17 Road Trip Essentials For Parents

The top products to pack for your next long drive with kids.

There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into taking a long car ride with kids. Tiny humans can be unpredictable, so as a parent, you have to expect the unexpected, but plan for the inevitable: Emergency bathroom stops on a long stretch of desolate highway, motion sickness, sibling squabbles, and endless snacking. Having these road trip essentials for parents on hand can help make your next trip a breeze, no matter where you’re headed.

The best products for road trips with kids are ones that solve pesky problems that pop up when your entire family is crammed into a minivan for 10 hours. The sun shining in your toddler’s eyes while they try to nap? Pop a portable sun shade on their window and hand them a neck pillow. Your preteen forgot to charge their iPad (again) but they’re sitting in the third row? That’s nothing a 10-foot-long charging cord or a solar-powered charging pack can’t remedy. From portable potties to pre-portioned snack containers, seat organizers, and even a chemical-free air freshener (because diaper blowout scents like to linger), be sure to check out this list of road trip essentials for families before you hit the open road.

We at Romper only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.


A travel urinal

Pros: Easy to clean, available in styles for boys and girls.

Cons: May not hold enough for older kids.

For long car rides with kids, this ONEDONE Portable Child’s Urinal is the perfect product to have on hand when your little one needs a bathroom, but you’re in the middle of nowhere. Designed to be quick and easy-to-use, choose from designs that work for boys or girls with a cute elephant top. Made from lightweight, durable plastic that’s easy to clean, each portable urinal holds approximately 500mL of liquid in the product’s sealable container, so you don’t have to worry about leaks when you can’t immediately dispose of your child’s urine.

Review: “My family recently went on a very long (20 hour one way) roadtrip for vacation. My kiddo has a very small bladder some days and it's not uncommon for him to pee more than once an hour, and usually at the most inconvenient time. This portable potty was a life saver! It especially came in handy when we really couldn't find an exit and couldn't pull off the side of a highway.It took us a bit the first time we used it to get the inside funnel out to clean it, but after that it was easy to disassemble to clean. Best part was my kiddo thought it was the coolest thing to pee in it.”


A strap pillow for seatbelts

Pros: Washable cover, supportive, and can be used by kids and adults alike.

Cons: May slide out of place easily.

One simple product that can make car trips easier with kids is the COOLBEBE Seat Belt Pillow. Each super soft pad has a velvety, cushioned feel, so it’s comfortable to lean and lay on while resting on long road trips. Simply attach the pad over your child’s seatbelt and secure the hook and loop fastener into place. Available in black, blue, and pink, choose from two sizes to suit children of all ages.

Review: “I got this for a kid for a road trip and it ended up being one of the best purchases I've ever made. It gets used constantly especially if you have kids that fall asleep in the car often or even adults. it's extremely comfortable too, the pillow is removable so the sleeve can be washed. It's extremely soft but supportive, it was extremely easy to install and doesn't get in the way it was, it's easy to disassemble or move to another vehicle if you need to also it's way bigger than it looks. If you nap in the car or you find your seat belt uncomfortable I highly recommend it.”


Snack containers

Pros: Made from BPA-free plastic, stackable, separated storage compartments.

Cons: Lids are not leak-proof.

To make a long car trip easier with kids, packing snacks is an absolute must. These EasyLunchboxes Bento Snack Boxes make it easy to carry a variety of nutritious snacks with you on the go. Each container in this 4-piece set contains 4 separate portion compartments and includes a secure lid. While they’re not leak-proof, they’re easy for kids to open and stackable for easy storage. These BPA-free containers are also microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe.

Review: “Love these!! I wanted a smaller equal sized portioned snack box but not as big as a bento box. And other ones I saw had removable cups which I didn't want. These are perfect! They are great for making snackables for work or traveling. They are a nice thicker plastic. Easy clean up as they can go right in the dishwasher.”


A travel trash can

Pros: 2-gallon storage capacity, storage pockets, elastic top opening.

Cons: May be too large for some compact cars.

This 2-gallon capacity EPAuto Waterproof Car Trash Can has a waterproof interior to help keep messes to a minimum while on car trips with kids. It can be used with the included trash bags, multiple reviewers note that plastic grocery bags also work well to line the bin’s interior. Fasteners on the bottom of the trash bin keep it from moving around inside of the car if sat in the floorboard, but it can also be hung on the back of a seat using the included strap. The elastic opening helps keep trash securely in the bin. It comes in multiple colors and includes netted storage pockets around the base to store extra bags or other accessories.

