BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Travel

10 best items for a life-changing cross-country road trip

Adobe Stock

Which items do you need for a cross-country road trip?

Adventure is good for the soul. A cross-country road trip can provide a needed escape and a life-changing experience. The earth is wide and provides many urban and natural wonders for exploration. Before embarking on a cross-country road trip, consider various essentials for the best road trip experience. This includes packing methods, the time it takes to plan and travel and tolls. And don't miss our testing insights on the Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker.

Shop this article: Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso MakerProtect Life 200-Piece First Aid Kit and Noco Boost Plus Jump Starter Box.


When packing for a cross-country road trip, be strategic and organized. The more organized you are when packing, the easier it is to find items you may need while traveling. The more storage space utilized efficiently, the easier it is for necessary items to fit into your vehicle. Make sure to leave room to sleep and purchase items that fit in spaces already portioned off, such as a console and glove box. To save time, list everything you need to buy and check on to make the road trip go smoothly.

Travelers can also save money by borrowing items from friends and family rather than purchasing new items for a one-time trip. Some household items also work well for on-the-go use.

Time management 

Before leaving for a cross-country road trip, roughly map out where you want to arrive by specific dates and times. This planning helps acquire a greater road trip experience and keeps you safer. Try not to plan out your entire road trip though. Leave room for spontaneity while efficiently using your time.


When embarking on a cross-country road trip, type your route into a toll calculator online to see how much you might have to spend. Put aside a bag of quarters or an envelope of bills before you leave so that the toll payment is readily available when you come nearby.

How much you can expect to spend on a cross-country road trip

The cost of a cross-country road trip depends on the items you need to purchase, how far you travel and how many people you are traveling with. Gas prices vary depending on how far you drive, but you can use websites that calculate gas prices along the way. Emergency repairs and where you sleep and eat also affect the total cost of the trip. Anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000 as a total of all items and emergencies is a good place to start.

Cross-country road trip tips

  • Have spare keys in case one pair goes missing.

  • Have a map as a backup to avoid getting stranded in a foreign location if your phone or GPS battery dies.

  • If you plan to travel to national parks, consider purchasing a year-long pass before entering any.

  • Pack extra toilet paper for messes or emergencies. There can be no bathrooms for miles when traveling the American West.

  • Make a long road trip playlist in advance that can play offline. Many places on the road don't have radio or cell service.

  • Pack food in an insulated cooler to make easy meals on the road and save time and money.

Cross-country road trip FAQ

What car parts do I need to check before I leave for a cross-country road trip? 

A. Check your oil and cooling system, lights, brakes, wipers, and tires. If these items pass inspection, your car should operate smoothly, regardless of the miles that you plan to travel. 

What legal documents should I bring with me on a cross-country road trip? 

A. An up-to-date insurance card, a valid driver's license, and vehicle registration. You need these if you get pulled over by a cop or experience roadside issues. Keep your insurance and registration locked in your glove compartment. 

Best products to buy for a cross-country road trip

Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker 

This portable coffee machine provides that perfect shot of espresso on the go. The only things needed are the machine, hot water and ground coffee. It's operated manually, no battery or electricity required. It uses durable EVA material and soft fabric interior lining. Our tester found it a little tricky to get the hang of but the espresso made is actually quite good. Besides road trips, they also recommend it for hiking and camping.

Sold by Amazon

Lusso Gear Heavy Duty Seat Car Organizer

This car seat organizer uses strong and durable material that should last you a long time. It has multiple compartments for storing various-sized items while protecting them from spills and other messes. It can hold items varying from iPads or books to wipes and water bottles.

Sold by Amazon

Lebogner Insulated Car Console Organizer Cooler

This car console organizer is heavily insulated to keep food items cold. It features an easy-to-clean lining and can separate foods that need to stay cold from neutral-temperature items. It also features three outside mesh pockets and a durable zipper cover.

Sold by Amazon

BougeRV Rooftop Cargo Carrier Bag

This cargo carrier is non-slip and is scratch-resistant. It uses rainproof polyester material and features waterproof zippers and a rain flap. It can fit two medium suitcases, one cooler, two camping tents and sleeping accessories.

Sold by Amazon

AlltroLite Lifesaver Emergency Car LED Flashlight

This LED flashlight provides extreme brightness when needed most. It can serve as a red slate light or a strobe light to capture attention during emergencies. It can shine for up to 14 continuous hours and up to 16 feet. It's also a seat belt cutter, a glass window breaker and contains a compass.

Sold by Amazon

Protect Life 200-Piece First Aid Kit

This first aid kit can address a wide range of injuries with its selection of first aid and essential preparedness items. The bag itself is durable and organized. It is compact and doesn't take up much space.

Sold by Amazon


Wey & Fly SUV Air Mattress 

This air mattress features thick, double-sized flocking for insulation, a breathable double-sided surface layer polymer and a polymer corduroy bed surface. What’s more, this mattress is suede-dense, soft to the touch, environmentally safe, and made out of non-toxic and odorless materials. Finally, it’s stable against pressure and shock and has a short, simple set-up.

Sold by Amazon

Noco Boost Plus Jump Starter Box

This jump-start box lets you safely jump-start any 12-volt car battery in seconds and features up to 20 jump-starts on a single charge. It has a mistake-proof design featuring spark-proof technology and reverse polarity protection.

Sold by Amazon

Bestrix Phone Holder

This phone holder offers full rotation of your phone display and features an adjustable arm. It doesn't block the driver's view of the road and makes for a safer travel experience. It doesn't damage your car by using a suction cup. Ut comes in multiple colors to match the interior of your car.

Sold by Amazon

KM Motors Foldable Car Garbage Can

This item helps you stay organized and provides a central location to store your trash. There is a plastic board on the bottom so trash doesn't leak onto or stain the floor of your car. It can be slung around the gear shift or console box for stability and doesn't take up too much storage space.

Sold by Amazon

Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Logan DeLoye writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: