While many prefer the convenience of a plane ride, road trips are a convenient alternative if the destination isn’t very far or if you want to save some money on a plane ticket. With the right preparation, a road trip can be enjoyable instead of a chore. Before you hit the road, you’ll want to plan ahead by knowing the best days to travel and what to bring on the trip. Here’s everything that will make your ride smoother.
When is Thanksgiving 2023?
Thanksgiving falls on Thursday, November 23 this year. When planning your travel schedule, give yourself ample time to get to your destination during this historically busy travel time, and keep in mind any harsh weatherthat could potentially delay your plans.
When is the busiest travel day for Thanksgiving?
Heading into Thanksgiving, the roads are predicted to be particularly congested on the day before Thanksgiving, especially between the hours of 2 pm-6 pm ET, according to INRIX data retrieved by USA TODAY. On Thanksgiving day, the roads will be busiest between 11 am-3 pm ET. And lastly, heading home you’ll find that roads will be busiest on Friday between 12-4 pm ET and on Sunday from 3-5 pm ET. Plan accordingly and when in doubt, hit the road early.
1. A phone mount that’ll help you keep your eyes on the road
Distracted driving can significantly increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash or death. To eliminate in-car distractions—like looking down at your phone in your hand or lap to follow your phone’s navigation—a car mount can help keep your eyes up and on the road while still allowing you to use your navigation app (though, we’d recommend having a co-pilot to help navigate the roads if possible).
Out of all the car phone holders we’ve tested, we recommend iOttie—it features a strong suction cup to stay in place on your windshield, allowing you to focus on the road instead of any texts or notifications.
iOttie Easy One Touch 5 Dashboard & Windshield Universal Car Mount Phone Holder
Keep your eyes on the road with a phone mount.
2. A reusable water bottle for ice-cold water all day long
Making pit stops for bathroom breaks will always add time to your trip—especially on a busy holiday weekend. However, staying hydrated is essential when traveling. No one wants lukewarm water, so we recommend our favorite water bottle, the Owala FreeSip Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle, which not only keeps your water cold for up to 24 hours, but also features a leakproof lid and offers multiple ways to drink your water.
Owala FreeSip Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Our favorite water bottle is convenient to use on the road.
For kids, we love the Yeti Rambler Jr. out of all the bottles we tested. This wide-mouth, sturdy, and well-insulated bottle features multiple color options perfect for any little one.
YETI Rambler Jr. 12 oz Kids Bottle
Your kids can stay happy and hydrated during the ride, too.
3. A screen-free game to keep the kids entertained
Long road trips can be a challenge with younger ones. To keep them entertained without Wi-Fi or electronic devices, try Rory’s Story Cubes, a top-rated family game. The pocket-sized set of nine cubes includes a whopping 54 icons to inspire an adventurous story to act out. You can even get the whole car in on the fun with this game.
Zygomatic Rory’s Story Cubes Voyages
Keep your kids entertained with this game.
4. A snack and beverage cooler to avoid hanger
If you’re looking to minimize snack stops while on the road—or soothe hangry family members—stock a cooler or two with snacks, sandwiches, drinks, and more. Out of all the lunch coolers we’ve ever tested, the Yeti Hopper Flip 8 is one of our favorite choices.
The contents of this cooler can stay below 40 °F for six and a half hours, the exterior of the bag is crush-resistant thanks to its padding, and nothing will spill out thanks to the cooler’s leak-proof construction.
YETI Hopper Flip 8 Portable Soft Cooler
Store your road snacks in one of our favorite lunch coolers.
5. A neck pillow for naps along the way
Anyone can benefit from a nap on the road (well, except for the driver). To avoid any kinks in your neck or back, a neck pillow can make it easier and more comfortable to fall asleep in the car.
After testing several types, we’d recommend the Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow for most car riders. This classic, U-shaped pillow is incredibly supportive, durable, and even has an adjustable clasp to achieve a personalized fit.
Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Neck Pillow
Keep your neck comfortable with our favorite travel pillow.
6. Audiobooks for all-day entertainment
Audiobooks are one of the best ways to pass time during a long road trip, and services like Audible make accessing hundreds of thousands of titles easy. A few popular titles to choose from include “Iron Flame,” “Game of Thrones,” and “Wheel of Time.”
7. A car charger to keep devices powered up
Don’t let smartphones or tablets die during your trip. A car charger is essential for any road trip—and just to have in the car year-round. The Anker PowerDrive Duo is our favorite car charger that we’ve tested —this sleek charger is built with modern phones in mind with two USB-C charging ports. It also charges devices very quickly, topping up our tester’s smartphone to 99% in an hour and 17 minutes.
