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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. Despite high gas prices, many are opting for more road trips in light of flight cancellations, lost baggage and other nightmares shared by air travelers. 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.
If the coronavirus still looms large over your travel plans, you’re not alone. A poll last year by Harvest Hosts 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.
Some of the essentials on our list include travel essentials such as fully-stocked roadside emergency bags, digital nomad-friendly backpacks and toiletry bags and versatile duffle bags, plus entertainment options for that long and hopefully relaxing road ahead. Below, check out some of our favorite driving essentials for your next summer or fall road trip, many of which are made from sustainable materials so you can hit the road with a lower environmental impact, too.
1. State Packing Cube Set
Available in two colorways, State’s printed canvas packing cubes come in a set of two or three (choose from one large and two small cubes or two large pieces). We like the mesh front panel for quickly peeking inside the cubes, and the top handles make it easy to grab your stuff. You can also customize the cubes with a monogram for the perfect travel gift.
2. Business & Pleasure Premium Cooler Bag
For when you want to pull over for a quick picnic, this cooler bag from Business & Pleasure lets you enjoy cold drinks in style. It’s made with the brand’s UV-, water- and mold-proof umbrella canvas and it’s finished with chic leather handles and an eco-friendly printed lining.
3. Wey & Fly SUV Air Mattress
This top-rated SUV air mattress is a car camping essential. Four separate segments let you customize the fit to your vehicle’s back area, and the mattress features flocking on both sides for comfort. It’s suitable in temps as cold as -13°F or as hot as 122°F and a 12-volt air pump is included.
4. Fulton The Classic Insoles
Need some support while getting your steps in? We’re fans of Fulton’s comfortable insoles, which are great for flat-footed walkers (like us) or anyone who needs arch support. We like that they’re made of sustainable cork (which molds to your feet) and that there’s no trimming required, and we’ve found that the insoles make our feet and knees feel more comfortable, especially during all-day outings.
5. Tushy Travel Bidet
No more worrying about TP at rest stops with Tushy’s travel bidet, which conveniently collapses to save space while staying discreet. It can hold up to 11 fluid ounces of water and features a hinged nozzle with three spout positions, a carabiner and a carrying bag.
6. Kenu Airvue Car Headrest Tablet Mount
Kenu’s Airvue car headrest tablet mount lets passengers turn the back seat into a mini movie theater.
7. Rightline Gear Midsize 6-Foot Long Bed Truck Tent
This six-foot-long truck bed tent makes it easy to turn your ride into a shelter for shut-eye or a quick rest, thanks to the floorless design and quick setup.
8. 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 July 31, Prime members can get three free months of Audible Premium Plus and three free titles that’ll stay permanently in their digital library; after the trial, you’ll pay $14 per month. If you’re eligible, sign up here.
8. Sony WH-1000XM5 Headphones
Don’t love your driver’s soundtrack? Sony’s WH-1000XM5 headphones (also available in black) are perfect for audiophiles, frequent travelers and anyone who wants excellent automatic noise canceling (Auto NC) and sound for listening to music, making calls and other situations where you need to cut out distractions. Our go-to for noisy surroundings, these super comfortable wireless headphones also include a 3.5-millimeter cable for when you want to plug in (such as an airplane entertainment system), and they offer up to 30 hours of battery life on a single charge.
The four beamforming microphones deliver crystal-clear voice pickup for phone and video calling, and we like the speak-to-chat mode (which automatically stops the music so you can hear ambient sound) and the intuitive touch control settings for the volume, activating Auto NC, voice assistants and more.
9. 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.
10. Thisworx Car Vacuum Cleaner
All of that extra mileage likely means more messes, too. Thisworx’s 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. Dramamine Motion Sickness Tablets
Can’t stomach the road — literally? Dimenhydrinate tablets (such as pharmacist-recommended Dramamine) are a glove box must-have for anyone who tends to get nauseous or dizzy in the car.
14. 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).
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. 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 road.
20. Duluth Trading Co. Seat Back Bunker
Whether you’re traveling with kids or very bored backseat drivers, Duluth Trading Co.’s Seat Back Bunker has plenty of pockets for stowing away road trip entertainment and other essentials.
21. 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.
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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.
26. 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.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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.
30. 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.
31. 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).
32. 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.
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