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With the end-of-year holidays upon us, Joel Kopping looks at ways of making the annual road trip just a little less tortuous.

It`s time for the Great Trek, otherwise known as the annual, en-masse migration of Gautengers down to our land`s wonderful coastal areas for their year-end holiday.

Children will frolic in the sea, while their parents get to spend quality time with them and each other, blowing the budget eating in overpriced restaurants. That`s, of course, if the entire crew makes it to the coast wihout killing each other.

Numerous toilet stops and dicey take-away food aside, keeping the little ones - and sometimes not-so-little ones - entertained during the road trip can be the toughest part of the journey.

`Are we there yet?` may be cute the first half dozen times you hear it, but it gets old very quickly and will test anyone`s patience.

Fortunately for the sanity of all travellers, modern technology has come to the rescue and offers a solution that will keep the offspring glued to their side of the rear seats for much of the trip.

This technology comes in the form of either portable or fixed LCD screens and DVD players that can be mounted into any car and are guaranteed to make those long trips just fly by.

We`ll start off with the simplest solutions, ones specifically for kids strapped into the rear seats of a car, and progress into systems that can be designed to suit even the biggest kid and budget.

Backseat entertainment

After a little bit of browsing, we found an Ice Power portable DVD player that retails for just over R1 000. The player includes a seven-inch LCD screen, is supplied with a headrest mounting bag and a DC car adaptor. This means that for around R2 200 for a pair of players, you could give each little one their own DVD player, leaving them to watch anything they wanted. Moving along we get to a fixed solution in the form of headrest monitors.

These are complete headrests that have TVs built into them. All that is needed to install them is to take out the current headrests and put these in their place.

We found two options. The first, at around R4 300, includes a DVD player in the headrest, while the other, retailing for around R2 500, excludes the DVD player. The latter can be connected to either a portable DVD player or an in-dash player, but we`ll get to this a little later.

Just connect 

Finally, we move on to DVD players and screens mounted in the front of the car. 

These installations are usually part of the car audio system and we`ve seen and heard full-blown 5.1 surround sound systems that rival some home setups.

Typically, an in-dash DVD player would be connected to at least a front-mounted monitor, for mom and dad - although we hope not while they`re driving - to a roof-mounted monitor, to headrest monitors, or to all of the above.

Prices here vary tremendously and can be as little as under R1 000 for a basic in-dash DVD player, to several thousand for a player with full house processing and motorised touch screen monitor.

While in-car DVD certainly has its benefits, typically, you get what you pay for - and particularly in the case of the installed versions, it doesn`t pay to skimp on the installation. Also note that front-mounted monitors should never be switched on while a car is in motion as the distraction could be fatal. Anyone who has driven behind a car whose driver has been watching TV (we have!) can describe how unpredictable the driver`s responses become.

Warnings aside, in-car entertainment can, when properly thought-out, turn the drive to that holiday destination into the best part of the holiday.

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