confining car ride on the evil pigs instead of each other.
When the batteries start running low, charge them up with an Enercell 12VDC 3-Outlet Vehicle Power Adapter and a few Enercell Tablet and Smartphone Chargers. The 3-Outlet adapter will ensure that everyone’s device chargers are accommodated, even if you only have one vehicle outlet. If having three outlets still isn’t enough, go wireless and tap into some solar power with the Solio Bolt Solar Charger. With this many charging options, everyone will be up and running again in no time.
While the iPods are charging, the family is going to have to compromise on what to listen to. You can find something for everyone with 130+ unique XM Satellite Radio stations and the SiriusXM Skydock. The Skydock lets you listen to XM over your iPhone or iPod, and the FM transmitter beams the music through your vehicle’s standard stereo. It also charges your device while you listen. Bonus.
With any luck, the radio will buy you enough time for the iPods to charge. Now you can play some classic car games with modern technology. Try “License Plate Travel Game” from iTunes and see who can spot the most out-of-state plates over the course of the trip. If your family uses Android devices, Marathon Travel Games has the license plate game as well, but also includes “Car Bingo”, a staple of the road trip.
Make Graceful Exits
One final thing to help you have a smooth road trip: when you have to stop, stop strategically with these great apps:
Gas Buddy—When it’s time to fill ‘er up, stopping at the right gas station can save you some cash. Gas Buddy tracks prices at all the stations near you so you’ll never overpay for petrol.
SitOrSquat Bathroom finder—There’s nothing worse than making a pit stop at a grimy, frightening truck stop that looks like it’s never been cleaned. SitOrSquat’s user-generated reviews will guide you to the cleanest bathrooms on the road.
iExit Interstate Exit Guide—What do you do when one kid will only eat chicken nuggets from Wendy’s and the other only from McDonald’s? Well, you need to find a highway exit with BOTH fast food joints or risk a pouty child upsetting the delicate tranquility in the car. iExit tells you everything located at each major highway exit, so if you combine its powers with the other two apps, you can make just one successful pit stop exit and get the family back on the road in no time.
With a little luck and planning, the family will emerge from the car, stretch their legs and still be able to tolerate each other for the next few days of sightseeing, rest and relaxation. Have any other great road trip tips or want to share where your family’s going this summer? Let us know in the comments.