If you’re planning a road trip, you’re going to have a lot of work to do before you pack the car and head out of town. You’ll need to map out a general itinerary, plan your overnight stops and create a list of must-see sights along the way. And don’t forget about all the stuff you need to pack to ensure your family is safe, comfortable and entertained.
While you don’t necessarily need a lot of things to make a road trip a success, U.S. News searched far and wide to find the best gadgets and gear that will make your time in the car the highlight of your trip. These are all items you’ll want to consider adding to your road trip packing list.
As you pack your bags and get ready for an epic road trip, here are a few last-minute road trip essentials you might want to add to your arsenal, organized by category.
Keeping a reliable flashlight stored in your car is a good rule of thumb for all drivers heading out on a road trip. In roadside emergencies, the Anker Rechargeable Bolder LC90 LED Flashlight can illuminate a distance of nearly 1,000 feet with a battery life of up to six hours. Its durable design makes it ideal for use in inclement weather, and its five settings include an SOS signal and a strobe light. Meanwhile, the Black Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp – which features a 400-lumen beam and red LED night vision – is ideal for when you find yourself changing a tire in the middle of the night. Both products earn rave reviews from consumers for their powerful light.
Portable power bank
Goal Zero’s Sherpa 100AC power bank is a portable power bank you can use to recharge tablets, phones, cameras and laptops on the go. It features two USB ports, plus four cables are included and it’s lightweight at just 2 pounds. Recent customers loved the power bank’s versatility, but recommend charging it every two to three days for the best results.
Jumper cables from AUTOGEN can easily fit in your trunk and could save the day if your battery dies and you’re unable to start your car while out on the road. Many travelers also say you can’t go wrong with these heavy-duty cables from Energizer. These 25-foot-long cables are perfect for any car type and come with a travel bag for easy storage – they’re a must for any road trip packing list.
Portable tire inflator
A portable tire inflator can be a lifesaver if you find your tires have a slow leak during your trip. The AstroAl Air Compressor Tire Inflator is compact, so it won’t take up much space among the other gear in your trunk, and it includes an LED flashlight with independent switch control. It is programmed to stop automatically once it hits the preset tire pressure and it comes with a 36-month warranty. Other travelers prefer the ViAir 88P – 00088 Portable Compressor Kit, noting it works well with a wide variety of vehicles. In addition to a 12-foot air hose and 9-foot power cord, the kit comes with alligator clamps that power your air compressor by attaching to your car’s battery.
Picture this: You’re having the time of your life on your road trip when your car battery dies in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, a high-quality jump starter is all you need to avoid this disastrous scenario. In addition to being water-resistant and compact, the NOCO Boost Plus GB40 comes with a built-in flashlight and a USB port for charging devices like smartphones and tablets. The Hulkman Alpha 85 2000A Jump Starter also comes highly recommended by travelers thanks to its easy-to-use design and powerful battery life (a single charge can hold up to 60 jump starts).
Waking up in the morning to an icy windshield isn’t a pretty sight. Prestone AS244 Windshield De-Icer instantly melts ice upon contact, so you don’t have to worry about waiting for your car to defrost when you’re in a rush. As an added bonus, the can comes with a built-in scraper tool for easy ice removal. Recent customers have called this product a lifesaver during harsh winters.
Bringing a trusty multi-tool on your road trip is a simple way to make sure you’re prepared no matter what situation you run into. Leatherman products impress consumers time and time again thanks to the company’s high-quality and lightweight multi-tool designs. Customer-favorites include the Leatherman Bond and the Leatherman Wave+, which offers 18 powerful tools like pliers and wire cutters.
Frequent car travelers recommend always staying connected with the TECKNET USB Car Charger. Featuring four fast-charging ports, this adaptor can be used to charge smartphones, tablets and more. If you’re hitting the road with the whole family in tow, or you simply want to charge more than one device at a time, travelers say this powerful charging adaptor is a must-buy. Pair it with an extra-long charging cable that can easily reach everyone in the back seat.
