Let’s take a little drive together. Pack your iPhone, a small bag, and, well, everything on our road trip gift guide. From adding CarPlay in your vehicle to MagSafe iPhone mounts and the best charging cables for car rides, we’ve got must-have recommendations that make great gifts — even if you’re shopping for yourself.
For starters, CarPlay has been a speciality of mine since Apple’s infotainment feature launched in the iPhone in 2014. (TBT to the very original concept for CarPlay that was actually called iOS in the Car.)
Seriously, I published this super early review of CarPlay as a thing that exists seven years ago. I haven’t lost my driver’s license yet, so these articles are ones I regularly update for the CarPlay curious:
- Best CarPlay apps for iPhone
- Best Apple CarPlay receivers for your car
- This adapter turns standard CarPlay into Wireless CarPlay, and somehow it actually works
- Adding Wireless CarPlay and Qi charging to a 2016-2020 tenth generation Honda Civic for ~$200
Those fun things aside, you should seriously consider adding Apple CarPlay and a backup camera to your car or a loved one’s vehicle. You can replace the existing radio in cars without CarPlay for under $1000—which isn’t cheap but makes for a great mega gift—and it’s just plain safer. My recommendation this year is this:
For under $700, you get an upgraded receiver with a 7-inch capacitive touch screen (avoid resistive touch, that’s the bad kind) plus a compatible back up camera with a 132 degree viewing angle and a frame for mounting.
As linked in the piece above, there are wireless options (this pick has wireless Bluetooth audio but not CarPlay without the Lightning cable) but frankly inventory just isn’t there this year. Supply chain madness, perhaps.
Installation is also a factor for retrofitting your existing car with CarPlay, but I promise it’s a cheaper proposition than buying a whole new car. Admittedly, though, I do secretly wish that one day someone would gift me a brand new car with one of those giant bows wrapped around it.
You can also opt for a less traditional option like the Intellidash Pro display that mounts to your windshield or car dash — no assembly required. Wired will set you back $350 and wireless goes for $400, and there’s a $50 coupon available at the time of this writing.
Lastly, if your car or your loved one’s vehicle already has CarPlay built-in but it doesn’t work without a Lightning cable connected, I highly recommend checking out one of these adapters that actually adds Wireless CarPlay functionality.
Other must-have accessories for the road and your iPhone include:
- Belkin MagSafe Car Vent Mount PRO $40
- Spigen Mag Fit Phone Holder Car Mount Designed for Magsafe $16
- Anker Powerline+ II Lightning Cable (10 ft) $20
- Backseat Car Mount for iPhone or iPad $23
If you have an iPhone 12 or later, Belkin’s Car Vent Mount is a useful attachment for mounting your iPhone to your dash, and it’s handy as a second screen even if you have CarPlay. Think navigation on one screen and music control on another — safely, of course.
It lacks power delivery, however, but you can add an Apple MagSafe charging cable to Spigen’s Mag Fit car mount for a similar solution that actually charges your iPhone. Not bad if you already have a charging puck or really want the convenience of magnetic mounting and charging.
Alright, I know you may be thinking that a 10-foot-long Lightning cable is a bit much and the last thing you’d need as a driver. But really, consider your passengers (especially kids) and how running out of iPad battery on the road could be a nightmare. Anker makes great products and this braided solution will help with durability.
And you don’t have to be a kid to appreciate a headrest-mounted video screen for entertainment. This solution works with both iPhone and most iPads and easily turns your backseat into a first-class flying experience.
- 2/10/25A 12V Smart Battery Charger/Maintainer Fully Automatic with Engine Start, Cable Clamps $73
- Car Charger, [2Pack] 3.4a Fast Charge Dual Port USB Cargador Carro Lighter Adapter for iPhone $9
- iOttie Easy One Touch 4 Dash & Windshield Universal Car Mount $17
- Apple AirTag (seriously, dude, where’s my car?) $29
- Belkin AirTag Case with Key Ring (dude, where’s my car … key?) $10
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Author: Zac Hall