If anyone has been paying attention for the last five years, we’ve figured out that the economy changed radically from the old days. “This ain’t your daddy’s economy” was a phrase I was told once. It took a while to sink in, but after rolling it over in my head for a few minutes, it made sense. My parents were baby boomers who graduated college (the first of their family) in 1972. Even with the downturn of the 70’s and the Vietnam War, jobs were fairly easy to get. It was a time when you expected to stay with the same company, live in the same house, and have a typical middle class American life.

                This life hasn’t necessarily vanished, but the strength in numbers that it once represented has clearly depleted. People are moving more than ever, work from home jobs have surged as offices are trying to save money by not having a fixed location, and traveling jobs have become normal. Businesses are trying to cut down on permanent costs. If you think hard enough, you probably know of someone who travels for work.

                Being one of those people, I can tell you that comforts on the road are paramount to quality of life. Pictures of kids, homemade meals that you can keep for a few days, and access to friends make being away much better. These little things can make the difference between maintaining a smile on the road versus falling into a lonely depression. If you’re looking at buying something for a traveler, try these:

Coleman 12-volt plug in cooler

  • This great little cooler plugs directly into your cigarette lighter and plays the role of a small fridge inside the car. I store fruit, bread, meats, cheeses, and drinks in mine all of the time. I found that if one doesn’t have something like this around, they will stop and eat fast food. Having this mini-fridge onboard changes behavior patterns. I stop at more parks now and simply fix myself a sandwich, watch the ducks swim in the pond, and enjoy life. Also, there are morning where I’m leaving at 4:00 – 5:00 am. It’s nice to jump in the truck and find a homemade lunch placed there by my wonderful wife! (She even puts my name on the sandwich bags like she does for our kids, which puts a smile on my face).

I advise getting a smaller cooler for a few different reasons. The first is food goes bad over time, and having only two or three meals (or the ingredients to make those meals) will last longer. Also, you can set the small coolers in the front of the car with you; allowing you to keep your drink cold and readily available. The last reason for getting the smaller cooler is it’s easier to take inside with you to where you are sleeping. Many cars cannot power the cooler while not running. If you have a car that can power while the engine is not running, don’t leave it plugged in. It will drain your battery.


Blue Parrot B250-XT+ noise cancellation Bluetooth headset.

  • This is the Cadillac of headsets. You can get cheaper ones, but they won’t be as loud or will cancel out background noise. When the traveler is on the road and wants to wish his/her kids a good nights’ sleep, this is the headset you want. We don’t realize how much car noise the other person can hear. The Blue Parrot will eliminate this.

Amazon Kindle

  • Kindles have basically become a smaller and much cheaper version of the Ipad. They come with Wi-Fi and cameras these days. This wonderful little device allows for book reading, skyping with family and friends, and internet. I love when my wife sends me videos of our kids. I store them on my kindle and watch them hundreds of times.

Digital Picture Frame

  • This small feature is a warming comfort to have on the road, whether you’re a truck driver, or you stay in motels. This small little device allows you to download pictures off your computer at home onto a thumb drive and plug it into the digital frame. After you plug this in, turn it on and all the pictures on the thumb drive will scroll slowly through on the screen. After many days gone from home, I’ll sometimes lie in bed and watch the pictures scroll by. Wonderful invention.

Rand McNally Road Atlas, Large Scale Edition

  • This one seems simple; a map. But you’d be amazed how in our modern culture of tweeting and texting we get to rely upon our smart phones for everything. But any good business traveler can tell you, neither that fancy phone nor the GPS on the dashboard always work. We have plenty of places left in our country where these modern electronic wonders read ‘syncing with satellite’. So when this happens, we have to roll back the clock a decade or so and take out the trusty map. I’ve used mine many times.


                Traveling for work is not easy. It can be higher paying due to the fact that you are the one on the road and your co-workers are not. Other pay is involved as well such as mileage for your car and per diems. You also get to keep great perks like flyer miles, hotel miles, and other benefits of being a frequent traveler. But life on the road can drag out. You go into a diner and see a group of people laughing and talking, you’re sitting alone, and secretly you wish you were with them.

                I’ve found that buying the knick knacks on the road didn’t make my life better, it simply junked up my car. I focused on the things that make life worth living: family, friends, and food. These more intimate and personal things bettered my emotional as well as physical health.

The five items I listed above make life better out there, if just by a little.

Roadpro 7 Liter 12V Cooler / Warmer with Cup Holders
Amazon Price: $59.99 $33.48 Buy Now
(price as of May 26, 2014)
ViewSonic 8-Inch Digital Photo Frame (VFD820-70)
Amazon Price: $90.00 Too low to display Buy Now
(price as of May 26, 2014)