It's time for the Doc's ninth annual roundup of holiday gift suggestions for the road-trippers in your life. Most of this year's items can be purchased online, making it even easier and faster to cross names off your shopping list.
Swift Hitch: Just because you drive an older or nonfancy model doesn't mean you can't have anything nice. Or cool, like a backup camera that allows one person to hitch a trailer solo. The Swift Hitch is a portable, wireless backup camera that attaches to a truck tailgate and is touted to make hitching a trailer a painless three-step operation. The units run on lithium batteries, use infrared technology, and provide night vision and visibility of up to 300 feet. These babies aren't cheap — models run from about $200 to $300. swifthitch.com.
Drop Stop car wedge: Truth be told, most parents have had this experience — you glance in the rearview mirror and notice that your toddler is happily munching on a french fry. But you didn't give him that french fry, or any other snack for that matter. Whatever it is junior is eating is found food, most likely something he excavated from between the seat cushions or some other cranny in the family vehicle. Gah! If anyone on your list is a fumble fingers who's forever dropping coins, shopping lists, or the occasional french fry into the abyss that is the crevice between the front seats and the console, this is a true gift of love. The Drop Stop acts as a wedge that prevents dropped items from disappearing into the dreaded car cavern. Drop Stop comes in a package of two; each wedge attaches to the seat belt and moves with the seat, so there's no need to adjust for most vehicles. The duo is around $20 and totally worth it. buydropstop.com.
Car bed: All it takes is one frugal cross country trip to know that reclining the front seat and taking a snooze in the parking lot of a rest area is not ideal. Neither is crawling into the backseat when you're desperate for a quick nap and your daughter's soccer match will likely last another six hours. Now we have the option of doing so on a mattress built just for that. A few manufacturers (Fuloon, Karnap, Eumerce) have come out with similarly designed backseat air mattresses that provide the same features — easily inflated via the cigarette lighter, flocked surface, will fit in the backseat of most vehicles and provides some cushiony air between your tired bones and the seat belts. Best of all, they have pedestal feet that keep the mattress level rather than sliding down onto the floor mats. Some models even have built-in window shades so no one can see you napping. Most run about $150. You can find them at Amazon and other online retailers.
SunPass: All-electronic tolling is here to stay, so why not pick up a SunPass transponder for those tough-to-buy-for folks on your list? The transponders cost $25 plus tax and the SunPass Mini Sticker transponder costs $4.99 plus tax. Both SunPass units allow motorists to sign up to have tolls electronically deducted from a prepaid account or a personal bank account. SunPass is good statewide on most (but not all) toll roads. Purchase transponders online or at an authorized SunPass retailer. Information is available at sunpass.com or call toll-free 1-888-865-5352.
Auto club memberships: Say you care with free towing. Auto clubs and service packages abound, so shop around for a membership that best meets the needs of both your favorite driver and your wallet. Check out AAA online at aaasouth.com or call toll-free 1-800-222-1134 for membership information. Your credit union may also offer auto clubs and discounts as do many retailers.
Email Dr. Delay at [email protected] to share your traffic concerns, comments and questions or follow Dr. Delay on Twitter @AskDrDelay.