11 Road Trip Essentials for a New Vehicle

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After traveling over 150,000 miles together, we have figured out what products are our road trip essentials for traveling with kids. With eight people, preparation and organization are key to making the trip memorable and pleasant.

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Nissan NV Navy Blue van
Our new Nissan NV van

Since it will be our first long road trip in over three years, and our twelve-seater van is brand new, we need some handy items to keep the van clean and organized for our long trip. I might also have thrown in a few fun surprises for our kids. 😉

1. Car Vacuum

We aren’t letting the kids eat snacks in the car, or drink anything except water. Even so, dust, dirt, sand, etc. somehow end up everywhere, and I hate  the gritty feel under my shoes. Enter this super cool vacuum that plugs into your car adapter! Yay! 

2. Trash Cans

The best way to keep random tissues, mint wrappers, scraps of chewed up paper and other junk from piling up is to put trash receptacles in key spots. This HOTOR one can hang on the back of a headrest, or sit on an empty seat.

It also corrals liquids, so we don’t have to watch as carefully what our kids stick in there.

HOTOR trash can. Waterproof trash receptacles are road trip essentials when you are traveling with kids.
HOTOR vehicle trash can

3. Travel pillows

For our bigger kids, we are getting inflatable pillows that also come with ear plugs and eye masks. They are easier to pack away when not in use for our preteens and teens.

Our little ones prefer these cute animal ones, no inflation required. Long trips mean lots of naps, so being comfortable is a road trip essential when you are traveling with cranky kids!

boy with cat neck pillow. Neck pillows are road trip essentials for in-vehicle naps.
Cute kitty pillow for our youngest

4. Chargers for devices (or appropriate toys for kids under 2)

We have at least one screen available per kid. There are some times where all the fun activities are done, Mom and Dad need some quiet, and the Great Plains are  just… plain.

Our van has some standard outlets, but I bought several extra cords (to replace those that our kitten chewed up). No one wants to get to that point in the day where the battery is done and you’re stuck with nothing to do until the bison get off the road. Ask me how I know!😒 

Of course screen time isn’t recommended for little ones under the age of 2, so when we traveled with babies, we brought lots of appropriate baby travel toys on our road trips instead.

South Dakota traffic jam

5. Headphones

Wireless are more expensive, but not as likely to get chewed on or broken, so we buy those for our big kids.

The younger set gets super cheap on-ear headphones, or these sweatband ones that have a nylon cover on the cord so they don’t get destroyed as easily. 

Am I the only mom who has to buy these as often as new toothbrushes? I sure hope not!

6. Sunglasses

A must on the road, but especially for migraine sufferers like myself who are light sensitive. These Joobin polarized wide ones cover my whole line of vision.

I typically have a couple of extra pairs, one around the house, one in the glove box of every vehicle, and one in my purse. I don’t buy expensive ones, because, kids.

Woman in front of Devil's Tower Wyoming. Sunglasses are road trip essentials for adults and kids.
Here I am with my sunglasses at Devil’s Tower, WY.

7. Bubble Bum booster seat

We discovered these boosters on a trip a few years ago when we were flying with children and hitting states with different car seat law requirements. They are inflatable and deflate completely to pack away when not in use, so they are super handy to keep in a car where you don’t always have kids with you.

Also for flights, Bubble Bums are not much bigger than a water bottle when deflated and rolled up. Since they are smaller than a traditional booster, they also work for 3 kids across in older/smaller vehicles where a standard booster won’t work. Super comfy, or so my kids tell me! We love them.

Bubble Bum booster seat
Our well-used Bubble Bum booster seat

8. Water bottles

I like these Contigo ones for general use.

My daughters who love Harry Potter enjoy this one with the amounts and this one.

My boys have gone through about 2 dozen varieties of the Camelbak ones.

Personally, I drink a ton more water when I’m sipping it from a straw, so I use this lidded cup and straw to help me stay hydrated on the road and at home.

9. Mad Libs (Road Trip Edition)

Updated after the trip: I bought this book as a prize for our prize bag to be handed out at some point when we needed something novel. It did not disappoint!

Our whole family was engaged in coming up with random words to create funny stories. This homeschool mom loved the sneaky parts of speech review that everyone got, too.

mad libs book. Mad Libs are road trip essentials for screen-free, whole-family entertainment!
Best $4 I spent on this trip!

10. Mints

Several of my kids get carsick, and crunching or sucking on a Lifesavers mint provides nearly instantaneous relief. We buy a huge pack of these and hand them out without question whenever someone says “I feel gross.”

The 4 year old now says he has a headache as soon as he gets in the car—so that he can have a mint. 🙂

11. Carsick bags

The one item every parent hopes they won’t need. But if you do, you’ll be glad you have them! Thanks to my friend Aly for this awesome recommendation for carsick bags.

And we’re home!

Our new van, and all these fun accessories, helped make this our most comfortable and fun road trip ever! We can’t wait to get on the road again. Even with 6 kids and some 7- or 8-hour drive days, we had few complaints and mostly happy memories.

What accessories are on your “must-have” list? Put them in the comments so I can add them to my next packing list!

© Copyright 2022 Jennifer D. Warren

pinnable image with boy and cat neck pillow and URL
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About the author

I’m Jenn Warren, Co-Founder and Content Creator for Dinkum Tribe. I'm a Third Culture Kid (TCK) from Jamaica and California, married to my college sweetheart. I've been a missionary kid, pastor’s kid and (former) pastor’s wife. My husband and I traveled as pastors for 12 years throughout the United States and Canada before becoming travel content creators.

I love living in Oregon and exploring new places with my family. We’ve road tripped over 30,000 miles across the United States and Western Canada with our six children since their infancy. Prior to our marriage, I also lived in Spain for a summer and spent another summer in Mexico.

I’ve homeschooled our six children for over 10 years, and served on the board of a homeschool co-op for 4 years. Several members of our family are neurodivergent (gifted, ADHD, cPTSD), and I’ve spent 5+ years learning how to accommodate neurodivergent needs as well as supporting the resultant mental health challenges (anxiety, depression).

I’ve also served as a support group leader and co-director of Pure Life Alliance, a nonprofit organization that supports families struggling with sexual addiction.

I write about family travel and road trips, millennial marriage, general parenting, homeschooling, parenting neurodivergent children, grief, and abuse recovery.


    1. Thanks for that recommendation! We’ll probably get a couple for when the mints don’t work. 🙁

  1. Great recommendation! A car vacuum cleaner + car garbage can are definitely essentials for me. I can’t stand it when my car is a mess, so anything that helps me keep it clean is a must!

  2. Great tips and suggestions for long trips in the car! I always forget to keep a pair of sunglasses in the car, would be great to have a spare set!

    1. Mmhmm. I keep several pairs now, but it took me WAY too long to realize how handy that would be.

  3. Some of my favorite road trips involved Mad Libs! I am so happy to see you included them along with other absolute essentials. I’d be lost going anywhere without my sunglasses – thanks for the tips!

  4. These are great recommendations! We live full time in a van and I feel like I could use a bunch of these products. Also, we always had mad libs for road trips as kids!

    1. Wow, full time in a van?! My brain is exploding trying to figure out how me with my kids would do that…my hat’s off to you!

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