Taking a road trip is one of the best ways to travel. Especially in a diverse country like the U.S., instead of just seeing one destination, you can see tons of landmarks along the way. And, if you have a big family or a big group, it can also be more affordable than flying or taking a train, especially if your car has great gas mileage. If you haven’t taken a road trip before, you’re missing out! But while you won’t have to pass through a TSA checkpoint or share a packed train car with strangers, road trips present their own challenges. You’ll need to pack light enough for everyone’s luggage to fit in the car, and you’re more prone to travel mishaps than you would be without your car. You may be wondering what are the best things to bring on a road trip. If you or your passengers are prone to motion sickness, like I am, you’ll need to prepare for that, too. These road trip essentials will make your road trip safer, more comfortable, and more fun, so be sure to add them to your shopping list and don’t start your trip without them!
Things to bring on a road trip
Of course, you’ve got to know that every person and every family is different so you want to tailor this and other lists to meet your needs. But if you are looking for a place to start, this is a great list of road trip essentials that will help you figure out what to take on your next trip.
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If you rely on your smartphone for directions, mount it on your car to make reading your navigation app easier. Even though my Dad made sure I knew how to read a map and use an atlas, having the easy convenience of Google Maps telling you where to turn is clutch these days. Remember, it’s unsafe (and usually illegal) to hold your phone while you’re drivin
Be prepared for any kind of car troubles with this roadside assistance kit. It comes with an LED flashlight, a safety vest, first aid kit, battery booster cable, and other tools that may prevent a call to AAA. (I’m going to say this is for the handy people because I’m calling AAA, LOL.)
Dramamine is an over-the-counter motion sickness medication that prevents nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Passengers can take 1-2 tablets before they get in the car, but drivers should be warned that it can make you drowsy if you don’t make sure to grab the non-drowsy kind.
This is a big thing for me because, as you know, I have major issues of motion sickness. So Drammy is my lifeline. Even as a kid I couldn’t read in the car for motion sickness issues. Dramamine helps me a lot, and you can even take it after you start feeling symptoms to alleviate them. They also have a natural version as well that I use.
Finding a comfortable sleeping position in a car is difficult. Make on-the-road napping easier with a comfortable neck pillow.
When there are snackie snacks, there’s garbage. This lined bin can hold every piece of trash you’ll accumulate during your trip, even if you’ll be driving for days!
6. Garmin GPS
This GPS system is a step up from Google Maps, and the screen is larger than your phone. The Garmin GPS comes with free lifetime updates, live traffic alerts, and live parking assistance.
So, if you don’t have a GPS in your car and prefer not to use your phone, this is a great option.
It can be hard trying to take a nap while wearing bulky headphones. If you plan on listening to music during your trip, buy some noise cancelling earbuds to make listening to music more comfortable.
I love the fishes. They are delicious.
Snacks are essential on any road trip, especially when driving on roads with limited rest stops. Have some Goldfish in the car for the whole family to munch on. Because I love the fishes…
Suitcases can take up much-needed space, so opt for soft-shelled overnight bags instead. These bags can even fit under your seat!
Unless you’re crossing an international border, there’s no reason to carry your monthly supply of medication with you. Use a travel pill container to bring only what you need. Please note that if you are traveling across a border, either driving or flying, make sure to have the original containers for your pills to avoid issues with customs.
These bags are large enough to hold many travel-size toiletries, but they’ll take up far less room than a plastic bag or full-size bottles. They’re also TSA compliant, so you can reuse them for a plane trip.
Instead of fighting over limited USB outlets or reaching across the car to access them, use a portable power bank to charge your electronics. This power bank works with any charger that has a USB port – just make sure you charge the power bank before your trip! I always carry my power banks on long trips or even if I am going to long events like conferences or all-day tours.
Plastic cups from rest stops will pile up in your car. Instead, bring a reusable travel mug with you for coffee, water, and soft drinks.
14. Wool Blanket
It’s really important, especially if you are camping or traveling to a cold destination (or really anywhere) to have a blanket in your car in the event of emergencies. This one is good for camping or sporting events. And if something happens and your car breaks down you have something warm to wrap up in until help arrives.
If you can find them.
Let’s get real: rest stops are nasty. The bathrooms might not even have soap or toilet paper! Each passenger should have access to some hand sanitizer to use after each stop. Bathroom wipes don’t hurt either.
You never know when you’ll need some bandages! It’s always a good idea to keep a first aid kid in your glove box for minor cuts and injuries that don’t require medical attention.
This spray should help you clear the ice from your windshield better than an ice scraper would. If you’re taking a road trip in the winter, you need this product!
When you’re traveling long distances, you can’t always predict the weather. Use some thin rain ponchos to stay dry when you make stops in rainy areas.
