Minivan accessories maximize your family adventures

Gadgets maximize minivans

The beginning of August also means the beginning of school, and with that, tons of driving for parents. Ferrying children back and forth from practices, recitals and a multitude of other after activities can be exhausting, but car companies are working to make it easier on parents.

Features like pop-down DVD players and three-row side curtain airbags are now standard in almost all minivans and SUVs. However, other features are unique to their brands and oftentimes just a particular model. For example, the now defunct Swivel N’ Go seats on the Chrysler Town & Country.

With that in mind, we set out to discover a family hauler with just the right combination of convenience and safety features in one package, just in time for the first day of class.

In-car vacuum: The HondaVAC™ on the 2014 Honda Odyssey is stored toward the rear of the cabin, but has a hose that can reach the entire interior.

Tailgate seating: Both the 2014 Chrysler Town & Country and the 2014 Ford Flex offer third rows that flip 90 degrees, resulting in a backward-facing bench, perfect for watching a soccer game or drive-in movie.

Seat cushion storage: The 2014 Dodge Journey and 2014 Mazda5 feature storage below the passenger seat cushions, perfect for stashing valuables out of view.

Inflatable seat belts: The inflatable seat belts on the 2014 Ford Explorer help to lessen the probability of neck and head injuries.

Rear storage well: The 2014 Nissan Quest features a permanent storage well large enough to hold two suitcases beneath the floor behind the third row.

Stow ’n Go seating: Both the second and third row seats on the 2014 Chrysler Town & Country fold directly into the floor, creating a completely flat cargo area. When the seats are up, the compartments can be used for dry or wet storage, including a cooler.

Drink storage: The Cool Box in the front console of the 2014 Honda Odyssey can hold six standard cans or four 24-ounce bottles. The 2014 Ford Flex features a cooler in the second row console.

Tray tables: The front seatbacks on the 2014 Mazda5 have airplane-style tray tables that are perfect for kids.

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