Dashboard phone mount
Keep your eyes on the road by installing a dashboard phone mount before your journey starts. The iOttie Easy One Touch 5 comes with a telescopic arm, a magnetic cord organizer and a strong-hold suction cup. Plus, its easy one-touch lock-and-release mechanism (a feature that is much appreciated among recent customers) makes taking your phone on and off the holder a breeze. If you don’t like the rigidity of traditional dashboard phone mounts, consider choosing a phone mount with a flexible arm instead.
Whenever you’re hitting the open road, you want to prepare for the worst. In the event that you get into a car accident or are pulled over by the police, having easy access to your car’s registration, insurance information and owner’s manual is crucial. Recent travelers say that this Samsill car registration holder is great for keeping all your important documents organized.
Roadside emergency kit
To give yourself peace of mind while you’re on the road, travelers recommend this STDY car roadside emergency kit from Amazon. Equipped with a tire pressure gauge, a utility knife, safety gloves, cable ties, a tow rope, tire repair tools, a raincoat and more, this compact kit has everything you need when life throws you an unexpected curve ball.
Extra-large body wipes
Extra-large body wipes from Busy Co make it easy to wash up when you can’t take a shower. Cloths are suitable for dry, oily and combination skin types, and address a variety of skincare needs, including clarifying, toning, soothing and nourishing. Recent customers appreciated the large size of the wipes and said using them made them feel refreshed while traveling.
Disinfecting Lysol wipes are a must-have on your travel packing list. These cleaning wipes kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria, so you can feel protected while on the road.
Disposable toilet seat covers
Disposable toilet seat covers from Amazon will help you avoid germs and stay clean when you stop for restroom breaks at gas stations, port-a-potties and campgrounds.
A comprehensive first-aid kit can’t be overlooked when packing up the car for your next road trip. Recent customers say this 298-piece kit from Amazon will get you the most bang for your buck, with bandages, antibiotic ointment, gauze, Band-Aids, pain reliever and much more. Although this will arm you with the basics of what you may need in a medical emergency, it’s always a good idea to personalize your kit according to your needs.
Long hours in the car might sound daunting to anyone prone to motion sickness. In those cases, having preventative nausea medicine like Dramamine can be a lifesaver. If you prefer a drug-free alternative, Sea-Bands are anti-nausea wristbands that use acupuncture as a natural remedy to reduce motion sickness. Travelers say these bands are highly effective at reducing nausea.
From gas pumps to ATMs, you never know what germs you may encounter on a road trip. Protect yourself against viruses like the cold and flu by adding a travel-size hand sanitizer to your road trip packing list and keeping it in the car during your trip.
If you’ll be spending long hours in the car, it’s important to remember to wear sunscreen. Sun Bum’s SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray is broad spectrum, moisturizing and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. And if you’ll be heading for the ocean on your trip, make sure you pack a reef-safe sunscreen like this one from Reef Repair to protect marine life and coral reefs from harmful chemicals. Although some customers reported a white cast upon application (due to the zinc oxide), many reviewers thought the trade-off was worth it to maintain healthy ocean environments.
This chic Sonia Kashuk Weekender Makeup Bag features two zipper compartments, a center organizer and carrying handles that make it perfect for transport. Customers particularly love that the bag is compact without sacrificing storage space. For durable, leak-proof travel bottles, check out this Getaway Travel Kit from Ban.do. It comes with four pearlescent bottles, two jars, a spatula, a funnel and a zippered pouch for storage. Plus, it includes a fun set of sticker labels so you can organize your toiletries in style.
Sitting in the car for hours can be painfully boring at times, but there are plenty of ways you can enjoy your time while road tripping. With the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, you have access to thousands of books at your fingertips. The device boasts up to 10 weeks of battery life, adjustable warm light and a glare-free display, which recent reviewers said made marathon reading sessions a breeze. Meanwhile, kids can enjoy the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Kids, which offers a special font for children with dyslexia and comes with a two-year warranty.
