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21 car essentials for your next road trip — from travel trays to seat fans

We found top-rated items starting at $11.
TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Danielle Murphy

When hitting the road for a long commute, an even longer road trip or just a quick run to the grocery store, you can never be too prepared for a car ride. With fall just around the corner, our schedules are probably as busy as ever; which means we'll be spending a lot of time in our cars, too. Luckily, there's one place to find top-rated gadgets and must-have essentials to ensure an easier and more efficient drive.

Whether you're preparing for emergencies, preventing messy vehicle-related situations or finding ways to keep your kids entertained (rather than constantly asking for an ETA), we found gadgets to keep your travels calm, collected and as comfortable as possible. From gel-enhanced seat cushions to trunk organizers that can keep your perishables cool as a cucumber, we rounded up our favorite finds that we think you won't be able to pass up before your next journey.

Amazon car gadgets

High Road StashAway Car Trash Can

We're all a little guilty of turning our car floors, cup holders and any pocket in our doors into a spot for trash. This compact bin makes for a convenient place to toss gum, straw wrappers and everything in-between before you get to a rest stop. Plus, it features side pockets to store essentials like hand wipes and sanitizer.

Comsoon Bluetooth 5.0 Receiver

If your car is older, it might not have all the swanky audio capabilities you'd find in newer models. This small receiver connects to your vehicle's aux port, so you can take calls, listen to your own music, audiobooks and more without any USB cables getting in your way.

Swigzy Car Cup Holder Expander

Do you carry your reusable water bottle with you wherever you go? You might find that it doesn't fit in your car's cup holders, so it takes up space on your passenger seat instead. This adjustable expander makes it so that you can fit reusable bottles and mugs with a capacity of up to 40 ounces right in your cup holder instead.

XOOL Portable Rotatable Car Seat Fan

When the five minutes it takes for your car's air conditioning to kick in is too long to wait, this portable seat fan can come in handy. According to the brand, this gadget can blow hot air out of a car and offer immediate relief to passengers who need cooling down.

HALO Bolt Compact Portable Car Jump Starter

You can never be too prepared for a car emergency situation. Amazon reviewers are raving about this portable car jump starting device, saying that it is easy to use, reliable and "a must have for car owners." Not only is it designed to jump start a full-sized car or SUV, but it also features LED flood lights and USB ports for charging electronics.

Drop Stop Car Seat Gap Filler

Never worry about dropping your phone, keys, loose change and more in between your seat and center console again. This convenient gap filler does exactly what its name suggests — fills the hole surrounding your seatbelt covered and keeps your essentials from becoming lost under your seat.

Lebogner Auto Steering Wheel Desk

You just arrived at your destination with time to spare, so you're looking to get a little work done, touch up your makeup or enjoy a snack. This steering wheel tray can help you do all three without creating a mess. It hooks onto the wheel from the bottom and lays flat, making it perfect for placing a laptop or food container on top. Just make sure to use it while your car is off and in park!

EldHus Car Hooks for Purses and Bags

Keep your bags and purses in an upright position — and in easy reaching range — with these leather car hooks. Installation is foolproof: just lift your headrest to show a part of the rod and then slip the u-shaped hook around it. Right now, you can grab two for less than $10.

Hotor Multifunctional Car Trash Can and Organizer

Whether you need a portable trash bin to keep your car tidy or some extra storage space for all long car ride knickknacks, this multifunctional accessory can get the job done. It comes with nylon straps that can be secured around a headrest as well as magnetic snaps that are said to make trash bag swaps easier.

Car Cache Purse Holder for Car

How many times have you left your purse on the console and witnessed it tip over (with all of its contents) as soon as you press on the gas pedal? If your answer is more than once, you need this car net bag. It's not only great for preventing spills, but it can also act as a soft gate to keep pets from jumping into the front seat.

Starument Portable Hand Vacuum

Save yourself from major messes with a cordless hand vacuum. This sleek portable option is designed with a portable suction to grab every loose crumb and speck of dirt in sight. It's said to be lightweight and have a quick-charge function.

Foval 200 W Car Power Inverter

You're in the middle of a multi-hour road trip and the worst happens — your phone dies. Or your Kindle dies. Or your tablet dies! Whether it's an essential for getting directions or keeping you entertained as a passenger, it's important to keep your electronics fully charge. The Foval Power Inverter is a travel-size adapter that juice up multiple gadgets at a time and it even has a built-in cooling fan and a multi-protection system, according to the brand.

Lusso Gear Kids Travel Tray

You'll never have to hear, "Are we there yet?" on another car ride again thanks to this travel tray. This will help keep kids busy with all of their favorite toys for hours — a detachable viewing stand can hold tablets for movie viewing, the dry-erase board table can be used for unlimited drawing, and the several pockets can hold other entertainment essentials within easy grabbing distance.

ComfiLife Gel Enhanced Seat Cushion

If you find yourself having to pull over for multiple breaks due to back pain and discomfort, a seat cushion might offer you some relief. This ComfiLife option is made with high-density memory foam and is said to offer cooling gel technology that is designed to keep your back and bum comfortable for long hours. The brand also says it's capable of improving posture and supporting legs and hips.

EcoNour Car Windshield Sun Shade

Returning to a burning hot car in the summertime is the stuff of nightmares (and so many seat burns). Protect your skin and keep your interior from turning into a life-size oven with this bestselling sun shade. The brand says it offers 98 percent UV protection and keeps temperatures to an "optimal" level. It comes in multiple sizes (even XXL to fit an RV!) and can adjust to keep a snug fit on your windshield.

K KNODEL Sturdy Car Trunk Organizer

No one likes hearing their luggage or groceries rolling around in their trunks, which is why a trunk organizer is a must-have for car travel — no matter the distance. The collapsible bag comes with a removable divider and straps for a safe and customized fit and also includes a cooler section that can keep food and drink cold or warm, according to the brand.

Macally Car Headrest Mount Holder

Introducing the ultimate parenting hack. Keep the kiddos from fighting over who gets to play with the tablet next (instead, let them fight over what movie to watch!). Once the film or TV show is decided on, attach your tablet or smartphone to your headrest, press play, and allow everyone to sit back and relax.

SnowOff Windshield Snow Cover

We hate to say it, but colder weather will be here before you know it. If you live in an area where snowfall occurs often, this cover can help save you from wasting time brushing snow and frost off your windshield, according to the brand. It uses magnets to stay in place and folds into its own carrying pouch once you're done using it.

HealthMate Warming Seat Cushion

Not all of us are lucky enough to have an automatic start, so once winter comes, we'll have to endure a few minutes of cold temperatures before the car warms up. Luckily, this seat cushion connects to a 12V port, so you don't have to wait precious minutes before you can feel warm and toasty.

One Fire Car Diffuser Essential Oil

Long drives don't have to be intolerable — they can actually be helpful ways to decompress, especially when you have a humidifier to create a calm and relaxing environment. According to the brand, not only will this diffuser keep your car smelling fresh, it's also "whisper-quiet" and can fit in most cup holders.

Macally Adjustable Cup Holder Tray for Car

Store your keys, wallet, phone and other essentials atop this convenient tray that fits snugly into most cup holders, according to the brand. It also swivels so your passenger can use it to eat or watch a show on their phone while you drive. Throw in a few extra bucks and you can get the brand's same tray but with a built-in cup holder expander.