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Road trips are a fun way to explore new places and create unforgettable memories with family. Whether you’re hitting the road for a weekend getaway or embarking on a cross-country adventure, having the right essential road trip items can make all the difference in your comfort and stress level.
We’ve been on many, many road trips with our kids, and have learned more from each trip. Needs also change as the kids ages change, and I’ve tried to include things for all ages!
From snacks and entertainment to safety equipment and first aid kits, there are a few items that you should consider for your packing list.
In this article, we’ll explore the best essential road trip items, that can all be found on Amazon, so you can stay comfortable, prepared, and enjoy the journey to its fullest. So buckle up and get ready to hit the road!
Safety First: Emergency Kit and Tools
When you’re on the road, safety should always be your top priority. That’s why it’s essential to have an emergency kit and tools on hand. Your emergency kit should include all the necessary items to help you in case of an emergency.
This includes a first aid kit, jumper cables, a flashlight, a tire gauge, a tire repair kit, and a spare tire.
In addition to your emergency kit, it’s also important to have the right tools to help you in case of a breakdown. This includes a jack, lug wrench, and a can of tire sealant. You never know when you might need these items, so it’s best to be prepared. By having these tools on hand, you’ll be able to fix simple problems on the road and avoid costly repairs or delays.
Finally, make sure you have a fully charged phone and a charger with you at all times. This will allow you to call for help in case of an emergency.
Something that doesn’t come in the first aid kit, but I definitely like to have in the car is motion sickness medicine! My kids don’t mind the taste of the Kid’s Chewable Dramamine.
Stay Hydrated and Fueled: Drinks & Snacks
When you’re on the road, it’s important to stay hydrated and fueled up. That’s why it’s essential to have plenty of water and snacks on hand.
We like to pack a cooler with drinks and some snacks and put it in the back seat between the kids. This will save you money and ensure that you always have a drink or snack when someone needs it. We also all have our own refillable, leak-proof water bottles with us.
Our kids both have these Camelbak stainless steel bottles – they’ve had the same ones for almost 3 years, and they’ve never once leaked.
If you have one of those big water bottles that doesn’t fit in your cupholders, this Amazon Basics cupholder expander is a pretty useful gadget! (The kid’s cups above do fit a standard cup holder!)
We have this RTIC cooler, which works well and is a great size. The only downside to this one is that the kids have a hard time unzipping it on their own (which I guess, could sometimes be a good thing!)
This “picnic size” Igloo cooler is one that is on my wishlist, and a little more budget-friendly. I can’t speak to how well it works, but it has great reviews on Amazon!
If you have little ones in car seats, this little travel tray that fits into the cupholder is pretty awesome!
You might also consider a spill-proof snack cup. We had some of these when our kids were younger, and loved them!
Keep It Clean: Trash Bags and Wipes
When you’re on the road, it’s nice to keep your car clean and clutter-free. That’s why it’s essential to bring trash bags and wipes with you.
If you’re planning to stop at rest areas or parks along the way, make sure to dispose of your trash properly and leave the area clean for the next visitors. By keeping your car and the areas you visit clean, you’ll be helping to preserve the environment and ensure that everyone can enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
Although personally, I like to just use a plastic grocery bag to collect car trash to throw away at the next stop, I know a lot of people who love having a car trash bin.
This one is waterproof, adjustable, comes in several colors, and has tons of great reviews.
Here’s another type of bag that you may not want to think about, but I think is essential on road trips: barf bags. They’re small, but have a big area for the mouth & then twist and secure closed to conceal odors. I keep these stuffed in the door panel of the passenger seat, so I can grab one fast!
I also always like to keep Armorall cleaning wipes in the car, for any messes that get spilled on the seats (and it happens, every single time!)
Hand sanitizing wipes are another item I just like to have in the car at all times. You could also just use a liquid hand sanitizer, but if your kids are like mine, they’ll squeeze out way too much and just give you another mess to clean up! I also like to use these to wipe my phone down.
If you’re super into keeping your car clean on your trip, you might want a mini rechargeable vacuum. This one has been recommended so many times, and it’s on my wishlist!
Tech and Entertainment: Travel Games, Electronics, and Gadgets
One of the most essential road trip items is definitely entertainment!
From travel games to portable toddler activities, to movies, music, and screen time, here are some entertainment essentials to cover all ages!
We have an Amazon Fire tablet that our 4-year-old loves to play on in the car. I love how kid-friendly these are, and there are so many free educational games you can download on them.
