Hey road trippers! Time to prepare for another season of open windows, impromptu picnics, roadside attractions, and curated Spotify playlists. As you can imagine, road trip season is an institution around here, and we’ve got a whole lot of adventures planned for our tiny car this year. Before we start gallivanting around the USA, I wanted to share some of our favorite road trip essentials with you — products that have made our lives easier and more fun on the road less traveled.
These road trip essentials make awesome gifts for families who love to travel and love the outdoors. Here they are, in no particular order.
Please note: A few of the products mentioned below were given to me to sample and review. All opinions are my own, and I will never recommend a product that I don’t use and love. This post also contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. As always, thank you so much for supporting Back Road Ramblers!
Road Trip Essentials for Eating and Drinking on the Road
One of the best ways to save money while traveling is to prepare your own road trip food. While this might seem daunting at first, it actually provides a lot of flexibility. If you have kids, you’re probably well aware of what happens when the little monsters aren’t fed on time. Keeping food and drink on hand allows you to hit the back roads, hike that secret trail, and keep everyone happy. Here’s what we’re loving right now.
The Hydro Flask 64 oz. Insulated Growler
We’ve been using Hydro Flask water bottles for years. I love that you can leave home with an icy cold drink that lasts all day, and there’s no slick condensation collecting on the sides of the bottle (which totally attracts dog hair in our car). The Hydro Flask 64 oz. insulated growler is like a water bottle on steroids, perfect for big adventures. It’s also great for impromptu stops at local breweries. You can fill it up like any growler and indulge in fresh, cold beer when you get to your campsite. I also love to bring along a growler of iced hibiscus tea for post hike refreshment. I carry my regular water bottle on the hike, and return to the car for in ice-cold bliss.
Dripo Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Have you been bitten by the cold brew coffee bug? I admit that it took me a while to catch on, but as the weather warms up in New England, I’ve been making my own and loving it. The Dripo system is unique because the cold brew is ready in under two hours instead of the usual 24. It’s perfect for traveling coffee snobs who want to avoid gas station coffee at all costs. All you need to make perfect cold brew coffee in the Dripo is ice, paper filters, water, and ground coffee. Put your coffee in the middle chamber, your ice water in top, and let gravity do the rest. The Dripo saved me on a recent road trip to Ohio, and will be making it’s way into our camping gear next week.
Alite Designs Cooler Pack
Alite Designs is one of my favorite funky outdoor gear companies. We’ve got a slew of backpacks and a couple of chairs, but I really love this bucket cooler! With a removable (and washable) liner, a separate pocket for utensils, and a comfortable handle the Alite Bucket Cooler is perfect for those impromptu picnics that make traveling so much fun. We use it for days at the beach, camping trips, and even short hikes.
Road Trip Essentials for Staying Connected when Traveling
When it comes to technology and travel, I feel like I’m always behind. The more I travel, though, the more I realize that I have to get with the times, especially since I’m doing more and more work on the road. In addition to my usual bag of tricks — cameras, laptops, tablets, and chargers, here are two new additions to our trunk-based office:
Nite Ize Steelie Freemount Dash Kit
We’ve tried a lot of dash mounts for securing our phones in the car, but ultimately they end up crammed int the cup holder or on the floor. The Nite Ize Original Steelie Freemount Dash Kit is super durable and comes with an adjustable freemount arm attachment for use with phones of any size. The powerful ball magnet allows for a variety of viewing angles — perfect for listening to music or online navigation.
My Charge RazorUltra 1200 mAh Portable Charger
Last year when I was searching for a portable charger to use on road trips, I entered a giveaway and won this handy charger. I didn’t know anything at all about myCharge , but this charger has saved me multiple times over the past few months. It holds a charge for months at a time, so I just keep it in the glove compartment to use whenever my phone or tablet is running low on juice. You can charge two devices at a time for 90 hours of extra power.
