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Despite what you’ve seen in slapstick travel flicks, not every memorable automobile adventure needs to be an epic Twitter tale-turned-movie or end at the bottom of a canyon. As spring break and summer festival season nears, many are embarking on more trips via the air and roads. And with the ongoing rental car shortage, hopping in your own ride might be the most convenient way to take a spur-of-the-moment vacation before returning to school or work.
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Related: The Best Long Flight Travel Accessories
If the coronavirus still looms large over your travel plans, you’re not alone. A poll by Harvest Hosts recently found that more than 75 percent of American respondents — including many newly-minted remote workers — planned to travel more last year, though over half say they’re hesitant to stay at hotels, and about 20 percent won’t be flying yet. A recent study by Destination Analysts also found that the majority of Americans feel safe taking road trips.
What Are the Best RV and Trailer Rental Services?
If you don’t already have a tricked-out camper van (like nomadic actress Holland Roden) or prefer not to add extra miles to your ride, Outdoorsy and RV Share are among the best online RV and trailer rental services that let you borrow Airstreams (a favorite among globe-trotting stars like Milo Ventimiglia), towable campers and others directly from their owners. And if you’ve got a driveable or towable travel vehicle that’s collecting dust, you can earn some money while it’s not in use by listing it for rent on the aforementioned platforms.
What Are the Best Road Trip Essentials?
To help you plan a great mini-vacay, the best road trip essentials can help you stay prepared for whatever comes your way — regardless of the route or season. Whether you’re boondocking along your cross-country route or glamping at your final destination a few towns over, we’ve put together a shoppable road trip checklist with items that are fun and functional for boondockers and glampers alike.
From fully-stocked roadside emergency bags to fashionable carryalls, to backpacks and must-haves for a relaxing car ride, check out our favorite driving essentials to bring on your next road trip this spring and summer. Many of our picks are also made of sustainable materials, so you can hit the road with a lower environmental impact, too.
1. Audible Subscription
For when you have spotty reception and want to catch up on audiobooks and podcasts while you drive, Amazon’s Audible lets you download titles so that you can listen offline. Plus, through Sept. 30, Prime Student members can get three free months of Audible Premium Plus and three free titles that’ll stay permanently in their digital library; if you’re eligible, sign up for Amazon Prime student (six months free, then $6.49 per month for new members) here and get the Audible deal here.
$15 per month
2. Foval Car Power Inverter
When you’re traveling with digital nomads (or tech-obsessed passengers), this 200-watt car power inverter has two 110-volt outlets and four USB ports so you can charge up to six devices.
Buy: Foval Car Power Inverter $25.98
3. Thisworx Car Vacuum Cleaner
All of that extra mileage likely means more messes, too. Thisworx’ car vacuum cleaner conveniently plugs into your car or RV and features a HEPA filter, three attachments and a 106-watt motor to suck up dirt, crumbs, ash, pet hair and other debris.
Buy: Thisworx Car Vacuum Cleaner $34.99
4. Away The Travel Neck Pillow
Get some shut-eye in the passenger or back seat with Away’s travel neck pillow, which has a foam core, quilted padding and an adjustable string so you can customize your comfort.
5. Béis The Expandable Overnighter
This laptop-friendly convertible bag from Béis has all of the compartments, pockets and space you need for one day or three. The expandable design, key leash and luggage handle passthrough round out this stylish quilted travel carryall.
Béis The Expandable Overnighter
6. Dramamine Motion Sickness Tablets
Can’t stomach the road — literally? Dimenhydrinate tablets (like pharmacist-recommended Dramamine) is a glove box must-have for anyone who tends to get nauseous or dizzy in the car.
Buy: Dramamine Motion Sickness Tablets $9.79
7. Awoken Unisex Urinal
When nature calls, don’t be caught squirming in your seat until the next rest stop. This unisex urinal lets anyone — including kids — relieve themselves in the car without spillage (for safety and sanitary, we don’t recommend using it when you’re at the wheel).
Buy: Awoken Unisex Urinal $12.59
8. Everywhere You Go: A Guided Travel Journal
Document your adventures in Compendium’s travel journal, which is filled with creative prompts, inspiring quotes and blank note pages (think packing lists and contact info) so you won’t forget a thing about your trip.
Buy: Everywhere You Go: A Guided Travel Journal $14.67
9. GummiShot Energy Gummies
For when you find yourself nodding off but you don’t have time for a coffee stop, GummiShot’s energy gummies will give you a boost of plant-based caffeine to keep you on the road.
10. Hydro Flask 64-Ounce Wide Mouth Water Bottle
There’s not always a rest stop on those long stretches, and that’s when Hydro Flask’s 64-ounce water bottle comes in handy.
Buy: Hydroflask 64-Ounce Wide Mouth Water Bottle $64.95
11. Calpak Car Organizer
Available in a variety of stylish colors, Calpak’s genius car organizer is made of water-resistant material and expands to three compartments so you can customize the size to fit your space. The collapsible storage pice has a carrying handle and interior pockets, too.
Calpak Car Organizer
12. Bellroy Toiletry Kit
Bellroy’s toiletry kit has interior pockets to keep your skincare, grooming goods and other essentials organized while you’re on the roac.
