Essential tech for your summer road trip

Freedom. Big blue skies. Tyres on hot tarmac. The open road. Got the urge for a summer road trip? Check out essential gadgets checklist

Freedom. Big blue skies. Tyres on hot tarmac. The open road.

Have you got the urge to head out on the highway this summer? Here we'll pick out the essential gadgets for your road trip. 

Why a road trip?

Route 66 

The road trip has been eulogised in popular culture for decades by everyone from music icon Bob Dylan to beat writer Jack Kerouac.

Whether driving the legendary Route 66 in the US or cruising the Amalfi Coast in Italy, a road trip is pure escapism from everyday life.

The following quote from Kerouac's legendary beat novel, On the Road, encapsulates the freedom of hitting the road.

"Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there."
"Where we going, man?"
"I don't know but we gotta go."


Getting your road trip right - the key gadgets

But fail to prepare for your road trip and it can end up being more like the hapless Clark Griswold in the National Lampoons films. The right gadgets can contribute towards a trouble-free road trip.


Essential road trip gadgets checklist

  • Satnav
  • Portable DVD player
  • Mini tablet
  • Premium digital compact camera
  • In-car Wi-Fi


A satnav is great for…

  • Not getting lost and planning your route 
  • Arriving on time
  • Letting you know when you're near a services stop off
  • Alerting you to speed cameras


Example - TomTom Start 60 EU

Tom Tom Start EU 60 

When you get lost you get shouted at. You argue with your navigator. The kids complain in the back. You lose time, go off route and waste petrol.

None of the above is conducive to a relaxing, good-time holiday.

With the TomTom Start 60 EU you can be sure of not losing your way on your latest road trip. It'll tell you where to turn off and when, and let you know in simple spoken English.
It's pre-loaded with the latest maps for the whole of Europe, and offers free updates to download new ones. If you want to venture further to the US or beyond maps can be downloaded from the TomTom site onto your device.

So whether you're following the Flower Route in the Netherlands or the Blues Highway in Tennessee and Mississippi, you can find the right maps.


A portable DVD player is great for…

  • Keeping the kids happy in the back during long stretches of driving
  • Having something to watch when you stop for the night

Example - Logik twin screen portable DVD player

Logik Twin Screen Portable DVD Player 

If you're driving from coast to coast in the US or across the winding roads of historic Greece you're going to be spending plenty of time behind the wheel.

It's a road trip - that's the point.

But what about when the younger passengers get bored of the scenery and your at-best patchy running commentary?

A portable DVD player will come in very handy.         

They can sit back and watch their favourite movies and programmes, keeping them entertained while you enjoy having nothing to do but drive.

Expecting arguments about who gets to hold the DVD player? This Logik model comes with two screens that can be fastened to the back of the front headrests - like their own personal cinema in the back seat!


A premium compact digital camera is great for…

  • Capturing iconic sights along your way - think Route 66 sign
  • Photographing breath-taking scenery and doing it justice
  • Documenting your road trip with a diary of photos from inside the car and out

Example - Panasonic TZ60Panasonic TZ60

Expect your road trip to take you past sights both breath-taking and culturally important. The iconic Route 66 sign and the surviving retro gas stations along its route. Crumbling Ancient ruins in central Greece. Pastel-coloured villages crawling up the cliff sides of the Amalfi Coast.

These are sights you may never see again. Sights that need documenting. Sights a smartphone camera just won't do justice. 
With the Panasonic TZ60 you be sure you'll do them justice. This is a digital compact camera that will deliver professional quality results.  It boasts a Leica zoom lens, an 18.1 megapixel sensor and an electronic viewfinder.

Nigel Atherton, group editor at What Digital Camera, said the larger sensor found on a  premium compact will give you "superior image quality - more shadow detail and less image noise in low light."

Of course because it's small, slim and simple to use it's also great for documenting your trip from inside the car. 


A tablet is great for…

  • Keeping the kids entertained with pre-loaded films
  • Checking out where's good to eat when you roll into a new town
  • Staying connected with friends


Example - Samsung Galaxy TabProSamsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 

Think of the Samsung Galaxy TabPro 8.4 as a kind of a go-to road trip problem solver.

With it you can keep the kids entertained with pre-loaded films and TV shows on the super-sharp LCD screen.

The 8.4 inch screen packs in 2560x1600 pixels. Expect Willy Wonka's colourful costumes to 'pop' from the screen. 

Its mini size means they can hold it in one hand too.

You can stay in touch with your pals via Skype and Facebook - just remember to set it up to use abroad with your network provider. Check out Ofcom's using your smartphone or tablet abroad guide. 

Also, check out the best places to eat and the most important sights to see using apps from sites such as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.


An in-car Wi-Fi hotspot is great for

  • Creating your own personal Wi-Fi hostpot in your car
  • Connecting as many as 10 smartponhes and tablets to the same in-car network at once 

Example - EE Buzzard EE Buzzard

How many smartphones and tablets are being used in the car? Everyone probably has a phone, passengers in the back could be looking at tablets. The EE Buzzard is the first-ever device to create a Wi-Fi hotspot in your car - capable of connecting up to 10 devices to its own network.

If your road trip is UK-based taking in the rugged coast or Cornwall or adventuring in France or Spain, then you can expect a superfast 4G network.

If your adventure has taken you to elsewhere in the world then that will become 3G. Either way, everyone will be able to get online - great for stemming the boredom of a long stretch of highway or an overnight drive. 

You buy your data bundle for overseas in advance too, and when that runs has nearly run out you'll be prompted. This means you only use what you've already bought - preventing you racking up expensive, unexpected bills. 


Road trip inspiration - 3 top picks 

Looking for some inspiration for your road trip? read on…


1. Pacific Coast Highway, US

Enjoy unparalleled views of the west coast of America as you snake along the Pacific coast on Highway 1. Take in iconic Californian sights such as muso paradise Monterey and the mountainous Big Sur, immortalised by beat author Jack Kerouac and the gold rush of the 1800s.

Here's what National Geographic has to say


2. Iceland's Ring Road

Iceland is a beguiling, majestic place. See everything it has to offer by driving the ring road which encircles the island. Expect to see everything from volcanic debris to ice blue waters.
Here's what Rough Guides has to say


3. Cornwall, England

Fancy something closer to home? The rugged coastline of Cornwall can rival anything in the world. Expect quaint fishing villages, smugglers' coves and surfers, rugged cliffs battered by the relentless Atlantic. And of course, the Cornish pasty.

Here's what National Geographic has to say

Are you planning a road trip this summer? What tech are you planning to take with you? Tell us in the comments below..