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20 Essential Road Trip Hacks for a Fun and Stress-Free Journey

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Embarking on a road trip? Don’t miss these 20 essential and clever road trip hacks. They’ll make your journey easier, tidier, and stress-free – even the kids will have a blast! You’ll get just as excited about these car trip hacks as you will about the destinations you’re driving to!

You won’t regret spending some time preparing these suggestions before you head off on the open road. I’ve been on many road trips, and here I present to you my favorite and must-have car travel hacks

As you move down the list of 20 (which covers road trip life hacks for kids, keeping food fresh, car cleanliness, space-saving, and family in-car activities) you’ll wonder how you ever coped without these things. You’ll be so proud of how organized you are when you get them all ready.

Let’s go straight into it!

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1. Encourage Kids to Keep a Travel Journal

Best road trip hacks for families
Best road trip hacks for families

Each time you stop at a destination, ask the children to collect mementos (such as theme park flyers, movie tickets, etc) and take photographs on their disposable or Polaroid cameras. When back on the road, they can update their travel journals, add pictures, and stick in their mementos. A lovely memory that they can build on and look back on. Check out these travel journals for kids on Amazon.

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2. Keep Your Car Spotless with a Car Cleaning Kit!

Ensure that your car stays clean during your journey by preparing a car cleaning kit. Include wet wipes, paper towels, hand sanitizer, face masks, extra bin bags, and towels. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than sitting amidst a mess during a long car journey.

3. Store Essential Medication in the Glove Box

Road trip life hacks
Road trip life hacks

Use a clear food bag to store essential medication in the glove box. In this way, you’ll always have quick access to things like pain relievers, plasters, and more without having to dig through your handbag or suitcase. For more of what to pack, check out our Road Trip Packing List!

3. Keep Kids’ Activities Within Reach Using Shower Caddies

Make your road trip with kids easier by using suction-based shower caddies on the windows. This will keep all their activities within arm’s reach, reducing stress for you and keeping them entertained. Here’s a set of shower caddies perfect for your road trip.

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4. Use Bag Clips to Keep Snacks Fresh

Good road trip hacks
Good road trip hacks

Bag clips are a lifesaver on the road for keeping food fresh and sealed. This also prevents spilling half-eaten snacks all over your car. Check out these food bag clips that I recommend. Check out our article full of road trip tips for more useful advice!

5. Create a “What To Chat About” Lucky Dip Box

In the lead-up to your long road trip vacation, write ‘what to chat’ conversation ideas on little pieces of paper, and keep adding them to a Tupperware box. This is a really fun hack when traveling with kids. Need some inspiration for conversation starters? Take a look at our Questions And Conversation Starters.

6. Pack an Overnight Bag for Stop-Offs

Road trip hacks packing
Road trip hacks packing

On a road trip with one-night stop-offs, there’s no need to take your whole suitcase to a hotel. Pack an overnight bag with essentials (spare underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste, change of clothes, phone charger, and travel documents). This saves time and makes your overnight stays more convenient.

7. Preload Your Device with Hobby-related Podcasts or Audiobooks

For those long stretches with no GPS or data, keep yourself entertained and engaged with pre-downloaded podcasts or audiobooks related to your newest hobby or language you’re learning. A fun and educational road trip hack! Here are our recommended audiobooks for road trips. Check out Audible for some incredible choices!

You Might Also Like: Best Podcasts For Long Drives

8. Bring a Mini Kitchen Kit for Convenient Snacking

Long Road Trip Hacks
Long Road Trip Hacks

Don’t forget to pack kitchen essentials like a sharp knife, bottle opener, utensils, and napkins. It’s a game-changer when you can make DIY sandwiches on your journey. Make sure to pack a set for each passenger. If you have vegans aboard, be sure to check out our Vegan Road Trip guide!

9. Pack Portable Exercise Equipment for Quick Energy Boosts

Road trip hacks for families
Road trip hacks for families

Long hours in the car can lead to feelings of sluggishness. Keep some lightweight exercise equipment, like a skipping rope or hula hoop, to use during pitstops. It’s a fun and effective way to beat boredom, especially for kids! Check out these portable skipping ropes and hula hoops.

