Summertime is when adventurous families hit the road for parts unknown, packing up their lives into their cars and hoping for a smooth ride. But as we all know from childhoods spent in the back of station wagons and SUVs, the family road trip seldom unfolds exactly as planned.

How can you make sure that everyone in the family stays happy as you navigate from point A to point B? There’s nothing that will get you there faster, but plenty that can make your time on the road more enjoyable for all. Getting there may never actually be half the fun when you’re traveling across the country in a car with the kids but at least you’ll be comfortable and entertained.

Here is a shortlist of gadgets and gear that can help curtail the endless chorus of “Are we there yet?”

A Way to Track Your Most Precious Cargo

Managing multiple kids during mad dashes to the rest stop restroom isn’t easy and there’s no guarantee little ones won’t wander. Lollipop is a cute, lightweight tracker you can clip right onto a child’s belt loop or zipper pull. Whether you’re trying to get back on the road or headed for the next ride at the theme park, you’ll know at a glance where all of your kiddos are.

Sweet Silence

sony-noise-canceling-headphonesBackseat battles can put a dent in your mood after a few hours on the road which is why Sony’s MDRZX110NC budget-friendly noise cancelling headphones are a must for parents sitting shotgun. These cans are less than $40 a set so everyone in the family can enjoy the quiet – at least until the next round of “I’m not touching you!”

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The Lowest Drag Cargo Box

Non-essentials won’t keep you or the kids from getting what you need when they’re stored in a Yakima SkyBox 16 from Carbonite. It’s super low drag, which means it won’t limit your highway speeds or (more importantly) drown out your family’s signature road trip mix.

A Media Sharing Solution

Pairing two kids and one portable DVD player is impossible without iLuv’s headphone splitter, which at less than six bucks gives each listener control over their own volume and has plenty of cable so popcorn and a movie won’t turn into a game of tug o’ war.

Always-On Communication

If you’re taking the road less traveled and heading abroad by car, plan ahead and make sure you’re using a mobile provider that offers service in Mexico and Canada (e.g., T-Mobile). You should also double check that you have plenty of data so you’re not gritting your teeth every time the kids stream Netflix from their mobile device.

Comfort in the Car

Being able to snooze away the miles is the best way to make time fly so pack the Kuhi Comfort pillow for yourself and something equally comfortable but a lot more cute for the kiddos. How about a very hungry caterpillar for the little ones? And Star Wars for the big kids?

Mom in the Picture

It’s well known that moms are behind the camera more often than not and that means that they’re conspicuously absent from family photos. MeFoto’s road trip travel tripod puts mom back in the picture without taking up a lot of cargo room and it’s durable enough to survive getting knocked around by little ones digging through luggage for snacks. Bottom line: family photos on the road are priceless – especially when everyone is in them.

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A Time-Saving SD Card

eyefi-mobiAt some point as you’re filling your vacation camera with thousands of snapshots you’re going to start thinking about the post-road trip download. But you can save future you the hassle of having to pull the pics from your camera by using an EyeFi Mobi SD card. It can transfer photos right to your iOS, Android or Kindle device wirelessly whenever you have wifi. Save even more time by teaching the kids how to trigger the download. 

Plenty of Juice

You’ll never run out of power for your devices between pit stops when you bring Aukey’s high capacity power bank along for the ride. It provides enough backup juice to charge an iPhone to full power ten times so the whole family can keep browsing, watching, and playing until you stop for the night.

What else should you pack?

Arkon makes a universal tablet mount so you don’t need to get a DVD player installed and an iPad in an Otterbox case will be durable enough for even little hands. That said, the essentials you should really bring on your next family road trip are anything but high tech.

A sense of adventure, flexibility, and the willingness to unplug for a while can make family vacations magical no matter what your kids’ ages. Technology can dominate a family trip if you let it but make a point of reminding your kids that to make memories you all need to look up from your screens.


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