Luggage? Check. Money and ID? Yep. Snacks? Of course.
The necessities of a road trip haven’t changed much through the years. But technology has made the experience considerably better: apps that can sniff out the lowest prices at the pump, spoken GPS directions instead of fumbling with paper maps, access to tens of millions of songs through streaming music services.
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Some tech toys can even help reduce the dreaded “Are we there yet?” from grandkids in the back seat. Along with your smartphone — an invaluable device for staying connected and informed while on the road — here are a few other gadgets you might want to pack ahead of your trip.
Dashcams cams can record a big road trip
Once reserved for police vehicles, dashboard cameras (dashcams for short) have become popular with civilian drivers. These small cameras continuously record both video and audio to a memory card, from a first-person perspective, and are usually mounted on a vehicle’s windshield, near the rear-view mirror.
Dashcams are ideal for two reasons: security and recreation. They can provide photographic evidence of an accident or incident, but you also can capture your adventures, such as a road trip through the mountains, and play it back later on a big-screen TV.
At the other end of the vehicle, aftermarket backup cameras let you better see what’s happening behind you. Garmin models start at $129 and feature 1080p (progressive scan) full-HD video recording with a 140-degree or 180-degree field of view and support for hands-free voice control. A parking mode records activity if it senses movement or impact while parked, such as if someone dings or hits your car in a parking lot, tries to break in or writes you a parking ticket.
The Thinkware line of dashcams, from $70, archives footage for you. Some models, such as the U1000 ($350), can record 4K footage for even sharper resolution and boast night-vision technology.
Thinkware bundles some models to include a rear camera. The X700 Front + Rear Dash Cam Bundle ($170) cameras both record 1080p full-HD video. The dashcam has a 2.7-inch LCD touch screen and includes a GPS antenna to track speed, time and route history, and can warn you of speed traps and red-light cameras, the company says.
Voice-activate your vehicle infotainment
Many newer vehicles include support for Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which make your dashboard look and feel more like your smartphone’s screen. That's in addition to a vehicle's integrated infotainment system.