Best gadgets to take for road trips
Who doesn’t love a good road trip? There’s something special about the freedom of the open road, whether you’re traveling solo or with a bunch of friends in the back seat. Wherever you’re going and whoever you’re going there with, there are several road trip essentials that need to be packed for any journey.
These have changed a lot over the years: most of the things like paper maps and mixtapes that came along on my earliest cross-country drives wouldn’t make the cut now. On the flip side, there’s a wide range of inexpensive gadgets and gear that will make for a better, safer, more enjoyable driving experience. Most don’t cost much, but they’ll all enhance your trip in one way or another.
Best gadgets to take for road trips
Best for Powering Everything: Aikenuo 6 Port Car Adapter
We’re all traveling with more tech gear than ever before, and most of it needs to be charged from a USB port. If your vehicle isn’t outfitted with enough (or any) of them, it’s time to pick up a good multi-USB car charger. We like this Aikenuo adapter for a few reasons.
It’s well-priced, especially for a charger with six USB sockets — most of the competition tops out at four or five. It’s also nice to see a cable that’s over four feet long, since it lets you easily extend the charger into the back seat for passengers.
Best of all, four of the ports are QuickCharge 3-compatible, and the other two can still put out 2.4 amps each. Rated to 96W, it’s one of the few car chargers that can happily charge multiple phones and tablets at full speed.
If you need something slightly different, we recently checked out several more of the best wireless and USB car chargers. It’s also worth investing in some quality cables. Cheap ones tend to break quite quickly, and Anker has long been our preferred brand for charging cables of all kinds.
Make sure you get the right length for your requirements. Long cables are ideal for passengers who also need to charge their gear, while short ones are much better for powering your phone when it’s in a holder a few inches above the charger.
Best for Safety: Rechargeable LED
Obviously nobody wants to have a breakdown, or be involved in a road accident. If the worst does happen, though, you’ll want to warn other drivers to slow down and take extra care.
In the past, this meant keeping a few magnesium flares in the car. They’re certainly bright, but also single-use and somewhat dangerous to both store and use. LED models have started to replace them, and this SlimK set is a good example.
Each of the three beacons has a magnetic base that lets you attach them to the hood, trunk, or roof of your vehicle. The higher they sit, the more visible they are to oncoming drivers. If you do choose to put them on the road, the flares are rated to withstand the weight of a vehicle driving over them.
One of the few models that’s rechargeable rather than requiring AAA batteries, this pack comes with a USB cable for that purpose. A small storage bag keeps everything together and ready to use.Buy on Amazon
Best for Older Vehicles: Nulaxy Bluetooth Car FM and Aux Adapter
No road trip is complete without a soundtrack to accompany it. New cars come with a Bluetooth entertainment system to let you stream music from your phone, but older vehicles are anyone’s guess.
Some have an AUX socket that you let you plug in a 1/8″ cable, while others don’t even have that. This multi-purpose Nulaxy adapter ensures your favorite tunes will be coming along on your journey, even if your car is older than you are.
Plugging into the cigarette lighter, the Nulaxy acts as a Bluetooth receiver for your phone or tablet, and outputs sound via the AUX socket or FM transmitter. Just tune the radio to an unused frequency, set the Nulaxy to the same frequency, and you’re good to go.
You don’t even have to use a phone or tablet at all, since the adapter can also play music from a USB stick or micro-SD card. There’s also a voltage meter to check the health of your car battery, a USB port for charging other devices, and the ability to make hands-free calls over Bluetooth.Buy on Amazon
Best for Refreshments: Electric Cooler
Heading off for a bit of car camping? Just want to keep a supply of cold drinks and snacks to hand while you’re driving? Either way, a cooler is an essential part of any road trip.
If you don’t want to mess around with melting ice packs all the time, go for this K-Box electric version instead. The dual-purpose cooler has inbuilt cables for both standard wall sockets and car cigarette lighters, which tuck away into a storage compartment when not in use.
The K-Box can maintain a constant temperature of 40F (4C), and comes in a variety of sizes. While most people use it to keep food and drinks cold, it can also keep things hot as well. Just flick a switch, and it’ll heat up to 130F (54C) to provide hot soup or coffee on those chilly winter trips.
There’s a partition inside to help keep things organized, and a sturdy locking handle for keeping everything secure as you move it around.