At first glance, a rental car may not seem like the ultimate road trip machine. But if you’re willing to bring along a few key road trip accessories—all lightweight and small enough to stow in a suitcase—you can turn an uninspiring rental car into a road-trip wonder.
Car Seat Cushion
If you’ll only be using your rental car for shorter drives, you may not need a seat upgrade. But if you’re sitting for hours in the no-frills bucket seat of a base-model rental car, it’s a wise idea to BYOP—bring your own padding. The best car seat cushions aren’t particularly packable, but a comfy and perfectly serviceable option like a thinner car-seat cushion or an inflatable seat cushion will go far in keeping you pain-free after hours on the road.
Air Vent Phone Car Mount
Keep your phone secure and within reach by using an air vent car-mount holder that requires no special installation. Slip the mount into the air vent to secure it easily and pop in your phone. You can even swivel and adjust the angle of your phone.
Phones, tablets, laptops, portable fridges—you’ve got gear, and after hours on the road, that gear is going to need juice. Charge up to four devices with a compact multi-charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Or, opt for speed over volume and charge two devices in a hurry with a fast charger.
Not all rental cars have the same tech specs, and you may find yourself without an easy way to make the most of the navigation, hands-free calling, and music power of your smartphone in your rental car. A Bluetooth adapter can turn any vehicle with an auxiliary jack (AUX) into a connected car.
Necessary? Probably not. A cool way to document your road trip? Definitely. The Garmin Dash Cam records your drive, offers collision and lane departure warnings, saves video on impact, and can be controlled by voice. It can also take still photos and do time-lapse recording.
Rental cars don’t have an easy life, and sometimes you can really smell the hard times. Manage lingering odors from previous renters with a compact car air purifier. This air freshener and ionizer that plugs into a cigarette lighter doesn’t just mask odors, it neutralizes them. It takes on scents including pet smells, food odors, cigarette smoke, and mold; and can also help with dust, pollen, and other allergy-inciting airbornes.
A Paper Map
Road trips pave the way to adventure, but map apps can’t always keep up. In places where service is spotty, map apps sometimes lose their way, delivering you surreal landscapes of undifferentiated gray (often with a single dot that is you, floating in the center). These are the moments you’ll wish you brought a paper map that traces your route. Refresher for anyone who hasn’t bought a paper map in a while: AAA members can get them for free at their local branch before they go, or you can just pick one up at a gas station or convenience store on your route once you arrive. Bonus: When you’re done using it, you can turn it into travel art.
When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. For guys, a quick roadside pitstop can be relatively discreet; for women, not so much. Level the side-of-the-road playing field with the go girl, a female urination device that allows the user to stand, not squat. The small, reusable silicone device is anti-spill and easy to clean, and fits easily into a day pack or purse.
Too hot? Too cold? Passengers don’t always agree on the optimal temperature inside a car, but a blanket can go far toward keeping all passengers comfortable. Stay cozy and pack light with a fleece throw that’s big enough to keep you warm but small enough to stash in compact carrying pouch when it’s not needed.
Safety Hammer Escape Tool
You can prioritize road-trip safety and still not take up much room with a multi-purpose car emergency tool. Combining a hammer escape tool that can shatter a car window and cut through a seat belt so that you can get out of a car in the event of an accident.
More from SmarterTravel:
- How to Enjoy (and Not Just Survive) a Family Road Trip
- 8 Things You Need for a Road Trip with Your Pet
- The Best Small Drones for Travel
Christine Sarkis has road tripped in spots around the world. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.
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