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You can take your living room on the road

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 1:12 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

A trip this holiday season might seem like an adventure that takes the amenities of your living room to your vehicle with the variety of gadgets available.

Keeping children, guests and everyone in the vehicle entertained for a short ride to the grocery store or across states can be a challenge. A portable DVD player might be the ideal gift.

Portable DVD players come with the option to have them installed permanently in the vehicle as an overhead, in the back of the head rest or in-dash. Many systems are also portable and sizes vary from a 5-inch to a 10-inch screen.

Screen size plays a factor in price for the system with a 5-inch screen at a starting price of $269.95 and a 10-inch screen system priced at $1,099.99. Installing a headrest with screens costs about $1,500, and an in-dash system costs $1,300 to $1,500.

Portable systems come with bags for easy carrying and headphone sets, but the system can also run through the vehicle’s audio system via an FM transmitter where you tune into a specific station the system in broadcasting on.

Danny Abrams, a high school senior at Parkway Central High in St. Louis, said his family bought a portable DVD player last year and said it makes a good gift because it is great to take on trips and ideal to entertain passengers.

“I have one in our van and whether we’re going around Columbia or to Florida, it’s always on,” said Marc Schumer, Sound Performance owner and store supervisor. “When that thing is on, my kids are as happy as can be. If you have four kids, you have to have one.”

Watching videos is not the only option with a portable DVD player because you can also connect a video gaming system, which can make the experience interactive.

While passengers watch a video, the driver might need a little assistance with navigation. There is no need for an atlas and navigation assistant with the variety of global positioning system navigation receivers available for vehicles.

GPS receivers come in turn-by-turn and handheld varieties, while also offering a detachable system to offer both. Handheld receivers run $169.99 to $419.99, and turn-by-turn receivers cost $349 to $1,399.99.

A GPS unit is a small electronic device that receives signals from 24 Earth-orbiting satellites and then finds four or more satellites, according to howstuffworks.com. Once the satellites are discovered, the receiver uses the information to plot its location.

If the adventurous individual in your life wants a system that is built into a vehicle, a turn-by-turn system fits his or her needs. The system is often mounted to the car dash and provides detailed driving directions while on the road.

For this system, a destination is entered and then a map with turn-by-turn or voice directions is given. These systems include points of interest such as banks, gas stations and hotels and some models allow directions to be beamed via your personal digital assistant.

For the individual in your life who likes trekking through the woods and rock climbing, a hand-held receiver fits their needs best. The system is cell phone-sized and provides maps to allow you to know where you are within a few feet at all times. There are no boundaries for this system.

Satellite radio, which features more than 100 channels of music, news, sports and talk shows coast to coast, but is advertisement-free, is a gift that is receiving a lot of atten-tion.

Satellite radio can also be taken from your car to your home by removing the plug-and-play radio from the holder on your dash and bringing it into your home for use throughout your home’s radio system or boom box.

The radio system starts at $129.99 and then a monthly subscription fee starting at $9.99 maintains your listening experience. There is no contract with the service and additional individuals, up to five, can be added on a family plan for $6.99 a month.

If a GPS navigation system, DVD player or satellite radio system are not of interest, there are options to buy vehicle security and convenience systems that include remote start, keyless entry, valet mode and others.

You can also look at buying a portable jump start kit, neon tubes, window tinting, stereo head unit replacement or look at parts to customize the engine or sound system.

Remote starts are the gadget Schumer said are extremely popular because of the convenience factor with Missouri’s drastic weather changes.

“Nobody wants to run out in their pajamas and start their car, so it’s deiced by the time they get in it to go to work,” Schumer said.


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