Gift ideas for road trip?
May 11, 2015 10:14 AM   Subscribe

What would you give as a gift (single item or basket of useful stuff) for someone planning a long road trip? I've thought of audio books, picnic kit, car games, etc. but was hoping others might have good ideas.
posted by Kat Allison to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Moist towelettes. Blindfolds/ear plugs (if sleeping is likely to be needed). MP3 players for everyone so there are no fights over music.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:19 AM on May 11, 2015

Tool kit, incld jumper cables (if they don't already have one)

Gas card

Visa gift card

Maps (for when the gps doesn't work)
posted by edgeways at 10:25 AM on May 11, 2015

Toilet paper
posted by oceanjesse at 10:25 AM on May 11, 2015

pack of baby wipes
roll of quarters for tolls/parking
pen & paper
mini first aid kit (bandaids, aspirin, etc.)
posted by belladonna at 10:27 AM on May 11, 2015

AAA membership
Current road atlas of the US
Some sort of guide to simple auto stuff (depending on their experience level dealing with cars)
National Parks Passport (to collect stamps of places they visit)
Back rest for the car (that mesh one is available at almost any dollar store and keeps your back from getting sweaty on a long drive)

Snacks are always nice!
posted by dahliachewswell at 10:29 AM on May 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

These wood beaded seat covers are a little big for a basket, but generally come up as very nice to have for long periods of driving.
posted by jquinby at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2015

Hand sanitizer, power inverter, cooler (regular or electric), magnetic hide a key box, sunblock, eyeglass wipes for sunglasses, chapstick with spf. On our last road trip we froze juice boxes to keep in the cooler, and later to drink of course, yummy Trader Joe's lemonade. Mix CDs can include all types of very personalized soundbites, including your own well wishes for the travelers.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 10:43 AM on May 11, 2015

Something like this, which is a radio, gets NOAA weather alerts, is a phone charger, flashlight, and red flashing emergency beacon, and can recharge via solar or hand crank, or uses batteries.
posted by gudrun at 11:06 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

AAA membership if they're not already a member.
posted by usonian at 11:20 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

Car Phone Charger

or just portable chargers in general.
posted by DarthDuckie at 11:26 AM on May 11, 2015

Road trip items that have served us best (we go on a long national park excursion each summer) are:

Gadgets: multi-chargers so everybody can power up at once (we have and love both the car and hotel room versions), a power brick for when you need the juice but aren't near a plug, and an easy headphone splitter so that the kids can hear the same thing when watching a movie or listening to an audiobook.

Books: art books by Ed Emberley - animals, make a world, weirdos, etc. - have been a huge hit. They are less than $7 each, paperback so easy to pack, and keep kids occupied. Couple that with some colored pencils and drawing pads, maybe.

Food: I bought a big, old-school Thermos that I fill with coffee each morning. It's 40 ounces, which is about three decent-sized cups. Coffee stays hot for hours and hours. We bought each family member a reusable Starbucks cup ($1 each; I think they still have them in stores), which each of us decorated with Sharpie and use them for water/juice on the road. And we got two Bobbles that we fill with water at the hotel and drink from as we go. The filter helps for sure when you are in a place with well water.

Maps/Travel Books/Etc.: dahliachewswell's suggestion of a National Parks Passport is great. We got one on a lark several years ago and look forward to stamping it each time we can. We've actually gone a bit out of our way on some trips just to get another stamp, and it's always worth it. National Geographic maps for national parks are really well done; they are our go-to. And destination-specific guidebooks in general are useful. We buy different brands (based on Amazon reviews) and find that they are helpful for planning out days.

Passing Time: Depending on how old the travelers are, you could make a basket full of fun time-wasters. There are classics like Mad Libs, auto bingo, and those invisible ink quiz games. And though it sounds crazy the kids look forward to getting post-it notes, tape, and band-aids. They tape up their face Pee-Wee Herman style, stick band-aids around all of their fingers and toes, and make mosaics on the window with post-its. It's cheap, creative fun.

Safety (this is boring, but useful): Before our first long trip, we got a car first aid kit, a digital tire pressure gauge, a window hammer/seat belt cutter, a set of jumper cables, and a swiss army knife. We haven't had to use any of them yet in an emergency, but they fit easily in the trunk and offer some peace of mind.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:53 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Depending on what you're looking to spend, instead of the National Parks Passport you could get them an America the Beautiful pass. It's $80, but it covers admission to national parks, BLM, and national forests for a year. It covers up to four people in a car, and can have two direct owners. It's well worth the cost. For example, admission to Yellowstone is $25 per visit.

There are a few exceptions to its use, such as the privately owned parking at Rushmore. Still a good present.
posted by Gneisskate at 12:17 PM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Insulated travel mug, sunglasses, extra USB cable for charging phone and electronics.
posted by hooray at 12:36 PM on May 11, 2015

Fund the Roadfood Insider app for a year (the recipient has to register themself).
posted by brujita at 12:59 PM on May 11, 2015

Gum. I like Ice Breakers / Ice Cubes, which have plenty of xylitol and might actually be good for one's teeth. But you could give an assortment of interesting gums.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:46 PM on May 11, 2015

When I was a weequat, our family roadtrips were made all the better by my Grandmother giving us a series of small items to open throughout the trip, each labelled as to when/where they should be opened. So, in conjunction with the excellent list of items being compiled, perhaps have a few wrapped items that specify "open when you get to your first rest stop" where they find a roll of quarters for the vending machines or "open at 3pm on Day 2" to discover a nice bar of chocolate. "Open after you arrive at your first hotel" might be a mini bottle of their favorite booze... etc, etc.
posted by jenquat at 3:10 PM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

a mixtape of songs about the places where they'll be traveling.
and AAA membership - good for breakdowns and hotel discounts.
a gift certificate to a delicious restaurant that is on their way - I find during road trips I end up eating too much fast food, so you could find something that is very much NOT fast food - lots of fresh fruits and veggies and so on.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:17 PM on May 11, 2015

License plate bingo?
posted by mahorn at 3:54 PM on May 11, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks to all for the great suggestions! I especially like the idea of the park and and America the Beautiful passes, but there are many excellent ideas for useful things as well. Thanks again!
posted by Kat Allison at 6:56 AM on May 12, 2015

An E-ZPass (if they will be going through states that participate) allows you to avoid what we called the "loser lanes" for cash-paying toll customers that we were shunted into when we drove from New England to Minnesota two summers ago.

Also, a cheap electrical inverter that plugs into a car's cigarette lighter and offers "wall outlet" plugs for charging entertainment gear & phones while you are under way. (Newer cars may offer USB ports, making this less important, though it can still be used to power a portable DVD player or other power-hungry item.)

A soft-sided cooler bag to keep cheese sticks, drinks, and fruit cold during the day. You could fill it with Starbucks Via instant coffee packs, granola bars, a cheap paring knife (for cutting fruit), fruit, and some crackers that don't make too many crumbs.

A shitload of paper towels and Zip-Loc bags (both large and small) for emergency clean-up.

Some postcard stamps and a pen for writing quick notes at a rest stop (in those lucky, lucky states where they still exist).
posted by wenestvedt at 8:13 AM on May 12, 2015

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