Review: “This is the perfect size for our vehicle. We bought it before a long family roadtrip and it worked well. We used plastic grocery bags as the trash bags. Easy to open and close Velcro lid which was nice when we needed to dump larger items they wouldn’t fit through the top as easily.”


Spill-proof water bottles

Pros: Dishwasher safe, insulated, and spill-proof.

Cons: Push-to-drink mechanism can be difficult for younger kids.

On your next road trip with kids, the Contigo Autoseal Trekker Kids Water Bottle will help keep spills and messes to a minimum. This 2-pack is perfect for families with multiple kids, and is available in a variety of color options. The auto-seal mechanism in this water bottle’s lid keeps liquid from leaking out, but allows easy sipping at the push of a button. Made from 100% BPA-free material, each insulated bottle holds 14 ounces of cold liquid, and is top rack dishwasher safe.

Review: “Bought two of these. My 3 yo’s love their water bottles— just like mom’s. I haven’t had issues with leaking or spills at all. The only downside is that the buttons are a bit difficult to press for little hands. One of my toddlers is able to drink from it with ease while the other twin has trouble. But we’re getting better at it. When you wash them, it’s best to do it in the dishwasher. Because gunk can build up in the lid, I usually turn the lid upside down, press the button, and slide a prong from the dishwasher rack through the opening and wash it while the mouthpiece is held open this way. This has ensured that the lid gets thoroughly cleaned during washes. I’ve washed them about 5 times now and the cups are still good as new. These are great for little ones who can’t quite drink from regular bottles of water without supervision due to potential for spills. I would recommend.”


Extra long charging cables

Pros: Each cord extends a full 10 feet.

Cons: The blue light to indicate charging is too bright for some to use while sleeping.

Limit fights over chargers on your next long car trip with kids by investing in a handy 3-pack of extra-long charging cords. This pack of Quickeep Lightning Cable Chargers contains 3 braided cables, each measuring a full 10-foot in length. Both the charging end and the USB port are angled 90 degrees to help prevent bending and fraying.

Review: “This product is a lifesaver and kudos to someone who was smart enough to create/thought of a 90 degree angle charger. The 10 feet cable provides enough length without any hassle. This is the second set that I bought - one set to leave at home and the other set to leave in the car just in case of long roadtrips.”


Retractable window shades

Pros: Reduces sun exposure and keeps car interior cooler.

Cons: Suction cups may not adhere well when moved from window to window over time.

For road trips with kids in a vehicle without tinted windows, these EcoNour Car Side Window Sun Shades are an easy way to keep your car’s backseat nice and shady. Each retractable shade measures approximately 15 by 17 inches when fully extended and hangs onto your car’s window with 3 suction cups. Perfect for blocking out the sun for naps on long car rides, kids can pull their shade down or leave it rolled up when they want to see out.

Review: “They work as expected and only cost 20 bucks so you can't go wrong. I only use them when my kids need them and then I take them down and store them so the suction cups don't get all messed up and warped from the sun beating down on them all day.”


A portable potty

Pros: Collapsable design, can be used with any plastic bags.

Cons: May be too small for larger children to sit comfortably.

Since clean bathrooms are sometimes few and far between on road trips with kids, it’s smart to keep something like the Honboom Portable Folding Potty in your car. Especially for potty training little ones, this lightweight seat can be set up quickly and discreetly. It’s lightweight, but can hold children weighing up to 50 pounds. Easy to clean, this portable potty uses plastic bags to contain your child’s mess. When they’re done, simply dispose of the bag and wipe down the seat. This potty seat’s collapsable design folds easily so that it can be stored underneath your seat or in the back of your vehicle when not in use.

Review: “If you have toddlers, GET IT!!!! We originally purchased to keep on our boat for our beach vacation. We have toddlers (ages 2 & 4) and this little potty saved us multiple times! My 4 year old waits until the last minute to go to the potty or tell us she needs to go. Having this potty in the truck made it so much easier! Instead of having to find a rest stop at the next exit, we just pulled over on the shoulder and let her use it! The potty is small enough to fit on the floor board of the car/truck so we didn’t have to get out. It comes with a roll of little baggies but we found that a Plastic grocery bag works too! Few tips: place some paper towels or an open diaper in the bag to absorb some moisture.”


Wireless bluetooth headphones

Pros: 6-8 hours of listening time per charge.

