In it for the long haul? Check out our list of road trip essentials designed to make your cross-country adventures easy and stress-free.
They say the key to a great road trip is enjoying the journey as much as the destination. But the charms of even the most scenic drives can be lost when traveling becomes a chore. That’s why we’ve complied this list of road trip essentials. From entertainment options to organizers, these items will simplify and destress your trip and prove their worth over thousands of memorable miles.
If you’ve ever traveled with kids, you’ll know how quickly they can turn an orderly backseat into a disaster zone. A good ounce of prevention comes in the form of a back seat organizer. Not only will this provide a place for all your kids’ stuff, but it also keeps all that stuff right at hand, no frantic rummaging around for misplaced items.
Reducing plastic consumption is always a plus, not spending unholy amounts of money on bottled water is also a major road trip win. That’s why we recommend taking a few reusable water bottles on your journey. Some of our favorite vehicles, like the Kia Soul and Subaru Forester have large door bins that easily accommodate reusable water bottles, and that’s not a coincidence.
Not all new cars come with USB-C charging. Even fewer used cars do. So, to ensure that all your devices stay charged on your trip, make sure to bring along a USB-C fast charger.
Snacks are a must on long road trips and gas station food is, well, gas station food. To keep things healthier and avoid indigestion, take a cooler full of snacks along. Plus, roadside picnics can often be a highlight of cross-country travel.
There are few things better than the virtual time travel of taking a nap on a long car ride. A neck pillow, or your favorite pillow from home, can ensure your nap is as refreshing as possible. And if you’re going it alone from coast to coast, it’s always good to take naps to stay sharp along those lonely stretches of highway.
An AC power inverter comes in handy for plugging in about any random thing, from a tea kettle to a laptop. They also often come with USB charging ports as well as the traditional three-prong 12-volt plugs.
Sure, you could go with an iPad for all your kids’ streaming needs. But if you want to save on data and the overall device expense, there are lots of portable DVD players out there for a fraction of the cost, many with seat mounts.
The temperature inside a hot car can be up to 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. That’s why we recommend a sunshade to block all those rays from cooking the inside of your car, especially if you’re traveling in the sunbelt.
A blanket is a smart thing to have on a trip for napping, picnicking, or just keeping warm in the winter. A compact pocket blanket can provide most the convenience while saving you a ton of space.
As good as smartphone cameras have become, they’re still not capable of taking pictures like a dedicated digital camera. Give the memories and vistas their due and perverse them with a proper camera.
Even if you don’t have a kid in diapers, keeping a pack of baby wipes in the car can come in very handy. The humble baby wipe can be surprisingly versatile, from removing simple stains to providing some hygiene in a pinch.
For course, the GPS or the digital navigation system that comes with your vehicle are helpful in plotting your course. But a good old fashioned paper map or atlas can prove a valuable adjunct. An analogue map provides greater context (including other places to visit along your way), makes rerouting easier, and give you a better sense of your surroundings.
Sunglasses can be a major lifesaver. Whether it’s the glare of a western sunset or a bright winter day with the sun shining on fresh snow, you’ll be glad you packed a pair of shades.
Maybe you’re fastidious enough to never drop a solitary crumb in the car when scarfing down one of those pre-packaged blueberry muffins you knew you really shouldn’t be buying at the gas station. But your kids probably haven’t learned such discipline. To keep your vehicle from attracting racoons, bears, and other hungry wildlife, it’s helpful to take a portable car vacuum along on your trip.
Hiking, fishing, or just exploring nature, it’s easy to accrue a few scrapes and scratches. Keeping a first-aid kit in the car is always a good idea, but on a road trip it’s, as the title implies, essential.
Let’s face it. On any road trip you end up eating in the car a lot. To make that burger and fries a little more enjoyable and a lot less messy, there are steering wheel trays that mount right on your steering wheel. And they’re not just good for eating either. Writing, working on a laptop, or other roadside tasks are all made infinitely easier with a firmly secured work surface.
A portable Bluetooth speaker can add a little ambience to your roadside picnic or an evening camping beneath the stars. The combination of new vistas and new music are guaranteed to make for lasting memories.
Nothing can take a car interior from spotless to a disaster area faster than a road trip. A collapsible garbage can is a handy way to keep things clean and orderly.