Essential Travel Gear for Family Road Trips

Planning a family road trip? What you choose to bring with you in your car can make all the difference to how much everyone enjoys the ride.

Before you leave home, you'll want to load up on some great backseat entertainment for the kids, check out our list of road trip apps to download on your smartphone, and pick up a few items that will help make the drive go more smoothly. Here's some essential gear that will help take the hassle out of the long and winding road.

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    For most drivers, dash cams offer peace of mind that events will be recorded in case you're ever involved in an accident. But for folks who love scenic road trips, these devices have a added benefit: recording the splendor around you as you simply enjoy the drive. The all-black 2-inch Swann Navigator HD Dash Camera is easy to set up and makes for a discrete cam with a wide 140-degree view that doesn't distract. Just mount the camera on your windshield, plug it in, and as long as your car is running, you're recording. 

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    Bringing your child's car seat on your travels just got a lot easier, thanks to Mifold, the grab-and-go booster seat that's 10 times smaller than regular boosters but just as safe. It is small enough to fit inside a backpack or glove compartment. Mifold has been safety tested and meets or exceeds NHTSA standard FMVSS 213 in the USA. It is designed for kids aged 4 and up, 40 to 100 lbs, and 40 to 57 inches tall.

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    So many gadgets, so few USB ports? Not a problem when you've got the Road Rockstar, a quadruple USB charger (two ports in the front seat, two in the back) that ensures there's always enough juice to go around. 

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    An adorably squishy plush toy that turns into a travel pillow? Genius, we say. Kikkerland Zip and Flip Travel Pillow starts out as a cute bear (or whale or penguin) and then unzips and flips into a comfy neck pillow. (Though our bet is the bear will get more play time.) 

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    Do your kids hate taking turns with the iPad? The Rockstar is here to save the day. Plug the splitter into your tablet, add up to five sets of headphones, and voila!—let the backseat movie party begin. This is a stocking stuffer you'll use again and again.

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    What do you get when you cross a journal with a scrapbook? Way more fun than either, the hybrid Smash Book is a road-trip diary that comes with a glue pen so you can embellish your travel tales with ticket stubs, photos, postcards, and other mementos. At 7-3/4 x 10-1/4 inches, it fits easily in a backpack so you can write and smash on the go.

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    Taking a stroller with you? You need one that's feather light, easy to carry, and opens and closes in a snap. Whether tackling subway stairs or museum escalators, the Quinny Yezz may be the perfect travel stroller. When folded, you can carry the 11-lb. stroller on your shoulder and leave both hands free. Unfolding and folding just takes one hand, thanks to a unique 3D folding system that happens in the blink of an eye, making it a breeze to switch from pushing to carrying and back to pushing.

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    The perfect stocking stuffer for loved ones who drive, this handy four-in-one gadget from Secur is an emergency flashlight, powerbank for recharging mobile devices, seatbelt cutter and window breaker. In other words, it belongs in every glove compartment.

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    If you're in the market for a new car seat, look for one that's light and compact, like the Evenflo Chase (10 lbs., 20 in. wide). If you'll be taking it on a plane, be sure that your car seat is FAA-approved and narrow enough to fit on an airline seat. 

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    If you're going to let your little one play with your iPad in the car or on the plane, then you're going to need a protective case that's virtually indestructible. Fear not with the STM Dux iPad case, which can withstand any slip, drop, or toss that slippery little hands can dish out. The Dux has passed the U.S. Military Drop Test from a height of four feet and features a convenient magnetic closure and strong, reinforced corners. It's available for iPad, iPad Air, and iPad mini and comes in a selection of kid-friendly bright colors. So bring it, tots, bring it. 

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    Going on a long road trip? Giving yourself more space inside your vehicle will make everyone more comfortable. Perhaps the best all-around cargo box is the aerodynamic Skybox, whose design prevents wind drag and strong, rigid lid is tough enough to protect your gear. This model gives you 12 cubic feet of space for duffels, backpacks, and bigger items such as skis or camping gear.