Gear: Hot Walkie-Talkies
Today's two-way radios are the way to communicate in the park, at the resort, on the road—and your kids won't give you any static
Half the family heads for the giraffes; the rest for the lizard house. Or some want to go hiking, while others prefer to kayak. How do you reconnect?Forget juggling cell phones (and suffering poor reception) or rushing to inconvenient meeting points. Think two-way radios, the updated walkie-talkies. This year's batch offers plenty of talk channels, longer ranges, and, in some cases, weather forecasts and mapping capabilities.
Family Radio Service (FRS) models are cheap and popular, but you'll find less-crowded airwaves and greater features on radios using the more powerful General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). With GMRS, expect a talking range of at least four miles in open areas, 11/2 miles near buildings and trees—along with a higher price tag. (Plus you'll need a $75 10-year FCC license for each unit.)
For Lost Souls
GARMIN RINO 110 ($194 each; FRS and GMRS)
A global positioning system (GPS) signal lets you track your location relative to family members, as well as to a designated spot, such as a campsite or parking lot. Hansel and Gretel, where are you now?
Trailblazers, Take Note
COBRA PR950DX ($90 each; GMRS)
Let the avid fishermen forge ahead while the others sleep in. This Cobra offers an impressive 22 channels and a five-mile range, all in a water-resistant package.
Attention, Privacy Seekers
KENWOOD FREETALK XLS ($209 each; GMRS)
No need to hear every other radio-equipped family bickering about when to meet at Space Mountain. Kenwood's latest has 15 channels and 121 subchannels, and a voice scrambler ensures that strangers can't eavesdrop.
Rein Them In
MOTOROLA Talkabout T5400 ($30 each; FRS)
An easy-to-use model that's close kin to the walkie-talkie of yore. Good at near ranges—a maximum of two miles, or half a mile in residential areas. Perfect for calling the kids back to the hotel room to get dressed for dinner.
AUDIOVOX GMRS 7000CH ($100 each; GMRS)
If your family tends to scatter, the Audiovox's seven-mile range will keep your caravan connected. Tune in to 24-hour National Weather Service radio broadcasts so you won't get caught driving through the Blizzard of 2003.