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It's the holiday season—in other words, the best time of the year. Nothing quite hits like a taking a trip during the holidays. You can take the time to stop and look at the stars, visit roadside attractions without the crowds and even camp out when the weather is just right.
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Embarking on a road trip is no joke though. If you're thinking of doing a festive road trip back home, to your favorite winter destination or to a warmer getaway, you’ll want to make sure you have the basics and a few fun extras packed in the trunk. Scroll for our top-quality road trip must-haves that’ll help you make this holiday season the best one yet.
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1. A weighted blanket to stay cozy and calm
If hitting the road makes your palms sweat, bring a calming tool along. The 15-pound Gravity Blanket is the best weighted blanket we tested this year in terms of quality and performance. It's long-lasting, has equally-distributed weight and easy to clean, giving you the best bang for your buck.
2. A collapsible cooler for drinks and snacks
This cooler can hold up to 24 cans, snacks and even 14 pounds of ice throughout the trip. The soft canvas construction means it won’t take up a ton of room whether it’s in the back or front seat—or stuffed under your luggage in the trunk. With the carrying straps, it’s easy to pull out the back and take it with you if you're stopping to set up camp.
3. A headrest pillow to keep your head up
Ever get a sore neck after driving for a couple hours? Blankets and cozy pillows aren’t just for passengers. This memory foam headrest pillow keeps your head comfortable during the trip. It can be adjusted to grip the car’s headrest, and is a great addition if your built-in headrest is not up to your comfort standards. The pillow comes with a spare extension strap in case you lose one or a strap breaks. Even better? After the trip, you can unzip the casing and give it a good clean in the washing machine.
4. A car vacuum to clean up crumbs on the go
You’d be surprised at how dirty the car can get when you’re spending so much time in it. A small vacuum is the perfect thing to keep stashed under the seat or in the trunk for cleaning quick messes, whether they’re crumbs from little passengers or a quick deep-clean on the carpets. This Black and Decker model can vacuum up to four hours after a charge, so you can leave the charger at home.
5. Keep your car smelling clean with an air freshener
While you might not be able to replicate that new-car smell, you can come close! This air freshener takes advantage of the car air vents, clipping onto the vents and pushes out more fragrance when the air is on, or naturally allows the scent to come out with them off. This squash flower-scented air freshener lasts four weeks—perfect for a long road trip!
6. Bluetooth headphones for long rides
Have you ever wanted to take a nap or fall asleep to some ASMR sounds or a podcast? Perhaps you hesitated because you’d have to worry about where your earbuds might disappear to, or about getting tangled up in the headphone cords as you sleep. Here’s where SleepPhones come in: They are comfortable, have a battery that lasts 24 hours and are made of comfortable fleece. You might wonder how SleepPhones weren’t invented sooner.
When we tested SleepPhones, we found they were amazing for people who had trouble falling and staying asleep—especially if you’re sensitive to sounds. If you’re hoping to get some shut eye on the long drive but happen to be taking the trip with some chatty Cathys, this is perfect for you.
7. A car charger for all those electronics
Whether you have a full car or are heading out solo, there’s no doubt you’ll need to charge while you’re on the road. The Anker Powerdrive III Duo is the best car charger we tested this year in terms of charge time and updated USB ports. Plus, it charged an iPhone in just 77 minutes.
8. A neck pillow keeps you cozy while sitting up
You can use this pillow on your road trip now—and on your next flight, too. The Cabeau Evolution Classic pillow is the best overall pillow we've personally tried for its amazing support and comfort. It's adjustable and comes in multiple colors. If you want to have it handy but don’t want it laying in your lap the whole trip, you can smush the memory foam pillow into your bag.
9. An instant camera for classic trip photos
Wherever you go, it’s always nice to have a camera on hand—yes, even outside your phone. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is our top favorite instant camera this year—it doesn’t need any batteries and develops great quality instant photos in seconds. Get instant photo gratification and analog memories to keep.
10. A portable hotspot for long trips
If you’re taking work on the road—or just want to stay connected—a mobile hotspot router means you can keep in touch. The only thing that might be missing on the road is Wi-Fi; with this, you’ll be able to do your work on the go, whether you’re out in the desert or in the passenger seat. Netgear’s Nighthawk provides internet for up to 20 devices, so you’ll be able to connect all the devices you’ll need.
11. Mad Libs for the kids in the backseat
If you’re looking for something fun to do during the long road trip—and a game that even the driver can join in to play—look no further than Mad Libs. Listed for ages eight and up, Mad Libs uses nouns, adjectives and verbs to create a funny story. It helps kids learn their grammar while having fun, which is just an extra benefit to an enjoyable, classic game.
12. A basic tool kit for your car and beyond
Having a basic tool kit in your car keeps you prepared for anything—setting up your camping area or doing basic car fixes on the go. This tool kit comes with a variety of bits, sockets, a screwdriver, a hammer and more. The carrying case makes it neat and simple to bring it along for your trip.
13. A water bottle to stay hydrated on the go
The Brita BB11 Premium topped our best water bottles tested this year for good reason. It has a slim design that can be tucked into a bag or side pocket, and it’s made of sturdy stainless steel. The bottle comes with a Brita filter insert, so even if you fill it up in a rest stop sink, it will still taste great. It comes in a variety of colors, so you can get a couple for the family before you set off on your trip.
14. A jump starter in case the car battery fails
Keeping a jump starter in the trunk gives you peace of mind, especially in emergencies. If your car battery fails, you can restart it yourself without trying to flag down another car—helpful if you happen to be in a deserted area. This car starter also comes with USB chargers, so if you end up stranded without a working car, you can charge your phone too. The included LED screen has real-time information and will stay lit in a dark area.
15. Hand wipes to keep passengers clean
A can of antibacterial hand wipes will help keep hands clean after snacking, or going to a rest stop or roadside attraction. These will also keep hands clean of salmonella, strep and other nasty viruses.
16. A portable telescope for roadside star gazing
The stars are so much clearer in the country without light pollution, and having a telescope on hand will give the family an experience they won’t forget. The Celestron NexStar 127SLT Telescope is the best one we've tested and a perfect telescope for those starting out: It has good viewing, is easy to move and is equipped with a computerized controller. It isn’t a big item to store; you can shorten the legs and tuck the telescope back into the back of the trunk for use along the highway.
17. A flashlight to light up the dark
A flashlight is a must and will come in handy in countless situations, from camping to navigating car problems and dark areas. We like this flashlight for its 400 lumens beam, protective scalloped bezel (so you can use it to break a window in an emergency) and rechargeable battery (rare at this price point).
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Road trip essentials for the best Christmas holiday trip