Car Essentials You Shouldn’t Travel Without

Keeping these car essentials in your vehicle will help you handle unforeseen issues. Learn how to stay safe and sane while traveling by car

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You don’t need expensive items to make your next car ride more relaxing and enjoyable. Simple things, from a travel mug to paper tissues, can be the perfect car essentials to save you time and money on your morning commute or next road trip. They also can make your daily car rides more pleasant. We’ve pulled together our favorite car essentials and nice-to-haves to make sure you’re prepared for life’s surprises. You know that one colleague who always has a spare charger, bandages and a couple of granola bars to share? That could be you.

For your convenience, we divided these car essentials into six categories: Documentation, car repair and maintenance, safety and emergency supplies, hygiene and personal care, winter car essentials and general convenience.

Documentation

Two people riding in a car in winter
  • License
  • Registration
  • Insurance
  • Owner’s manual 
  • Emergency contact information
  • Car maintenance receipts

We assume you, responsible person that you are, keep your license on your person at all times. (Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it helped you get on planes. For many of us, it now mostly allows us to buy beer.) The law requires you to keep your registration and insurance in your car (glove compartment is a traditional spot). We also recommend keeping the owner’s manual, emergency contact information and car maintenance receipts in your car.   

Car repair & maintenance 

Red and black jumper cables
  • Spare tire
  • Lug wrench 
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency battery booster
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Multi-tool
  • WD-40
  • Duct tape

In the tradition of horror films, batteries tend to die in remote areas with no passersby or mechanics available to help you jump start your car. Get both jumper cables and an emergency battery booster unless you want an adventure in a spooky mansion on a stormy night. 

Safety & emergency supplies

Johnson & Johnson first aid kit

Dealing with a broken car isn’t much fun. Dealing with a broken car while hungry is no fun at all. It’s always good to have some non-perishables on hand. Protein bars are a go-to among drivers. Granola bars, trail mix and nuts are good options, too. 

If you’re prone to allergies or motion sickness it’s good to have a supply of over-the-counter meds and EpiPens to address those issues.  Make sure to consult your doctor before starting any new medications and read the instructions carefully. 

Life hack: Grab free paper maps at a state’s welcome center. 

Hygiene & personal care

Disinfecting wipes inside a car

While most of your outings right now are probably to the supermarket, your car is still your base camp while you’re out of the house. It only makes sense to keep some personal care items there. The COVID-19 pandemic made masks, gloves (for pumping your gas or opening doors) and hand sanitizer must-haves. Baby wipes are essential if you have kids, but they can also double as makeup-removing wipes or spilled coffee-removing wipes. 

In the summertime (and year-round in sunny places), you’ll be grateful you remembered to throw sunscreen into your glove compartment. 

Winter car essentials

Red emergency blanket
  • Windshield wiper fluid
  • Shovel
  • Warm gear, including gloves and a hat
  • Blanket 
  • Ice scraper
  • Snacks  

Winter is both the worst and most likely time you’ll be stuck in your car. While waiting for roadside assistance, you’ll be able to go through the contents of your glove compartment at a leisurely pace. You’ll be pleased to find a chocolate bar and emergency blanket. 

General convenience

Black USB phone charger
  • Leak-proof mug
  • Coins
  • Sunglasses 
  • Snacks (it’s something we feel very strongly about)
  • Charger
  • Change of shoes 
  • Umbrella or raincoat
  • Pens or markers and notebooks
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Plastic bags

If you’re a commuter or frequent traveler and basically live in your car, that’s exactly how you should treat it. Make it cozy. Having coins is pretty important for road trips (tolls!) and parking in cute, small towns. 

It might be worthwhile to keep a change of clothing in your trunk. And nobody ever regretted having comfy shoes to change into. 

Don’t forget an umbrella, so that your parade doesn’t get rained on!

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