Cons: The LED light to indicate use does not turn off manually.

Headphones are absolutely an essential product to have on a road trip with kids. Whether your kids are listening to their own tunes or watching a movie on their tablet, the last thing your long car ride needs is competing noises coming from multiple devices. Each set of Woice Kids Wireless Bluetooth Headphones offers 6 to 8 hours of playtime on a single charge, but can also be used with an audio jack if the battery does happen to run out. The volume controls are limited to help limit damage to your child’s ears, but the sound quality is still top-notch. Pairs seamlessly with most bluetooth capable devices, has a stretchable headband, and can be folded to store when not in use.

Review: “Love these headphones got them for my daughter and I like that they don't have wires so she doesn't get tangled in the cords I also love that they stretch so I can use them too, also they fold for easy storage and you can control the volume as well, I got the pink ones and they are just amazing good sound quality I love them so much”


A first aid kit

Pros: Includes 273 pieces of emergency equipment in a convenient carrying case.

Cons: No antibiotic ointment or anti-itch cream is included.

The YIDERBO Small Waterproof Car First-Aid Emergency Kit comes fully-stocked with everything you need to address minor mishaps and roadside emergencies when traveling with kids. The kit comes complete with multiple types of adhesive bandages, burn dressings, alcohol pads, cotton swabs, tweezers, multi-purpose metal tool, flashlight, instant ice packs, gauze, scissors, adhesive tape, soap wipes, a tourniquet, CPR mask, and an emergency blanket. Everything stores neatly in waterproof zippered storage case that weighs less than 2 pounds.

Review: “This was a perfect survival kit for a roadtrip that we took recently. So we only need to use a couple items for minor scrapes it was great to know that we had all of these items should emergency arise. One thing to note make sure to get a battery for the flashlight!”


A headrest tablet mount

Pros: Easy to install, compatible with most devices.

Cons: Silicone netting can stretch out over time.

To make long car rides with kids easier, this TFY Universal Car Headrest Mount will hold their device securely in place where they can watch their favorite shows and movies. Compatible with most phones and tablets, this mount features stretchy silicone netting that keeps devices in place without scratching or damaging the screen. Easy to install on your vehicle’s headrest with sturdy hook and loop fastener, you can also easily adjust the angle of the screen to reduce glare to give your kids the best view possible.

Review: “I can’t say enough good things about this tablet holder! I bought this for our 3 1/2 hour car ride to Indiana because I wanted something to entertain my 1 year old. I have a 9.7 inch iPad Pro and it fits perfectly. The Velcro holds fine, we even went over several bumps and it never moved out of place. It was easy to install as well. I highly recommend buying this product if you need something like this for trips! We will be using it again for our 14 hour drive to FL in a few months.”


An unscented air freshener

Pros: Chemical-free, sustainably made, long-lasting.

Cons: Measuring approximately 13.5 by 5.3 inches, it is quite large for an air freshener.

When you’re in the car with kids for a long time, someone is bound to get car sick, make a mess, or have a diaper blowout. The PURGGO Car Air Freshener is a product that can make car trips easier with kids by purifying the air to keep smells at bay. This chemical-free air freshener is made from 100% activated bamboo charcoal that absorbs airborne odors in your car. Simply hang it over the top of your seat’s headrest to enjoy 365 days of all-natural odor removal.

Review: “I got tired of the horrible smell in my husband's truck so I decided to give this product a try. It works! We have four children and they often leave their dirty socks, lacrosse gear, ballet shoes, wet towels, food leftovers, and all kids of other smelly stuff in the truck. The smell is just terrible, ever after cleaning everything out. I tried every air freshener I could find, and they only aggravated my allergies but didn't solve the problem. This product is odorless and it somehow magically worked! I'm getting a second one for my commuter car.”


A solar power bank

Pros: Charges up to two devices simultaneously.

Cons: Solar charging takes much longer than charging via USB.

The KAPURUI Solar Power Bank is one product that makes road trips with kids easier. If you have fewer charging ports than devices in your vehicle, like to have extra power on hand while camping, or want to keep a powerful light source with you on your trip, this device fills those needs. This solar power bank features fast-charging capacity and more than 100 hours of battery life, is waterproof, rustproof, and can charge multiple devices with dual USB output. Measuring approximately 6 by 4.25 inches and weighing less than 11 ounces, it’s compact and ultra-portable.

