Hardware

Holiday travel survival guide

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I traveled with my wife and 4 kids (ages 6 months to 10 years) to Memphis to visit relatives. The trip takes around 7 hours; however, it can seem much longer if the kids start asking "Are we there yet?" 2 hours in.

This year, I decided to travel with as many gadgets as possible to keep everyone happy (and quiet) for the full 7 hours. For most part, it worked very well. Other than getting a flat tire (read more about that here), it was a pretty easy trip.

Here is what I took:

Laptop

My 7 and 10 year olds are really into PC games, so I loaded up a laptop with several of their favorites. I also converted around 12 DVDs to DivX format (using DivX Converter) and loaded them onto the laptop. With a 15" screen, the laptop provides a better viewing experience than most portable DVD players. And by using DivX, I only used about 15GB of hard drive space to store the 12 movies. Plus, we didn't have to worry about keeping up with the discs in the car.

The only drawback was the audio. Laptop speakers don't crank out much power, so it was sometimes tough to hear the movie depending on where you were sitting. Next time, I'll pack a headphone splitter.

Power inverter

Because the laptop battery only lasts about 2-3 hours, I also packed a small power inverter so that we could plug the laptop in to charge it. It plugs into the car's cigarette lighter and provides about 150W of AC power. It also comes in handy for charging other devices like portable game systems and cellphones.

Two Nintendo DS Lites

Nintendo DS Lites offered more gaming options for my kids (and my wife). Having two allows you to play against each other on games like Mario Kart DS or the New Super Mario Bros even with only one game cartridge. We also brought the AC adapter so that we could charge them using the power inverter.

30GB 5G iPod

My iPod was probably the most used gadget on the trip. I used it to listen to music for the entire drive down to Memphis and back. And although we didn't try it, we could have played games like Phase on the iPod while broadcast the music through the car stereo.

Monster iCarPlay FM transmitter for iPod

In addition to allowing me to transmit my iPod through the car stereo, the Monster iCarPlay also keeps my iPod charged.

Targus laptop bag

I was able to pack everything in my Targus TCG200 laptop bag. I normally use it for my 17" laptop, so it provided plenty of room for a 15.4" laptop and all of the devices listed above. I was able to tuck the bag between the two front seats and have everything within easy reach.

Seven hours in the car is never easy; however, with a few gadgets, it was definitely more enjoyable for everyone.

So how do you pass the time on long trips and what gadgets do you take? Post a comment in the discussion and let us know.

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