Bellroy Toiletry Kit
13. Duluth Trading Co. Seat Back Bunker
Whether you’re traveling with kids or very bored back seat drivers, Duluth Trading Co.’s Seat Back Bunker has plenty of pockets for stowing away road trip entertainment and other essentials.
Duluth Trading Co. Seat Back Bunker
14. Surviveware First Aid Kit
Accidents — hopefully, minor ones — can happen anywhere, and this first aid kit by Surviveware is packed over 200 basic medical emergency items such as bandages, splints, wound dressings, tweezers, a first aid guide and more, all in a water-resistant 600D nylon storage bag.
Buy: Surviveware First Aid Kit $125.95
15. Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool Washable Blanket
Keep passengers warm with Pendleton’s eco-wise wool blanket, which is made from sustainable materials and measures 54 inches by 60 inches. The machine-washable throw’s fringe also adds a stylish touch in your home on wheels.
Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool Washable Blanket
16. Fjällräven Tree Kånken Backpack
The Swedish accessories brand is beloved for its boxy backpack, which got a recent eco-friendly upgrade. Fjällräven’s new Tree-Kanken bag is made of sustainably sourced fabric made from spruce and pine trees, and side pockets and straps make it a great everyday backpack that’s roomy enough for day trips.
Fjallraven Tree Kanken Backpack
17. Gentleman’s Hardware Road Trip Trivia Car Set
You won’t be bored in the car and in the car bored with this road trip trivia card set by Gentleman’s Hardware. Small enough to be stowed away in the glove compartment, this set comes with 100 cards that’ll test your knowledge of the U.S. of A.
Buy: Gentleman’s Hardware American Road Trip Trivia Set $17.00
18. Bagsmart Large Hanging Toiletry Bag
Whether you’re ending up at a hotel or just want to freshen up at a pit stop, this hanging toiletry bag makes it easy to stash all of your bath and body products, jewelry and other road trip essentials into a convenient carryall. And when you are ready to fly, the bag features a separate bag that follows TSA 3-1-1 liquids rules, making it easier to breeze through airport security.
Buy: Bagsmart Large Hanging Toiletry Bag $27.99
19. Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro
Of course, you’re going to want to document your moments, and Kodak’s Mini Shot 3 Retro instant camera offers the best of both analog and digital worlds. Plus, it’s currently on sale for an extra 15% off when you clip the coupon on the Amazon product page.
Buy: Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro (reg. $165) $139.99
20. Halo Bolt Portable Charger and Car Jump Starter
Equipped with two USB charging ports and a 120V AC wall outlet, this portable charger can also be used to jump-start your car battery with the included jumper cables. It’s also got an LED flood light for staying safe and visible in the dark and comes in a handy carrying pouch.
Buy: Halo Bolt Portable Charger and Car Jump Starter $91.25
21. STDY Roadside Emergency Kit
You can never be too prepared on the road, which is why (in addition to a first aid kit and a portable charger) a roadside emergency kit is also one of the top driving essentials we recommend keeping in your vehicle. This one includes a safety vest, a reflective warning triangle, 7.6-foot jumper cables, a whistle, tools, basic first aid items, gloves, PVC tape, tire repair tools and other road trip must-haves for your RV or car.
Buy: STDY Roadside Emergency Kit $49.99
22. Nexar Beam GPS 1080p Dash Cam
Popular among rideshare drivers, a good dashboard camera can provide peace of mind in the unfortunate event of collisions, or to capture stunning road trip views. Nexar’s GPS-enabled Beam 1080p HD dash cam captures 135-degree wide video and syncs with the brand’s iPhone or Android app, which can create post-accident reports with key crash information (such as driving speed, location, G-force impact and video footage) that you can send to your car insurance company. The device can start recording immediately when it senses even minor impacts (even when you’re parked), and it comes with a 32 GB SD card for on-device video storage as well as unlimited cloud storage.
Buy: Nexar Beam GPS 1080p Dash Cam $129.95
23. Yeti Hopper Flip 8 Cooler
If your vehicle is tight on space, Yeti’s compact Hopper Flip 8 cooler can fit a six-pack or whatever else you need to keep cool in between stops. The DryHide shell means it can take a beating in the rugged outdoors, and when used with a combination of Yeti’s ice packs and regular ice, the cooler can keep contents cold for two or more days.
Yeti Hopper Flip 8 Cooler
24. Carpool Karaoke Wireless Microphone System
This could be the best or worst idea for a road trip, depending on your fellow travelers’ vocal chops. While passengers can simply belt it out without any technical assistance, this official Carpool Karaoke microphone lets everyone recreate their favorite Late Show with James Corden bits while embellishing their performance with echo effects and lights. The microphone and speaker can stream audio from a music app or smartphone via Bluetooth, or you can connect it to your car’s FM tuner. The rechargeable battery promises up to six hours of non-stop karaoke (or auditory torture).
Buy: Carpool Karaoke Wireless Microphone System $29.99
25. Sanmitti Car Back Seat Organizer
You may be living a freewheelin’ driver’s life, but your car doesn’t need to look the part. Keep your car organized on trips and in everyday life with this back seat organizer, which contains pockets, fold-down trays (perfect for holding tablets to keep passengers entertained), water bottle holders and other storage compartments.
Buy: Sanmitti Car Back Seat Organizer $23.99