BY: CHRISTINE PERSAUD
While COVID-19 restrictions seem to be easing up in parts of Canada, there are still precautions everyone must take. And travel by plane is still not recommended unless it’s essential. This has led many Canadians to head out onto the open road for a good ‘ol road trip.
Whether you have an RV or trailer or plan to use a small car or van, road trips can be great fun. You can see landmarks, beautiful greenery, and visit different areas of Canada along the way.
But it’s important to stay safe, connected, and entertained while traveling, and tech can play a critical role in that. It doesn’t matter if your road trip is a couple hours north to a local campground or if you plan to drive for days, having essential tech on hand is important.
Cellular Signal Booster
If you’re heading out on the open road, particularly if you’re traveling long distances, chances are you’ll be travelling through some frustrating “dead zones” where cellular signal is spotty at best, completely non-existent at worse. Not only can this interrupt an important call or GPS signal to the phone you’re using for navigation, it can also be dangerous if you get stuck somewhere with no signal. A cellular signal booster can help. SureCall has a wide selection of boosters designed for use on the road, from the basic N-Range 2.0 for cars and truck to the Fusion2Go 3.0 RV Signal Booster that’s designed for use in RVs, with pricing ranging from about $250 up to $600. Compatible with all Canadian cell carriers and delivering both 4G and LTE signals, it’s worth getting for peace-of-mind to keep you connected at all times, with fewer service dropouts.
Solar- or Crank-Powered Flashlight
While we love to rely on technology to meet our every need, sometimes, having a low-fi back-up option can be a literal lifesaver. Technology requires power, and that power can sometimes deplete or become inaccessible. But there are two things you can rely on: the rays from the sun and your own strength. That’s why I love to keep a solar or crank-powered flashlight on hand in case of emergencies. Store one of these in the trunk of the car before you head out. Ideally, find one with both solar and hand crank option: if you wind up in a scenario where you need it and there’s no sun to recharge, you can wind it up to get enough light to get you through that tire change or walk to the nearest gas station.
Headphones aren’t for purposes of safety during a road trip, but they can be for sanity. Playing fun games with the family, like Punch Buggy, reading road signs, and even enjoying a sing-a-long with the radio is fun for a few hours, eventually everyone will want some solo quiet time. Passengers might even want to catch a bit of sleep. Headphones let everyone do what they want, whether it’s cancel out noise to rest their eyes, watch a movie on a tablet in the backseat, or listen to their own selection of tunes (driver always picks what goes on the radio!) If you are traveling with multiple kids, consider a headphone splitter so two (or more) can listen to the same source to watch a movie together, for example. For younger kids, headphones like the BuddyPhones Explore+ have a feature called BuddyJack that makes it easy to link pairs so kids can listen together. They also feature volume limiting technology so young kids can’t crank the sound up to unsafe levels that could harm their little ears.
12V Car Charger
You might already have one but it’s always good to bring along a spare. The 12V port in your car, once known as the cigarette lighter adapter, is your source for powering a wide range of devices on the go, whether it’s keeping your smartphone and tablet charged up or being able to inflate the air mattress at the campsite you’re stopping at for a few nights. Imagine if the one you have stops working? It can happen, so having a second on hand is a smart idea. Depending on what smartphone you own, you might benefit from getting a new portable car charger with a USB-C port instead of USB-A. The Anker PowerDrive Speed+Duo has a 12W USB port as well as a 30W USB-C port with Power Delivery (PD) that is powerful enough to charge up even laptops.
Extra Charging Cables
With that said, many of the latest vehicles have multiple USB ports for charging devices directly, without the need for a 12V adapter. To ensure that everyone on the trip can keep their devices powered without fighting over the one port, bring along extra cables, including Apple Lightning, USB-A, and even USB-C. The Anker PowerDrive Elite not only has a USB-A port for plugging in your own cable, it has a built-in Lightning cable for direct recharging of an iOS device without the need to plug in a loose cable.
Go the extra mile and bring along a portable phone charger so that, if you are leaving the vehicle behind for an extended period of time, or you find yourself in a situation where the car’s battery has died, you can ensure your phone’s battery is kept topped up the entire time.
High-Tech Emergency Kit
Every vehicle should have an emergency kit in the trunk with items like a flashlight and radio, booster cables, multipurpose tool, SOS flag, safety vest, water purification tablets, tire sealant, first aid kit, non-perishable food, and sanitation and hygiene items. But there are high-tech items you should add, too, like a phone charger, or even an extra pay-per-use phone for emergencies. The Worx Multi-Function Portable Car Jump Starter with USB Charging is a neat option worth considering that combines a variety of devices in one. For $130, you get the tall, cylindrical device that can jump start cars or even batteries for motorcycles. But it can also be used for charging tablets, phones, and other small devices, like a portable navigation unit, thanks to the built-in USB-out port. With dual function LED lighting, it can function as a work light or flashing strobe, too, in case of emergencies. The best part? It’s small enough to keep in the glove compartment and its sealed, making it water- and dust-resistant.
Waze Navigation App
If you have a new car, you probably have Android Auto or Apple CarPlay installed. If not, consider doing so – it’s a game-changer! I leverage CarPlay in my vehicle for messaging, streaming music, and the Waze navigation app. The Waze navigation app is free to download and easy to use. What’s great about it is not only will you get detailed and easy-to-follow turn-by-turn directions to any destination, including multiple route options, you will also get real-time updates on things like traffic backups and police. Waze uses its crowdsourced network of subscribers to keep the app constantly updated so it can redirect you if there’s an accident on the highway, or help you get to a destination quicker using back roads.