In Car Essentials for Driving Holidays

Having just returned from two weeks of driving through southern Australia with three kids in a small station wagon, I've come up with my list of five in-car essentials.


1. Clothing

If you're setting out on a long drive then it's a fair bet that the temperature will vary throughout the day. Also, when you make the inevitable bio-stop, it's good to be able to not swelter or freeze when you leave the car.

Dress in layers and, if you expect a significant temperature variation, carry a pair of shorts or long pants in the car so you can change with the weather.

2. Entertainment

Personalised entertainment for occupants is easily achievable. Between iPods, laptops, tablets and portable gaming devices, it's possible for everyone to have their own entertainment. Not only does that put an end to the fight for control of the car stereo but it lets everyone chill out in their won way. Just don't forget the headphones.

3. Power

If you're going to carry and run lots of electronic gizmos in the car then you'll want to keep them charged. A power inverter makes it easy to keep things charged up. I bought one that fitted into a cup-holder with a USB and standard power outlet but there are lots to choose from.

4. Snacks and drinks

My name is Anthony and I'm a chocoholic. While I can happily munch on chocolate all day, it's a good idea to eat in a more balanced way. Aside from the obvious health benefits, eating healthily will help keep you alert and feeling better. With drinks, we kept the car stocked with fresh, cool water. While coffee and soft drinks are tempting, they'll only add to your thirst and act as diuretics, causing you to need extra stops.

5. Keep the cabin uncluttered

On our recent holiday, we had to carry enough gear for two weeks away. Although it's tempting to pack lots of stuff, don't pack so much that you need to use the cabin space for storage. On a long drive, having space to stretch out and move can make the difference between arriving at your destination relaxed or extra tired.

So what are your car travel essentials?


    A good variety of music. I lost count of the times we listened to Paul Simon's Graceland in my Dads car when I was young.

    When doing a long drive I prefer audio books and standup comedy - listening to it keeps me much more alert than music

    A pillow is a must for me – with a pillow I can nap on command between driving shifts and doing so keeps me refreshed for my next shift. I’m a huge fan of boomerang pillows and find they work really well in a car

    And if there’s going to be a bit of night driving I love chucking in my comfy clothes – fleece pants, ugg boots and a hockey jersey

    Great article Anthony : )

      Audiobooks for Android or iPhone by Traveling Classics (yes one l in traveling) is a great one for free audio books read by real people. Huckelberry Finn and Tom Sawyer are classics for kids, among others.

    Well my first essential would be a road worthy car. I think that's the important one here.

      You carry a car in your car! Wow!

        It's so he can drive while he drives.

    A big heavy comfy car, especially in places like California where the freeways and interstates are terrible.

    If you're just charging USB devices then get a cheap lighter socket-USB charger. That's far more effient than stepping up 12V to 240V then back down to 5V what with all the losses each device introduces.

      Agreed but we also had a DS and a couple of other things that lacked USB or lighter-socket chargers so a "proper" power outlet was needed.

      But your suggestion would work for most/many people.

      Thanks for the comment

      Sure, from a theoretical point of view. Tell me the fuel consumption difference of running an 12-240V inverter vs a 12V socket adaptor. Bordering on zero, right?

      Recently on a monthly long holiday in NZ, I ran a small(ish) inverter running a 4x powerboard to charge a couple of cameras, PC & other less used items. With only 1 lighter socket, there's no way this would have been as easy.

        For $10 at supercheap auto I got and 3 way 12 volt splitter with a USB socket as well. that and a couple of 12 volt chargers would be cheaper than an inverter. Inverters are good for other things though, like Laptops.

    Any chance of some more details on your inverter? I've been looking everywhere for a cupholder shaped one.

      It's a Targus one - I found it at the local Clive Peeters. Cost about $95 and handle 100W from memory. We were able to charge an iDevice and a DS without any hassles.

    Another thing I can add, if it's going to be hot and I'm driving lond distance I get out the 12v fridge. $30 at dick smith and it keeps 9 cans of drink at 20 degrees below ambient. Awesome way to satisfy my energy drink craving.

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