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Gear that smooths the road for family travel

Some families love to simplify and unplug on their summer adventures. Other families, like ours, embrace new toys and welcome any device or doodad that makes life easier. These gadgets and gear can help make your journeys safer, more convenient, and more fun.

Whenever we go somewhere crowded — the beach, a festival, or a Red Sox game, for instance — we tattoo our kids using SafetyTats, temporary waterproof tattoos that go on quickly, stay put, and provide vital contact info in case we get separated. The Original SafetyTat tattoos can be customized online, stick to skin using water, and stay in place for up to three days. The Quick-Stick Write-On version comes blank so you can put grandma’s, the babysitter’s, or your own phone number — whatever works best for your outing. These tattoos go on without water, and last up to two weeks, so they’re ideal for longer adventures. We put them on shoulders or backs of arms so they’re visible to others, but not to our curious children. $10.99-$20.99 (6 or 18 tattoos). 866-468-5766, www.safetytat.com

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The clever Ride-On Carry-On works great for parents who don’t want to lug a stroller on their travels, or for the big boy or big girl who wants to walk along with mom and dad but can’t always cover the distance to the boarding gate, the rental car building, or the hotel on his or her own. This simple folding chair straps on to your 18- to 22-inch wheeled carry-on suitcase, and then turns into a sturdy seat for children up to 50 pounds, or approximately 8 months to 5 years old. It has a padded headrest for taller travelers that can be converted to a handy tray table. A waist strap help keeps your passenger in place. $49.95. 770-632-0907, www.rideoncarryon.com

Fuhu’s nabi 2 blows all other kids’ tablets away, offering fun, educational content that keeps growing minds active and entertained. The Android device comes preloaded with puzzles, word games, music, audiovisual books, drawing and science programs, and games like Fruit Ninja that help children practice their fine-motor skills. Snap photos with the built-in camera and then back them up to the nabi Cloud, or watch a movie and download apps by getting online. Use the Time Controls feature to monitor your child’s screen time, and set daily limits for use of the tablet or of a particular app. The easy-to-hold, indestructible device has a well-designed silicone case that bounces on impact and absorbs bumps, and a processor (quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3) that isn’t as fast as your 4G phone, but that boots up before the user loses interest. Accessorize with the 7800mAh rapid charger, tablet stand, and volume-limiting over-the-ear headphones, all made by nabi and sold separately. $179.99. 855-275-6224, www.nabitablet.com

Nabi tablet.

Nabi tablet.

Gone are the days when we can find a drive-in theater near our vacation spot. We have re-created our own big-screen experience on the side of our rental cottage, in our hotel room, and even on the ceiling at a relative’s house with the Miroir MP60 portable projector. This device easily connects to smartphones and tablets — we’ve used iPods, iPhones, and Android smartphones and tablets — using a variety of connectors, many included, and projects up to a 60-inch image onto a flat surface. It weighs about 8 ounces, measures a little less than 4-by-4 inches, and has a tripod mount. The 85-lumen LED pico projector is powered by Texas Instruments DLP technology. Its battery lasts up to 2 hours, but we attach an instant portable charger or plug it in when showing double features. $299.99. www.miroirusa.com

Miroir MP60.

Miroir MP60.

Toy Buddy Tether.

Toy Buddy Tether.

Little kids drop things — it’s part of developing those motor skills — but those things don’t have to end up on the ground, especially in places where the Three-Second Rule is best not followed. One Step Ahead’s Toy Buddy Tether will help keep your infant’s favorite items from hitting the floor. The simple yet ingenious gizmo has a suction cup at one end for affixing to a table, high chair, or the back of an airline seat, for instance, and then two rubber straps with loops on the other end to which you can attach two toys using plastic links. Swap out the suction cup strap with another strap that can attach to a stroller or car seat. $14.95. 888-557-3851, www.onestepahead.com

The smartphone-size JunoJUMPR can not only recharge your phone, tablet, or GPS, but it can also revive your car’s dead battery. The 6,000 mAh battery pack has enough juice to jumpstart any vehicle with up to a 3.5-liter or 6-cylinder engine. It also has a USB 5V 2.1A output for charging portable devices, a built-in flashlight, and a car charger so you can top up the device’s battery while driving. It weighs 7 ounces and measures about 5½-by-3-by-6 inches. The kit comes with a set of short jumper cables that plugs into the JunoJUMPR and then attaches to your car’s battery. (Caveat: It cannot jumpstart vehicles over 3.5 liters or with V8 engines.) $99.99. www.junopower.com

JunoJUMPR.

JunoJUMPR.

