The Gadgets You Need to Make Your Next Road Trip More Fun

road trip gadget story
Syda Productions/Shutterstock

There’s no quintessentially American summer activity quite like the classic road trip. And while everyone knows to pack a steady stream of snacks and to queue up some solid playlists to power through the long slog behind the wheel, there are a few other essentials you’ll be glad you’ve got with you when the conversation grows stale, you're stuck in traffic, cell coverage disappears out, or your beloved gadgets’ batteries begin dying.

Here are seven pieces of gear to bring with you next time you buckle up.

netgear around town

NetGear Around Town -- $60 (plus additional data costs)

If you’d rather not eat through your own data plan while streaming Netflix or Spotify, want to cruise the web from your laptop, or are headed outside your cell provider’s coverage area, this handy device creates a speedy 4G LTE mobile hotspot right inside your car, supporting up to 10 different connected devices simultaneously. It operates on a prepaid model, so you pay up front for the amount of data you want to use, and it will let you know via a built-in LCD screen when you’ve run out (and you can easily re-up if you’d like).

adjustable tablet headrest mount

iPad Headrest Mount - $25

As long as you’re not the one behind the wheel, it’s perfectly acceptable to be staring at a screen to pass the time on the highway. So, unless your ride was pimped by Xzibit and the back of all your headrests are already screens, consider installing a universal tablet mount and turn the backseat into a de facto theater where everyone can catch up on the latest and greatest streamable shows and TV shows.

Pocket Projector - $250

If your car’s ferrying a whole bunch of people and a single iPad screen isn’t big enough, you might be in the market for a portable mini projector. The RIF6 is a surprisingly powerful 2-inch cube capable of projecting a not-too-shabby display up to 120 inches, and as useful for casual outdoor screenings as it is for in-car bingeing.

It’s also equipped with HDMI and mini USB ports to easily hook up your favorite devices, comes with a sturdy mini tripod to position it just so (against the back of a seat, etc.), and can stream continuously for an hour-and-a-half before needing a recharge.

nintendo switch

Nintendo Switch -- $299 and up

For the gamers on board, stashing a Switch and a few games somewhere in back is a no-brainer. Roads, conversations, and even podcasts get boring, so it’s important to keep some solo entertainment on hand (and doubly so if you have a kid in tow).

4-port usb car charger

4-Port USB Charger -- $15

Rather than arm wrestle for dibs on the lone USB port to juice up your phone/tablet/pocket projector, plug this in to create a power strip for the crowd, enabling you to recharge up to four different devices simultaneously via the cigarette lighter adapter.

mophie spacestation

Mophie Spacestation -- $200

This hybrid backup battery/external hard drive has you covered on two fronts, packing enough power to charge up your phone three times over, and enough storage space to load up hours and hours of your favorite shows and movies, which you can then stream wherever you’d like without using a lick of data.

handpresso portable espresso machine

Handpresso Auto -- $178

There’s nothing worse than needing a pick-me-up (or a bathroom) when you’re miles and miles from anything resembling a rest stop. Here to save you in at least one of those scenario is this slick portable espresso machine, which is powered via a simple cigarette lighter adapter. A bit ridiculous? Only until you desperately need caffeine. Plug it in, pack with coffee, let it do its thing, and voila: fresh espresso for you and your car full of friends as you’re cruising down the open road.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.