I know, your car is already packed to the gills for your family road trip. But trust us, you need these 30 road trip products and ideas to make your travel day run smoothly. We travel every month of the year, and test new road trip products every time we hit the road. Check out our list of road trip gear, updated to include new gear for 2017, and see what you’re missing!
Road trip safety gear:
1. My Bucklemate: This innovative little piece of plastic makes it easy for young kids to buckle themselves into their seats more easily…without mom or dad needing to crawl into the back seat to dig the seat belt clip out of the seat crease! Pick up Bucklemate on Amazon.
2. Cardiff Booster Seat Headrest: By far, the best headrest we’ve seen for toddlers and preschoolers. No more floppy heads when kids are trying to nap!
3. Bubblebum: This portable booster seat goes everywhere, from your own car to taxis to theaters. We guarantee you’ll use it in at least three ways on any road trip!
5. AAA Emergency Road Assistance Kit: Pick out a pre-made kit like this one, or design your own, ensuring you have flares, chains, and the gear you need to change a tire.
Car organizational gear:
6. Seatback car organizer: Every family needs at least one of these organizers that fit on the seat back, for storing books, DVDs, games, and cups. Don’t want to spend much money? Check for a hanging shoe organizer at your local dollar store. Pictured above: Prince Lionheart Backseat Organizer.
7. Trash bags: Yep, good old fashioned trash bags. Don’t forget them! You’ll need them for the obvious purpose, but trash bags also pull double-duty as wet storage for swim suits or soggy gloves and hats, storage for muddy shoes, and, unfortunately, as a much-needed receptacle if someone gets car sick.
8. Packing cubes: Used by our family for so much more than packing, packing cubes are ideal during road trips as carry-alls for kids’ gear. Give each child a large packing cube to fill up with his or her items for the ride. Packing cubes are easier to stow under the seat than backpacks, take up less room, and are easy to open and close. Here are our favorites.
9. Mesh laundry bags: Go ahead and use these cheap, lightweight laundry bags for their intended purpose once you arrive at your destination, but while on your road trip, use them to store boots and jackets the family will want at pit stops in winter and sandals or swimsuits in summer. Grab one bag when you reach your pit stop, and off you go.
10. KIDS ‘N’ PETS All Purpose Stain & Odor remover: You might need it. Ok, you’ll probably need it. Fine. We always need it. If you want something more portable than the liquid version, try their new Stain and Odor Remover wipes! We keep a tube of these in one of the car’s drink holders.
11. Refresh your Car: These car freshener products are the only ones my kids will tolerate. Plus, you can use these products to clean your dashboard, too. Here’s our full review.
In-car and rest stop entertainment:
12. SOL REPUBLIC headphones: These are the only headphones we use now, because they’re nearly indestructible. Kids can twist them, step on them, or toss them into a bag, and they keep on delivering high-quality sound. Check out more info in our best electronics picks for travel.
13. Splitter for headphones: Don’t forget one of these! When kids want to listen to a DVD or CD together, they need a splicer for their headphones. Forget it, and you’ll be listening to the entire soundtrack of Frozen too, Mom and Dad. Pair with the screen of your choice. Don’t forget about Kindles!
14. Brunton Revolt: This power cube is worth the investment. Even with in-car chargers and USB ports, everyone needs more power at some point. The Brunton can go from the car to your hotel room, offering an extra place to plug in. Plus, it comes with lots of built-in cables, so there’s no need to bring a tangle of your own.
15. Family puzzle and coloring books: Guess what? It turns out you’re never too old for Where’s Waldo. Candlewick Press’ Where’s Waldo: The Totally Essential Travel Collection includes hundreds of pages of Waldo illustrations, all in a compact, durable book. Like to color instead? ColorIt sells adult coloring books also ideal for kids. Try the Greatest Adventure Adult Coloring Book…it’s packed with pages suitable for kids or adults, and is in a durable spiral-bound notebook ideal for the road. Keep it in the car…you won’t be sorry!
16. Redbox movies: Don’t want to (or can’t) stream movies en route? Get the Redbox movie app, and find Redbox kiosks en route via your car’s entertainment system or a portable DVD player. We like to utilize Redbox because we never have to pay late fees (we find another Redbox to turn movies into down the road) and we have a constant supply of new movies without needing 4G.
