With the holidays around the corner, a busy travel season is in full swing. If you’re traveling by car to see family and friends, be prepared when you hit the road. While roadside assistance services can be a lifesaver, it’s important to pack your vehicle with essentials to get you through most emergencies.
Here’s a list of essential items every driver should have in their vehicle.
- First aid kit. Helpful items to keep in your kit include disposable gloves, scissors, tweezers, adhesive tape, band aids, triple-antibiotic ointment (like Neosporin), antiseptic cleanser or wipes, gauze, saline solution, pain relievers (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen) and non-drowsy antihistamines.
- Extra face masks. Always carry a few extra well-fitting face masks in case you forget yours or they happen to get lost or damaged.
- Shelf-stable food like energy bars, trail mix and whole grain crackers.
- Bottled water. Use reusable bottles or thick plastic store-bought water bottles. Store water in the cabin, not the trunk, to reduce the likelihood of the bottles freezing in extreme temperatures.
- Teladoc mobile app. For non-urgent medical needs, get help from U.S. board-certified Teladoc doctors right from your phone.
- Portable jump starters. Learn ways to avoid a dead battery, and go one step further by keeping a portable jump start box on board. This allows you to jump-start your car without needing another car to connect to. Many models also include other handy features like a portable air compressor to air up your tires and a battery bank to keep your phone charged.
- Flashlight and extra batteries. A headlamp can also be helpful if you need to change a tire in the dark.
- Car escape tool. Know what to do if trapped in a vehicle and how to use these tools. They can help you cut through a seat belt and break a car window for a quick escape. Store it in the driver’s side door or glove compartment for easy access.
- Spare tire, car jack and lug wrench. If you’ve never done so, practice changing a tire at home before you head out on the road.
- Road flares and high-visibility clothing. In bad weather, stay in and around your vehicle at all times. Don’t assume that just because you can see oncoming traffic, they can see you. Instead, put road flares around your car and wear a bright, neon vest over your clothing.
- Ice scraper and snow brush. Visibility is critical for winter driving. Also, keep an extra pair of gloves in your car so your hands don’t freeze while you clear your windshield.
- Small tool kit. Other items to have include a fire extinguisher, duct tape, a tarp and a shovel.
- A full tank of gas. Keep your fuel tank full to avoid ice in your tank or fuel lines. Don’t let your gas gauge fall below half a tank on winter trips.
More essential items
- Printed maps to your destination. Having a backup map on board is critical in case your phone dies. In addition to printed maps, most mobile map apps allow you to download offline maps, which can be useful when you don’t have cell service.
- Phone charger. Speaking of dead batteries, avoid the issue entirely by packing a portable battery bank and USB phone charger.
- Emergency cash. It’s good to have at least $50 cash on you in case stores or gas stations don’t take credit cards, or if you need to pay someone for their assistance.
- Weather radio. A dead cell phone or car battery leaves you blind to changing weather conditions. In the winter, that can prove dangerous. A hand-crank weather radio, which also usually has a built-in flashlight, can be a lifesaver!
- Warm clothing, boots and a blanket. Not only is getting stuck in winter weather annoying, but it can also be life-threatening. Keep an extra jacket, gloves, winter hat, thick socks and a warm blanket in your car to stay warm.
- Cat litter or sand. If your wheels are spinning yet your car’s not moving, sprinkling cat litter or sand on and around your tires can give you the traction you need to get unstuck.
While being in an emergency situation isn’t fun to think about, planning ahead could be the one thing that keeps you out of harm’s way.
*Teladoc is not available internationally.
Updated November 10, 2021