With the cold winter behind us and school finished for the year, it’s time to start thinking about getting our cars, trucks and SUVs ready for our summer road trip or vacation. Whether you have toddlers or teens, keeping everyone in the vehicle entertained during the drive will make the entire adventure much more enjoyable. Let’s take a look at some of the options available to keep your passengers happy as you rack up the miles this summer.
Rear Seat Entertainment Solutions
The classic road trip upgrade would be to have an overhead monitor or headrest monitors installed so your passengers can watch movies while you drive. The latest in a rear seat video solution is more of a computer than a TV screen connected to a DVD player. Many systems have video games built in and include wireless controllers. The games are not quite on the level of Fortnight or Minecraft, but they are still entertaining.
The majority of the headrest video systems available can be linked together so one unit can play a DVD on both screens. If you choose units that both include DVD players, make sure the headphones have at least two audio channels so passengers can listen to different soundtracks.
Another feature found on many new rear seat video systems is an HMDI input that is compatible with streaming solutions like Chromecast, Roku and Amazon’s Fire TV. If you have Internet connectivity, your options for entertainment are nearly unlimited. You can also connect a laptop or video game system to the screens. If you need a 120 VAC power inverter to keep that laptop charged or game system going, those are easy additions.
Headrest or Overhead Monitor Selection
There is no specific benefit or drawback to choosing an overhead monitor versus headrest monitors. Of course, with the overhead, everyone will have to watch the same programming. If the ages or interests of your passengers vary, though, this might not be the best choice. A large overhead monitor also can block the view from the rearview mirror when it’s folded down. Finally, in most applications, installing an overhead monitor requires permanent modification to the roof liner of the vehicle. If you leased your car or truck, you probably want to return the vehicle with the video system in place.
If you choose to go with replacement headrest monitors, make sure the units you choose are compliant with vehicle safety standards. Your headrests are fundamental components in preventing neck injuries if you have an accident. Your local specialist mobile enhancement retailer can help ensure the products you choose will keep you safe. Another consideration is that a headrest monitor is much easier to remove from a vehicle at the end of a lease than an overhead one.
Mobile Internet Connectivity
There are many ways to provide Internet access while on the road. We all seem to have cellphones with gigabytes of data access each month. Many smartphones will accept Wi-Fi connections from other devices, but if you happen to step away from the vehicle, the show stops. One solution is to have a mobile hotspot installed in your vehicle. Verizon, AT&T and Boost Mobile in the U.S. and Telus, Rogers and Bell in Canada offer portable solutions that work just like a wireless router in your home. Your kids can pair their tablets or computers to stream content to a video screen or play games with their friends over a high-speed 4G LTE connection.
Keep Your Smart Devices Charged
If you are using your phone for navigation, your better half is posting on Facebook and the kids are building landscapes in Minecraft, you will need a way to keep all of those devices charged up while on the road. There are numerous options for adding USB charging ports anywhere in the vehicle. Having a few high-current USB ports for your rear seat passengers negates the need to keep battery packs charged up and can tidy up a lot of wiring clutter. Your installer can wire the USB power ports to the vehicle ignition switch so there is no chance of the devices draining your car battery when the vehicle engine isn’t running.
Travel Safely and Efficiently
If you don’t have a navigation system built into your vehicle, you may want to consider one. Unlike the days of old, when maps from the auto club where the only way to help you get to your destination, modern navigation system provide detailed turn-by-turn directions. If you happen to veer off-course for a little sightseeing or make a wrong turn, the navigation system will update the route almost instantly to get you back on track.
In considering a navigation solution, there are two options. You can opt for a standalone solution like a Garmin, TomTom or Magellan product that sticks to your dash or windshield. While these solutions are reasonably priced, they add clutter to the vehicle’s interior and are dangerous in the event of an accident. The alternative is to upgrade your factory radio with a multimedia receiver with built-in navigation. Not only is the installation much tidier, but these advanced infotainment solutions also offer a lot more than just navigation.
If you are shopping for a new multimedia receiver, you will want to look at a solution that includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. These smartphone integration technologies work with the Google or Apple voice recognition system built into your smartphone to allow you to perform commands by talking to the radio. You can make phone calls, listen to incoming text messages, and dictate a response or check your voicemail. Both systems also include navigation systems that monitor traffic flow in real time to ensure you have the most-efficient route. Google and Apple are constantly updating their map data, so you’ll never need to buy a map update again.
If you happen to enjoy listening to podcasts or audiobooks, a multitude of apps for either platform will keep you entertained and informed.
A side benefit of an aftermarket source unit is that you can play digital media files and have built-in hands-free Bluetooth calling. Many source units offer multi-zone functionality that allows you to send video from the DVD mechanism to the monitor for the rear seat passengers. There are hundreds of options for source units, so drop by your local car audio specialist retailer and try some out on their display boards.
SiriusXM Satellite Radio
Although it may seem intuitive to those who already enjoy SiriusXM, satellite radio is a great source of entertainment while you drive. Unlike terrestrial radio that has a range of about 30 to 40 miles, SiriusXM uses a group of five satellites to broadcast directly to receivers all over North America. You can listen to the same broadcast in British Columbia, California, Newfoundland or Florida.
SiriusXM serves up more than 50 genre-specific music channels so you can home in on the music you like. Country, Alternative, Classic Rock, Rap and many more channels are there for your selection. There are also news, sports, comedy and religion channels to keep you informed and entertained. If it suits your fancy, the infamous Howard Stern is alive and well, broadcasting on SiriusXM Channel 100.
Adding satellite radio to your car, truck or SUV is easy, and several transportable solutions or products will integrate with a factory-installed or aftermarket radio.
Cruise in Style with Aftermarket Accessories
Most mobile electronic retailers can help you out with automotive lighting upgrades to make driving at night safer. A quality LED or HID bulb upgrade in the factory lighting system can make a world of difference. If you are looking for fog or driving lights, or maybe a reading light for the kids in the back, they can help with those as well.
If your car didn’t come with cruise control, an aftermarket system can be added relatively easily. Companies like Rostra offer kits for drive-by-wire and cable-controlled accelerator pedal configurations. If you have a Chevy Aveo, Pontiac Wave, Scion xA or xB, Hyundai Accent, Kia Rio, Ford Focus, Honda Civic, or Dodge Ram, cruise control kits for these and many more applications will make crossing the countryside much more enjoyable.
Get Road Trip-ready
Before you pack your bags, drop by your local mobile enhancement specialist retailer and talk to them about the entertainment and convenience options they have available to make your next adventure a lot more fun.