17. SOL REPUBLIC Punk Speaker: Want to listen to audio books or podcasts as a family on the road, but don’t have the capability of plugging a smart phone into the car’s audio system? Use a Punk speaker! This little portable speaker packs a big punch. It’s also good for small kids who don’t like to use headphones.
18. Outside Inside Adventure Games: Have you ever stopped at a rest stop so the kids could stretch their legs, only to find nothing to do? We absolutely love these portable games for kids! Some are best for the campsite or fire pit, but others are ideal for grassy spaces, playgrounds, and even hotel rooms. Plus, they all pack down for easy transport. The magnetic darts are our favorite for the hotel room, and the bocce ball set and ladder ball/cornhole games are our favorite for rest stops.
19. Wipe board and dry erase marker: Don’t underestimate the power of a simple board and marker. Kids can play classic games like ‘hangman’ or ‘tic tac toe’. No need to invest in expensive versions of these games!
20. Magnetic Fun: Can’t go wrong with these tried-and-true car entertainment kits! Magnetic Fun is ideal for the toddler and preschool set, but older kids will play too.
Road trip snacks and food:
21. Yeti cooler: A Yeti is a big investment, but if you road trip often, it’s well worth it to have this top-of-the-line cooler. Foods will stay cold in a Yeti far longer than in standard coolers, allowing families to stop and drain it less often and eat more meals on the road. We have the Tundra 45. Can’t swing the cost of a Yeti? Try Mountain Khakis’ new rugged Compass Cooler.
22. BooginHead Pack ‘Ems snack bags: We only use reusable snack bags. BooginHead are our current favorite, because they wipe down easily, are washable, and stand up on their own when packed. Plus, they velcro open and closed, making it easy for little hands to open them. They’re very affordable, too.
23. Sea to Summit Seal ‘n Go: We’ve long been fans of Sea to Summit’s bowls and cups for backcountry camping, and now they have a product perfect for families on the go, whether you’re on a road trip or simply serving kids a snack in the car on the way to school. The Seal ‘n Go comes in multiple sizes, and is a collapsible container with a threaded lid for secure food carrying. They pack down small when you don’t need them, and are virtually accident-proof. Of course, you can take them camping, too! Each piece is around $20.
24. Patagonia Provisions: Bet you haven’t heard of this! Patagonia (yes, the brand that brings you ski wear and down vests) also makes road trip-ready food. You can buy their energy bars, or better yet, get their breakfast grains to make in hotel rooms for an easy and healthy breakfast (just add hot water from a coffee maker). They also make healthy soup mixes for in-room dinners.
25. GSI Outdoors macro camp table: Made with camping in mind, the GSI Outdoors Macro Table is also excellent for road trips. It collapses completely for easy transport, is lightweight, and opens up for an instant table anywhere. We love it on road trips for pit stops at parks where we’re setting out a snack or lunch, in addition to a meal prep space at campsites. It comes in a micro size, too!
26. Jelly Belly candies: You have to have some candy on your road trip, and Jelly Belly candies entertain with their many flavor options while kids (and adults) snack on them. If you’re driving through California, take a Jelly Belly tour at the factory in the San Francisco Bay Area!
27. Water bottles: Everyone needs to stay hydrated on a road trip, and personal water bottles help families save money when they stop for food, too. We love HydroFlask bottles, because they’re insulated and stainless steel. For a lighter weight bottle, go with Camelbak Eddy or Chute.
28. Duct tape: We won’t judge parents on how duct tape is used, especially at the end of a road trip, but here are our ideas: use it to designate ‘territory’ within the car, to keep kids in their own space, or allow kids to create art with it. Ours like to make their own wallets or frisbees.
29. Paper maps: Go old-school when you stop at gas stations or welcome centers, and pick up paper maps of the region you’re road tripping. Allow kids to follow your route by themselves, or enlist their help navigating. Older kids can pick out pit stops en route, or calculate distance.
30. Pillows and blankets: Make your road trip a slumber party with small pillows and lap blankets to make the drive more comfortable. If you don’t have room for full-sized pillows, opt for travel pillows. We love Rumpl’s travel blanket, which packs down small and is waterproof against spills.
What items are must-haves in your car during road trips?