Snacks, tunes and your favorite person by your side – what else could you possibly need for an epic road trip? Well, a lot, as it turns out. Spending long days in the car is a lot more pleasant when the car is clean, comfortable and stocked with everything you need within reach.
1. Create a Portable Trash Can
You wouldn't finish a sandwich and throw the wrapper on the floor at home, so why do it in the car? Road tripping tends to bring out the inner slob in us all. Bringing your own trash can forces everyone to keep the car clean. You can buy a car trash can or make your own by lining a tall, narrow box with a garbage bag.
2. Make a Road Trip First-Aid Kit
Adventure awaits, and adventure sometimes comes with minor injuries. Make a road-trip-specific first-aid kit before hitting the road. In addition to the standard mix of bandages and pain relievers, pack things like motion sickness medicine, aloe to treat sunburn and medication for upset stomach. You may also want to bring multiple compression bandages, ice packs and topical pain relief in case of sprains sustained while hiking or exploring.
3. Hang Things From Head Rests
Packing light isn't for everyone. The back of your car seat is storage space just waiting to happen. Attach carabiners to the metal pieces of your head rests and hang pocket organizers, lightweight luggage or trash bags.
4. Pack a Multiport Charger
If three people are traveling for 10 hours and they each have three devices, how many fights will erupt over the car's two USB ports? It's a middle-school math problem that no one wants to solve in real life. Bring a portable multiport charger and stick it in the center console so everyone can reach it.
5. Make a DIY Phone Holder
You know better than to fiddle with your phone while driving. When you're out of town and need to follow a GPS map on your phone, you don't want to be stuck having to hold your phone in one hand and steer with the other. If you don't have a phone holder that attaches to your car's air vent, DIY one with a binder clip and rubber bands. Bending the ends of the clip's handles creates a cradle for the phone, and the rubber band keeps the clip secure.
6. Cling-Wrap Open Cups
Your family can't pass up a roadside lemonade stand, but you don't want anyone drinking from open cups in the car. Any open container in a child's hand is a spill waiting to happen. In case anyone is served a beverage without a lid during the trip, pack a roll of the cling wrap that creates a seal when you press down on it. Cover the cup and stick a straw through it to make it fairly safe for in-car consumption.
7. Protect Cup Holders With Cupcake Liners
Murphy's Law says that you're bound to spill coffee all over the cup holders within the first 30 minutes of a road trip. Those little compartments will see a lot of wear and tear when you're on the road. Make cleanup easy by sticking a silicone cupcake liner in each cup holder. When something spills, just rinse out the liner and put it back.
8. Pack DIY Deodorizers
Road trip car smell is a real thing, and it's never more noticeable than when you're climbing back into a hot car after a long lunch. You'll dread hitting the road again if the car smells like yesterday's fast food and someone's stinky feet. Bring a diffusing air freshener made from baking soda and essential oils in a jar with holes in its lid. The baking soda absorbs unpleasant odors, and the oils scent the air.
9. Bring Cash in Small Bills
Maybe you can live by your debit card alone at home, but you'll often need cash to get by on the road. There are still corners of the world that haven't updated their payment processes since the 20th century. You don't want to find yourself in a cash-only parking lot or gas station with no way to pay. Tuck some dollar bills, five-dollar bills and quarters in a bag to stick in your glove box just in case.
10. Download Offline Maps
Tech problems always strike at the most inopportune moments. Your phone's internet connection will fail just as you arrive in the center of an unfamiliar city with no idea where you are. You also can't count on reliable service in remote areas. Make sure you have at least one noninternet navigation system on which to fall back, whether that's downloading offline maps to your phone or going really old school with a (gasp!) paper map.