Why Didn't We Come Up with These Creative Inventions for Life on the Road?
During the pandemic, we've spent way more time indoors than we would have liked. Now that we're eyeing the open road again, many of us will find our travel expectations have been slightly altered. Conditioned to expect the comforts of home and newly alert to the stresses caused by hygiene and anxiety, many of us are seeking new ways to get moving again. With these affordable gadgets, we can make our cars our new home base, leave germs on the subway, and sleep like a rock in the noisiest hotels.
Pictured above: KoalaGrip
Never touch another subway pole again. Carry the Canada-made KoalaGrip wherever you go—it can clip to your day bag with a carabiner—and when you hop on a subway or bus, this simple device twists into place to provide you with a personal handle that only you have touched. It also gives you a few extra inches where you might need them, such as for grasping overhead safety bars.
We would rather not admit how many meals we've eaten in our cars during recent road trips. But if we had a Cutequeen car tray, we'd be showing it off at every drive-through. The simple, slotted design uses the angle of your steering wheel to support a mini table, which in turn can be used for everything from dining à la voiture to typing on a laptop. No, you can't drive while the tray is in place—don't you have any class?
All kinds of loose items can tumble into the narrow crevasse beside a car's front seat. A good many of them—orphaned french fries, errant squiggles of shredded lettuce, and renegade burrito fillings—might reveal a little too much about our occasionally lax on-the-go dining habits. So let's pretend we use Drop Stop to avoid losing smartphones and important papers down there. The guys who invented this thing (which comes in sets of two and is easily wiped clean) scored a deal on Shark Tank for this simplest of concepts.
After purchasing one of these Auesny waterproof car trash cans, you'll suddenly realize the degree to which your car had previously served as a mobile storage unit for out-of-date parking receipts, food wrappers, and other litter. This handy can will strap to a variety of interior features (on seats, off the console, and more), and the rubber flaps that cover the opening will ensure you don't have to stare at or smell whatever you drop inside. When empty of trash, the leak-proof interior lining can double as a drinks cooler.
Checking into a hotel for the first time after so many months of spending every night in your own bed, you might discover you're now a lighter sleeper than before. But these souped-up earplugs make you feel as if you're miles away from the nearest human being. Bose's Sleepbuds II successfully mask nearly all ambient sound, and to ensure no noises disturb your slumber, they play your choice of 35 free relaxing and seamless sonic streams (including rainfall, white noise, and the gentle lap of the seashore). Program a wake-up time on the app that syncs to your phone to be gently roused by soothing chimes. The buds will last the night but must be charged before each use. We've tried them out, and each time we slept solidly.
As long as we're so desperate to get moving that we're essentially changing our permanent addresses to our cars, why not get a refrigerator for the road? The American-made Cooluli mini fridge, which weighs just four pounds empty, was a big hit in our 2020 holiday gift guide. And with good reason: Simply by plugging into your car, the portable icebox can cool contents to 40 degrees Fahrenheit under the ambient temperature. (Or, if you'd prefer, the warming function can heat stuff up to 149 degrees.) Soon, pulling cold ones from a fridge in your car will be considered as all-American as using your steering wheel as a dining table in the Taco Bell parking lot or dropping french fries under the seat for posterity to find.