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6 Must-Have Features for a Summer Road Trip

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author photo by Doug DeMuro May 2015

Are you going on a road trip this summer? You won't want to leave home unless you have these six items -- and we aren't talking about sunscreen and barbecue tongs. No, we mean these six automotive features, which can transform your summer journey from a bore to a blast. Barbecue tongs might be a good idea, too.

Adaptive Cruise Control

Adaptive cruise control is one of those amazing technological advancements that comes along every few years and makes you realize that you're now living in the future -- just like home computers, television, the Internet and of course, the electronic stapler.

Here's how it works: When you activate adaptive cruise control, the vehicle automatically maintains a safe following distance from the cars in front of you. If there aren't any cars ahead, the system simply allows your vehicle to cruise up to a set speed. This makes it a lot easier to drive on the highway or negotiate heavy traffic because the car will speed up and slow down on its own, which is perfect for a long journey.

Heated and Ventilated Seats

The exact specifics of your summer journey will depend a lot on where you live. For example, if you're in Florida, your drive might be a hot one. Up north, you might get rain or colder temperatures. And if you're in Southern California, you'll probably spend the entire holiday sitting on the 405. Either way, you'll probably want your seat to do more than just sit there and be a seat.

Enter heated and ventilated seats, which provide exactly what they say: heating and ventilation. While we can't predict which one you'll need most this summer, we highly suggest both options, as they add an additional element of climate control that tends to feel surprisingly comfortable -- even in addition to your car's regular climate control system. We especially like ventilated seats, as they sometimes feel even more useful than blasting a car's air-conditioning.

Lane-Keep Assist

Driving on the highway isn't always the easiest task -- especially if you have two children in the back seat arguing over important matters such as who gets to keep the dried-out marker they found in the hole that stores the middle-seat belt buckle.

That's why lane-keep assist is such a wonderful invention. If you happen to look away, become distracted, or even doze off, lane-keep assist activates to steer you back on course. Most cars with lane-keep assist even sound a chime or vibrate the steering wheel to let you know you've had a close call -- and to ensure that your eyes don't leave the road in the future.

Navigation System

We've all been there: You're spending a summer weekend at a relative's home, but you don't know how to get there. The emailed directions include phrases such as, "Turn left when you see the big fence" and "If you see the pie shop, you've gone too far."

That's where the navigation system comes in. A highly useful companion for any road trip, the navigation system will give you its own directions, and they won't include a big fence, a pie shop, a giant green sign or an old truck parked by the side of the road. The navigation system's directions will use clear, concise standard terminology, which consists -- thankfully -- of street names and distances. Once you go for a navigation system, you'll never want to go back.

Rear-Seat Entertainment System

We all know that rear-seat entertainment systems are great for kids. They'll sit in back watching SpongeBob SquarePants, and neither one will make a sound unless, of course, there's a pivotal scene at the Goo Lagoon.

But consider this: A rear-seat entertainment system doesn't have to only be for the kids. If you're bored on a long journey and your car features a rear-seat entertainment system, fire it up and stick in one of your old movie favorites. You may not be able to see the movie playing, but you can follow along with the sound, and it can help relieve the boredom of a long drive.

Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control

As a parent, few things are more troubling than getting 15 miles into a 500-mile drive only to hear the fighting start in the back seat. That's why automakers invented tri-zone automatic climate control. It ensures that you'll be able to travel 20 -- or maybe even 25 -- miles before the fighting begins.

Essentially, tri-zone automatic climate control provides an extra climate zone for rear-seat passengers. This is crucial because it means rear passengers can choose their own climate setting, separate from the temperature set by front passengers -- and that means fewer arguments. Of course, nothing prevents the children from fighting over the rear setting -- at least, until you find a high-end luxury car with an even more advanced quad-zone automatic climate control.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
6 Must-Have Features for a Summer Road Trip - Autotrader