— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed's editors. Purchases made through the links below may earn us and our publishing partners a commission.
With Thanksgiving being a little over a week away, it’s important to figure out your travel plans soon. If you’re traveling by plane, you’ll need to know the busiest days to fly and if you’re traveling by car, you’ll want to start gathering everything you need to hit the road.
Get on the nice list. Sign up for our newsletter to get all the best gift guides, deals and holiday planning advice.
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. Whatever distance you’re traveling this Thanksgiving, we’ve compiled a list of products that will make your ride smoother.
When is Thanksgiving 2022?
Thanksgiving 2022 falls on Thursday, November 24 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 weather that could potentially delay your plans.
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 using 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, Reviewed recommends 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.
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 Brita Stainless Steel Filtering Water Bottle, which not only keeps your water cold for up to 24 hours, but also filters out the taste and odor of chlorine.
For kids, we love the Kids' Hydroflask Wide Mouth Bottle out of all the bottles we tested. The colorful bottle features a convenient straw lid and is surprisingly lightweight, making it easy to travel with or store in a kids' backpack.
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.
For a little more quiet time in the car, the Crayola Wonder Mess Free Desk is another go-to. Don’t worry—the markers only work on the Crayola “wonder paper,” so clean-up is minimal.
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 Coleman 9-can Soft-Sided Cooler is our favorite choice.
This cooler is small, but mighty—in our testing, it maintained temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for about six and a half hours, an impressive time frame that'll guarantee cold snacks and drinks for a long card ride. It also features extra storage (which is always useful for the car), with tons of pockets for cutlery, bottles and napkins.
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.
If you’re generally a side sleeper, the J-Pillow Travel Pillow might be a better choice. As its name suggests, this pillow is shaped like the letter "J," and is extremely comfortable for those who prefer to rest their heads to the side.
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 “Where the Crawdads Sing,” “Game of Thrones” and Steven King’s “Fairy Tale."
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.
8. Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to stay clean
Cold and flu season is upon us—pair that with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and you've got plenty of reasons to keep hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes on hand. During your road trip, you'll probably be handling high-touch surfaces like gas pumps and rest-stop doors, so we'd recommend keeping both items in the car during your journey.
Fortunately, these two products are much easier to find and stock up on than they were two years ago. And why stop at just using them on the road? You can always use them when you arrive at your destination, too.
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.
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. This extendable snow shovel has over 900 5-star reviews, with one reviewer referring to it as a "lifesaver" for shoveling snow around their car tires. You can get the two-pack just to be extra safe.
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.
This fuzzy sherpa blanket is well-loved by reviewers on Amazon, with one reviewer saying the product “should come with a warning label” for how much you’ll love it. This throw is quick-drying in case of any accidental spills and wrinkle-resistant, making it a great option for the car.
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.
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.
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 particular models 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.
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 more than 35,000 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.
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 in your car—and keeping it there at all times.
This travel-size kit features everything you’d need in case of emergency: Band-Aids, gauze, alcohol prep pads, an ice pack and more—all in a conveniently compact bag. Plus, this model comes with a comprehensive 18-page first aid guide to help you properly administer first aid in a variety of emergencies.
Make holiday shopping easy with help from our experts. Sign up for text message alerts to get deals, gift guides and shopping advice delivered straight to your phone.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: Thanksgiving travel 2022: Road trip essentials for a better ride