As spring break and the summer travel season approaches, many of us will hit the road. For friends and family that are heading out, it can be a fun idea to surprise them with some road trip gifts — perhaps you’ll even make them a road trip gift basket!
These ideas are also perfect for auction gift baskets – this road trip basket below is one I made for our class school auction!
Best Road Trip Gift Ideas
As someone who has taken a LOT of road trips, here are 60 of my favorite road trip gift ideas! This list has a mix of road trip gifts including road trip essentials, road trip gadgets, games for road trips, unique gifts, and even some ideas for family road trip gifts!
Affiliate links are included in this post so I may earn a small commission if you purchase with my link.
Road Trip Essentials
These items are essentials that will help make a road trip more comfortable, safe, and clean. They make great road trip gifts as they're practical gifts and most have a low price. Many of these can be added to a road trip gift basket to fill in space.
While we all rely on google maps on our phones these days, there's always a chance you'll lose your coverage while driving. A road atlas helps you navigate to where you need to go if you lose signal for some reason. Rand McNally makes great road atlases, this one is spiral bound with large-scale maps but they also make a traditional staple-bound atlas. A road atlas is one of the best road trip gifts.
If you're staying in one particular state or region, you might consider a paper map for that state that you can just store in your glove compartment versus a whole atlas.
Also, keep in mind that digital maps will probably tell you the best way to go to save time or mileage, but it might not be the most scenic way to go. A road atlas can help you look for scenic drives and routes.
Another tip is to keep your hotel info, like the address and telephone number, printed somewhere so you can access the info in case you can't get an internet connection.
While traveling in the car there's nothing worse than getting something on your hands and not being able to wash them. Wet wipes are a great item to pack as they can be used to wipe up spills and messes -- not just for kids! I recommend buying biodegradable eco-friendly wipes.
Of course over the past couple of years having hand sanitizer handy has been a big part of traveling. But our family has been packing hand sanitizer on road trips for a while. The 8 oz Purell pump bottles fit well in our van cup holders and is easily accessible for all. It's great for using after stops, after fueling up, and before eating.
Going along with the keeping things clean theme, a roll of paper towels is a great item to pack for a road trip. These come in handy in a variety of situations, cleaning up messes, wrapping up wet or dirty items, or even cleaning up spills in the car.
Having some facial tissues, aka kleenex on hand is helpful since there's a good chance someone will need to blow their nose at some point. These can also come in handy if you need to use an outhouse or "green latrine" while on the road. These travel packs work well for the car but I know some brands make canister-style facial tissues that are supposed to fit in cup holders, too.
While you can certainly use a plastic shopping bag for this purpose, a car garbage bag can make a great road trip gift. This is the one we use and I love that it has an elastic neck which makes it easy to push trash in, plus it has a rolled velcro bottom that you can simply unroll to empty out the garbage when you get to a large garbage can. Great (cheap) gift for road trip travelers!
A roadside emergency gift is an excellent road trip gift idea -- especially for teen drivers! You never know when you'll have an issue on the road and one of these items might just help you avoid a serious issue or inconvenience.
While the roadside emergency kit above comes with jumper cables, that relies on having another car available to give you a jump. When you're on the road, a car battery booster pack is a good idea since you can jump your car without relying on the help of strangers.
While you should make sure you're covered for serious medical concerns and can access a hospital, minor scrapes can be fixed with a travel first aid kit. Remember some ibuprofen/acetaminophen, stomach chews (Pepto Bismol), allergy pills, and bug bite cream. We've used them all on road trips.
Let's face it, long stretches in a car with one or more people are going to lead to some stink. Pack along a bottle of air freshener / odor eliminator to help manage smells while on the road. This is an item that many don't think about packing and so makes a great road trip gift!
Water bottles are great for road trips as they help you stay hydrated and can save you money from buying drinks at every stop. Insulated bottles can also be used for coffee in the morning and water later in the day.
I like to have a bottle that has a flip/slider lid and a straw option as those are the easiest for using while driving in my opinion (versus a screw cap bottle). Just make sure to get a bottle that will fit in most cup holders (like these Simple Modern ones)!
A reuseable water bottle is one of the best travel gifts!
If you're planning a long drive with multiple rest stops along the way, it can be useful to have a simple day bag that you can grab if you leave the car for a hike or even to run into a store. A sling bag like this can even hold smaller tablets and books, plus it has a pocket for a water bottle or umbrella.
Since eating in the car or on the go is pretty standard for road trips, having some dental floss picks packed can help keep your mouth feeling clean after meals. I also try to buy biodegradable ones so I'm not adding plastic to the landfills.
Driving in bright sunlight can be overwhelming and even dangerous. I have eyes that are sensitive to sunlight and a pair of polarized sunglasses is a huge help for driving during the day. Even people who don't normally drive with sunglasses can find these useful on the open road!
While these aren't necessarily a road trip gift you can gift someone you don't know well, slip-on shoes are definitely a road trip essential. You'll be making stops often and wearing shoes that tie will slow you down and become an annoyance for taking on and off when you're not driving. Of course, if you're a solo driver, you can wear whatever shoes you want since you won't be taking them off while in the car.
Another road trip cozy item is a small travel blanket. This is useful for passengers if one person wants to keep the car at a cooler temp than others prefer. I also think being cozy makes it easier to fall asleep. This blanket also makes a great filling item for a road trip gift basket.
