The holidays are synonymous with travel, making them one of the busiest times of the year to visit friends, go on vacations that double as gifts, or simply return home for the holidays.
Shop All Day contributor Makho Ndlovu stopped by the 3rd hour of TODAY to share products that will ease many of your holiday travel woes, from organizational worries to poor posture while on the road.
But that's not all. We also reached out to a few travel experts to learn about road trip packing must-haves, along with tips for executing a memorable adventure whether you’re traveling with friends, family or going solo. Read on to shop all our top picks and learn how to travel with ease this holiday season.
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Seen on 3rd hour of TODAY | Tips for road-tripping as a family | Tips for a solo road trip | Tips for road-tripping with friends | Family road trip essentials | Solo road trip essentials | Road trip essentials when traveling with friends | Shop TODAY-recommended road trip essentials | Meet the experts
Road trip essentials seen on 3rd hour of TODAY
Whether you’re packing emergency materials, beach must-haves or want to have a way to organize dirty versus clean clothes when camping, this trunk organizer promises to keep everything separated.
With three compartments, this tool compactly folds down to fit underneath a seat when you’re not using it, and can also expand to allow for one, two or three compartments, including an insulated compartment that can keep drinks cold or food warm for up to one hour.
Loop these hangers around the prongs of your headrest in your car to keep bags at bay while driving. No more spills when taking wide turns, or worrying about compromising space on a road trip where you already overpacked.
These hooks can hold up to 55 pounds, making grocery trips, road trips or even carting children’s bags to and from school a breeze. The four-pack is made out of durable, thick, ABS plastic and is available in a wide variety of colors.
When road-tripping with friends and a limited number of outlets, you never want to be stuck without a charged phone. Keep the music flowing and the maps going thanks to this power charger that plugs into any standard car charging port and includes two standard outlets and four USB outlets.
Compact and portable, the brand notes that this charger is the size of your credit card, making it easy to pack and stow away until you need it most.
Available in two colors, the easy lace system on Hey Dude's shoes make them a no-brainer when it comes to easy and simpler shoe options. With the same faux shearling collar lining as the women's option below, these shoes (that are loafer look alikes) also feature lightweight, cushioned soles for a supportive step.
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Comfort will carry you far in your travels, especially if you’re wearing comfortable shoes. With a faux shearling lining the collar, warmth is a given in these slip-ons. Available in five neutral colors, Shop TODAY readers can save an extra 25% off the entire site today through Nov. 18 with the code TODAY25.
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Satin pillowcases are all the rage. Simply ask any Shop TODAY editor and they’ll tell you that these pillowcases have improved the condition of their skin, made their hair softer and provided a better, more elevated night’s sleep. By bringing this on vacation, you'll take your travels to the next level and make any hotel, tent or Airbnb feel like home with your own luxurious pillowcase.
What are your top tips for doing a road trip as a family this year?
Lori Blalock, travel blogger at Southerner Says, starts off by saying the number one thing you should bring on a family road trip is a plan. “I’m usually all for winging it on road trips, but things are a little different now so I would want to have a plan and make sure my family and I have a place to sleep.”
She also suggests making a podcast queue or a playlist of your family's favorite songs to help pass time while in the car for longer stretches.
Emily Kaufman, also known as The Travel Mom, has two key pieces of advice when it comes to taking your family vacation on the road.
Be realistic. Kaufman notes that oftentimes, families want to be ambitious and power through a long stretch of road, or plan to leave right before nap time, that way children can sleep in the car. "Accidents happen when you’re tired, so be realistic about your actual road trip plans and pace yourself," she says. "Make the road trip part of your vacation instead of a way to get from point A to point B."
Stick to your day-to-day routine. Kaufman recommends sticking to your routine as best as you can. Meaning naps, meals and bedtimes occur at the same time they would at home. "Kids don’t tell time," she points out. "So they know what’s coming next by what happens before it. Whether you’re taking a road trip or a plane ride, stick to those routines with your kids."
What are your tips for a solo road trip?
