ROAD TRIP! It doesn’t matter whether the economy is making you pick the car over the plane, or that you just really like driving through this wonderful country – everyone needs some time away from home, and taking the car is a fantastic way to see more than you can from 35,000 feet.
Of course, a lineup of awesome road trip gadgets is perfectly timed for the Gadling Perfect Road Trip contest, so read through these ten products, then use them as some inspiration for the contest!
BlueAnt S1 carkit
Each month, a new state, county or city adds their name to the list of places you are not allowed to drive without a hands free device, carkit or headset. The fines for being caught on the phone when not permitted can be as high as $250.
One of the newest hands free devices on the market is the BlueAnt S1 Bluetooth carkit. This compact unit clips to your sun visor, and uses a rechargeable battery to provide up to 15 hours of talk time, or a whopping 800 hours of standby time.
One added advantage of the unit is its ability to play music off your phone, making it perfect for a rental car, or even as a portable speaker in your hotel room.
PRO’S: Good quality audio in phone calls, supports stereo audio.
CON’S: Does not come with a car charger cord, Stereo audio sounds “tinny”.
HiGear TravelRest pillow
The TravelRest pillow is an extremely clever travel pillow. It takes a little time to install, and involves inflating the pillow, wrapping a cord around the headrest (or the back of your seat if on a plane), then attaching it to the bottom of your seatbelt.
Once installed, the TravelRest is actually very, very comfortable and the first pillow that really seems like it would be able to let me sleep through a long car (or plane) ride.
When you are done with the pillow, you simply let the air out, and roll it up.
PRO’S: Very comfortable, folds up nice and small
CON’S: Takes a little practice to install
Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset
The Plantronics Voyager Pro is one of the larger headsets on the market, but inside its fairly bulky exterior sits the electronics required to make the best headset ever developed. The Voyager Pro finally makes it possible to speak on a Bluetooth headset without having to yell, or explain to the person on the other end of the line that you are in fact, not talking to them from inside an oil barrel.
When you talk at a whispering level, the other end of your call will be able to clearly hear you, and virtually all outside noise is eliminated. Even when you make a call on a train, or in a car with the windows down, the Voyager Pro manages to make the call sound as clear as it would from in a quiet room.
PRO’S: Amazing sound quality, charges using MicroUSB
CON’S: Does not come with a carrying case, price is steep
Kensington Auto/Air power inverter with USB
The new Kensington Auto/Air power inverter with USB is one of the smallest power inverters on the market. This tiny device turns regular DC power into 120 watts of AC power. In addition to this, its 2 USB ports allow you to charge any USB capable gadget.
The unit even features an “EmPower” plug, which is found on some airlines. Having access to DC and EmPower means you’ll be able to charge and/or power your laptop, phone or other device in a car or a plane.
PRO’S: AC and USB in one device, very small, integrated fan for cooling, powers off car and plane outlets.
CON’S: Power limited to 120 Watts (150 for brief periods), no carrying case
Garmin Nuvi 855T
When it comes to finding the best directions from A to B, you have many choices.
However, you need those directions and the latest fuel prices, news, weather, traffic information, a handsfree carkit and the ability to send addresses from your PC to your car, then you’ll need the new Garmin Nuvi 855T.
This top of the line GPS unit offers a huge lineup of features, including a very impressive voice recognition system and steering wheel mounted remote control.
PRO’S: Best routing of any GPS unit I have ever tested, huge array of features
CON’S: Pricey, paid subscription required for wireless (MSN Direct) services
XM2Go Satellite Radio receiver
Satellite radio is the perfect entertainment gadget for people who just want to sit back and enjoy the ride. Unlike AM and FM radio, satellite radio doesn’t suffer from having to find a new frequency every 50 miles. You pick the station you like, and it’ll follow you from coast to coast.
Sirius/XM (they are one company now) offers something for everyone in their lineup – from sports to kids radio, there is always bound to be something that will keep most people in the car entertained.
Satellite radio units display the track you are listening to, and some units can even be taken out of your car so you can continue to listen to the radio at the airport or in your hotel room. The XM2Go radio (pictured above) can even record live radio from multiple channels allowing you to listen to your favorite channels when you are far from Satellite coverage (like on a plane, or outside North America).
PRO’S: No more searching for radio stations, easy to install, affordable radio receivers
‘S: Monthly fee for content
This product takes “geeky” to a whole new level. Imagine always having access to the Internet, through a wireless router installed in your car. That is what Autonet Mobile has to offer. Available as a factory installed option on select Chrysler and VW vehicles, this device offers wireless access to a 3G broadband network for any passengers in the car.
The product is also available as an aftermarket accessory for $399.99. Service starts at just $29.95 per month.
PRO’S: Speedy access anywhere within coverage of the nations largest 3G network
CON’S: Pricey compared to other mobile broadband options, annoying login procedure
Price: $399.99 + installation + monthly service
Potette Plus portable potty
Bet you didn’t expect to find a portable potty in this button-heavy lineup? The Potette Plus is a “must have” for anyone traveling with small kids. This $16 portable toilet can be used as a regular porta-potty (by using disposable bags) or as a seat for on a regular toilet, so your little one doesn’t fall into the bowl. Its legs fold flat making it easy to bring along, and a carrying bag is included.
Bags for the Potette Plus are $5 per 15, but the biggest advantage is being able to tie a bag shut instead of driving around with a potty full of poop, or having to dump the potty on the side of the road and try to get it clean.
PRO’S: Never having to worry about finding a roadside rest stop for kids potty breaks, bags reduce smell
CON’S: Pricey refill bags
Price: $16 + $5 for disposable bags
Google Latitude is the only software product in this lineup – but it does something so cool that it really deserves a spot in the list. With Google Latitude, you can share your current location with anyone in the world. Of course, you get to pick who is allowed to see where you are.
Once setup, your mobile phone relays back to Google where you are driving, and those people unlucky enough to be left back home can log in to Google maps online or on their phone, and check your progress.
PRO’S: Family and friends can check your progress, see where you are
CON’S: Family and friends can check your progress, see where you are
Price: Free – requires a compatible smart(phone)
Where: Google Latitude
Wagan Power Dome
If your road trip takes you to places where the signs read “next gas station 200 miles”, then you’ll of course already know that it is important to take some basic precautions. You’ll pack drinks and snacks.
One product you may also want to consider is the Wagan Power Dome. This portable power pack combines a battery booster, DC and AC power ports, USB charger ports an AM/FM radio and a 260PSI compressor.
The unit has enough juice to actually start your car, which is mighty handy if you left it outside your hotel room with the lights on all night.
PRO’S: Never have to find someone to help give you a boost
CON’S: Heavy, takes several hours to recharge
Where: Auto stores, Amazon.com and Wagan.com