The Sphero 2.0 robotic ball pairs with your portable Apple, Android, and Windows devices through Bluetooth, and lets you play games on the go using more than 25 free apps. The waterproof smart toy, which measures a little larger than a baseball, can be used for handheld, tabletop, and floor games, and can even go in the pool. Navigate the glowing ball anywhere within a 100-foot radius, indoors or out, challenge other Sphero users to races and games of tag, use your smartphone or tablet to simulate a golf swing and shoot Sphero around your homemade course, or play games that test your memory and reflexes. Kids can also learn about math, science, and programming. The chirping robot travels up to 7 feet per second, glows any color you choose, and fits into a Nubby (sold separately), a flexible rubber sleeve that protects it during rugged adventures. $129.99. 303-502-9466, www.gosphero.com

Take the BubbleBum inflatable booster seat on your travels to help save valuable luggage space yet provide a safe and secure seat for your child. We’ve used ours in taxis, shuttles, and rental cars, or when we don’t want to lug a full-size car seat on a trip. The BubbleBum suits kids who weigh between 40 and 100 pounds, or about 4 to 11 years old. Inflate the seat, have your child sit on it, put the three-point seat belt in place; then attach the waist belt to the BubbleBum’s positioning straps, which keep the seat from slipping out in case of a quick stop. The BubbleBum weighs 1.2 pounds, has exceeded all crash-test ratings, and comes in black, purple, and two new funky psychedelic colors. $29.99. 800-969-6586, www.bubblebum.us

Bring your bikes on your summer adventure and keep them up high and out of the way using Thule’s new Sprint T-Tracks 569 carrier. This well-designed fork mount bike carrier attaches to your car’s aeroblade crossbars (the only compatible ones) quickly and without any tools, holds bikes with tires up to 3 inches wide, and has a lock for protecting your precious cargo. The best part: It comes with an easy-to-use torque knob that’s lets you secure the front of the bike without over-tightening it. This AcuTight knob also makes it a lot easier to release your bike when it’s time to play. $249.95. 800-238-2388, www.thule.com

Thule T-Tracks bike carrier.

Thule T-Tracks bike carrier.

If your kids can’t pedal their own bikes, or if you want to go for a longer outing with your little adventurers, get a Weehoo bike trailer. This tag along-style carrier has a comfortable, wide seat with a tall back, armrests for holding on, and a safety belt that keeps your passenger in place even if he or she drifts off. Kids can pedal along with you or let go without falling off so they can eat, sleep, daydream, and watch the world go by. The iGo Pro has one seat and two durable pannier-style bags; the iGo Venture stretches a foot longer (60 inches) to accommodate an extra cargo basket that’s perfect for storing picnic supplies and light overnight gear; and the iGo Two replaces the cargo basket with a second seat so you can bring a friend or younger sibling with you (only the front child has working pedals). The different models hold between 80 and 100 pounds. $399-$519. 866-297-6049, www.rideweehoo.com

Weehoo.

Weehoo.

Families that don’t need fancy computing capabilities while traveling, but rather a sturdy inexpensive laptop for watching movies and surfing the web, should consider HP’s new Chromebook 14. This no-frills 14-inch laptop includes, for the first two years after purchasing the device, 100 GB of free Google Drive cloud storage and 200MB of free 4G data on T-Mobile’s network per month (the laptop has a SIM card port). As an added perk, you get 12 free sessions of GoGo Inflight Internet (worth $192), a service offered on Alaska, United, Delta, and several other airlines. The laptop has just 16GB of internal storage, but it comes with two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot to access movies, music, and data on other portable drives and cards. $349. 888-999-4747, www.hp.com

Chromebook.

Chromebook.

JVC’s Everio Quad Proof camcorder comes ready for family adventure: Take it out in the rain or snorkeling down to 16.4 feet (it’s fully waterproof), bring it on your skiing or other cold-weather excursions (it functions down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit), let the kids shoot their own movies (it can withstand falls up to 4.9 feet), or take it on a long bike outing (the battery lasts 4½ hours). The rugged little high-definition camera has an adjustable LCD touchscreen and just two buttons for zooming and starting-stopping recording, so you can grab it and start shooting almost instantly. It also shoots 10-megapixel stills, and comes with Everio MediaBrowser 4 Software, a very easy-to-use intuitive editing program. Thanks to its stabilizer technology, you won’t feel seasick after watching your homemade footage, and the Auto Wind Cut feature helps regulate sound in blustery conditions. $399. 800-252-5722, www
.everio.jvc.com

JVC’s Everio Quad Proof

JVC’s Everio Quad Proof

Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at travelwriter@karib.us.
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