If you're making stops along water and beaches, a travel towel can come in handy. We've stopped at roadside beach pull-outs and have always appreciated having a towel to dry off our legs and feet after taking a little walk in the waves.
Keep in mind if anyone suffers from motion sickness while traveling. If so, be sure to pack some items to help with that. You can use medicine like Bonine, essential oils, ginger candies, or a Reliefband tech bracelet that uses electricity to help combat motion sickness.
Car Road Trip Accessories & Gadgets
For techy travelers, many of these road trip accessories and gadgets will seem like essential items! I'm making them their own category as they do offer some convenience and will certainly help plugged-in travelers stay connected while on the open road.
So many of us have electronics that will need to be kept charged during a long road trip. This power inverter also allows you to charge larger electronics like a laptop, in addition to having multiple USB ports for everyone to be able to charge their device. Great gift for a road trip with friends or family!
For road trippers that want to save money and eat on the road, a portable refrigerator that hooks to a car 12V outlet works great. It keeps food and drinks cool to enjoy later on the trip. This one comes with an AC plug too, so you can bring it in to plug in your hotel room.
We all know that driving can be dangerous, and these days proving who is at fault during an accident can come down to who has proof. A dash cam like this can help you prove what happened if something does go wrong while you're on a trip. (note, some US states do not allow you to mount dashcams to windshields, only dashboards)
If you're an Alexa-loving road tripper, consider "teching out" your car with one of these Echo Auto devices. You'll be able to go hands-free to play music, listen to audiobooks, and even play Alexa games.
For travelers who love to read, having a Kindle can be a great gift idea. And for road trips, the glare-free Kindle Paperwhite is perfect for in the car. You can even get them with a trial for Kindle Unlimited which is a great service for avid readers!
If you or your friends have an older car, they might want one of these Bluetooth transmitters that let them connect their phones to their car through an FM radio station. Great for allowing you stream your favorite playlists and audiobooks from your phone to your car sound system.
If you like to keep your car clean while traveling, having a car vacuum on hand can be useful. This one plugs into a 12V outlet in the car and can help keep crumbs and dirt at bay. Make a great road trip gift!
Since most road trips involve fast food and eating in the car, it's no surprise that your car can start to stink. This car gadget works to clean, purify, and deodorize the air. No more coming out to a car that smells like french fries from the day before!
Here's another handy organization item that makes a great gift for road trips! Help your best friend keep things in order with a hanging trunk organizer. This one is great for vans and SUVs, but you can get sedan-sized organizers that work well for cars.
If you're buying a road trip gift for a group or someone who is traveling as a group, these car window shades can be useful. Often they're used by families for babies, but they work well for any passengers that don't want the sun beating down on them while they watch movies or sleep.
Here's another fun road trip accessory that makes for an affordable gift. This cleaning gel (aka slime) will seep into tight crevices and pick up rogue crumbs that a vacuum just can't quite reach.
Family Road Trip Gift Basket Ideas
Here are some great family road trip gift ideas that are perfect if you're shopping for someone who will be road-tripping with kids! These road trip gift basket items will keep the kids entertained and comfortable on the open road.
This travel tray can be a lifesaver for traveling families. Kids will have a surface to help them draw and eat, plus handy storage pockets for keeping their toys and activities from falling in between the seats!
If the kids are planning to watch some movies or shows on a tablet during the road trip, having a hanging pocket or mount can come in handy. This seat organizer serves that purpose as well as offering pockets for storing away other items.
One of the best ways kids can stay happy on a road trip is by sleeping, whether you're talking toddlers or teens. This neat road trip headrest gadget creates a cushioned rest for kids or adults to lean against which supports their heads.
These are fun sensory toys for kids, letting them use their imagination to craft and build. They're fairly mess-free although you likely don't want to leave them in the hot sun as they're coated in wax to allow molding.
The Crayola Color Wonder Mess-Free art sets are perfect for traveling kids. The markers only work on the special paper, so no worries about marker messes on your car, and no stress about melting crayons!
This brings back some memories of etch-a-sketch for me! Kids can draw whatever they want and then at the push of a button the screen is clear and ready for a new design. The name-brand version of this toy is Boogie Board in case you want to avoid the "knock-off" versions.
One of my favorite tools I used on a recent road trip was Roadtrippers. It's a road trip planning app that helps you find great spots to see and things to do along your route. It even includes reviews and photos from fellow travelers. It's a perfect road trip gift!
AAA is the leader in roadside assistance memberships, so a membership for their service can make a great gift. Many hotels also offer a AAA discount on hotel rooms which could help a traveler save money!
Buying a gift card for gas can be a bit tricky as you might not know what gas stations will be popular on the road trip route. However it's a fun gift idea with a definite road trip theme, so even a small amount to a local area gas station can get used.
Lastly, there’s nothing quite like snacks to help make a road trip great! Read my full list of road trip snacks, but these are a few of my favorites that make great gifts for a road trip gift basket!
Rice Krispie Treats
I hope this list has been helpful. Many of these road trip gifts are a great way to prepare travel lovers for their upcoming trip while also providing useful gifts that they might not have thought of! Let me know if you have any other gift ideas I didn’t list.