Because you HAVE to know where you're going or where you shouldn't be going. The Tom Tom and Garmin type units are great because if you miss your turn, it will let you know how to get back on route. Mobile GPS is great as you can check traffic updates for the area you're driving through.
Let's hear it for not having to fight those paper maps in the car that you can never fold up the way they were meant to be!!
GPS also rocks as you can search for food, gas, and rest stops to see how far away you are.
Some may think this isn't necessary, but for my road trips, it's definitely number 2 and could almost be listed as number 1! 14 hours on the road seems like nothing when you're singing along to Janet Jackson, The Beatles, and Carrie Underwood.
You can also load audio books and podcasts onto your iPod if you're not a music freak like I am. Heck, what better time to learn a new language then on your drive through Utah?
iPods come in different sizes, so there is sure to be one to work for you! Just make sure you have an adaptor for your radio. If you have a tape deck, they make ones that plug in to the iPod to play through your speakers. If you have a newer vehicle or radio in your car, you may have an aux output on the front, then you just need the cable to connect from iPod to front of radio. Think "male parts" on each end. :) You can even buy a wireless radio transmitter, though that gets tricky on a road trip as you have to find a dead radio station in each city to use. Be forewarned!
There's a reason they are called SMARTphones. Cell phones such as iPhone and Blackberry are amazing and do sooo much when on the go. You can download apps to either to use on your trip. For instance, the Google Maps app is free and has been great to use across the U.S. (This is what we use as our GPS option. Most new Smartphones are GPS enabled, but some are not. Make sure to check before you get on the road!) Smartphones also allow you to take photos, play music, check email, and of course, make phone calls to AAA or your local mechanic when you need them!
Apps to think about using for your next trip are Compass, Weather, Trailguru (tracks trip info, like mileage), Yelp (for searching everything you can imagine in the city you're in), Where (find what's near you--like zipcar, banks, etc.) and Tripit.
Even better---make sure you can connect to the internet while in your car. Get a wireless car which connects you to the interwebz on the road! crazy!!! There is usually a cost for the wireless card as well as a usage plan, similar to a cell phone. Also, you may have to sign a contract for a wireless card, so check that out before purchasing.
Eye-fi is a media card you put into your camera which allows you to upload your photos wirelessly and effortlessly. Take photos and as soon as you are near your wifi network, it uploads to your computer. Amazing!
Flip Video cameras are amazing for capturing those things that are in the moment. You get a flat? Yes, it's super frustrating, but grab the flip and document it...then shake your booty on the side of the highway. You'll feel much better after you're done and you'll be able to look back and laugh at yourself and the crisis you didn't let get to you.
Flips are basically 2 buttons, the power button and the record button. So easy my Grandma can do it. Once you plug it into your USB on your computer, you hit the record button to upload and well...that's all there is to it. Easy cheesy!
Nowadays, blogs are being used to capture everything and are super easy to update from your phone. Check out Tumblr and Wordpress. You can upload photos and other things via email an they automagically post to your blog. Best part--it's free and your friends can follow along with your adventures!
iOKi supplements #2, the iPod. If you want to really rock in your car, download the iOKi app to get a true Karaoke machine in your hands. Probably best if you save the Karaoke for the passengers as the driver should always keep their eyes on the road. ;)
You know how it is when you have songs that remind you of those special times? Midomi allows you identify those songs and bookmark them or share them via Twitter, Facebook or Email so you can reference them later. Download Midomi at http://midomi.com/iphone
What a great geek gadget. Toss these in the windshield area during the day to power them up and you're ready to go when things go bump in the night. Perfect if you're staying at campsites or KOA stops and even if you're not, you'll want something in case you have to stop at night.
With all of the gadgets, don't forget to bring along a power strip. Even if you're staying in a hotel or at a friend's house, power outlets are usually hard to come by. Save yourself worries by making sure you have one of these and you can power up 6-10 gadgets at one time for your next time on the road.