Road Trip Essentials {Must-Haves to Keep in Your Vehicle}

In many ways, we have paired down our needs versus our wants, even more so since the pandemic began. At the same time, we have gotten really good at knowing what things we use the most, and what things we require for our road trips, back and forth to our cottage.

Or so we thought.

Here’s the thing. You don’t know you need something until you need it. Has this happened to you? My husband and I take really good care of our cars. We bring them in for all the services they require, and when they have a strange sound, we get them checked out right away. However, last weekend, the sound that my little hatchback made came with a lot of shaking. It happened on Saturday, then on Sunday as we were returning home from the cottage, my car made that same sound, combined with lot of shaking and then a DRAGGING on the road. Luckily, we managed to pull to the side of the highway, and had CAA come to bring our car to the garage. It turned out he muffler literally fell from the car because of rust. Did I mention my car is 15 years old? Apparently, this is one of the things that can happen to an older car, and it is a simple repair.

The point is, we were on the road longer than we anticipated and it made me think of the things we used to bring for sudden changes in our route and emergency items to have on hand. Here is a list of things to have in your car. It includes items for young children, so feel free to replace what makes sense for your family and the ages of your children.

Have you been in a situation that made you rethink what to have with you in the car? Let me know if I forgot anything.

Road Trip Essentials

  • CAA card – whatever roadside assistance service you have in your area is invaluable when faced with a situation like the one we had. CAA was there in under 30 minutes.
  • Water bottles with soft silicone straws (pro tip: on hot days, fill your bottle with half water and half ice to keep water cool as ice melts)
  • Snacks – anything that is packaged or sealed keeps well, and dry items are best (such as a granola bar)
  • Charger for your phone and USB connection with the right wire (yes, in our emergency, my phone was dead, and I had the wrong charger).
  • External phone charger (that is charged!!)
  • Music and audible books/podcasts (for all ages, especially kids to keep them occupied in a long wait or scarry situation). Playlists are great, but unless you have a fully charged phone, it will drain your battery. Have some CDs on hand too.
  • A light sweater or blanket (sometimes, the a/c is a little too strong for the whole family)
  • Picture books, novels, word puzzle books, magazines – anything you can look at while waiting.
  • Pencils, pens, markers, crayons…whatever suits your family
  • A few toys for little ones, tucked away until needed
  • Travel board games (usually compact and with magnets to not lose any pieces)
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Garbage bag
  • Paper towel
  • Towel/rag
  • Extra masks
  • Shades for windows (anyone else grow up with a towel sticking out the window?)
  • Baseball cap (again for shade)
  • Toddler travel potty with disposable bags
  • Sunglasses
  • Glasses (if you are wearing contacts)
  • Emergency cones, reflective vest
  • Stuffed animal or small pillow/neck rest
  • Small first aid kit
  • Tylenol/Advil, Gravol (small pill box in the purse works best)
  • Small cooler with some more food for longer trips
  • Sunscreen (pro tip: keep sunscreen in cooler to eliminate the change of it getting to hot and changing effectiveness).
  • Change of clothes for little ones in case of accidents
  • Vomit bag (just like on flights)
  • Extra socks and a final pro tip: convince your children to keep their shoes on during the whole road trip. A long time ago, I was faced with a car emergency, and we had to run out of the burning (yes, burning) car. One friend left bare foot.

For families that travel with PETS:

  • Collar (with tag)
  • Leash
  • Harness
  • Bed or towel
  • Treats
  • Water (a water bottle and a collapsible bowl)
  • Bags for their business
  • Food (if you are going for a long drive, plan to have at least one meal for them)

Click below to see other lists I put together:


You may also like


SRP Auto October 28, 2021 at 12:50 am

Awesome content and tips that every traveler can refer through it. It’s really important to have those for emergency purposes.

Julia a.k.a Mama MOE February 15, 2022 at 10:48 am

Thanks, you almost never know until you need them!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.