Tech Spec: The (Not So) Dreaded Road Trip

Every school holiday means time to relax, unwind and probably spend with family. One of the most common ways that families, including my own, spend a break is to take a road trip. Just hearing the words “road trip” can make the strongest man shudder with fear. Going on a road trip with family means hours upon hours locked in a confined space with any combination of parents, siblings and relatives. The pain of road trips has pretty much become a thing of the past with the jump in mobile technology.

About ten years ago, my family decided to road trip to Texas to see some relatives. At that time, my sister was about 3-years-old, my brother was 12-years-old and I was 8-years-old. A day and a half of constant driving, while making as few stops as possible, was crazy.

Me 10 years ago, in the back row. Photo courtesy Courtland Jeffrey

Me 10 years ago, in the back row. Photo courtesy Courtland Jeffrey

Right before our departure, my parents told us to put items on our seats to keep ourselves entertained; I had just gotten a Pokémon game for my Gameboy Advance and knew what I would be doing. But after a few hours of playing it, my batteries died. My siblings ran into issues with their time-fillers and soon the monotony of driving on the empty highway set in. We bickered, muscles fell asleep, tensions wore thin very fast once we ran out of things to do.

When my parents told me that we, without my brother, were going on a road trip, I panicked. Our destination was San Francisco, which is a 12-hour drive away. I was going to have to spend 12 hours sitting next to a 13-year-old girl. Gulp.

As we packed the car to take off, I followed in tradition and put my knickknacks around my sitting area. What caught my attention was what I chose: my laptop, tablet, smartphone, headphones, pillow and my DS with Pokémon in it (it would not be the same if I did not bring Pokémon on a road trip). The advancements in technology over the past decade have made muscles falling asleep the worst part of road trips.

It used to be that you would have a couple items that just accomplished a couple actions, like a book for reading, a Gameboy to play a couple games or pens and paper for drawing. But with smart devices, all of these tasks and more are crammed into thin touchscreen devices. Yes, riding in a car for hours is worse when you and your siblings are younger, but keeping occupied in that time is a struggle nonetheless.

There are more differences that can play a role in the quality of a road trip other than just mobile technology, like the maturity of the occupants in the car, possibly a newer car with better seats, or the difference in distances.

But all forms of mobile technology have greatly improved the quality of a road trip. Having today’s mobile technology charged and with

Ten years later, today's mobile technology makes a long road trip nearly painless. Nearly. Photo courtesy Courtland Jeffrey

Ten years later, today’s mobile technology makes a long road trip nearly painless. Nearly. Photo courtesy Courtland Jeffrey

you in the car is a must because it has made road trips bearable and, if you have the resources available to you, pack a little more technology than you need so you can keep your car-mates occupied once they become bored and intolerable. (When my sister started to get antsy halfway there, she gained tablet movie privileges, giving the car a couple more hours of calm). Next time you take a road trip, plan accordingly and when you arrive at your destination, you can enjoy your time there.

If you have any comments or questions, email me at cejeffre@asu.edu and follow me on Twitter @Court_Jeffrey. Happy New Year!