In A Word, Necessary
These 10 Things Will Make Your Summer Road Trip 10x Better

They really, ahem, go the extra mile.

by Amber Guetebier
A ceiling cargo net is a fantastic way to corral stuff on long road trips.
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Road trips are a summertime rite of passage for families — but they’re not without their hitches. Whether you’re heading out for a long weekend trip or you’re doing some epic weeks of sightseeing, even the best-planned road trips hit a few bumps along the way. From (way too many) unplanned pit stops to fighting over snacks and arguing about who gets to pick what’s on the radio, road trips can be a study in chaos.

The silver lining? You’ll make a million memories along the way. Oh, and there are all sorts of gears, gadgets, and accessories out there to make the journey a little less stressful. I’ve driven hundreds of miles with my family and also asked a few long-haul mom friends what they can’t live without when they’re on a road trip with kids. Here are 10 things to make life easier on the road.


Storage to Corral All Your Crap

The problem: Everything has inexplicably multiplied, and now your kids are stuffed in the backseat amid a mountain of bags, toys, pillows, and more.

The solution: A cargo net you can stuff the excess into. This genius little ceiling version attaches to your car’s safety handles to keep the clutter tucked away. Or, if you prefer, you can hook it to the back of the seats for easier access to snacks and toys. Just make sure you check the measurements — while it’s supposed to fit most SUVs, it’s better to be safe than deal with the hassle of a return.


A Fart Fighter

The problem: Fast food + long trips = farts.

The solution: A low-scent spray that miraculously removes the stink from the car without making everyone choke on the perfume. I tried Moso Natural Scent-Free Bathroom Spray on a recent weekend trip, and it really does the trick. Whenever we would stop for a bathroom or food break, I’d give the car a couple of spritzes after everyone piled out. When we climbed back in, instead of old onion rings and tween B.O. (or are those the same smell?), I was met with a pleasant, fresh scent that wasn’t overpowering. Miracle!


Activities to Stave Off Mutiny

The problem: “Mooooom, I’m bored!”

The solution: On-the-go toys and books that you can surprise them with along the way. Naturally, your kids will pack a little go-bag of their own with a few favorites, but I find stashing a few new car-friendly toys perfect for those inevitable lulls. Sometimes I wrap them to make the whole thing more exciting (and distracting). Some of my favorite new car games include this Mudpuppy Happy Camper Magnetic Build-It Game, as well as this Mudpuppy Magnetic Space Bingo set. These little Mini Jar Manipulatives come in various educational options, including lacing, counting, and more. They’re inexpensive, so if a few get left behind, so be it.


Conversation Starters to Keep You Awake

The problem: The coffee’s not strong enough for 47 rounds of I Spy.

The solution: Conversation to keep your brain engaged enough to fight off drowsiness. I’m a big fan of Boredwalk’s Delve Deck, a pack of conversation starter cards that make for intriguing talks. The cards are arranged by level, so you can “delve deep” or keep the questions lighter. Let your teen or tween decide.


A Trash Catcher

The problem: Garbage ends up all over the seat, floor, and door console.

The solution: A neat little garbage can that fits on the back of the center console so backseat passengers can reach it. With side pockets to stash wet wipes and a few extra bags, this thing is a lifesaver. On short trips, I don’t even bother to line it, because unless you put something super gross in there, it’s easy to just dump out and wipe or rinse occasionally. On long trips, I use compostable dog-waste bags or plastic grocery bags; they fit just right!


Support for Sleepy Heads (and Floppy Necks)

The problem: Their little necks flop at an odd angle when they fall asleep in the car.

The solution: A comfortable travel neck pillow that is suited to children. These wrap-around neck pillows from BCOZZY are my favorite and actually work kinda great for petite adults, too! I like them because they support the chin as well as the back of the neck, and they come in different sizes by age: 3 to 7 years or 8 to 12 years. They also make larger ones for older kids and grownups.


A Cuddly Travel Buddy

The problem: Forgotten items, especially stuffed animals.

The solution: A little toy that rides with you. The inventors of Riderz know a thing or two about favorite things being left behind, especially abandoned stuffies! So they devised a clever solution: a plush animal toy that fits into a cup- or water bottle-holder. It can stay in the car for the ride, so you don’t have to worry about it languishing at home. These sweet little animal pals currently come in eight styles (lion, dolphin, giraffe, bunny, elephant, tiger, bear, and dog). The bottoms fit directly into a cup holder on a stroller or car seat or into the water bottle pocket of a kid’s backpack, and each toy has a little mesh pocket inside to stash earbuds or other tiny treasures.


An Anti-Queasiness Accessory

The problem: Getting carsick.

The solution: Wrist bands that use acupressure to control nausea. I first tried Sea-Bands when I was pregnant, and they did wonders for my morning sickness. Since then, I have kept a set in the car glove box and packed one on every carry-on. They're inexpensive and will fit your kid's wrists, too. I get way too drowsy even on non-drowsy Dramamine, which can really take the joy out of a little excursion. But somehow, these wristbands always save me.


An Easy-to-Stow Bag for Extras

The problem: You want an extra bag for souvenirs. Or laundry.

The solution: A collapsible suitcase or folding duffle. At this point in my life, I know myself well enough to know that I will acquire something on any given trip. I generally always pack my folding travel duffle, like this one from Samsonite that has literally lasted me miles and miles (7 years!). Recently, I came upon an amazing collapsible suitcase from Rollink. It’s a sturdy, wheeled hard-shell suitcase that collapses down flat. If you pack it at the bottom of the trunk, you have a full-sized suitcase when you need it. Because it’s hard-shelled, you can even strap it to the roof rack if you don’t have room in the back. I also love it because my house is not that big and storing empty suitcases takes up a lot of space!


A Bathroom Hunter

The problem: You pulled away from the rest stop only to hear that urgent cry, “I have to go!!!”

The solution: Download some apps that will find a bathroom ASAP. I use Flush or Bathroom Scout. Both help you locate the closest bathroom — handy when you’re out and about with potty training toddlers. I also use Gas Buddy, which helps find the nearest gas station and shows the best prices for gas nearby and how long of a wait or how busy the station is.

Now, to agree on a playlist everyone can stand...