Road Trip Essentials for Fun and Relaxation
I’ve become a bit of an expert at mixing work and pleasure on road trips. These fun additions make impromptu picnics, games, and shenanigans easy like Sunday morning…
Crazy Creek Chairs
Our love for Crazy Creek chairs isn’t exactly new, but they are such an essential part of our road trips that I had to include them here. These babies fold flat for easy storage, and they live in our car all summer long. We had itty-bitty ones for our toddlers, and now we’ve got one for each of us so we can relax in the most beautiful spots across the country. Also, these are our go-to gifts for outdoor-loving friends and family. If there’s one thing that I will never forget on a road trip, it’s these chairs!
Camco Picnic blanket
This is another road trip essential that lives in the car and gets used at least once a week. The Camco Handy Mat is 60″ x 78″, big enough for the whole family. It cleans up easily and is mildew resistant. Spread it out at the beach, the park, or the ballgame, and you’ll be all set. Because it’s so lightweight (2 pounds), I recommend weighing it down with your picnic cooler on windy days.
Nite Ize Flashflight Disc
Impromptu disc games ease our road-weary bodies on long road trips, and they’re perfect for rest stops and wide open spaces. TheNite Ize Flash Flight Disc-O is special though, because it lights up the night sky and allows you to play any time. It’s super bright, and we’ve yet to replace our lithium ion batteries after six months of pretty heavy use. We’ve also tried the Flashflight LED Dog Discuit with our pup, but he’s still obsessed with his ball. We’ll keep working on it.
Luci Solar Lanterns
Have you guys seen these Luci Outdoor – Inflatable Solar Lights? We have found them for sale all over the place, and just love their versatility! They pack up really small, charge in the sun, and can be blown up for all kinds of situations where you need an extra light. We use them mostly for camping, but we also keep one in the glove compartment for emergencies. These guys float too, so make a great addition to the canoe or kayak.
The PackPillow is marketed as a lightweight pillow for backpacking, but at 4.5 ounces, we feel it’s a bit heavy, at least for our backpacking packs, which are on the small side. We have been using our PackPillows for several months now, and find that the best use for them is as small day packs for hikes or road trips. It is both a bag and a pillow, so you can pack your lunch inside, head out for a hike, and then use it for a seat and/or pillow when you get to your destination. The PackPillow also makes a nice little treat bag to pack up for your kids when heading out on a road trip. You can fill the bag with small games, books, snacks and toys to keep your them busy, and they can use the built-in pillow for those long road-trip naps.
Health and Beauty Essentials for Road Trips
For looking and feeling good on the road and in the woods – these are our favorite health and beauty finds for travel.
Herbal Armor Bug Spray
I’ve tried a lot of different bug sprays over the years, and All Terrain Herbal Armor is my favorite so far. It smells pretty good, keeps away all but the most persistent flying pests, and doesn’t contain DEET. Active ingredients include soybean oil, citronella oil, peppermint oil, cedar oil, lemongrass oil, and geranium oil. I’ve read that cedar oil is really great for repelling bugs, so last year I added an extra 20 drops or so to our spray. The only downside to this spray is that it does stain some clothing. For really buggy evenings, we use a DEET-based spray on our clothes, and Herbal Armor on our bare skin.
REI Multi Towel
Have you ever tried to dry a big, cotton beach towel while road tripping? They stay damp forever, and then of course, they start to smell, and nobody wants to use them. But, you do have to have towels for road tripping – you just never know when that perfect swimming hole, lake, or river is going to magically appear in front of you. We keep a few REI pack towels in the trunk for these special occasions. The XL size will wrap all the way around your body, and it dries really quickly and is ready to go again in a few hours. These are also our go-to towels for all of our camping, backpacking, and canoe trips.
Yes To Cucumber Hypoallergenic Facial Wipes
Because we are often traveling between campgrounds, showering is not always possible. On days when I can’t rinse off the grime of the day, I rely on these Yes To facial wipes. I have really sensitive skin, and this is one of the few products that my skin doesn’t react to. The wipes are enriched with aloe vera and green tea. They are soft and compostable, and they smell lovely. I use them on my face and all my other dirty parts before bed. I also keep them in the car for a quick freshen up when I’m traveling. Life saver!
There you have it, our favorite road trip essentials for summer adventures. Now bring on the sunshine back road explorations!
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