Review: “The battery life is amazing, I got two full days of charge, the flashlight can reach up to twenty feet, and the compass in the back is a nice add. If you go on trips, vacation, or to a multiple day festival, these do their work. But don't forget about the solar panel. It works very well as well. If you were looking for an amazing power bank, this is the one!!!”


Seat organizers

Pros: Multiple pockets designed to contain common kid items including tablets and devices.

Cons: Installation straps can be seen/felt by passenger sitting on seat.

Let the Lusso Gear Heavy Duty Back Seat Car Organizer hold all of your child’s gear on your next long car trip. Each organizer’s sag-proof design with reinforced corners is meant to hold all of your road trip essentials and accessories like sippy cups, toys, wipes, and more. It contains 12 pockets of various sizes, including 2 designated drink holders and a specific area to hold up and display your child’s tablet on the back of your headrest.

Review: “This is well made product. I bought 2 of these Lasso car organizer for our summer road trips. This pretty much had everything on my must list; clear iPad holder, pockets large enough to fit 2 headphones, books, knickknacks and easy to install. I also liked the fact that the holding straps didn't obstruct the driver seat. I have seen some items where straps came midway of the seat, which seems just weird and uncomfortable. I also was able to use the space between the seat and Lusso to fold away my kids blankets. This really helped our insane family to be little organized during our many road trips this year.”


A travel lap tray

Pros: Multiple storage pockets, cup holder, tablet stand, dry erase drawing surface.

Cons: Velcro for cup holder attachment and tablet stand can easily loosen.

Your kids can keep everything they need to stay entertained on your next road trip within reach with the Lusso Gear Kids Travel Tray. The flexible stand sits over their lap and stays in place thanks to an attached strap that loops around your child’s waist. It’s adjustable to fit across car seats and boosters, features multiple zipper and mesh storage pockets, a cup holder attachment, collapsible tablet stand, and a 16 by 12.5-inch dry erase drawing board that doubles as a tray for eating. When not in use, the tray can be folded and stored flat.

Review: “We didn’t have much use for the cup holder attachment but this was a serious life saver on our road trip for food and holding up the iPad for movies. He enjoyed having his own little space when he was drawing or snacking and when he was done with it for a little bit he was able to unclip it super easily. We ended up using the side zipper pocket for his own little trash can. I put a ziplock bag in there and it worked great so there wasn’t little snack trash all over the back seat. 3 day 22 hour drive. Great purchase.”


A kid-friendly neck pillow

Pros: Machine washable, adjustable, made from soft materials.

Cons: Can get too warm when used for long periods of time.

There are a ton of travel pillows on the market, but the BCOZZY Kids Travel Pillow is one of the best for road trips with kids. Not only will this cozy cushion keep your kids comfortable in the car, also helps support their neck when they inevitably fall asleep on the drive. The pillow’s unique open loop design with hook and loop fastener adjustments allows it to be used for kids of various ages. It comes in multiple colors and sizes depending on your child’s preference and is fully machine washable.

Review: “Best pillow for sleeping kids in car! We’ve wasted so much money over the years on pillows and supports that don’t work. This one cost more than we wanted to spend, so it was a risk to buy it after all our fails, but we were desperate and took the leap. It was more than worth it! We are so happy with it we want to buy a second for the other car! Keeps my daughters head from the inevitable slump when she sleeps, and she even puts it on herself before she falls asleep! Can’t recommend enough!”


A portable cooler

Pros: High-capacity, stays cold, easy-to-carry backpack style.

Cons: May be too large to store in the floor or back seat of small vehicles with other gear.

Leakproof and waterproof, the Everlasting Comfort Insulated Cooler Backpack is a soft-sided backpack cooler that will keep the interior contents cool for up to 24 hours, so it’s perfect for storing snacks and drinks on your next road trip with kids. The backpack measures approximately 13.38 by 8.66 by 17.71 inches, and can hold up to 54 canned drinks and 4 pounds of ice. Plus, the deep side pockets are capable of holding 4 bottles of wine.

Review: “This cooler is excellent for traveling. I fit 18 bottles drinks and 2 cooler packs inside and still had a little room. It keeps everything nice and cold on a long car ride. Love that it is tall enough to also use for wine bottles! We have used it on the boat and everywhere we have needed a cooler. Very durable and easy to move around since it is a backpack!”

Keeping everyone comfortable, entertained, and happy on a cross-country road trip may be easier said than done, but these products that make car trips easier with kids can solve at least a few of the most common road trip woes.