Patricia Serrano, travel host and blogger at Fresh Traveler, says, “Commune with nature as much as you can. Take the scenic paths and even the slow route instead of the highway. You might discover cool things along the way. Stop at beautiful parks or nature reserves and also restaurants along the way. Bring a camera, a journal [and] stop to take photos or write things that inspire you.”
When it comes to safety on a solo trip, Blalock says to always let someone know where you are and when you plan to return home. “Have a trained automotive tech inspect your vehicle before you go," she adds. "Consider joining a roadside assistance program like AAA or Good Sam [in case something happens during your trip]."
What are your tips for planning a road trip with friends?
Driving around the country with friends who love exploring and trying new things can be a great way to reconnect after a few years with little face-to-face interaction. “Do not rush your trip. Maybe do five hours on the road before you hunker down somewhere so the whole day is not spent in the car,” suggests Serrano. “I’d also map out a couple things to do along the way in advance, but also leave room for some detours that you might find along the way."
Sometimes having alone time, even with friends, will help some groups connect even better. “Don’t be offended if someone wants to put in earbuds and listen to something on their own or read,” says Blalock.
Things to bring for a family road trip
Kaufman recommends skipping the juice boxes and opting for a more durable drinking device. "Any of those juice things that you puncture with a straw, as soon as you puncture it, unless they finish every bit of it, it’s a sticky, icky mess," she says. "So bring the reusable water bottles, ideally something you can refill."
This 0.4-liter reusable water bottle from CamelBak has an easy, bitable straw that prevents spills and comes in a number of designs from dinosaurs and sharks to mermaids and cats.
With a car full of kids or friends, it might be hard to tell whose drink is whose. You can avoid the mix-up with these personalized water bottle bands that were previously featured on the 3rd hour of TODAY by lifestyle expert Amy E. Goodman. They're designed to fit most bottles and come in six colorways.
If you're on the travel or parenting sides of TikTok, you've most likely seen 'snackle' boxes — a viral hack for traveling with healthier snacks for little ones. You can fill it up with their favorites instead of settling for the next best thing at a gas station.
If you're traveling with small kids, this backseat organizer is an absolute essential. Featuring an iPad and tablet holder, it has seven differently sized pockets for easy access to water bottles, snacks, toys, tissues and whatever else you need to pack for those long trips!
If your child can't resist something sweet at the top of every hour, but you don't want those treats ending up on the floor of your car, turn to these 'snack catchers' from Munchkins that allow small hands in without spilling snacks out.
With a flexible plastic cover, these carriers also sit comfortably in most cup holders, making their favorite snacks even more accessible.
It can be difficult to get your little ones to sit down long enough to slather on sunscreen and spray on bug repellent. Instead, turn to these bug repellent bracelets that can be slipped on your child's wrist or ankle for mitigating the amount of mosquitoes trailing them. Plant-based and hypoallergenic, this pack of five could last all vacation.
Let’s just be honest, kids love to touch everything. Sanibeads are an easy and portable way to always have hand sanitizer at the ready. The wearable bracelets are made with silicone and each bead can be filled with your choice of disinfectant. When you’re out exploring local attractions, pop the bracelets on you or your kids to have easy access to sanitizer instead of digging through your backpack.
Ziploc bags are an underrated item on road trips. You think everything can just be stuffed in a cooler or backpack until the moment your kids spill a whole juice box on themselves. Gallon-sized Ziploc bags are perfect for storing wet swimsuits or clothes, half-eaten snacks and even small toys. Once you take these on a road trip, you won’t go on any vacation without them.
Kids can get restless on long road trips, especially after a few hours of riding in the car. These back seat car organizers can hold so many of their favorite items like small toys, coloring books and crayons, snacks, drinks and even a tablet for watching movies.
One road trip essential you’re going to need while traveling with your family is a cooler to keep drinks and snacks cold while on the open highways. This YETI cooler fits easily behind a car seat, comes in over a dozen colors and keeps ice frozen for up to five days. Think of this as a time saver, too, since you won’t have to fill up your cooler with ice at a gas station or at your hotel.
Things to bring for a solo road trip
Whether you're sketching the waterfall in front of you or keeping record of trails hiked thus far, these National Park-themed notebooks will complement any road trip destination you have in mind. One verified five-star Amazon reviewer called these their "go-to field journal" for nine road trips so far.
