The Fourth of July fireworks are over and Labor Day will be here before you know it. And since no one knows what the economy’s going to do, you might as well pack up the gang and hit the road.
The 10 accessories below can help keep you on track and, perhaps, provide a little fun along the way.
If you’re the sort who simply has to acknowledge incoming texts while driving, do the rest of us a favor and get yourself Motorola’s new H17txt with Motospeak ($100). Utilizing text-to-speech technology, this Bluetooth-enabled unit turns text messages into audio ones in real time. It can also send back an automated message saying you’ll reply when you’re able to and translate SMS acronyms right down to the last lol or c u l8r.
Despite what Luke Wilson and Paul Marcarelli (better known as “The Verizon Guy”) like to claim, dropped calls remain the bane of long-distance drivers. The Sleek Universal Cell Phone Signal Booster from Wilson Electronics ($91 at Amazon.com) is designed to solve the problem via an adjustable phone cradle/amplifier and external vehicle antenna. Together, the two will extend your phone’s signal range, increase its data rates and keep you in contact in the dead zones that the two spokes-dudes swear don’t exist.
Why get your GPS directions from some boring computer voice when you can get them from the Dark Lord of the Sith himself? Yes, Darth Vader has joined the roster of celebrity voices available for TomTom GPS devices ($13). C3PO’s on board, too, with Han Solo and Yoda set to debut this summer — which, of course, raises the possibility of getting advice like “At the next intersection, turn left you should.”
In a perfect world, lousy parkers would lose their driving privileges. But since that’s not the world we live in, Parking Tickets ($7) from Shinebox Print will have to suffice. Sold in booklets with 20 different quotes, the cards feature pithy suggestions for those that haven’t mastered the seemingly simple art of parking. Among the zingers: “Is your name Katrina? Because this parking job’s a disaster” and “Hope you’re better between the sheets than you are between the lines.”
Remember Gray Powell, the Apple employee who accidentally left that prototype iPhone 4G in a bar a few months ago? Too bad he didn’t have a Zomm ($80). Essentially a wireless leash, the Oreo-sized, Bluetooth-based unit beeps, flashes and vibrates anytime you and your phone get more than 30 feet apart. It also works as a speakerphone and panic button — and will surprise the heck out of the most brazen pickpocket.
Losing track of your phone is a drag. Losing track of your child? The scariest scenario imaginable. To avoid it, consider renting a SecuraPAL or Personal Automated Locator ($10/day, plus $20 set-up fee) for your next trip. Slip one into your little one’s pocket and it’ll provide an exact location and directions if he or she strays out of sight. It can also be customized with pre-set virtual boundaries — just the thing for visits to amusement parks, strange cities and foreign countries.
Quick! You need to jumpstart your car. Which cable goes on which terminal? You won’t have to guess anymore with Michelin’s Smart Jumper Cables, which feature LED indicator lights to confirm your connections are correct, surge protection to prevent electrical system damage and automatic polarity adjustment to minimize the risk of sparking and shorting. Designed to remain tangle-free, the 12-foot, 8-gauge cables are $27 at Amazon.com.
Bugs, blisters, bumps and bruises — the average summer road trip can be a rolling series of minor mishaps, which is why carrying a first-aid kit from Adventure Medical Kits is a good idea. The company offers several road-trip-appropriate kits, ranging from the compact Travel Medic ($10), which includes a variety of bandages, basic medicines and burn/blister products, to specialized kits for women, sportsmen and those concerned about dental emergencies.
Add some culinary complexity to your next car-camping trip with Coleman’s new Signature Series All-In-One Cooking System ($150). Equipped with a griddle, grill and six-quart stock pot, you can fry eggs and bacon in the morning, grill steaks or fish for dinner and slow-cook a pot of soup, stew or chili for tomorrow. It’ll run for four hours on a 16.4-ounce propane cylinder and fits into a handy carrying case for easy transport.
Finally, if you don’t have enough room in your rig for all your gear, consider a retro-sleek tear-drop camper from Silver Tears Campers. Offering an updated version of the 1940s classic camper, the company’s Woodie (around $18,000) features a 47” x 72” bed, custom cabinetry, interior and exterior lighting and a pop-up, open-air galley with sink, fresh-water tank and optional stainless steel gas stove. Pack it with your favorite gear, hitch it up and you can stay on the road ‘til Labor Day.
Rob Lovitt is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com. If you'd like to respond to one of his columns or suggest a story idea, .