MINI's are very transparent cars. You're basically driving with glass all around you and above you (I have a dual moon roof), which means lots of natural light. I like that, but my eyes are really sensitive to light so driving without sunglasses is not a realistic option. If you're planning on going on a road trip any time soon, sunglasses are a must. It's just not possible to drive long distance while squinting all day. You'll end up with a really bad migraine and stopping a lot from exhaustion.
Going to Florida I had prescription sunglasses that were "as dark as they get". The problem was that I was still squinting a lot on the trip down. So when I got to Florida, I decided to see what the people of the Sunshine State prefer. I talked to a number of friends about what shades they had and surprisingly many were wearing sunglasses that blocked UV light and, more importantly, yellow light. Yellow light is what drives up the brightness or glare factor. It's painful to my eyes to the point where I work with the lights off in my office everyday.
So while I was in Florida I tried like ten or fifteen sunglasses and went to a number of shops hunting for the right pair. I finally found and bought the Costa Del Mar Blackfin Sunglasses. They were the best shades that I tried. These glasses eliminate yellow light from the visible spectrum and create a clear blue relaxing crisp vision. It's the kind of sunglasses people will wear to the beach. I drove back in these durable non-prescription sunglasses and I never experienced a squinting situation. The blue ambiance while motoring was actually quite calming. It definitely made the trip back easier and they're not very dark. I no longer had to see the world in shadows. I saw it in color for the first time.
So there is no easy way around this for guys. Driving long distances in a small car while wearing jeans or even khakis is not an option. I know people think these are comfortable clothes, but to me they are not for cross-country motoring in a MINI Cooper. You will chafe in more ways than one, especially if you're tall like me.
On short trips to Michigan I learned that wearing jeans or khakis tested my comfort limits during the drive. Four and a half hours to Detroit can be taxing. So when I prepared for the Florida trip, I opted for the Adidas Essential Track Pants.
There were two reasons for why I chose the Adidas track pants. The first is the comfort factor. Track pants allowed me to sit for long periods of time without having its creases and wrinkles irritate me. The fabric was soft and unnoticeable when sitting.
The second reason is because of the thickness. Track pants are intended to let the wearer's skin breathe but cover-up when not in play. Because this was a winter trip, the pants provided enough insulation to keep me warm in the colder climes (30-40 degree weather). When I got to Georgia and Florida, the pants were airy enough to maintain comfort in the warmer climes (60-70 degree weather).
So the pants were easy to wear, I didn't freeze and I didn't sweat. That makes a big difference when motoring in a MINI.
iPad Car Mount
Traveling with small children in a small car is a daunting task and requires a lot of patience and perseverance to see the trip through. Let me tell you. So, if you're like me, you search for ways to provide "in-car entertainment". My solution included using an iPad pre-loaded with select Disney favorites (including Beauty and the Beast, Cars, Cars 2 and Planes). To show these, however, I needed a way to mount the iPad in a small car like my MINI Countryman. Enter the Akron iPad Car Mount.
This mount sets up very easily and is super compatible for cars with tight spaces. The mount attaches to the pins underneath the headrest. It has an adjustable boom arm to provide easy adjustment and the clips also slide to match the width of the headrest pins. The clips grab the pins of the headrest perfectly and the bulk doesn't interfere with the headrest at all. The headrest in some cars don't come up very high or high enough to give enough clearance to clip the mount. Fortunately, the MINI delivered the space I needed.
Lastly, the mount is advertised to hold tablets of various sizes and brands (Apple and Samsung). But the mount does come with smaller brackets that can hold your smartphone too. This is definitely recommended if you're traveling with children.
I mentioned earlier I had three little kids. They are 5, 3 and 2. There are those of us in the world that have little kids and drive a MINI. We're not normal, as MINI would say.
So how did I get three little kids in a MINI for a road trip? With the right set up and the right car seats.
My MINI has a bench seat in the back that fits three people. It's true there's only two latch bars in the back seats of a Countryman to secure forward facing car seats. So on the outer seats I have two Diono Radian RXT car seats. These are slender enough to fit two of these in the back and still seat the third kid.
The third car seat is actually a booster seat for the 5 year old. We use the Graco Backless TurboBooster (sand cup holders) because it could fit in the middle between the Dionos. The booster doesn't need to latch onto anything because the regular seat belt is used to secure the kid.
Car Power Inverter
If bringing an iPad for onboard entertaining, you need to bring the necessary power charging tools. Preferably the inverter can charge more than one device, like two iPhones and/or a tablet.
We used the Bestek 75W Power Inverter. It comes with a normal plug port in addition to the multiple USB style ports for charging devices. The normal outlet came in handy when my wife as passenger was using our laptop to do some work and needed a charge while the kids watched a movie in the back. It was definitely an essential tool for the road trip