19. Goofy Mad Libs
Keep your kids entertained on the road with some Mad Libs. These simple fill-in-the-blank games can be fun for everyone in the car!
If you’re traveling with your laptop or tablet, secure it in a waterproof backpack. This backpack is specifically designed to hold laptops, and it has room for other travel essentials, too, and has anti-theft features as well.
Unless you’re driving (and let’s be real, sometimes driving barefoot is easier), there’s no reason to wear super confining shoes in the car! For the few times you’ll need to get out of the car, wear flip flips instead of sneakers. They’re easier to take off when you continue your journey.
If your windows are rolled down, your hair will get messy quicker than you’re used to. Use a small hairbrush to tame that mess before you interact with the public.
Aches and pains can happen anywhere, especially for those who get motion sick. Be prepared with some Advil or my personal preference, some Excedrin Migraine, to ward off migraines stemming from motion sickness.
This magnetic travel game is great for kids! Keep them entertained with a word game that never gets old.
If you’re taking a long road trip, your kids may get bored if they only have 1-2 games. This magnetic board game set lets them play 12 different games on the road. They can even play with the passenger next to them!
Save some coins by packing some food in collapsible Tupperware containers as snack bowls, or even more if you’ve got a long drive ahead of you. When the containers are empty, simply collapse them and store them in your backseat compartments.
You never know when a lighter could come in handy! In case one doesn’t work, it’s best to have multiple lighters in your car emergency kit.
Travel blankets can be thin, so those who get cold easily should bring a thicker one. This “Snuggie” has sleeves, so you can text, play games, or even drive while staying warm.
29. Duct Tape
Make quick and easy repairs with a roll of duct tape – it won’t do much in the long run, but it will hold you over until you can get your damage properly fixed.
When you’re eating in the car, sticky hands are inevitable. Wipe your hands and face with some wet wipes. You can also use them to wipe away small spills, so long as you act before your upholstery gets stained.
Chances are, your car’s windows won’t protect you from getting sunburnt on summer road trips. Protect yourself with a high SPF sunscreen that won’t clog your pores and doesn’t leave as much residue as other brands. Not to mention you can enjoy your vacay much better once you reach your destination if you’re not sunburned!
Seasonal allergies hit harder when you’re outside all day, and being in your car with the window rolled down still exposes you to allergens. Be prepared with pocket tissues for each passenger.
33.Leakproof Cooler with Shoulder Strap
Keep water bottles cold with a small cooler filled with ice packs and insulation. And this cooler is soft-sided so it can easily fit under the passenger seats or in another accessible spot!
Reduce waste by using reusable utensils during your road trip. In addition to helping the environment, you’ll also create less trash in your car. It’s a win-win for all! Not to mention this kit is super cute and even has chopsticks and reusable straws.
This portable baby bottle warmer keeps milk warm all day using vacuum insulation. You don’t need to plug it in, making this warmer perfect for long trips.
36. Pocket Knife
Pocket knives are part of any good emergency preparedness kit, including one for your car. Whether you’re using it to cut a rope or as self-defense, it’s always good to have!
Living in SoCal, I tend to forget that other places in this country have mosquitos. And they all seem to love biting me. Prevent annoying bug bites with a controlled release insect repellent. It releases DEET over the course of 11 hours without the use of an aerosol can! I can even use this product without issues, and I have sensitivity to DEET. It’s just that good.
38. Peppermint Oil
Did you know that peppermint oil can relieve headaches and upset stomachs? If you don’t have access to headache or nausea medication, try using essential oils instead. When I feel a migraine coming on, I use peppermint oil before I can get to meds or while I am waiting for them to kick in for some quick relief. This isn’t just one of my road trip essentials; it’s a travel essential for me!
Not all cars have backseat compartments, and those that do may not have large enough pockets for your belongings. A hanging backseat organizer can hold your passengers’ snacks and tablets without putting them out of reach, especially for kiddos.
40. Your Travel Documents
And of course, you should never drive without your license and registration, and you need a passport to cross international borders. You should also make sure your passengers have identification on them in case of an emergency. Also important to have are health insurance cards, and especially your car’s manual in the event a light illuminates on the dashboard or you need to figure out how to use some car feature. And of course, in addition to debit and credit cards, you may want to carry some cash for emergencies.
Road Trip Essentials
Road trips can be a mixed bag. When you’re prepared for the challenges that may pop up while driving, along with having things to occupy your time and passengers (especially when they are little people) road trips are fun, worthwhile experiences. Having these road trip essentials or must haves in your car will make your trip run smoother, even if something unexpected happens. Make your next road trip the most comfortable one yet!
Sound off! What road trip essentials do you pack for every trip? Give us some more suggestions!