The great American road trip is back and it’s going to be bigger (and more needed!) than ever. Here are the must have road trip gadgets for your big trip this summer. Let’s get driving.
The road trip probably brings back fond memories of your family vacations. For us, it was drives from Arizona to Texas, or to Wyoming or California. Long drives in our Dodge Caravan that involved Motel 6’s, stinky socks, bags of Doritos, the obligatory argument with dad and lots of fond memories.
Indeed, the great American road trip is back and will be more important than ever this year and perhaps for the next few years. As the country reels from the effects of a devastating pandemic the road trip may ultimately be the safest and most affordable way to get your family out of the house.
AAA is predicting that the road trip will be bigger than ever this year and if you and your family are considering hitting the highways, you need to get your road trip gear dialed in. Here’s our guide to best road trip gadgets and gear for maximum comfort, fun and safety!
Best Road Trip Gadgets & Road Trip Essentials
We’ve divided our road trip gadgets list into several major categories including:
- Tech: the best road trip tech for your big adventure
- Fun: fun road trip gadgets to keep it light and silly
- Comfort: gadgets to keep your comfy on your drive
- Safety: gadgets and gear to stay safe on your journey
Got some air travel coming up? Check out our detailed guide to the must-have travel gadgets for air travel.
Tech Road Trip Gadgets you are going to want
Getting your technology setup correctly is crucial for any successful road trip. From navigational systems, to adequate power to entertainment solutions for the kids, it’s critical you spend the time getting the right kinds of road trip tech gadgets.
Cell Phone Holder
One must have road trip gadget is the cell phone holder. If you are going to be driving for an extended period of time you are going to want to have your phone mounted somewhere.
Maybe you want to use it for navigational purposes, or perhaps to let your kids watch a movie, or for easy access to your playlists, but mounting that phone is definitely worth your while.
Here are a couple of choices including one that fits in your car’s cup holder.
Multi Plug Cig Lighter Charger / USB Charger
Most new cars now have several USB ports rendering the need for the old fashioned cigarette lighter adapter unncessary, however, most cars also still have a cigarette lighted and having the extra ports may come in handy.
Maybe your car doesn’t have USB ports, or maybe you just need a few more. Either way, snag one of these little gadgets for your road trip and you’ll be set.
Some newer cars have their own built in 5G connection which you can use for in-car WiFi, thereby using your car as a hot spot, but this capability is nowhere near widespread adoption yet. We always like to bring a hot spot with us on our trips and we usually will pick a different one than our main cell phone providers in case we find areas with different coverage.
Any popular cell phone provider will be happy to sell you one.
iPads for the kids
Staring out the window is cool for a while, but after a long while the kids will tire of this activity. Get them each iPads (with headphones, and backup headphones…) to help pass the time. That said, be sure to make them enjoy the beauty of this great country from time to time by turning off the electronics and checking out mother nature.
Don’t forget the case:
Notice a theme yet? Power. Keep your road trip gadgets charged at all times with a other gadget: a portable charger. Sure, you can and should use your car’s cigarette lighter (or USB ports if the car has them) to charge your devices, but it’s always nice to have some extra juice laying around.
Pin me for later:
Aux Cable and get your tunes setup
Nowadays most cars have Bluetooth so Aux cables aren’t necessary. However, if you don’t have Bluetooth in the car grab an aux cable for maximum tunage. In fact, grab two…you will need that backup when your hubby’s knee catches on the cord and snaps the jack in half.
Headphones for every single kid!
Be sure to bring some headphones for the kiddos on your road trip. If you have young kids we don’t recommend expensive ear buds, instead, go for something more affordable – something you don’t care so much if it gets damaged.
And some backup headphones
We also recommend you bring some backup headphones for when your boy steps on your girl’s headphones and cracks them. Avoid the ensuing mayhem by simply producing another pair. Save space by making your backup pair a set of wired ear buds.
Keeping track of all of your “stuff” on a road trip is hard. Especially for kids. We cannot recommend enough how important it is to get a seatback organizer like the one pictured below. Such a gadget will help organize your kid’s stuff in the back, keeping it within reach and handy. We like the one below because it has a shelf you can place the iPad on for easy viewing.
Fun Road Trip Gadgets
Your road trip fun can’t all be centered around the iPad. Do yourself a favor and consider bringing a few other road trip gadgets or road trip gear items that will add a little fun to your adventure.
Some travel games
We’ve written an entire guide on travel games (which you really should check out), but we highly recommend you bring a few travel games with you on your trip. Here’s an idea or two:
Binoculars for the Kids
This country has a lot of amazing beauty and on your road trip you likely won’t be able to stop and check everything out. Pass a cool looking rock formation off in the distance (maybe a cave!?)? Give your kids some binos to help them scope out things while you are driving. They will enjoy it. Check out these from Dreambox:
Best Gadgets for a Comfortable Road Trip
Do you remember those crazy beaded chair covers that were so popular in the 90’s? Yeah, those were terrible, but they were heading in the right direction: comfort.
