Travel is back in full swing. And while many feel comfortable hitting the skies, traveling across the country or even traveling internationally, road trips continue to be a solid option for those 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.
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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.
$27.99 at Amazon
“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.”
$54.99 at Amazon
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.
$250 at Yeti
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.”
$400 at Yeti
Bigger crew? Try this large, wheeled Yeti for all your treats.
$8.95 at Amazon
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.
$8.50 at Amazon
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.
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This highly rated magnetic drawing board will keep them creating, not complaining.
$16.34 at Amazon
They can tell their own stories with Eric Carle’s classic characters.
$3.99 at Thrive Market
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.
$5.99 at Thrive Market
Honestly, it doesn’t get much easier than a bar.
$3.19 at Target
Toss these cheese bites in your cooler and you’ll have a filling snack you can feel good about on hand.
$58.99 at Amazon
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.
$10.79 $8.99 at Amazon
These inexpensive foam earplugs are highly rated for a simple reason: They work!
Can’t sleep with something in or over your ears? Pack a small sound machine for you — or the kids. This device won our title as the best upgrade white noise machine during our testing, thanks to its extra features like a changing light on the front, a digital clock display and routines to help you get to sleep easier.
$19.99 $9.98 at Amazon
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.
$39.99 at Amazon
“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.
$125 at Summersalt
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 six different color combinations. Plus, you can pair the hoodie with a matching set of cashmere blend joggers to complete your road trip look.
$169 at Parachute
This chic kit has everything you need to stay cozy and sleep well on the road.
$54.99 at Amazon
“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.
$69.99 $55.95 at Amazon
This kit comes with a first aid kit on top of all the car necessities.
$27.31 $19.99 at Amazon
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.