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Travel goods, gadgets & gear

BC-TS-TRAVELGOODS-KIDS:MCT _ lifestyle, travel (850 words) Travel Goods, Gadgets & Gear: On the holiday road with kids (NOT INCLUDED IN YOUR MCT NEWS SERVICE SUBSCRIPTION. To subscribe to Trends and Shopping, see purchase information below.) (EDITORS: Column moves first Tuesday of the month.)

By Kathy Witt

McClatchy-Tribune

(MCT)


It can feel like a seriously "long way down holiday road." Just have Clark W. Griswold recount his experiences on the road. As families across the country set out for their own version of Wally World this summer, here are a few gadgets that can keep everyone from going Griswold in those endless hours it seems to take to reach summer vacation nirvana.

ON THE ROAD

Two words: FunTab Pro ($149.99). This seven-inch Android 4.0 children's tablet, created by Ematic and powered by the award-winning kid- (and parent-) friendly Zoodles, is sized for little hands and big imaginations. The tablet has a contoured design that gives kids a sturdy, ergonomic grip and comes with a silicone case whose rubberized texture stands up to bumps and bangs. Best of all: It is loaded with thousands of child-friendly apps _ Angry Birds, Disney, iStoryBooks, more _ educational games, video messaging and more so it can go the long-haul, entertaining kids each leg of the journey.

This is one gizmo that takes its fun seriously. Inside the FunTab Pro box, you'll find the tablet, three removable faceplates that let kids change their tablet from blue to pink to red, earphones, wall charger, car charger, HDMI cable and USB cable. Wi-Fi ready, the tablet has front and back cameras so kids can snap a scrapbook's worth of memories before you even pull out of the driveway.

To keep their tablet screen clean and free of dust _ while adding flair and personality _ Toddy Gear has a fun new item called Screensters ($9.99). These cool little characters, in 10 colors and with names like Gameawn, Shredster and Glitzanna, are actually 100 percent microfiber, scratch-free "cleaning dolls." One side of the figure is plush to absorb dust and oils; the other side is silky to polish any screen or lens. Screensters work their cleaning magic on tablets, smart phones, MP3 players, e-readers and gaming devices and have a loop so kids can attach them to a backpack or belt _ or just stuff in their pocket.

IN THE POCKETS

Having redefined comfy fashion for the foot, Crocs is now doing the same for the face with its new Jibbitzs sunglasses for kids. Available in a jazzy palette of colors that includes crystal neon lime, metallic silver and pearl pink, these shiny shades with mirrored lenses can be personalized with the charms that kids already use to add pizzazz to their shoes.

Sports, flowers, dinosaurs, trucks, letters, animals and a slew of other designs can be fitted to the arms of these sunglasses to give kids trendy temples. And all styles feature UV protection. The $12.99 price tag includes two charms at Crocs stores.

Let the kids turn the back seat of your car or the hotel room into an experimental lab: Hand out tins of Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty ($10-$11). Triboluminescence anyone? That's putty science talk for creating sparks with Glow in the Dark Thinking Putty. The putty also comes in primary, metallic and electric colors, Hypercolors that let you create a new color just from the touch of your hands and new Super Illusion colors like oil slick and lava and show their true _ and truly original _ colors in sunlight.

Made in the USA, the Thinking Putty can be a toy, stress ball, science experiment, a gadget for learning tricks like shadow photography and lots of other things that should keep the kids quiet at least until you're at the first potty stop.

AT THE POOL

Pack this portable speaker box in your bag to float your family's favorite tunes from whatever swimming hole you plan to splash around in this summer. ECOXGEAR's ECOXBT Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker ($129.99) isn't merely water-resistant; it's full-on 100 percent waterproof so you can float it _ and it floats speakers-up _ alongside the noodles and other pool toys.

ECOXBT has a rubberized exterior to protect it from drops and top panel controls for power, pairing, volume and speakerphone answer. The full-range stereo speakers have a built-in waterproof mic and the unit's 10 hours of playtime should be ample enough for everyone to prune nicely long before it's time to leave the water.

INFORMATION

_ FunTab Pro, www.ematic.us

_ Toddy Gear Screensters, www.toddygear.com

_ Croc's Sunglasses, www.crocs.com

_ Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty, www.puttyworld.com

_ ECOXGEAR's ECOXBT Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker, www.ecoxgear.com

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Kathy Witt is a Kentucky-based author and travel and lifestyle writer whose columns include Bucket List Adventures, Cruise Trends & Trips and Travel Goods, Gadgets & Gear for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. She can be reached at WittK@fuse.net.

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(c) 2013, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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