Cheap Tech Items for Car Trips

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By Peter Svensson -- AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Dreading long car trips this summer? Here are five inexpensive things to can help keep the peace in the car and make the journey more interesting:

POIFriend — Jazz up your GPS unit with lists of extra Points of Interest you can download for free from this Web site. For instance, you can load the locations of all the restaurants featured in the "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" show on the Food Network, and all U.S. Wal-Mart and Starbucks locations. It's a bit cumbersome — you have to download the files to your computer, then transfer them to the GPS unit either via cable or a memory card.

Price: Free.

FM transmitter — Stream music from your MP3 player to the car radio with this simple add-on. Sound quality is not as good as you'll get when connecting to the stereo with a wire, but in a rental car, you may not have an alternative. If there's a cassette deck, you can use a cassette adapter instead, for slightly better sound.

Price: $20-$30

iPhone and iPod Touch apps for toddlers — Distract a young child for a while with "Spawn," where firework-light streamers of light react to the user's touch. "Bubbles" lets you drag across the screen to create bubbles, then pop them with a touch. "Preschool Music" lets a toddler tap out tunes on the screen. Headphones might be in order to spare the rest of the car.

Price: $1 per app

Rechargable external battery pack — Cigarette-lighter adapters are a life-saver when it comes to keeping electronics running, but there's only one outlet for a family's dozen gadgets. Get a rechargable battery pack to power iPods, phones and game devices in the back seat. The crucial figure to look for is the pack's capacity, expressed in milliampere-hours. Some cheap ones have only 500 mAh capacity, half as much as the average cell-phone battery. Bigger ones have more than 3000 mAh, enough for three full charges of a cell phone.

Price: $15-$50


Fresh games for the Nintendo DS — "Pokemon Platinum" is the latest and well-reviewed installment of a long-running series that requires thought and strategy. "Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time" has a cooperative multiplayer mode, so siblings can settle their differences and work together to overcome the game, but each one will need a DS and a copy of the game.

Price: $35-40

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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