Anker USB C Car Charger
This charger can charge a smartphone in a little over an hour.
8. Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to stay clean
During your road trip, you’ll probably be handling high-touch surfaces like gas pumps and rest-stop doors, so we recommend keeping hand sanitizer in the car during your journey. And you can always use them when you arrive at your destination, too.
Purell Pump Bottle Hand Sanitizer 8 oz. Bottle
Keep germs at bay with hand sanitizer.
9. A combination snow brush and ice scraper to keep your windshield clear
Snowfall makes for a magical holiday moment—except for when you have to drive through it. Don’t be caught without a snowbrush and an ice scraper along your journey. This reviewer-loved snow brush and ice scraper will do just the trick with sturdy bristles to remove heavy snow and a 4-inch wide blade to break through and clear ice. It also features a thick foam grip, making it easy to handle in cold and wet conditions.
Mallory USA Mallory 532 Cool-Force 26” Snowbrush with Ice Scraper
With this snow brush/ice scraper, you’ll be prepared if snow falls.
10. A portable snow shovel for combatting heavier snowfall
What good is a snow brush or an ice scraper if you can’t move your car out of the driveway? Keeping a compact snow shovel in the trunk of your car can help you get out of a tricky snow situation. One of the best snow shovels we’ve tested is the Snow Joe SJ-SHLV01 Shovelution. The main reason we recommend it for your next road trip is because it’s compact enough to fit in the trunk of your car. It’s also sturdy, durable, and has a design that minimizes back pain.
41.3 in. Shovelution Strain-Reducing Snow Shovel
Keep this shovel in your trunk in case you need to move snow from around your car.
11. A cozy blanket to snuggle up in
Whether you’re snoozing through the long drive or just want to be comfy and cozy while watching a movie on your tablet, a soft blanket will come in handy.
The best throw blanket you can buy is the Bedsure Fleece Blanket because it’s lightweight, velvety soft, and comes in several size and color options.
Bedsure Fleece Blanket Throw Blanket
Stay warm in the car with this throw blanket.
12. Window shades to block the glare of the sun
Especially in the colder months, we appreciate the warm glow of the sun just as much as the next person. However, the bright light coming down through the car window can become irritating during a long car ride. Even more, car windows don’t completely protect from harmful UV rays. Block out sun rays with car window shades—these cling sunshades sold on Amazon claim to block out over 97% of UV rays, along with the heat and glare that comes with sun rays.
Enovoe Car Window Shades
These shades will keep the sun out of your eyes and protect you from harmful UV rays.
13. A car headrest mount for backseat movie marathons
Another way to pass the time on a long car ride is by watching movies (might we suggest a holiday movie or two?). Don’t just play your movies on a handheld tablet or smartphone—invest in a useful gadget like this headrest mount holder so your backseat riders can sit back, relax and enjoy movie time in the car with screens at eye level for maximum comfort.
Amazon reviewers say this mount holder is the perfect setup for kids, noting it’s easy to install and can be used for front-facing riders or car seat-bound children facing the rear of the car.
Macally Car Headrest Mount
Another way to keep backseat passengers entertained is to play a movie on a tablet.
14. A car organizer to keep the car clean
If you’ve ever been on a road trip, you know just how cluttered the car can get. Between car chargers, coolers, blankets and toys, we recommend something like these Uleeka backseat organizers. With tons of pockets, these organizers will keep your car in tip-top shape throughout the journey.
These organizers are easy to install—just slip them right over the front-seat headrests. Reviewers say the product feels high-quality and is well-made, so it’ll last for months, or even years, of everyday use.
ULEEKA Car Backseat Organizer
A car backseat organizer will keep clutter to a minimum.
15. A combination jump-starter to be prepared for emergencies
When driving, FEMA recommends you always have an emergency kit on hand with items like jumper cables, flares, and a car charger for your cell phone to keep you safe if something goes wrong.
This top-rated car tool works as a jumper, a battery pack for charging electronics, and an LED flashlight that features an emergency strobe all in one. With nearly 75,000 5-star reviews, the ultra-compact pack is a must-have for your car’s glovebox, because you never know when you’ll need it.
NOCO Boost Plus GB40 1000A UltraSafe Car Battery Jump Starter
Expect the unexpected and keep a jumper in your car.
16. A first aid kit just in case
If you haven’t already, we recommend adding a first aid kit to your stock of emergency supplies that you keep in the car—and always keeping it in there.
The best first aid kit you can buy is the Protect Life 100-piece First Aid Kit. This travel-size kit features everything you’d need in case of emergency in a lightweight and compact package case. Plus, there’s room for you to add additional items if you wish to do so.
First Aid Kit
This first aid kit features all the essentials in a compact package.