Before You Leave
Count the number of USB outlets in your vehicle. Now count the number of passengers that’ll be residing in the vehicle. Most likely it’s not a 1:1 ratio. And if several passengers have the same devices they’ll run out of juice at about the same time, making it a land grab for an open port. There are now USB charging port extenders that look like an octopus (ok, maybe one that’s minus a tentacle or two). This way you can allocate a port to each of your passengers and you’ll never again hear “well, my phone is on 4%!” responded to by “on yeah, my phone is on 2%!”
Charging cords and earbuds have a way of disappearing into a small black hole somewhere inside the vehicle. That or the tiny wires in the tiny cords break because of rough handling. To avoid having an odd man (child?) out, secretly stuff an extra charger cord and earbud set in the glove box for those life-threatening emergencies.
Bring a paper map. One with your planned route and one of your final destination would be a good backup when wireless service isn’t available.
Go online and find simple infographics on roadside repairs with which you’re not familiar. The most common is changing a flat tire and jump-starting a battery. Nice folks with excellent illustration skills have created a variety of infographics, most easily found on Pinterest. Print out any with which you’re unfamiliar and stash them in the glove box (just in case).
On the Road
Almost everywhere it’s now illegal to drive while you’re holding a phone in your hand. On a road trip, you’re less likely to be making calls as following directions. If your vehicle is not equipped with an onboard navigation system you’ll most likely be relying upon your smartphone for directions. But what happens if the clip that holds your phone breaks or even loosens, as they tend to do. A simple binder clip can save the day by using it to clip your phone to an object on the dashboard.
There are several apps now available that track retail gasoline prices and will locate the lowest cost of gas in the area that you’re traveling. It’s best to go to your phone’s app store and read the reviews for each of the several apps now available that best suit your needs
If you were born more than 40 years ago you might have memories of full-service gas stations that prided themselves on the cleanliness of their restrooms. Of course, all that went away with self-service. So how do you find a clean restroom that you’re not afraid for your kids to use? There’s an app called SitorSquat that provides crowd-sourced reviews of restrooms along your route so you never again have to worry about your child reading a restroom wall and asking “what’s a $#%$#?”
Fast food restaurants have made it quick and convenient to drive off the interstate, gobble up some deep-fried specialties, and then hit the road in record time. At a certain point that gets old. Or maybe you’re just against fast food in the first place. Here’s a tool for you. It’s a website called www.roadfood.com. It bills itself as “Your Guide to Authentic Regional Eats” and lists quick and delicious local restaurants that can get you back on the road nearly as quickly as a fast food restaurant.
When You Arrive at Your Destination
We’ve all done it. We’ve parked our car in a strange location and can’t remember where we left it. In the past, the alternatives were to divide into search parties that would rendezvous with their findings at a set place and time, or look for a mobile security guard and ask them to drive you around to find the car. Today, all you need to do is drop a pin on your smartphone map function when you park your car. It’s even better than trailing breadcrumbs as there are no chance birds will eat them.
You’ve gotten up to your hotel room with all your luggage and all you want is a shower. Then someone points out that the USB wall adapters are all still in the car. The last thing you want to do is head to the parking lot to dig them out, but your phone needs a charge for directions or restaurant recommendations. Most flatscreen TVs have a USB port on the back. While not installed there for this purpose (really, it’s to be able to display PowerPoint presentations off of a laptop and that sort of thing. But all USB ports also deliver a charge of around 5 volts, which is what your smartphone requires to recharge. That and everyone will think you’re a genius for figuring that out.
We hope you find our suggestions both unique and useful on your next road trip!