Carefully curated Spotify playlist
Whether you prefer jamming out to tunes or listening to thought-provoking podcasts, having a Spotify playlist ready to go before you get on the road is a must. Take some time before your trip to curate a playlist or two so you can keep your eyes on the road and your hands off your phone while road tripping.
Long drives call for catching up on all those books you’ve been saying you were going to read this year. With an Audible subscription, you can make the most out of traffic jams by enjoying some words by your favorite authors.
Choose a reliable duffel bag like the Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel for your next road trip. This bag is water-resistant, strength-bearing and perfect for when you need your luggage to fit in a small space. It also comes with lockable zippers and can be worn as a backpack or carried as a tote, a top feature according to recent reviewers. And if you’re planning on hiking during your trip, travelers say the Daylite Duffel 30 from Osprey can fit everything you need with room to spare. This bag can be worn comfortably all day long and comes with a mesh water bottle pocket and functional harness straps.
This YETI Hopper Soft Sided Backpack Cooler makes it easy to bring drinks anywhere without worrying about leaks. The cooler, which comes with a dryhide shell and a magnetic closure, can hold up to 18 cans (or 26 pounds of ice), and comes highly recommended by travelers thanks to its durable design. It’s ideal for road trippers who plan to get out and explore, and need to stay hydrated or keep food fresh.
Rooftop Cargo Carrier
Save some space inside your vehicle by opting for a car roof cargo carrier. With an anti-slip mat and reinforced adjustable straps, the waterproof FIVKLEMNZ 15 Cubic Car Roof Bag Cargo Carrier from Amazon is suitable for any car type. Recent customers say that they had no problem getting it to stay in place even on high-speed roads.
A car seatback organizer lets you arrange road trip essentials on the back of the driver’s or passenger’s side seat, where they’re within reach of small hands. Many buyers said this seatback organizer from Amazon.com took some of the stress out of traveling with kids, thanks to its multipurpose storage compartments, including a place for a tablet and plenty of other spots to store key items for your trip. You can also maximize your space by stashing your essentials in a trunk organizer. This one from Drive Auto comes with multiple storage compartments, waterproof lining and tie-down straps to keep items in place while you’re driving.
Car trash can
There’s no doubt about it – road trips can generate a lot of trash. Keep your car clean on your next adventure with this Hotor car trash can from Amazon. Complete with an adjustable strap, mesh side panels for storage and a leak-proof interior lining, this useful accessory comes highly recommended by travelers who find themselves frequently on the road.
Whether you’re stopping for snacks at a gas station or running into the grocery store for those last-minute essentials, a reusable bag is an easy way to reduce your plastic consumption. Recent reviewers said these versatile and water-resistant reusable bags can even be used as laundry bags, garbage bags or beach bags in a pinch.
Electric car blankets
Electric car blankets allow you to stay warm on the road no matter the temperature outside. This Stalwart electric car blanket takes up very little space, is surprisingly lightweight and plugs into any vehicle with a 96-inch-long cord. While some travelers noted that this blanket alone won’t be enough to keep you warm in extremely cold weather, many say it was a welcome addition nonetheless.
SleepPhones soft headband headphones let you enjoy the open road while listening to music, audiobooks, meditation, white noise or talk radio. These headphones are expertly padded, which reviewers say makes them more comfortable for long-term wear than earbuds. You can buy the classic version or a wireless version at SleepPhones.com.
Pick up an ergonomic travel pillow from Cabeau if you need extra neck and shoulder support when you ride in the passenger seat. The pillow features supportive memory foam, a front clasp to ensure it stays put and a removable cover that you can wash. Recent customers also loved that the pillow comes with straps that can be attached to any headrest, making sure you don’t fall forward while catching some shut-eye. For kids, this Cloudz plush animal neck pillow comes in a variety of colorful animal options, such as a unicorn, a ladybug, a dinosaur and more.
