While Americans are getting back to all kinds of travel, road trips continue to be a solid option for travelers looking to stick a bit closer to home. And you won’t want to embark on one without a list of road trip essentials.
If you’re on the road traveling for hours, or even days, you may have packed snacks and your travel car seat, but are you ready for anything that might come up? We talked to experts about what you’ll need to keep moving, stay entertained and make sure you’re covered for any problems that might come up while on the road. Here are 22 items that should be on your road trip packing list.
Zojirushi Travel Mug, 16-Ounce ($23.49, originally $55; amazon.com)
No road trip is complete without ample snacks, especially if you’re doing long stretches and trying to avoid fast food. You’re going to need storage to keep your road trip snacks separate and cool, and insulated mugs for every traveler’s best friend: coffee.
Zojirushi Stainless Steel Vacuum-Insulated Mug, 20-Ounce ($27.99; amazon.com)
“This Japanese-made mug miraculously maintains the temperature of coffee or tea for nearly an entire day,” says Waliszewski. “I bring it on every road trip to both reduce waste and enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee for my entire drive.”
Stasher 100% Silicone Food Grade Reusable Storage Bags ($36; amazon.com)
Eating healthy — or just sensibly — is a huge challenge for any road tripper, says Waliszewski. “You are sitting for most of the day and usually fast food and gas stations are your only option,” he says. “To both stay healthy and reduce waste along the trip, I pack fruits, vegetables and nuts into reusable zip-close bags ahead of time.”
Stasher bags are reusable bags made out of platinum-grade silicone, which is the highest quality of silicone. Read our glowing review of them here.
Yeti Roadie 24 Cooler ($199.99; yeti.com)
Perfect for a short trip or a couple, this cooler will keep your snacks and drinks cool.
Waliszewski has a strategy, saying, “I find grocery stores along the way for a refill every couple days. I store everything in a Yeti cooler so everything stays cool and fresh.”
Yeti Tundra Haul Portable Wheeled Cooler ($399.99; yeti.com)
Bigger crew? Try this large, wheeled Yeti for all your treats.
‘The United States Activity and Fact Book’ by Dylanna Press ($8.95; amazon.com)
If you’ve ever been with kids on a road trip or been a kid on a road trip, you know the refrain “Are we there yet?” If you’d like to minimize this kind of fussing, there are a few ways to keep the kiddos busy while you’re focused on the road.
“Get the kids excited by bringing along destination information and track your road trip progress together on a map,” says AAA spokesperson Julie Hall. “Also, bring soft toys, books and games to keep children occupied while traveling.”
Help them learn about where you’re going and what they’ll be seeing with this map and activity book.
National Geographic Kids Ultimate US Road Trip Atlas ($8.50; amazon.com)
This atlas has road trip games, activities, maps and fun facts to keep the kids busy and engaged.
“We bring several types of imaginative games like magnet boards where they can get lost in making their own little stories, lots of books and an I Spy travel pack to help them search for things out the window like semitrucks and types of signs,” says Waliszewski.
Magnetic Drawing Board for Toddlers ($13.99; amazon.com)
This highly rated magnetic drawing board will keep them creating, not complaining.
Mudpuppy Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Friends Magnetic Character Set ($16.34; amazon.com)
They can tell their own stories with Eric Carle’s classic characters.
Angie’s Boomchickapop Kettle Corn, Hot Cocoa Marshmallow ($3, originally $4.29; thrivemarket.com)
Waliszewski adds, “We find playgrounds on the way to give them a quick escape from the car seat, and we always have a favorite snack handy.”
Kids love popcorn, and this version is sure to satisfy them.
Rockin’ Straw-Beary Kids Bars ($4.99; thrivemarket.com)
Honestly, it doesn’t get much easier than a bar.
Good & Gather Mozzarella Mini String Cheese Bites ($3.19; target.com)
Toss these cheese bites in your cooler and you’ll have a filling snack you can feel good about on hand.
Anker Soundcore Life Q20 ($53.99, originally $59.99; amazon.com)
It’s not just kids who can get antsy. If you’re doing long-haul drives, it’s important to decompress at the end of the day.
“A good pair of earplugs or noise-canceling headphones can be a lifesaver when it’s time to rest after a long drive,” Waliszewski says.
These are our pick for the best budget noise-canceling headphones; pop these on your ears and turn on some soothing sounds — or don’t — to block out ambient noise.
Mack’s Ultra-Soft Foam Earplugs ($8.99, originally $10.79; amazon.com)
These inexpensive foam earplugs are highly rated for a simple reason — they work!
Hatch Restore Sound Machine, Smart Light and Sleep Sounds ($129.99; amazon.com)
Can’t sleep with something in or over your ears? Pack a small sound machine for you — or the kids.
Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask ($9.98, originally $19.99; amazon.com)
Have a happy face in the morning after blocking out strange lights for a good night’s sleep with our pick for the best sleep mask.
Cabeau Evolution S3 Neck Support Pillow ($39.99; amazon.com)
“A travel pillow and blanket are definitely good ideas for the passenger to relax when they have the opportunity to do so,” says Hall.
Our pick for the best travel pillow will prevent a sore neck if you drift off in the backseat.
The Coziest Cashmere Blanket Scarf ($80; summersalt.com)
This blanket scarf will keep you cozy in the car and in heavily air-conditioned hotels and restaurants — we love a double tasker!
Merino Travel Kit ($169; parachute.com)
This chic kit has everything you need to stay cozy and sleep well on the road.
Vetoos Roadside Emergency Car Kit With Jumper Cables ($64.99; amazon.com)
“Always keep an emergency kit handy,” says Hall. “The kit should include mobile phone and car charger; flashlight with extra batteries; jumper cables or jump pack; a basic tool kit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench, duct tape, plastic zip ties); a tarp; raincoat and gloves to help stay clean/dry working at the roadside; rags, paper towels or premoistened wipes; warning devices (flares, reflective triangles or LED beacons); first aid kit; small, portable and battery-powered fan; windshield washer solvent; and plenty of drinking water, snacks or food for your passengers and any pets.”
Don’t have all that at the ready? You can get almost everything you need in an already stocked-up kit.
Thrive Car Emergency Kit With Jumper Cables + First Aid Kit ($49.95; amazon.com)
This kit comes with a first aid kit on top of all the car necessities.
Syncwire iPhone Car Charger ($19.99, originally $27.31; amazon.com)
If you don’t have a charger in your car, be sure to pick one up before you head out on the road.
And finally, Hall wants you to remember, “Before you set out on a road trip, make sure your vehicle is road trip-ready. Before you leave, check all fluids, test the car battery, ensure your tires are at normal pressure and, if needed, get an oil change, change your air filter and replace wiper blades.”
Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.