Kick Your Road Trip Into High Gear With These Last-Minute Gadget Essentials

Plaid sweaters, tan boots with red laces, and knit beanies are the things great fall road trip photos are made of. But to be able to take those photos and fully enjoy the experience, you'll need some tech essentials first.

While many newer cars come packed with every tech upgrade imaginable — charging ports at every seat, 360 cameras, and WiFi — your friend's car or the one you rent might not. In that case, it's worth investing in a few key accessories that you can take from one rental to another for all your year's road tripping adventures.

One thing that's worth thinking about as you look at rental cars: If you don't drive a lot, you may want to look at cars with parking assist tools, suggests Ryan Gillenwater, Ford's Expedition Marketing Manager. That way, you'll have the help you need without having to worry about unwanted scratches or bumps.

Ahead, seven essentials to consider buying before you hop in the car and head off in search of fall foliage.

This is a given, but if you're using your phone as your GPS, you want it where you can see it. The easiest option is to put a holder on one of the car's air vents. Mophie's vent mount is magnetized (you'll need to invest in the brand's wireless battery case, too), and will charge your phone while you get directions. If you're looking for a non-charging option, try Moshi's smartphone car mount.

Mophie Charge Force Vent Mount, $59.95, available at Mophie.
If you're traveling with others, you'll probably need to figure out how everyone can charge up. Ankara's small car charger has two USB ports, so two people can plug in at a time. An LED light makes it easy to see the charger when you're driving at night.

Anker 24W Dual USB Car Charger, $8.59, available at Amazon.
Figuring out where the next rest stop, gas station, and Starbucks is located becomes much easier with the iExit app. On the app, you'll see how far you are from the next exit so you can decide whether to stop. The most useful feature, though, is the app's gas station tab, which will show you the prices at all upcoming stations. Use this, and you could save big on gas, which can easily turn into the most expensive part of a road trip.

iExit Interstate Exit Guide, free, available on the App Store and Google Play.
Hum by Verizon is one of the more expensive road trip essentials, but it's worth the investment if you plan to go on multiple road trips in the next two years. A one-time $29.99 equipment fee gets you a speaker to clip on your visor and an on-board diagnostics reader to plug into the compatible port.

Connect the devices to the app and you'll get access to a mechanics hotline, maintenance reminders for oil changes, and car diagnostics. You'll have to pay an additional $20 activation fee and a monthly subscription fee you're locked into for 24 months, but the service gives you peace of mind should you run into any problems on the road.

You can also buy HumX, which comes with a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Verizon Hum+, $59.99, plus $10/month for 24 months, available at
Camping out? Find your path through the trees with this weather-resistant, rechargeable lantern. The built-in USB can charge your phone while you sleep beneath the stars.

Nite Ize Radiant 300 Rechargeable Lantern, $44.95, available at REI.
If your car doesn't come with built-in Bluetooth, this inexpensive transmitter makes it possible to connect for easy access to stream music or take a call. You'll be able to pair two devices at once, letting you easily switch off who is controlling the tunes at a time.

GOgroove FlexSMART X2 Bluetooth FM Transmitter, $33.58, available at Amazon.
If you're camping outside and want to stream a show or YouTube clip, consider buying a projector for your nighttime entertainment. There are plenty of pricier projectors with higher resolution picture quality, but if you don't want to spend a fortune, Vamvo's LED projector is an affordable Amazon user favorite.

Vamvo LED Projector 1080P 1200 Lumens Portable for Indoor Outdoor, $89.99 available at Amazon.
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