Transform Your Average Vehicle Into a Rolling Road Trip Paradise

In the days of road tripping yore, families would pile into wood-paneled station wagons and blaze the trails of the American highway. But, with cramped backseats and that awful Cheez-It mist hovering, road trips have always been something of a discomfort.

If you're thinking of how you can make road trips a little more fashionable or accessorized or just plain comfortable, there are a handful of upgrades you can look into. Here's a breakdown of some car accessories and travel gear you can gather to transform your vehicle into a rolling paradise.

Road Trip Accessories for the Outdoors

Rooftop tent with sun setting in background

Heading to the Great Outdoors, but rolling up in a mid-sized sedan or squeaky family van? Don't sweat it. You can go full Grizzly Adams by adding a couple of quick and easy car accessories. Throw on a rack system with two nine-foot PVC pipes and locking end caps to hold about a million (really, up to 80) fishing rods and some tackle boxes.

Staying overnight? Consider a handy rooftop shelter that fits on everything from Sentras to Sequoias. Two- and three-person models are typically available, so it's literally just like sleeping on the ground, except you don't have to find space inside to pack it.

Small Car Accessories

Sitting in the driver's seat for hours upon hours, driving through seemingly endless desert towns, could really tweak something or at least make your lower half fall asleep. Adding a gel-based cushion to your car seats makes it feel like your floating, all cushy, when you've got a long haul ahead.

And how about eating in the car? You may want to clip some time off of your trip by eating in the car, but that's when the Number Four special ends up on your seat as Dr. Pepper spills from the cup holder down between your center console. Adding car accessories like an attachable work surface tray (even though it looks like a carhop accessory from the '50s) does wonders to protect your car from food and drink spills.

Obviously, no modern road trip is complete without all the car gadgets and gizmos of the 21st century:

  • Car charger with an adapter for multiple USB ports
  • Hands-free bluetooth (if you're like me and still drive a classic car with its cigarette lighter in tact)
  • Phone mount
  • Reusable water bottle or hydro flask
  • Backseat organizer
  • Dashcam
  • Travel pillow
  • Trash can (Trust me, you'll need it.)

Maintenance and Emergency Kits

Inevitably, something could go wrong. And no, I don't mean how long road trips stir furious debates about the best band of the 1980s. I'm talking about mechanical issues, and unless you're willing to wait hour for AAA to show up, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Use this packing list to make sure your car or truck is ready for anything before hitting the open road:

  • ?First aid kit
  • Garmin or GPS tracker
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Spare tire & jack
  • Car battery charger
  • ?Jumper cables


Ever since Instagram started taking over our lives, people have been posting pics of themselves drinking coffee and looking out over a ridge from the backseat of their converted van, eager to share their happiness since embracing the #VanLife.

While van life may be a social media-based pursuit, it does make for some rather comfy road living. If you're in the market to convert a Sprinter van into a mobile home for Millennials, fantastic; your social media presence will quadruple.

But, if you're just looking to add a dash of comfort and bring a slice of home along with you, then you can just add a couple touch-ups.

If you can spare it, trade out your backseat for a raised wooden platform that you can store stuff under and sleep on top of. This allows you to have space to pack and still have place to sleep for free when heading to a national park on your next road trip or camping trip.

This article was originally published January 23, 2020.

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