The WeatherTech CupFone is perfect for solo travelers who are looking to go hands-free while driving but still want to be able to pay attention to their GPS, see who’s calling or skip a song on their road trip playlist. The black plastic holder fits snugly into your car's cup holders, so your phone won't wobble around while driving.
Travel journals come in all shapes, sizes and designs but this Moleskin option is small enough to fit into any backpack. Included are pages designed to capture memories and store ideas for future vacations.
While traveling the open road, you might pop into places that don’t have a secure Wi-Fi network or don’t have one at all. One thing you’re going to want to bring is a portable router that can establish a hotspot so you're not using up all of your phone’s data. This one is super small, is password protected and can even connect to a Google Chrome device so you can stream your favorite shows or movies.
Shampoo and conditioner bars have become a travel must-have over the past few years. They're easy to store and have a lesser chance of making a mess unlike traditional shampoo and conditioner bottles. This sampler from Ethique comes with three shampoos and two conditioners, and, according to Amazon reviews, last anywhere from five to 10 washes per sample.
Designate this canvas tote as your official "road trip" bag. Measuring up to 20 inches long, this bag (which has also been featured in Shop All Day) is big enough to store all of your travel essentials, from toiletries to extra towels.
To use in the car, on a plane, or even while working from home, this back pillow works to promote better posture while you’re seated for hours on end. Made with a ZERO-G memory foam, this pillow promises to hug your back in “the most comforting and supportive way.”
“Comfortable and compact,” according to reviewers, their search for the perfect back pillow ended once they found the Coushy.
Things to bring on a road trip with friends
With classics like license plate bingo and new games like "sweet and sour" where you try to make friends with others in the car next to you, this pack of games will keep the occupants in your car occupied for hours on end.
When you've run out of podcasts to listen to and the radio stations become spotty, turn to this movie trivia card game that includes 140 questions and is sure to stump even the most well-versed movie buff.
Having a pair of comfortable and stylish sneaker will go a long way in stretching your wardrobe possibilities on a getaway. Keds makes classic kicks that are durable and comfortable for all-day wear and walking around new places.
Instant cameras seem to be popping up everywhere these days, including on road trips. This Fujifilm Instax camera comes with three rolls of film, batteries and a carrying case. The camera has a one-touch selfie mode for the perfect picture with you and your friends at a roadside attraction and has automatic exposure so your pictures always turn out right.
Safety should always be top of mind when traveling to places you don’t know, and that includes in your car. This roadside emergency kit has everything you need to fix a flat tire, a dead car battery and more. It also includes a first-aid kit in case of minor bumps and bruises.
When you've finally reached a campsite or rest location, you'll want to relax in the outdoors on this multifunctional lazy lounger. This inflatable lounger can float on water, sit on most types of terrain and is compact for easy carrying. According to the brand, the fabric is made of 210T Ripstop Polyester, which is the same fabric found in hot air balloons and parachutes!
Shop TODAY editor-loved items for a road trip
Branded commerce editor Francesca Cocchi Zabloudil relies on these seatbelts for keeping her furry friend Stevie safe while driving. Simply hook the seatbelt onto their collar like a leash, insert the clip into your car's buckle and they're ready to ride. The nylon material ensures they won't be able to chew or tug loose, and Cocchi Zabloudil notes that Stevie has lasted many long rides from New Jersey to the Midwest and back with it.
If you suffer from motion sickness like associate social media editor Dani Musacchio, these motion sickness relief wristbands might be the resolution you've been searching for. She swears by them and they're available in a four pack and can be used on children and adults alike.
Meet the experts
Lori Blalock is the founder and creator of Southerner Says, a travel blog. A travel enthusiast herself, Blalock created this website as a way to encourage others to travel and make it easier for everyone, especially females.
Emily Kaufman is a former early childhood educator turned Travel Mom. For over 25 years, she has helped families plan their vacations in a smart, fun way.
Patricia Serrano is a travel host and actor. She is also the creator of Fresh Traveler, a site to help travelers understand the different ins and outs of their vacation, including flight insurance and taking the road less traveled during international trips.