Road trips have been an American passion since the Griswolds packed up the family truckster and headed to Wally World. In 2017, 91% of summer travel took place on the nation’s highways and byways. If you’re gearing up to hit the road this year, be sure to read on. We’ve researched dozens of safety items to find the top ten things you should keep in your car.
The hot temperatures of summer increase your risk of dehydration. This risk is further increased if you’re physically active during your road trip — like when you pack the car or change a tire. Make sure to stay hydrated by always keeping plenty of water on hand. Keep a case of bottled water in the trunk and store Datrex Emergency Water Packs (Amazon) in the glove compartment. Young children or older adults are particularly susceptible to dehydration, so encourage them to drink water frequently. Always be alert to possible symptoms of dehydration, like headache, sleepiness, and dizziness.
You never know what tools you might need on a road trip — but you certainly don’t want to pack a full-blown toolbox. Instead, buy a multipurpose device like the Gerber Dime Multi-Tool (Amazon). This all-in-one product features 10 handy tools, including needle nose spring-loaded pliers, scissors, and a retail package opener. Plus, it’s compact and lightweight, so it can be stored in one of your vehicle’s storage compartments, your pocket, or your purse.
Anything from a mechanical breakdown to a traffic accident can render your car inoperable and create a dangerous situation for you and other drivers. Use LED emergency beacon flare (Amazon), Early Warning Road Safety Triangles (Amazon), or a combination of both to alert drivers to your disabled vehicle. To help avoid a breakdown on the road, have your vehicle thoroughly evaluated by a certified mechanic before your trip.
Whether you’re driving around town or across the country, it’s always a good idea to keep a well-stocked first aid kit in your car. Make sure your first aid kit includes bug repellent and sunscreen during the summer, and if a family member or pet needs prescription medicine, pack at least one day’s worth. You can create your own first aid kit or purchase AAA’s 121-piece kit (Amazon).
An unsecured animal can be hurt during an accident or as the result of a sudden stop. They can also cause injury to passengers and impede driving. If you’re traveling with a pet who is not in a carrier, a pet barrier (Amazon) will contain them behind the rear seats of your vehicle. If you do not have an open trunk, secure your canine friend with a Kurgo seat-belt tether (Amazon).
If your car breaks down and the air conditioning stops working, it won’t take long before your vehicle becomes uncomfortably or even dangerously hot. A pop-up shelter is an affordable, effective way to help your family keep cool outside of your vehicle. The AUGYMER UV Pop UP Sun Shelter is compact, lightweight, sets up in seconds, and will provide shade for up to three people.
Travelers rely on their cellphones for everything from directions to restaurant recommendations. A cellphone is also a necessity if you need to call 911 or a tow truck. Keep a portable cellphone battery charger on hand in case your car stops working or you need to leave your vehicle. The Anker PowerCore 20100 Portable Charger (Amazon) is fast-charging, long-lasting, and compatible with a variety of mobile devices.
A flat tire will derail even the best planned road trip. Make sure to carry a spare tire and a car jack (Amazon) that are in good condition. You’ll also want to pack a can of lubricant like WD-40 (Amazon) to help loosen stuck wheel lug nuts. If you’re planning a long trip, it’s a good idea to add roadside assistance — make sure it includes emergency flat tire replacement — to your car insurance policy. If you have to change the tire yourself, set out flares and warning devices before you get started.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that an average of 17 automobile fires occur every hour. Keeping a fire extinguisher in your vehicle can help prevent a small fire from becoming unmanageable. Be sure the fire extinguisher is rated for Class B and Class C fires by the NFPA, and keep it strapped down in the trunk of your vehicle when not in use.
10. Portable Car Battery Charger
A dead car battery is a simple fix, but it isn’t quick when you’re without jumper cables. Portable battery chargers (Amazon) are a great alternative to traditional jumper cables because they don’t require you to use another vehicle’s battery. Portable chargers are small, powerful, and inexpensive. Some even come with accessories like USB ports so you can charge your mobile devices.