I’m planning a summer vacation. Yet it is with some trepidation and a healthy dose of courage that my husband and I undertake a journey that involves sharing a car, train, and hotel with a pair of teenagers who can go from delightfully entertaining to possessed by snarling demons faster than Wild Bill Hickok could slay an evil cowboy. As prevention against the rise of these demons, I pack a bag of travel entertainment gear as carefully for these nigh adults as I did when they were squabbling toddlers. The contents of that bag has changed drastically over the years. But the back-seat squabbling remains surprisingly unchanged.
Beats by Dr. Dre Solo
When these headphones arrived at my house, I handed them to 16-year-old Cole. I’d noticed in my travels that young men wear these as much as a fashion statement as a way to listen to tunes. And, by way of a social experiment, I wanted to see how he would react to them. He gave me a look of deep appreciation, gave a friend a look that said, “I told you my Mom was cool,” and put them on. He has yet to take them off. I don’t think it’s entirely about fashion. He says they sound better than any (we have tried quite a few around here) headset he’s ever worn. But he has thanked me at least a dozen times for making him so cool. For my part, they make the arguments between him and his sister go away. He even helped me supervise her math homework wearing them. He calmly explained the math and didn’t listen to anything she said. That doesn’t sound like it would work. But the math got done without any arguments. I don’t have to pack these, he will. I’m just saying. They come with us. HP.com, $199
HMDX Jam Party
When contented silence has been achieved by way of electronics and headphones in the back seat, my husband and I like to listen to an audio book to make the miles driven fly by faster. Our rental car doesn’t always let us listen through our phones, though. And that’s where we keep our library of books downloaded from Audible.com. So a portable Bluetooth speaker goes in my travel bag as well. This one is easy to use, easy to carry (with its cute pop-up handle), holds a charge for 12 hours, and comes in vibrant colors that make it easy to find in that bag. When we get to our destination, it’s versatile enough to bring tunes to the hotel room, or play the audio for a movie running on a tablet. We could even be “those people” at the hotel pool if the mood to party takes us. HMDXaudio.com, $119
My kids grew up on technology. So it surprises me that they aren’t better at keeping it charged. No worries, though. I have taken to always sporting a battery charger because – especially when I’m traveling -- I rely on my smart phone. And it’s always when I need it most at the end of a long day, that it decides to start demanding a charge. So I am a huge fan of the in-purse backup battery. At the moment, I am sporting this adorable iGO Power Trip 4700 in my favorite color: purple. When a teen laments a dead gadget, I hand it to her. She can charge at breakfast and it will still have power for me later in the day. iGo.com, $60
The Hub 6000
The iGo will charge a teen’s phone and still have plenty of power left over for mine later. But if everyone’s gadget dies at the same time, having only one battery charger will cause my young demons to start snarling “I want it!” at each other. So my travel bag also has one of these super-powered, multi-gadget chargers in it. It will charge my daughter’s phone and my son’s (Lightening) iPod at the same time. It will even simultaneously keep a third device powered and mobile if someone (that would be me) was clever enough to bring a compatible USB cable along as well. (Yes, I do have a cable bag with every possible device cable in it. Does the mother of an infant have baby wipes?) MyCharge.com, $99
My kids have data plans on their phones. But on a long trip, they will burn through their cheap-o data plans in an hour. One of these, plus a month-to-month data plan that I turn on for trips, will buy me much more connected quiet time. It’s touch screen makes it easy to connect and see what’s going on with the data connection. Apparently taking a road trip with teens in the year 2013 requires IT support.
AT&T.com, $169 without a plan