Our Essential Travel Tech Gear and How to Save On It

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Our family's essential gadgets for road trips, along with tips on how to get them without going broke.

Road trip season is so close I can smell it.  I know of at least one that we’ll be taking.  It’s pretty major, and I’m pretty excited.  But I’ll get into that in another post.  Hopefully there will be some spur of the moment trips, too.  And we’ll probably make it to Upstate NY at least a couple times.

Things have changed for us since the days we were childless, though.  While we used to just be able to pack up a few essentials and hit the road, now we have to do things like plan, wash, and prepare.  A major thing that’s helping make this process a whole lot easier is technology.  We have three essentials in our travel tech gear arsenal that usually make for exciting trips, but not-so-exciting car rides.  (Which is a good thing when you have toddlers, believe it or not.)

1. A Simple Wire

A little while ago, we had to get a new-to-us car.  It’s not the latest model year, but it is less ancient than the vehicle that was its predecessor.  I discovered an audio jack in this car.  I found out I could hook my phone up to it.

I entered the twenty-first century.

Soon thereafter I figured out I could create free playlists on YouTube.  And then hook my phone up to my car.  And listen to whatever music I wanted to for free.  While the husband is still hanging on to some CDs, most of them are scratched up anyways.  And I don’t have time to burn mixes.

So you know we’ve got some cruising music for when the kiddos are passed out.  And a separate Yo Gabba Gabba playlist for when the exact opposite happens.

We were able to get the wire for $6.  Best investment ever, and so far I’ve only used it for my commute.  Road trip, here we come.

2.  iPads

Seriously.  Games.  Books.  Everything I had for entertainment when I was a kid in one device.  Less bags need to be packed.  Less, “Are we there yets?”  Less cleaning up the car after we’ve actually arrived.

But iPads are ridiculously expensive.  To save money on them, the best deals I’ve been able to find are on used ones via sites like Craigslist.  (For my Australian readers, you can do the same thing by getting an iPad from Gumtree.  You can also get other travel tech gear there such as cameras and unlocked phones.)  There are a couple of things to take into consideration before buying one used, though.  Things like:

  • Is the warranty still good on it?  If it is, there’s a justification to higher prices.  Ask the seller for the serial number before you agree to purchase so you can call up Apple and check.
  • Is it WiFi only or WiFi plus Cellular?  If it’s WiFi only, it’s going to be cheaper, but you’re going to have a hard time using it on road trips.  Also, if it’s used, you want to check to make sure you’ll be able to make it compatible with whichever service you’re going to be using to provide internet access.  It gets a little more complicated once it’s been established by the initial user.
  • Is activation lock on?  Now that iOS7 is out, you can keep thieves from wiping and reactivating your iPad, which makes it untrackable.  That’s good for theft-protection, but bad for the second owner of a used iPad.  Before you purchase, check to make sure its activation lock is turned off.  This is much easier done before purchase is made.  Then you can wipe and reactivate so the device will truly be yours, and the previous owner won’t be stalking you.

3.  Dork Machines

That’s what my husband loving calls my GPS device.  We’ve used it to go geocaching all around the country.  I purchased it before you could get the fancy app on your cell phone, but essentially what it does is allow you to plug in coordinates and go on a treasure hunt.  You find a “cache” in the middle of nature (though there are urban caches) and then trade treasures (think McDonald’s toy quality) inside.  You can read more about the sport here.

If you don’t already have a GPS device, downloading the app is both cheaper and more user friendly.  It runs you $10, and brings up nearby caches no matter where you are, updating as you travel.  It’s great for stretching your legs along the journey, or discovering new, off-the-beaten path locations once you’re at your destination.


What are your travel tech gear musts?  Are you heading anywhere soon?



*This post is in collaboration with Gumtree Australia.*

7 thoughts on “Our Essential Travel Tech Gear and How to Save On It

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Haha for a long while 2005 was as far as I went. The kiddos are forcing me to catch up! It’s kind of exciting when I get the hang of these new things.

  1. Our Next Life

    Great tips! We also love our $35 Jackery backup power source. Saves you if you’re camping or traveling and can’t plug in your devices. (We pair ours with a GoalZero Nomad solar charger and can go indefinitely without a plug, and still have juice to instagram and blog.)

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      These are awesome tips! We’re planning on getting back into camping for the first time since we’ve had kids, so I’ll definitely have to look into these as an investment this summer.

  2. Prudence Debtfree

    Like Kay, I’m pretty low tech, but I do think that the GPS is a wonderful invention – except for when I’m trying to make my way around a new suburb. Not always so helpful then. Your post made me realize that when it comes to travel, I’m far to reliant upon my husband to take care of the details. I hope that you enjoy your road trips : )

    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Ha, the GPS system in Pittsburgh can get wonky sometimes for directions. We have a lot of city steps that are labelled as streets legally. Nothing like Google telling you to drive down a stairwell! And thank you!


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