Travel comes in all forms — by train, plane, cruise and, of course, by a car. If you’re planning to hit the roads this spring break for an epic road trip, you won’t want to embark without a list of road trip essentials. After all, this is a different journey than your average drive to work or to a neighboring city.
If you’re on the road traveling for hours, or even days, you may have packed your favorite travel 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 25 items that should be on your road trip packing list.
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 makes the best travel mug I’ve ever found,” says TripScout CEO and co-founder Konrad Waliszewski.
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.
Traveling with a bigger crew on your road trip? Try this large, wheeled Yeti for all your treats. It's perfect for keeping in the back of your car or if your final destination is the beach, you can fill this cooler for a full day. It fits up to 82 cans, wine bottles and snacks for a full afternoon.
After a long day of driving, make sure everyone in your car has a comfortable place to sleep — after all, getting rest while on a road trip is very important. This portable mattress is perfect for camping or when you need an extra place to sleep for a friend who tagged along on your spring break trip at the last minute.
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 former 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.
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.
This highly rated magnetic drawing board will keep them creating, not complaining. And, because it's reusable for masterpieces over and over again, you can use this board for all of your upcoming trips — from road trips to long plane journeys.
Your little ones can tell their own stories with this magnetic set of feline friends in space. It's easy to set up and take down again and again for dozens of family trips to come.
If your car is tight on room, consider it a good time to upgrade your library to an e-reader. The Amazon Kindle Paperwhite takes up significantly less room than physical books, and it's got a battery life that will last for hours of your road trip.
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.
Toss these cheese sticks in your cooler and you’ll have a filling snack you can feel good about on hand.
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. Check out our full review of these headphones here.
Paravel is one of our favorite travel brands. Not only are its products made with sustainability at the top of mind, but they're chic and versatile. This mini fold-up backpack fits that description perfectly. Fold it up and pack it away in your car and then when you arrive at your destination, pack it full for a day of exploring.
These inexpensive foam earplugs are highly rated for a simple reason: They work! Pack them along on your road trip for those moments when you want to doze off or when you've stopped for a night's rest and your road trip companions are loud snorers.
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. Or, if it's your turn to take a break from driving and you want to pick up a bit of shut-eye, being able to block out the surrounding light — whether it's sunlight or oncoming headlights — will help you to fall asleep faster.
“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. It's made of a memory foam material, this neck pillow will allow you to sleep more comfortably throughout your road trip. And, we love that it can compress down to half its size for easy transport.
This cashmere blend hoodie will keep you cozy in the car and in heavily air-conditioned hotels and restaurants — we love a double tasker! It comes in five different color combinations. Plus, you can pair the hoodie with a matching set of cashmere blend joggers to complete your road trip look.
This chic kit has everything you need to stay cozy and sleep well on the road, including a travel blanket, eye mask and a carrying case. As the name would suggest, these travel essentials are made from 100% merino wool, which is sure to make for a comfortable journey.
“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.
This kit comes with a first aid kit on top of all the car necessities. Road trip with the peace of mind of knowing that you've got the essentials for both your vehicle and road trip companions should the need arise.
Avoid any conflict over who gets the only cord in the car by bringing your own portable charger. In our testing, this option from Anker took the title as the best portable charger overall thanks to its ability to charge two devices simultaneously and its tremendous charging capacity.
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 currently available.