If you’re like us and you don’t want to listen to Baby Shark or Cocomelon on repeat, you need some headphones too! We have this set, which is made for kids, and they’re super comfortable.
If you are connecting them to an Apple device, though, you need an adapter. We have this adapter for when my son wants to watch videos on my iPhone.
One of the best things we did before leaving on our 3 1/2 week road trip was installing a DVD player in our Suburban. If you don’t have a car that already came with these, or don’t have the know-how to install built-in ones like my husband did, you can buy car DVD players on Amazon, and they just attach to the back of your headrest.
If your kids are still young, they might like to play road trip games. We like to do the license plate game (find a license plate from as many states as you can – just write them down in a notebook as you go!)
Another good one is I-Spy. We usually play just by going around the group, taking turns saying “I spy something (insert color). But this travel I-Spy game looks like fun!
This travel Bingo game looks fun too. They have several versions, but this one is specifically for Interstate travel!
Something my 9-year-old son and I love are these Highlights Hidden Picture puzzle books. We have so many different versions of these! They’re fun to do when you get to your destination too when you have downtime or are waiting at a restaurant!
Here is something I plan to get for our 4-year-old daughter before our next road trip – an erasable doodle set. It comes in several styles for different interests!
The Melissa & Doug WaterWow books are a super popular road trip activity for kids. They’re mess-free water-reveal coloring books. I like the idea of not having crayons in the car – because they could potentially melt!
Finally, if you’re planning to use your phone for navigation or entertainment, make sure you have a portable charger or power bank with you!
This power inverter has 4 USB ports and 2 US standard AC sockets, so you can plug in pretty much anything you need! One thing I think the AC sockets would be good for is if you’re still in the breastfeeding stage and have a pump that needs to be plugged in!
My favorite power bank is this iWalk compact power bank for iPhone. I don’t so much use it in the car, but I like to have it in my bag for when we’re out and about on trips!
Stay Organized: Have a Place for Everything
Keeping everything organized on a road trip is always ideal! I love having a place for everything, especially in a small space! Here are my recommendations for essential road trip items for organization!
I really like this tote bag for keeping toys and activities within reach. I like how it can sit up on its own, but can also collapse down if you aren’t using it, and can be used as a reusable shopping tote when you aren’t on a trip.
It’s also nice to have a good trunk organizer. I like this one, which is also collapsible, and has handles to easily move it around.
Another awesome organizational item is a backseat organizer. I like that this one has cupholders, a tablet space, and so many other pockets!
Here is another totally useful organization item for the car – a visor holder for your tissues, sunglasses, and pens!
I just really love an organized car, especially on a road trip when things can get crazy!
Road Tripping in the Midst of Potty Training or Diapering
One of the hardest parts about road-tripping with toddlers and preschoolers is the potty situation! But I found this travel potty that is seriously life-changing. I don’t know how we could live without it and I’ll recommend it to everyone I know with potty-training kids!
It’s the Potette Plus Travel Potty and it’s amazing. It folds down flat (I have even carried it in my backpack on hikes!) and has little seat-liner bags that can be disposed of, so there’s no cleanup. I’m not kidding you, I can’t road trip without this thing. Heck, I can’t even drive to the next town over without it!
Another thing we have that’s so helpful is this waterproof car seat liner. That way, if they do have an accident, it doesn’t leak through to the car seat. You can just remove this liner, change their clothes, and put them back in a clean, dry seat.
If you want to go another route, just putting doggy pee-pads in the car seat and ripping out a hole for the buckle works the same!
These 2 items really do make traveling with potty-training kids way easier and less stressful!
For those still in the diaper stage, I used to have a travel diaper changing pad with storage that I loved. I can’t remember the brand I had, but it was just like this one:
I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather lay out my own pad on the seat of the car to change my baby than take them inside a dirty public bathroom to lay on a changing station!
Conclusion: Be Prepared and Enjoy the Journey
Having these essential road trip items can really help make a road trip more enjoyable and less stressful for everyone. However, I want to also say, you don’t have to feel like you need to purchase a ton of things to have a good trip.
Have the emergency essentials, play traditional, old-school games, pack the snacks you have on hand, and just go! The more road trips you take, the more you will find out what is an essential road trip item for your specific family and needs!
Check out these other related articles next!
- Essential Road Trip Tips for Families to Stay Entertained and Sane
- Vacation Planning in 7 Easy Steps
- The Ultimate Guide to National Parks for Families
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