Are we there yet? When boredom sets in, these gadgets can offer some much-needed distraction.
Portability guide (from low to high)
High-tech treasure hunt
If the idea of a family hike doesn’t get your kids excited, ask if they’d like to go on a treasure hunt instead. The game is called geocaching, and it’s a great way to explore the outdoors. All you need is a GPS device that can accept longitude and latitude coordinates, such as Garmin’s eTrex Legend Cx.
To get started, log on to
and search for a cache in a location you plan to visit; the site will provide GPS coordinates that will help you locate the cache. Most caches are containers that hold an assortment of items (other types of caches reward you with an especially interesting vista or the answer to a riddle, for instance). Sound easy? Some caches are harder to find than others (the caches are rated for difficulty), and a few even have multiple waypoints and complex puzzles to solve along the way. The actual treasure may turn out to be mundane, but the experience is unique ($289;
Easy grip for tiny hands
I’ve used my iPod to entertain many a child on long car trips. But keeping the iPod screen at a good viewing angle for any length of time is challenging for little ones. The Tadpole, from iFrogz, is a silicone iPod case that has two large handles, making it much easier for kids to grip the iPod while watching Dora the Explorer ($20;
If your travels will place you behind the wheel of a rental car—one without a dock that connects to the stereo—you’ll want an easy-to-pack device for playing your iPod in the car. That device is DLO’s
). Compatible with all recent dock-connector iPods, as well as the first-generation iPod shuffle, the TransDock micro is a small FM transmitter that broadcasts your iPod’s audio to a car’s FM radio. Its signal is powerful enough to overcome weak-to-moderate competing FM signals, it powers your iPod via the card’s power receptacle, and it offers four programmable station presets ($60;
A number of companies have taken a crack at creating iPod cases with built-in speakers, but Portable Sound Laboratories is the first to really get it right, with the iMainGo. This sturdy black case contains a digital amplifier, two speakers, and an iPod compartment with a vinyl window that you can control your iPod through. Most important, the iMainGo sounds great for its size ($70;
Portable Sound Laboratories
TV to go
When I travel, I still have access to every television channel I pay for back home in Northern California, as well as the entire contents of my TiVo. It’s all thanks to Sling Media’s Slingbox, a small device that you attach to your cable or satellite box or your DVR. Once the Slingbox is set up, simply download the free SlingPlayer software (available for Macs, Windows PCs, and a couple of handheld devices) on your laptop, and you can see what’s playing back home, live. You can even use a virtual remote control to switch channels or control your DVR. Since I got my Slingbox, I’ve watched San Francisco Giants games in Chicago, viewed Battlestar Galactica episodes in Phoenix, and even accessed my NFL Sunday Ticket subscription in Los Angeles ($180;