Road Trip Essentials

As staycations continue to be the new normal, many people are looking to hit the pavement for their upcoming holiday plans. Make sure you're road trip ready by packing the proper items to help safely navigate anything that may arise during the journey. Here are Advance Auto Parts' top 25 road trip essentials.

1. Lithium-ion jump starter

The invention in recent years of the portable jump starter means fears of being stranded due to a dead battery is largely a thing of the past. Some are compact enough to fit in the glove box or center console storage, yet boast sufficient power to fire up an eight-cylinder vehicle multiple times, and feature a built-in LED flashlight to boot.

2. Charging cables

There is certainly no shortage of electronics that people tote around nowadays and many utilize different connectors for charging, from the various kinds of USB to Apple's proprietary Lightning. Make a checklist or invest in a multi-headed cable.

3. First-aid kit

This needs little introduction. A fancy or overly expensive kit isn't necessary, as long it contains the essentials such as sterile gauze pads to place over wounds, adhesive tape, scissors, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, safety pins and a few other items.

4. Flare/reflector

After experiencing an unfortunate breakdown or accident at night, using a flare or reflector to stay visible to oncoming motorists as they approach is crucial. Check the description for water resistance and multiple flashing modes.

Photo by Roger Brown from Pexels

5. Non-perishables

When an emergency happens, possessing a stash of non-perishables such as bottled water and canned goods is critical. Store them in a box in the trunk or cargo area of the vehicle and remember to check the best-by date — even water expires.

6. Snacks

Driving or riding in the passenger seat while hungry is rarely a good time for all parties involved. Bring along a healthy mix of grab-and-go fresh snacks and treats like apples, baby carrots, trail mix and snack crackers to stay satiated and save money during traveling.

7. Garbage bin

There are a variety of small auto-specific garbage bins designed to hang on different parts of the interior, and are useful to keep the seats and floor free of wrappers and other trash. Pro tip: fit a disposable bag inside to make cleanup a cinch.

8. Quart of oil and funnel

You won't get very far in the event the car runs out of engine oil for any reason. Always carry a spare quart in the trunk or hatch area — in the proper viscosity to suit your specific application — and a funnel to make sure the oil goes where it's supposed to. One with a flexible spout is particularly handy.

Pro Tip

Don't forget to schedule your preventative maintenance and inspections well ahead of your trip. Take a look at our guide to getting road trip ready so you can rest easy knowing your ride is in good shape. 

9. Shop towels

Soak up a fluid leak; wipe away condensation; clean greasy lunch fingers: there really is no shortage of shop towel use cases. They're made tough to prevent breakage and soak up spills and are often sold in single, dual, or six-packs, and boxes too, to suit every need.

10. Basic hand tools

Having a few basic hand tools like some wrenches, hex keys, and a ratchet/socket set on hand could be a literal lifesaver, from diagnosing an issue under the hood to performing maintenance on recreation equipment. Aim to pick up a kit bundling all of the above — bonus points if a screwdriver with swappable tips is included.

11. Disposable gloves

Instead of putting dirty hands on the steering wheel, throw on a pair of disposable gloves before getting down to work, whether your doing a quick top off, airing a tire, or replacing a bulb. Usually ambidextrous and available in sizes small to extra-large, depending on the brand, allergy sufferers can rest easy with vinyl/nitrile examples that are powder and latex-free.

12. Snow brush/ice scraper

Cold where you're headed? Then don't forget the snow brush and/or ice scraper at home. Following a bout of winter weather, first use a scraper to remove the ice from the windshield and windows, and then a long-handled brush to sweep the loose snow off the roof and other places.

13. Rooftop cargo bag

If space becomes a premium once the cabin is full of occupants, throw the above items into an exterior carrier. Some offerings — for instance, the large 15 cubic-foot Rightline Gear Car Top Cargo Bag — work even on vehicles that don't have roof bars or a rack thanks to special clips allowing the straps to attach to door frame weather mouldings. These are constructed out of durable UV-protected PVC semi-coated mesh.

14. Pet barrier

Safety shouldn't be top of mind only for humans, but our furry companions, too. The lightweight aluminum WeatherTech Pet Barrier is fully 14-way adjustable and installs in minutes, requiring no tools or drilling, and ensures they don't scratch or dirty the upholstery or leap over the seats. Compatible with all types of cars, SUVs, and minivans.

15. Pillow and blanket

Catching a bit of shuteye at a rest stop or recuperating between turns at the wheel are two excellent reasons to have pillows and blankets available on the trip. Choose travel-friendly-sized examples of the former, made for camping or flying, to save on space.

16. Caffeine

Sometimes long stretches of piloting the vehicle are unavoidable, and a shot of caffeine can help drivers remain alert. Coffee and energy drinks are two solutions found at virtually every gas station and convenience store you'll come across.

17. Offline maps

Avoid relying solely on native or portable GPS to get directions to your destination, both which could potentially fail. Google Maps, Waze and similar navigation apps permit offline downloading of data so users may view maps with or without an active internet connection, right on their phone.

18. Power inverter

Whether to power up mobile devices or a camping stove to fix a quick hot meal, nothing beats the utility of a power inverter converting the standard onboard 12-volt DC cigarette lighter plug into a 110-volt AC household outlet. Most are easily stowed and also house USB ports.

19. Power bank

Give the onboard electrical system a break and juice up smartphones and tablets using a power bank instead. Produced in a dizzying array of styles and capacities up to 50,000 mAh and beyond, the higher end models can charge bigger devices no problem.

20. Music

Stay abreast of the news anywhere without the need of a data signal or large amounts of electricity by picking up a battery-operated radio. Look for one featuring an integrated solar panel and/or a manual hand crank as an alternate power source.

21. Batteries

Carry a handful of common battery sizes (i.e. AA and AAA) to serve as backups in case things like the above radio and flashlights suddenly die. Ensure the batteries are fresh, and try not to mix and match brands as slight variations in voltage could reduce performance.

22. Sunglasses

Sitting in the driver's seat and having the sun in your face is not only annoying, it's also dangerous. Polarized sunglasses are great for the road since they cut down on glare and images appear sharper and clearer, increasing visual clarity and comfort.

23. Sunscreen

Did you know you getting sunburned in the winter is possible regardless of how sunny or warm it is? UV rays are capable of penetrating cloud cover, so keep yourself protected while taking care of business outside the car and slather on the sunscreen to exposed areas of skin.

24. Poncho

Nothing is quite as unpleasant as getting soaked to the bone in a freak rainstorm because you're not wearing the correct outerwear. Ponchos work perfectly in a pinch and are highly packable, able to be tucked away in a cubby or door pocket.

25. Extra clothes and shoes

Either bring enough clothes to cover the number of days you'll be gone, or plan to stop at Laundromats along the way. But bringing additional underwear as well as socks and shoes is always recommended, especially the latter pair if accidentally encountering an unexpectedly deep puddle.

Having the above items on hand for your next four-wheeled adventure means one less thing to worry about while out on the road. Advance makes it easy with plenty of convenient options:

Be sure to add your own tips in the comments below. Have fun and be safe!

Last updated October 28, 2021