Are we there yet? Another trick for those long car journeys

May 10, 2017

One of the good things about the UK is that we’re quite a small country. From most places you can get from coast to countryside by simply jumping in the car and not needing to get on a plane as you might have to in larger countries.

This makes it easy to pop the kids in the car and explore the many different places or enjoy some of the fantastic days out. The problem is….

Are we there yet?

Sometimes car journeys can be….difficult.

We’ve successfully used car games and other techniques, but one thing that’s been working pretty well is audio books.

I’m not talking about audio CDs of yesterday. No, the hundreds, if not thousands, of children’s audio books you can download onto your phone.

The problem is, when you are driving along in your car, your phone’s speaker is a little hard to hear.

Sometimes car journeys can be….difficult.

Using the Car Radio with your phone

Playing audio books to keep the kids entertained in the car
There are many new cars that allow you to automatically pair your phone with the car, and use the car’s own speakers. If you have such a car, then I suspect you may have already discovered using audio books on long car journeys with your kids.

However for many of us, where family budgets are often stretched, such cars are still out of reach.

There is a solution: an in-car radio transmitter.

We’ve been using one now for over a year. It plugs into the 12V/cigarette lighter in the car, you use your car radio to find a clear frequency, you set the gadget to that frequency, plug it into the ear phone socket on your phone, and press play. It then transmits your audio to your car’s radio. Simple.

This has worked OK, and we’ve now got through many an audio book on our journeys up and down the UK.

The problem we’ve found is that although this device is simple, it’s not always reliable. Sometimes it would get a lot of interference so you couldn’t hear the story, there were a lot of cables, and you couldn’t charge your phone whilst playing the story.

Fortunately there are some better in-car radio transmitters, and the guys over at Tao Tronics sent theirs over for us to review…and we’ve been very impressed.

TaoTronics In-Car Radio Transmitter

TaoTronics In-Car FM Transmitter
The TaoTronics gadget is a little bit more expensive than the one we bought, but offers a lot more functionality.

Firstly it looks great, with cool glowing lights when it’s powered up.

We initially tuned it into the same frequency our old transmitter used, but the Tao Tronics was clearly more powerful as well had a lot less interference and clear audio. We would sometimes have to position our old one in funny positions for the best signal, but this one worked fine right from where it was plugged in.

Secondly, there’s less cables. You can pair your phone with device over bluetooth.

This was painless. I just selected the device under my Bluetooth settings, and then could just press play to hear the audio coming through the car speakers. Very cool.

Thirdly, it’s easier to operate. You can go forward and back between tracks (not something you need to do with audio books, but useful for music), and just tap the big button on the top to pause/play.

The TaoTronics in-car Transmitter comes complete with USB phone charging socket
Fourthly, it has a USB socket so you can plug in your phone charging cable and charge your phone whilst you have the audio book or music playing. No more turning up with entertained kids but with a flat battery in the phone!

Fifthly (is there such a word??), you can receive calls hands free. If you get a call whilst you are listening to audio, simply tap the button on the top of the device and your call will be answered.

You will hear the caller through your car speakers. When the call finishes, the TaoTronics device will resume your audio from the point when the call came in.

TaoTronics in-car FM Transimitter - ideal for keeping the kids entertained with audiobooks on long car journeys
We have a hands free phone feature in our Sat Nav device. Now the Sat Nav device is a lot closer to my mouth than the TaoTronics plugged into the 12V supply, which is on the floor in our car, so we were keen to see if this hands-free call was any good.

It was.

Or should I say, it was about the same as the Sat Nav device that is a lot closer to my mouth. You may hear your caller crystal clear over your car speakers, but you might still sound distant and have road noise to your caller. However, we were able to have a conversation without any problems, all hands-free.

Now it doesn’t have any integration so that you can can issue voice commands and ask it to “phone home”, but for the price of this Tao Tronics gadget, it does a lot.


Entertaining the children whilst driving can have its challengers. If you’ve not played audio books before, give them a try (David Walliams books go down well with our kids).

If you don’t have a fancy car, get yourself an in-car FM transmitter, and do yourself a favour and get one like the Tao Tronics FM transmitter. It gets a thumbs up from us.


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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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