For a long road trip you may want to bring a few car gadgets that help make things a little more comfortable. Here’s a few ideas.
Maybe the beaded option isn’t the way to go (seriously, don’t go this route), but a seat cushion or two might be worth the investment.
Unless you are driving a crazy nice car, chances are your car’s lumbar support is total poop. Considering investing in a lumbar support pad to augment whatever failings your car has for the long drive. This will come in handy when your back is killing you on day 4 your road trip.
Travel pillows for sleeping
Ever driven across Kansas? It’s pretty flat…and perfect for taking a long nap in the car. Or maybe you’ve got a dad who drives hard through the night (no stopping!!). Bringing a pillow really isn’t even a question: you are going to bring one, the only question is which one.
Rather than load up full size pillows in your car (which take up a lot of space, and get dirty easily), bring a more purpose built solution: a travel sized pilow.
There’s a few options to go with here including: a smaller pillow, a traditional neck pillow, an innovative travel pillow like the Trtl Pillow (which has a good kids option too).
If you need a pillow you will need a blanket. But, instead of lugging around a full sized “nice” blanket from home, we suggest you opt for something a little lighter and potentially disposable. It will also save you the hassle of doing a bunch of extra laundry when you return from your road trip.
A Travel Cooler is a must have
Any road trip would be incomplete with loading up on snacks. Maybe your mom likes to make sandwiches, or maybe it’s just full of water and mountain dew. Whatever your family includes, a travel cooler for your car is a must have road trip gadget. We are partial to a soft sided cooler like the Coleman listed below.
Trash can for your car
It’s astonishing how much trash you can accumulate on a road trip. At least make some attempt to keep it organized with a travel sized trash can for your car.
Pro tip: every time you stop, look for a can and trash out of your car. A little bit at a time is better than a massive cleaning 6 days into your trip. Trust me.
Crumbs, crumbs and more crumbs! Who knows where they come from, but every road trip is sure to dirty up your car in ways you’ve never imagine. We recommend bringing a small cordless vacuum cleaner to touch your car up on the go. If you are tight on space, however, ditch the vacuum and use one from a gas station.
Safety Gadgets & Gear for every road trip
Staying safe on your road trip is a must. Here are several pieces of road trip gear or road trip gadgets designed to help you stay safe while traveling and be more prepared for the unexpected.
- Here’s some more tips on how to stay safe on your road trip this summer.
- For general travel safety tips check out our guide here.
First Aid Kit
You’d be a fool not bring a first aid kit with you on a road trip. So much can go wrong and having some of the basics handy is just plain ole smart. Here’s an option:
Fix a flat
A can of fix a flat can be game changer. Hopefully you have AAA or some other similar road side service, but sometimes you just need to inflate a tire! Grab a can and toss it in the back. You will thank me.
Road safety kit
Be prepared. An important lesson for any traveler, but never more important than when on a road trip. One collection of road trip gadgets you need to include on every trip is a road safety kit. From some basic tools, to safety items, and jumper cables, keeping this kit handy could be a lifesaver. The kit below is a good one, although it could use some road flares which we recommend adding.
Roadside Assistance Emergency Kit
Face coverings / masks – road trip gear for today’s world
Face masks are a must have road trip essential these days. Not only are they still required in many parts of the country, they will help protect you and others from getting ill. Grab a bunch for your road trip and stay safe.
We also recommend some disposable masks too – always a good thing to have around on a road trip in this day and age.
Pandemic or not, having some wipes to help sanitize things is a must have for any road trip. Stock up on these and wipe everything down. It’s gross out there!
Hand Sanitizer – not really a road trip gadget, per se, but super important!
Keeping clean and safe on the road is a must and stocking up on hand sanitizer is a no-brainer. Just do it.
Summary of Road Trip Gadgets
To make it a little easier, we’ve summarized all of our road trip gadgets and gear here.
- Cell Phone Holder
- Multi Plug Cig Lighter Charger / USB Charger
- Hot Spot
- iPad for kids
- Portable Charger
- Aux Cable and get your tunes setup
- Headphones for every single kid…but cheepos
- Seatback organizer
- Travel Games
- Seat Cushions
- Lumbar Support
- Travel pillows for sleeping
- Travel blanket
- Trash can
- Travel Vacuum
- First Aid Kit
- Fix a flat
- Road safety kit
- Face coverings / masks
- Wet Wipes
- Hand Sanitizer
Final Thoughts on Road Trip Gadgets
We hope you get a chance to get out this summer (and all future summers!). There’s some special, almost spiritual, about a road trip. This great country has an innumerable amount of things to see and do and a road trip can be a relatively affordable and safer way to get out of the house and experience things!
Use this list of road trip gear and gadgets to maximize the fun and enjoyment you and the family have!
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