A battery-operated mini fan from SkyGenius can help you stay cool and comfortable. This fan comes with a rechargeable and replaceable battery, and is ideal for the car and for camping. For even more cooling capacity, opt for a fan with dual heads like the XOOL Electric Car Fan from Amazon. Both mini fans earn glowing reviews from travelers thanks to their powerful airflow capabilities.
Shield your eyes from the sun by picking up a good pair of sunglasses before your trip. Choose sunglasses that protect against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, and are polarized to block glare. Travelers love that these Ray-Ban Aviator Classic sunglasses come in a variety of tints and can even be customized to fit your needs. For a more budget-friendly option, check out these SUNGAIT Ultra Lightweight Rectangular Polarized Sunglasses from Amazon, which recent customers say are very comfortable and perfect for road tripping.
The sun beating down on your car all day can heat it up quickly. To keep your car cool, travelers recommend the EcoNour Car Windshield Sun Shade, which protects your vehicle from UV rays and helps maintain your car’s interior temperature at a comfortable level. Pair it with these car window shades to protect your backseat drivers from UVA and UVB rays while you’re on the road. The shades come in two different sizes and transparency levels, and previous buyers say they are very easy to install.
A travel towel is one of the most versatile accessories you can bring on a road trip. Whether you are cleaning up a spill or want to go for an impromptu beach day, having a spare towel on hand is always a good idea. This odor-resistant and quick-drying 4Monster travel towel from Amazon comes in several sizes and includes a compact EVA box, which recent reviewers say makes it perfect for travel.
Reusable water bottles
Skip the plastic bottles and opt for a high-quality reusable water bottle on your next trip. This 40-ounce bottle from Hydro Flask keeps drinks hot for 12 hours and cold for a full day. It also comes with a lid with a built-in straw, which consumers say makes it convenient for driving. For kids, a durable water bottle like this 12-ounce YETI rambler fits the bill – its stainless steel bottle is dishwasher safe and shatter-resistant, a feature that parents love.
Cubcoats are two-in-one stuffed animals that transform into hoodies. Your child’s furry friend (think bunnies, sloths and puppies) doubles as a soft, zip-up sweatshirt, and you get to save some space in your suitcase.
Inflatable car booster seat
If you’re flying to another destination to pick up a rental car for your road trip, consider bringing inflatable car booster seats along. This BubbleBum backless inflatable booster is suitable for kids 4 to 11, and comes with a seat belt positioning clip for optimal comfort and safety. Recent buyers said it was portable and extremely easy to use.
Kids travel journal
A kids travel journal makes it easy for your child to document their road trip and all the fun things they see and do. This one from Peter Pauper Press includes world maps, puzzles, fun facts and more, and many parents said it made their kids’ time in the car fly by.
A family road trip means long hours in the car, and bored children are every parent’s worst nightmare. Activity books can keep your kids occupied for long periods of time while you catch up on some much-needed quiet time.
Backseat travel tray for kids
If your co-pilot is constantly turning around to pick up toys or pass out snacks, a backseat travel tray is in order. The LUSSO Gear Kids Travel Tray comes with a safety strap that can be secured to any car seat, and includes a dry erase board table, a cup holder, a storage compartment for toys and a no-drop tablet viewing stand. Reviewers loved the tray’s whiteboard area and said it was a great way to keep kids entertained on long car rides.
Shop in bulk
Check out Boxed.com for specially curated bulk items that are perfect for road trips and other types of travel. From sunscreen, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to Fruit Roll-Ups and snack-size packs of Pringles, Boxed.com is a convenient site to order bulk hygiene and snack items in one place.
Bring spare cash
Debit cards, credit cards and mobile phone payments may be the way of the world nowadays, but you may still run into a few places on your journey that are cash-only (for example, some national and state park entrance fees must be paid in cash). Be on the safe side by keeping some spare cash on hand in case of emergencies.
Save on gas
It’s no secret that sky-high gas prices can put a damper on your vacation. Save some money on fuel by using apps like GasBuddy, which will show you the cheapest gas prices in your area. Go the extra mile by signing up for a gas rewards credit card to get the most bang for your buck.