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Car Accessories for Your Next Road Trip

What you'll learn: What car accessories are essential for your next road trip


If you’re taking a road trip this summer that means you’re going to be spending a lot of hours in your car. There will be times when there’s nothing interesting outside the windows, all conversation options have been worn out, and everyone is going stir crazy. And while you’ve probably packed a bag that leaves you prepped for your destination: sunglasses, swimsuit, and beach ball—you may not have considered putting together a few road trip car accessories that will make the ride more enjoyable.

Here’s our list of smart ways to accessorize your car for summer travel—before you hit the road.

Car accessories that do more than just flatter the eye

A GPS System. Many newer cars have built-in GPS systems, but if you’re driving an older model (or didn’t splurge for the tech package) you may find yourself without easy navigation. While you can go old-school and pick your path using a road atlas, a GPS is a better way to keep you on route if you should wander off it. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to upgrade your car’s stereo system with something more high tech, a GPS system is a good one to have. What’s more, you’ll be happy to know that you can add a stand-alone, turn-by-turn GPS system to your car starting around $70. There’s typically no installation necessary: the GPS will sit in a mount on your dashboard and plug into your cigarette lighter for power.

Phone Mount. While you shouldn’t fiddle with your phone while driving, sometimes you need it within easy reach—especially if you’re using your phone’s navigation system instead of a separate GPS. You can find phone mounts for any model of phone for as little as $10.

Tablet Mount. For anyone in the back seat relying on a tablet for entertainment, a mount or holder will make playing games or watching TV a lot easier. A number of models attach to the headrest—making them a great way to keep your kids occupied and happy during your vacation travels.

USB Car Charger. Speaking of smart gadgets, there’s a good chance your battery won’t last all the way to your destination. If you’re using your phone for navigation, that’s a big problem. Pick up a car charger with USB ports so you can easily charge phones and tablets while you’re on the go.

Power Inverter. If you want to charge anything that needs more than a USB outlet, a power inverter will give you standard wall outlets in your car. These little gadgets are convenient and versatile: whether you need it to charge your laptop or for firing up all of your electronics at your campsite.

Bluetooth Connectivity. Do you need another reason to upgrade your car’s basic stereo? Here it is. High-end stereos typically let you make calls and play music from your smartphone via Bluetooth. That means no wires and little setup—plus most systems are designed to be voice activated, so you never have to touch your phone. A high-end stereo upgrade can get you this kind of connectivity. If you’re trying to save money, look for a hands-free calling system. Both are cheap, easy upgrades that will make your road trip a lot easier.

Window Shades. On the low tech front, nothing will ruin your day more than spending most of it with the sun blazing down on you. Window shades will attach to your windows and bring shade when you need it for a more pleasant drive. And when you get where you’re going, you’ll want a windshield shade, too. Trust us, whenever you head back to the car you’ll be glad of the lower temperatures a windshield shade provides.

A Cooler. Though there are gas stations at every highway exit, your road trip would go very slowly if you stopped whenever someone in the car wanted a drink or a snack. Make sure you have a good cooler with some ice packs to keep anything you’d like to munch on cool for the trip.

Travel Pillow. No matter how hard you try, it’s just not possible to comfortably sleep while sitting up in a moving car. Invest in a travel pillow to keep from getting a stiff neck if you decide to take a snooze while someone else is in the driver’s seat.

Seat Cover. This one’s specifically for pet owners! If you’re traveling with your four-legged friends and they are not spending the trip in a crate of some kind, a seat cover isn’t a bad idea to protect your car seats from fur, car sickness, and other travel mishaps. And don’t forget pet seat belts, too!

Stay Safe. While we already offered advice on how to get your car road-trip ready, there are a few things to pack to make sure you can handle basic car problems when you’re away from home. Be sure you have a tire gauge, a tire repair kit, and jumper cables. If you’re making a lot of road trips, it may be worth considering getting a membership with AAA. Having easy access to towing, no matter where you are, may be is worth the price if you break down.

Is it time to upgrade your wheels?

If your car just isn’t mechanically up to snuff for a long road trip—it may be time to upgrade more than just your stereo or cooler snack pack. Having a car that provides you and your family with safe, comfortable transportation is the biggest must-have accessory of them all.

If you think it’s time to upgrade your wheels, check out PenFed’s auto financing. PenFed has affordable financing for new and used cars. For those who like the ease of shopping online, find your next car in a snap with PenFed’s Car Buying Service.