What You Need
USB car charger
Smartphone with GPS and a digital camera
Small zippered bag
1. To get my MacBook Pro online from both the road and the motel I used the UM175 USB modem from Verizon Wireless. This $50 plug-in (you'll also need to sign up for service, which has its own monthly charges) is easier than a PC card since it's cross-platform compatible, which means it works with both Macs and PCs. The UM175 is a modem for business clients, but Verizon Wireless offers less expensive USB modems, as low as $10, for regular customers. I suggest you find one with a flexible arm like the UM175, as it's useful to fold it up in tight cars. Also of note, Verizon Wireless started selling a prepaid mobile broadband service for those of you who don't want to commit to a two-year service agreement. After all, if you only need mobile internet service during a cross country trip you shouldn't have to pay for service after you've arrived.
2. Getting the modem to work couldn't have been easier. Plug in the USB modem, pop in the CD-Rom, follow the wizard, and you're online (as long as you've signed up for some type of data service through Verizon). The modem uses Verizon's EV-DO cellular network, so while you won't get broadband speeds, you will be surfing the web at a steady clip. I set up my MacBook Pro to get online all while my husband drove down I-95. It was that easy.
3. Since the USB Modem doesn't have GPS, I used an iPhone to get directions, find motels enroute, and restaurants that wouldn't lead us to bouts of dysentery. Being the cheapskate that I am, I didn't buy one of the pricey navigation programs you can download from the iTunes App Store, but rather relied on the free Google Maps app for iPhone. For an even better mapping experience I suggest the Motorola Droid, which has Google's free Maps Navigation application. (For more on navigation smartphones you can read my review in Wired).
4. Ever noticed how gadgets tend to run out of juice when you aren't near an outlet? To avoid battery frustrations I plugged in a dual USB car charger into our dashboard lighter. This way I was able to charge both the iPhone and my digital camera while we drove, rather than trying to remember in our hotel room after 12 hours of driving.
5. While I took tons of photos with both my husband's Canon Powershot SD750 and my Kodak Z950, having a phone with a decent digital camera and easy integration with my email was great for when I wanted to snap and blog in one shot. After taking a photo with the iPhone, I would simply select the email function in iPhone's camera mode, type in the email my travel blog gave me to do mobile blogging and hit send. Posterous, the blogging platform we decided to use for posting our adventures from the road had a great feature that would turn multiple images emailed in the same message into a gallery.
6. With so many gizmos to carry, each requiring their own USB cords, it's a good idea to bring a small zippered bag where you can store all your cables, extra batteries, and your USB modem. That way, when you're cramped in the car, you won't have to tear apart your baggage to find that darn iPhone cable.
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