Christmas is a time for family, presents, song, great food and, erm, lots of long car journeys.
But if you’re not looking forward to the latter, then I’m here to help.
This guide to the Top 10 driving gizmos, apps and websites will not only mean you get from A to B more quickly over the festive period – it will help alleviate some of the backseat boredom too!
I’m just sorry someone hasn’t invented a mute button for the inevitable cries of “are we nearly there yet?”
A good sat nav is an essential starting point for any journey these days. Even if it’s a route you’ve travelled a million time before, you never know when you might need a traffic update or handy shortcut. This large-screen TomTom is my personal pick because it’s just so user-friendly. How easy is it to operate? Well, even my technophobe dad has mastered it.
Fancy something different? Then check out our full satellite navigation Buying Guide.
Sat Nav software updates
Whichever brand of sat nav you pick – TomTom, Garmin or the cheaper Binatone alternative – it’s important you head to the manufacturer’s website first to download the latest firmware and software updates. That’s fancy speak for plugging the device into your computer and putting all the latest maps and routes on it.
So now you know where you’re going, but what if you fancy a nice meal along the way. And when we say nice, we don’t mean a fast food overload at an overpriced service station. This app – which is available on Apple and Android smartphones – uses GPS to find your current location and will recommend good restaurants in the vicinity, along with user reviews.
‘Oh the weather outside is frightful’ may be the opening to a classic Christmas song, but it’s the last thing you want to hear before setting off on a long journey. This BlackBerry app is another that pinpoints your exact location, whether at home or on the move, but this time so it can give you weather updates in order to plan your journey times and avoid the worst of it. There’s even a handy feature so that you can BBM the results to friends and family.
Running out of mobile battery is one of life’s major annoyances – which is why you should permanently keep this gizmo in your glove box. It plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter or charging port and has various interchangeable tips that suit all devices from Apple, Nokia, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung, BlackBerry and anything that charges via Micro or Mini USB.
Do you have kids in the back of the car you need to keep quiet? Then a new Nintendo 3DS will easily do the trick. With games to suit all ages – from Nintendogs to Pokémon to Pro Evolution Soccer – you won’t hear a peep out of them for hours. And, as an added bonus, it will keep them quiet at home too!
Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 2
With a Nintendo 3DS coming it at around £150 pounds, it may be a bit of an extravagant purchase for a 60-minute journey to Grandma’s house. As an alternative there are thousands of cheap games available for the iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, including the latest from Crash Bandicoot. This driving game currently rivals Angry Birds as the best-selling in the App Store and it’s not hard to see why. Fun, addictive and only £1.99 – you can’t go wrong.
If you’ve got older teenage kids then your main worry is not about them getting bored when you’re driving – but when they need to drive on the icy roads themselves. This app will help keep their eyes, and minds, on the wheel by disabling texting and email on a smartphone whenever the car is on the move. Now someone just needs to invent an app to stop handbrake turns…
What’s the safe stopping distance for a car travelling on a motorway at 70mph? When should you use your front frog lights? In which situations should you never reverse? Whether you’ve a theory test coming up in time for Christmas, or just need to bone up on your knowledge, this is another good app to keep as you safe as possible this winter. Its anti-drink driving messages and stats are also very apt, given the temptations over Xmas and New Year.
Even with the nine top tips above, some people still won’t fancy that long winter drive. The train may be your best alternative and this website provides all the timetable and service information you’ll need as well as advance ticket prices that could save you more than £100!