Helloooooooo everybody! I felt it was time for me to go ahead and let you know what sort of things I am doing to make the vehicle more comfortable for everybody on the trip.
First off, a little about the car. It is a 2008 Suzuki SX4 Sedan. If you aren’t familiar with the car, I’ll describe it as a “small car”. One of the Marines that works for me likes to describe it as an egg on wheels. Regardless of how you to describe my car, Putting two adults and a car seat is going to take up a majority of the room on the inside, and I had to find a way to make it more comfortable to everybody. Luckily, the things I did were simple and for the most part, cheap.
The first thing was something that I had actually done years ago and wasn’t done specifically for the trip, and that was changing the stock CD player with a DVD/GPS multimedia head unit purchased from China. It was very easy to install and looks like a stock unit from the manufacturer. The GPS isn’t the best, but is passable. The real selling point of the unit to me is the Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming and phone calls, and the DVD player for watching movies while on the go. There are several sellers of this item at Alibaba.com, but mine can be found here.($360)
Specifically for the trip however, I made some simple additions to the car. The first thing I did was replace the “oh shit” handles in the front of the car with flip down, clamshell sunglasses holders. These provide an easy place to place your glasses besides the top of your head or on top of the visors. Installation consisted of just popping two clips on each one, and pulling the handles off the car. Install time was less than 5 minutes. Purchased from eBay at $19.60
Next was the installation of a armrest/console. The front seats came with no center armrests, so I purchased one myself giving us an armrest and much needed storage space for the trip. Installation consisted of screwing four screws through the console to the existing centerpiece. Installation was 10 minutes, and that was because the four screws were in a difficult location that was pissing me off. At a cost of $55.99, it isn’t the cheapest of the mods, and not the easiest, but definitely improves the look and provides much needed storage space.
Allison has lately developed a bit of motion sickness when using her iPad in the car, which is made worse by the constant looking down at the device while we are driving. To help with this, I installed a GripDaddy v2ARM iPad Headrest Mount. This ingenious device attaches to the metal pegs on the headrest and allows the iPad or other tablet device to be mounted behind the seat, or it can be extended out towards the center of the car to allow more people in the back seat to watch. This means that Allison won’t have to be looking down while we are driving, so it could cut back on the motion sickness she is developing. Or at least we hope so, because if not, it will be a long trip. But at the cost of $59.95, it is a much needed, and very easy to install mod that is good for not only the long trip, but the short ones as well.
Even though my new stereo has a built in GPS unit, nothing has ever performed as well as my Garmin. So, I went back and installed my Garmin 1490T GPS, which includes traffic updates while you are driving. I made sure to get it up to date first because there is no use in using a GPS if you aren’t going to keep the maps up to date. Roads change, so you have to stay on top of those changes. The last thing I want to happen is to get lost on some abandoned section of Route 66. One of the great little things of my little car is that there are small windows towards the front of the car, which makes a great place to mount the GPS out of the way. I also took an extra 10 minutes to route the power cable through the bottom of the dash to keep it out of the way and look cleaner. This is several years old and has been discontinued, but can be purchased on Amazon for $179.00.
To power the GPS, and to make sure I can still charge the two cell phones that will be in the car, I got a 3/1 splitter for the one 12V car plug in the vehicle, and then mounted it with two-sided tape to keep in place. Simple to do, and will be beneficial for the entire trip. I’ve had mine for a while, but I recommend you take some time to find one that will meet your needs, and also a location to place it out of the way. You will want to be able to either mount it somewhere out of the way where the cords can be hidden but the ports still accessible, or some place where you can tuck the cords out of site. Nothing will drive you crazy more than having cords all over your dash, making things messy.
For keeping the cell phone hands free when driving, I use a nifty little device from Mountek called the nGroove Snap. It is a small mount that slides into the slot of your CD player, and then you turn a small thumb screw that puts pressure on the slot , locking the mount in place. It also comes with several thin metal plates that you can stick to the inside of your phone case. The metal plates interact with magnets that are on nGroove Snap holding the phone in place. I’m not sure how powerful the magnets are, but while using my Google Nexus 5 in a case, with no metal plates, it tends to hold it in place through all but the most dramatic of bumps. I originally picked up mine during their Indiegogo campaign, but you can now purchase directly from their website for $24.95.
Last, but not least that I installed, was a set of Disney Princess blinds for the back seat, to help keep the sun off of Allison and hopefully keep her a little more comfy for the trip. Cheap and easy to install. These were $15.99 for two at Amazon and are very simple to install and come with different characters and designs on them to keep your little one happy on their travels.
All told, It probably took somewhere around 30-40 minutes to install everything, not including stereo, and hopefully, it will make our 5000+ mile trip much more comfortable for everybody involved. But I’m sure some of you have things that you do to make these more comfortable in your car, so let me know what you do and how it helps.