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Survive the drive! Great gear for kids (and you)

Dear parents: This one’s for you. According to the AAA, this upcoming Labor Day weekend will be part of the summer’s “Big Three” of summer travel weekends (July 4th and Memorial Day are the others). For many, therefore, this coming Labor Day represents the last big road trip opportunity of the summer. Experienced parents also know it means you’re almost certain to get stuck in traffic, listen to your kids go crazy in the backseat, and feel your blood rise to the bursting point …

OK, it may not be that bad, but with all the travel we do with the kids in the car, it’s nice to know that technology can deliver you to your destination and hopefully from family strife at the same time.

Here are some tech ideas that will help you (and your kids) survive the drive: Wireless music

  • i2i Stream: For some people, the i2i Stream may actually save lives. But it’s not a first-aid product or a seat belt. It’s a music sharing technology that keeps parents from having to turn around in the middle of the highway to whack their bickering kids.

  • Here's how it works: Billy attaches an i2i Stream to his iPod or MP3 player. Then Suzie, who could be within 30 feet of Billy, attaches an i2i device to her own headphones. Now, Billy’s i2i Stream will transmit music to Suzie’s i2i Stream and into her headphones —wirelessly. So if there’s only one iPod in the family, now two kids (or as many kids as you want, if you’re willing to purchase more i2i’s) can listen to a single iPod or MP3 player. Now if they could only agree on Miley Cyrus or Jonas Brothers. ()
  • If wires are the tangled bane of the backseat, it may be time for a Bluetooth device. Jaybird has come up with a way to connect your kids’ (or your) iPod or MP3 player to your headphones, wirelessly. Called the JB-200, this sweat- and water-resistant mobile headphone offers in-ear stereo sound (so it’s not bulky). The sound is enhanced by a technology that actually isolates the music from all other noises … including the complaining and whining coming from Billy in the backseat. Better yet, if you’ve hidden that iPod away from Billy’s view, you can still hear the music up to 30 feet away from the music player and (drumroll, please) you can control the iPod using buttons on the headset. Fun, simple, miraculous. ($199; )

Turn your car into a Wi-Fi hot spot

  • uconnect web, powered by Autonet Mobile: One of the most miraculous travel products out there will debut in the next few days: it’s called uconnect web, powered by Autonet Mobile. And while it sounds like a mouthful, it’s very simple: The little Autonet box turns your entire car (and the 100-foot radius around it) into a high-speed, Wi-Fi hot spot. That’s right, the same hot spot you’d find at Starbucks, only in this case it’s your car’s private hot spot. And you can connect as many Wi-Fi devices as you want to it at the same time. A couple of iPhones? Sure. Add a PSP game player for your kid? Absolutely. Mom’s Wi-Fi-enabled laptop? Yep.

  • Again, you and your family can connect as many Wi-Fi-enabled devices as you want. And while this is oversimplifying, the Autonet device basically translates any cell phone signal (95% of the country’s populated area is covered by at least one) into a Wi-Fi signal. The device will be sold and installed as a Mopar accessory exclusively at 3,700 Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep dealers around the country, but it is also available to anybody who wants to drive to one of those 3,700 dealerships in a non-Chrysler product (like Ford, Mini, BMW, etc.) and have one installed in their product. The device is $499, and the service costs $29 per month. No special software is required.

Taking your 62-inch TV in the car with you

  • The iWear AV920 by Vuzix is a pair of virtual reality glasses that perch on your nose like regular glasses, but with a key difference — when plugged into an iPod, a portable video game player or a portable DVD player, they trick your eyes and your brain into thinking you’re watching a 62-inch flat screen TV that is 9 feet away. Amazing and relaxing, it is perfect for long trips. The battery allows five hours of use. ($349; )

Make everybody be quiet for $2.95

  • Jelly belly: And finally, when all else fails, there is a low-tech but highly effective device sold in almost every convenience store in the United States that I can also recommend if peace has not yet come to the backseat: Jelly beans.

Paul Hochman is the gear and technology editor for the TODAY Show and a Fast Company magazine contributor. He covered the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Athens and Torino, Italy, for TODAY. He was also a three-year letter winner on the Dartmouth ski team and has a black belt in karate. Paul’s blog can be found at:

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