10. Prepare Activity Binders for Kids

Road trip hacks with children
Road trip hacks with children

For families road-tripping with young kids, bring along binders full of activities and coloring pages. These personalized binders can serve as a fun surprise gift to kick off the journey and keep the little ones occupied. Check out these printable road trip games for kids!

11. Use a Shoe Bag for Essential Travel Items

Hang a shoe bag over the front headrests and fill it with essential items that you or the kids might need during your journey. It’s a cheap and effective way to keep your car clutter-free. Or, if you prefer, check out these specially-designed backseat car organizers.

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12. Pack Bamboo Toaster Tongs for Hard-to-Reach Items

Best road trip hacks
Best road trip hacks

Avoid the frustration of dropping items down the sides of car seats by packing bamboo toaster tongs. This way, you’ll always have a handy tool to retrieve any fallen items. Here are some bamboo tongs I recommend.

13. Play Road Trip Bingo with Kids

Road trip hacks for kids
Road Trip Hacks for Kids

Create or print off your own road trip bingo for kids. Make it reusable by placing it in a plastic wallet and including a whiteboard marker. Each new journey section can be a new round, with favorite treats as prizes for the winners! Also, check out our road trip scavenger hunt for more fun.

14. Repurpose a Cereal Container as a Car Waste Bin

Keep your car tidy with a simple hack: use a cereal container as a car waste bin. Lined with a small bio-degradable bag, it keeps your car clean and odor-free. Empty the trash during gas station stops. Don’t forget to check out our list of essential Road Trip Accessories!

15. Hang Essential Items Using Carabiners

Clever Road Trip Hacks
Clever Road Trip Hacks

Carabiners can be a real lifesaver on road trips! Clip them onto the metal part of your headrest and hang your bags and umbrellas. It saves space and keeps everything within easy reach. Here are some durable carabiners for your road trip.

16. Use the ‘Sit or Squat’ App for the Best Pit Stops

Plan your pit stops with the ‘Sit or Squat’ app, which helps you locate the cleanest restrooms along your route. This app is particularly helpful for families traveling with young children.

17. Pack a Mini Fridge for Fresh Snacks on the Go

Invest in a mini fridge that plugs into your car to keep your favorite snacks fresh throughout your journey. It’s a great hack for hot-weather road trips and will be handy for picnics at your destination.

18. Download the ‘Gas Buddy’ App to Locate the Cheapest Gas Stations

Save on fuel costs with the ‘Gas Buddy’ app, which locates the cheapest gas stations along your route. Download it before you hit the road and keep your trip budget-friendly. Don’t forget to estimate the cost of gas for your road trip using our Car Fuel Cost Calculator.

19. Don’t Forget the Toilet Paper

Great road trip hacks
Great road trip hacks

It might sound mundane, but packing toilet paper can be a lifesaver, especially during busy travel seasons. You’ll be thankful for having it on hand at gas stations, hotels, or beach trips!

20. Carry Both Cash and Card

While exploring new areas, it’s wise to carry both cash and a card. Some parking lots and quaint cafes may not accept cards, so it’s best to be prepared and avoid the hassle of searching for an ATM.

Remember to enjoy your road trip, and feel free to share your own road trip hacks with us!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert.

Holly Jaskolka Profile Image

Holly Jaskolka

Author

Holly is an animal lover with a passion for travel and living a plant-based lifestyle. She enjoys practicing and teaching yoga, cooking, and visiting new places. She currently delivers self-care sessions that utilize EFT (emotional freedom technique) to support people struggling with their breakups. She enjoys writing about travel topics including road trips with pets and maintaining a vegan lifestyle on the road. She gained valuable experience during an epic road trip to Valencia from the UK!

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Julie

Wednesday 19th of April 2023

Good advice! Toilet paper and some cash are musts!

Ashley Bonner

Saturday 14th of August 2021

Another hack specially if travelling in say a van etc with third row and need to pass something back, make a make shift "clothes line" using Paracord and a small bucket or bag. Then can roll it along the line to pass snacks or activities to the back and bring stuff forward as needed.

Iain

Monday 14th of November 2022

I love it!