Road trips offer great opportunities to unplug and explore new places, but unless you plan on carrying maps in your car, or finding gas stations on the fly, technology can really help. Whether you’re still getting acquainted with using different devices while on the road, or you’re always looking for the next car-compatible gadget, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind. These same comforts that we rely on daily can easily cause us trouble if we’re not prepared when on the road.
Don’t get stuck with dead electronics
Since this is a techie’s guide to road trips, there’s one rule that comes above all others: keep your electronics charged! There’s nothing worse than relying on your devices for communication, music, maps, entertainment, and then realizing they’re about to run out of battery.
So, before you get on the road, make sure that you have a car charger that is able to support at least two simultaneous devices, and that you carry appropriate usb connectors for your devices. If your GPS uses an old usb-mini plug, make sure that you have an extra cable for it, and instead of taking a micro usb 3.0 cable, stick with a plain micro usb cable, which will let you charge both usb 2.0 and 3.0 devices.
In addition, it’s always a good idea to carry an external storage battery. When choosing one, make sure that it has good reviews and holds the actual advertised capacity, and make sure that you remember to charge it! The cables that you’ve brought along for your car charger will work with your external battery, so there’s no need to double up on cables.
Make sure that your GPS has offline maps downloaded
Many of us take our cellular service for granted, but road trips are always a reminder that our phones have their limits. While your phone may receive service, you may find yourself in a roaming zone. This means that you’ll likely be able to make calls, but depending on your carrier and plan, your data may be severely limited, as in 50-100mb limited. Modern devices can chew through that data in no time, in particular if you’re streaming music. If you find yourself without data at all, your map application will simply display a blank screen, making it all but unusable for driving.
This can be avoided by downloading offline maps for the areas where you plan on driving through (Google Maps lets you easily select your region and download the offline map). Just make sure that you do this before you start your road trip so that you don’t get lost.
The downloaded maps (offline maps) will also have restaurants, gas stations, and other features that you can search for without being online.
Don’t let service signal interfere with your music
Chances are your trip will take you in and out of good service signals, which can be frustrating if you’re relying solely on a radio signal or streaming music from your phone. When you do hit areas where your radio and phone aren’t picking up any signal, you’ll wish you had downloaded some songs as a backup.
Some good options for downloading music are paid subscription services such as Spotify, or applications like Google Music which allow you to sync with your own digital library and download songs to your device.This is something that is best done while you’re still at home, with reliable WiFi. If your vehicle’s stereo system has a USB port then it’s even easier – just download your music library to a flash drive and plug that in.
Go hands-free during your trip
If your car has an integrated Bluetooth system, then you’re good to go. Otherwise, consider getting a Bluetooth headset, preferably one which has active noise canceling technology, so that you can talk on the phone without the noises of the road. Not only is hands-free calling a safe alternative, it’s also against the law in many jurisdictions to hold your phone while you drive. So, unless you’re planning on stopping on the side of the road for every call, Bluetooth headsets are a must.
Know when “there’s an app for that”
There’s a lot of apps that can help you find what you need when you’re in unfamiliar places. For instance, GasBuddy can lead you to the lowest gas prices in an area in the USA and Canada, while Findery can give you personal stories and information on places you want to explore. You can even plan your whole trip with the Roadtrippers app. Before you depart, look into what apps are available and what you think could be helpful.
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