It’s road trip season! If you’ve never hit the open road on a bright summer day, blasting your favorite playlist with your cutest sunnies on, might I suggest adding a road trip to your summer bucket list? When it comes to vacays, I actually prefer to pack my car if I’m headed somewhere within driving distance—simply because a road trip offers you a little more control than hopping on a plane does. You can leave whenever you want, you can stop to take breaks as you please, snack options are endless, and you can pack anything you like, without any size or weight limitations.
Being in the car for an extended amount of time can come with its challenges though, so you’ve got to make sure you have all the essentials you’ll need for a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable ride. And look no further, because we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re driving an hour for a weekend staycation or you’re driving up the coast for a week or two at the beach, check out the following list of road trip essentials.
20 oz Tumbler
Coffee is a must, especially if you’re driving early in the morning! You’ll never see me without my morning coffee, and this Yeti tumbler is my favorite for both hot and iced coffees.
Staying hydrated is super important, especially if it’s hot and the AC is turned up! TBH, I can’t get my hands on a Stanley Quencher, but it’s all good because this Simple Modern water bottle has been by my side since 2019. I never leave the home without it!
Car Cup Holder Extender
Unfortunately, car cup holders aren’t always one-size-fits-all, but don’t worry! Whatever you’re sipping on, a car cup holder extender will make sure your tumbler fits.
Car Trash Can
While I’ve opted to use a random plastic bag as a car trash can, this one is way cuter, more compact, and great to have in your car year-round. Usually, I forget to have a designated trash bag until an hour or two into the trip, leaving me awkwardly holding an apple core 'til we get to the next rest stop, but having a car trash can eliminates this problem altogether.
Spills happen, and having wipes on hand will keep your car and your hands clean. I’m in love with Biom—their eco-friendly, all-purpose wipes come in a gorgeous reusable container, and the grapefruit scent smells amazing too.
A road trip isn’t complete without snacks. A soft cooler tucked in the back seat is essential for keeping your drinks cold as well as holding healthy snacks like fruit, hummus, and cheese. If you’re road tripping to the beach, this cooler is great for all your beach snacks too!
Collapsible Snack Bins
If you’re packing to-go snacks in the car, containers can pile up and take up unnecessary space. A great space-saving solution for snacks on the road? Collapsible snack bins. Once they’re empty, you can fold them up and refill them later, and they won’t be taking up space unless they’re being used.
Reusable Silicone Bags
Another great space-saver are Stasher bags. These are perfect for packing sandwiches, fruit, nuts, and chips. And bonus: They are plastic-free and a great alternative to your typical single-use plastic bag.
Car Power Strip
No need for a car-specific phone charger when you can use a power strip! An excellent way to keep everyone’s electronics charged, this compact power strip has two outlets and four USB ports, so there’s plenty of power to go around.
If you’re using an app like Google Maps, a phone dock is a must. It’s so much better (and safer!) than keeping your phone in your lap and relying on voice navigation alone. This dock clips onto an air vent and allows you to glance at the map and written directions on your phone while you’re driving. Perfect!
Keep the back seat organized by using these car hooks to secure duffels, purses, or any bag with a handle. These are great for bags you don’t want on the floor that could roll around, and keeping bags on a hook will free up some leg room too. Find the color that matches your car interior for a sleek, cohesive look.
Traveling with a Theragun is awesome. Giving your thighs, hamstrings, and shoulders a little Theragun massage after sitting in the car for a few hours? Bliss.
These leggings continue to be my ride or die when it comes to comfort and lounging, and there’s no doubt I’ll be reaching for them when it’s time to sit in the car for a few hours. It’s all about comfort when it comes to road tripping, am I right?
Road trips and audio books are like peanut butter and jelly. A few hours in the car is the perfect time to dive into an audio book, and having an Audible membership will get you started in no time. Audible has a ton of audio books to choose from, and a membership also includes podcasts, meditation tracks, and sleep tracks—perfect for helping you rest once you’re at your destination.
Traveling with a full-sized pillow at the airport might seem a little extra, but for road trips, it’s fair game! Taking a nap in the car with your favorite pillow from home is clutch, and I’m obsessed with my FluffCo pillow.
Sunnies are a no-brainer, and these all-black aviators are classic and go with just about everything.
Car Window Shades
OK, so car window shades seem to only be marketed to protect kids from the sun, but if you’re on a road trip with your girlfriends in the back seat, we could use some UV ray protection too! Car window shades will help keep the backseat area cool, and if you plan on being in the car all day, these can offer some much-needed relief from the sun.
Hear me out: Sunscreen is a must for your road trip because the sun coming through your windows is strong. Be sure to get the tops of your thighs if you’re wearing shorts and your hands if you’re driving. Bask sunscreen is my current fave: The non-aerosol spray isn’t greasy and people always ask me what scent I’m wearing when I have it on. They don’t believe me when I say it’s sunscreen!
SPF Lip Balm
I’m that girl who has multiple lip balms circulating all at once, and one of them is always in the car. Just like you make sure you have sunscreen on your skin, you can’t forget your lips!
Mini First Aid Kit
It’s always a good idea to have a mini first-aid kit in the car when you’re traveling. This one is small enough to fit in your purse or glove compartment, and it is great for any small cuts or insect stings that may happen while in the car or at a rest area.
Motion Sickness Medicine
Road trips can be rough if you’re prone to car sickness, so be sure to have some Dramamine on hand to settle any nausea that may happen!
This was the year I finally upgraded my duffle bag from a Vera Bradley duffle circa 2010 to a Stoney Clover Lane by Target duffle, and I’m so happy I made the leap. While the Target collab bags are officially sold out, SCL has plenty of classic duffles to choose from, and they are all cute and classic and will fit everything you need for a weekend away.
If you prefer to travel with a suitcase, I’m in love with my Away carry-on and have been using it for years. The carry-on is compact and perfect for the car and also includes a laundry bag, which is great for any type of trip!