Everything you need for driving cross-country comfortably

It’s no secret the pandemic caused a lot of people to rethink the way they work and live. While it took me and my partner a little longer than some to actually make the decision, we finally escaped from New York City and moved cross-country to Boulder, Colorado.

There are plenty of reasons why we decided to make the move: anxiety about the pandemic, cost of living and a ridiculously noisy neighbor to name a few. Thankfully, both our jobs allowed us to go fully remote so we were able to move across the country without having to completely uproot our lives. So, after some deliberation and a summer trip to Colorado to scout out the area, we decided to pack our entire lives into a 16-foot Budget truck and drive the nearly 1,800 miles from Brooklyn to Boulder.

I drove the truck and my partner drove their Toyota Corolla, so the road felt extra long since we couldn’t take shifts driving. My sister came to help us, but since I didn’t want to make her pilot the unwieldy box truck (and I was the only driver on the rental agreement), I drove it solo for the majority of the trip. To help us survive the move and the long drive, we stocked up on products that we thought might make the process a bit smoother. Some helped, some didn’t and there were even a few that I don’t think the move would have been possible without.

So without further ado, here are 29 products that helped make our escape from New York City bearable.

AlexHome Honeycomb Packing Paper 15-Inch x 165-Foot Eco-Friendly Biodegradable Bubble Cushioning Wrap

This honeycomb packing paper was truly a lifesaver when we were packing up our Brooklyn apartment. We were trying to limit the amount of waste we produced during the move so we avoided bubble wrap as much as possible (we ended up using a little bit to keep some delicate screens safe). This packing paper was a fantastic alternative since it’s recyclable and the honeycomb structure protected all our valuables without a hitch.

IDL Packaging 9-Inch x 180-Foot Brown Kraft Paper Roll

For smaller stuff that didn’t need as much bulky protection, we opted for this standard packing paper to keep our belongings safe.

Lowe’s 18 x 16 x 18-Inch Medium Heavy Duty Cardboard Moving Box With Handle Holes

Lowe’s 18 x 16 x 18-Inch Medium Heavy Duty Cardboard Moving Box With Handle Holes

We tried to scavenge as many boxes as we could in the weeks leading up to our move so we didn’t have to buy them ourselves. Living in a large building in Brooklyn, it was actually pretty easy to scoop up boxes that were tossed away after other people moved in. We also visited my mom’s house a couple weeks before the move, which is where we found a stockpile of these super sturdy boxes from Lowe’s. Our box collection ended up being a hodgepodge of brands, but these were definitely the best moving boxes we used.

JijAcraft 98-Foot Nylon Rope

We had movers load up our packed apartment into the truck and they requested that we supply some sort of rope to tie everything down. After a quick search on Amazon, I opted for this nylon option, which got a surprise compliment from the movers.

Yakima Heavy Duty Straps

I’ve had these straps for a while, but they were super helpful when packing up the truck. The nylon rope was great, but it was also nice to be able to secure something without having to tie a knot.

Safco Products Tuff Truck Continuous Handle Hand Truck

Safco Products Tuff Truck Continuous Handle Hand Truck

Once we got to Boulder, we decided to unpack the truck ourselves since our new place is on the first floor. We rented a hand truck from Budget so I haven’t tried this one personally, but I will say a hand truck was probably the most useful piece of moving equipment we had. It would’ve taken us all day to unload box after box if it weren’t for the helpful dolly.

Wen 72 x 40-Inch Heavy-Duty Padded Moving Blankets, 6-Pack

Another essential that was part of our truck reservation was moving blankets. We wrapped up all our furniture in blankets like these to avoid scuffs and scrapes.

Brinks 63.5-Milimeter Solid Steel Commercial Padlock

One thing we didn’t think of until the night before our move was getting a lock to secure the back of the truck. Since we were going to be driving across the country and parking all of our belongings in hotel parking lots along the way, a good lock was essential. Luckily, I had one I used for a storage unit lying around, but it barely fit on the truck. I wish I had thought of it sooner and got a lock that was more compatible like this one from Brinks.

Lumbar Support With Breathable Mesh, 2-Pack

When I said there were a few items that truly made the move possible, this is one of the products I was referring to. I get lower back pain when I drive for more than two hours, so I was terrified of driving eight-hour days back-to-back-to-back. I’m so thankful that I got this lumbar support, because even after the long days in the driver’s seat, my back was barely sore. The move really would’ve been torture without it.

Vanva Military-Grade Protection Universal Air Vent Car Mount

Another essential was a car mount for my phone so I could easily navigate during the drive. Since we rented the truck, I didn’t want to get one with any adhesive so I opted for this one that mounts on the air vent. I’m typically skeptical of mounts that use the air vent like this one — they tend to be insecure and never stay in place — but I was surprisingly pleased with this mount from Vanva. It was easy to install, stayed secure during the drive even through the rumbling of the 16-foot truck and it even had a quick release so you can get your phone out with one hand.

$149.99 for 6 months after a 7-day free trial at Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Trucker Path App

I had never driven a truck as big as the 16-foot Budget truck before, so it’s safe to say I was terrified when I first started out. I was checking the mirrors constantly, going under the speed limit and white-knuckling the steering wheel, but luckily I downloaded this trucker app beforehand so I didn’t have to worry about the truck’s clearance. I tried a couple different trucker navigation apps, but this one was definitely the best. You can input your truck’s height, length, weight and more and it will tailor your route so you don’t accidentally try to go under a bridge or tunnel you won’t fit through. The membership is pricey at $149.99 for six months, but luckily our drive wasn’t too long so I could take advantage of the free seven-day trial and turn off autopay before I was charged.

Hotor Car Trash Can With Lid and Storage Pockets

Hotor Car Trash Can with Lid and Storage Pockets

This little trash can made a big difference during the cross-country drive. We were stopping at gas stations and coffee shops pretty frequently along the way so I could stay fully caffeinated while piloting the truck, which led to a lot of bottles, cans, cups and snack wrappers to deal with. The cabin of the truck was already a complete mess, so it was nice to at least be able to easily discard my trash in this little can. It comes with two small trash bags to put inside, but you can line it with plastic grocery bags after you run out, plus, its thick material meant it was completely leakproof.

Camelbak Unbottle 3L

Hear me out: Using a water reservoir is the best way to drink water when you’re driving. Think about it. You don’t have to precariously hold a bottle in between your legs or take your hands off the wheel to unscrew a cap, reservoirs typically hold a lot more water than bottles and, if they have a clip like this one from Camelbak, you can attach it to your seat so you can free up your cup holder for more coffee. It’s a little bit more tiresome to fill beforehand, but I’ll be using my reservoir for any long drives from now on.

Lifestraw Peak Series Collapsible Squeeze 1-Liter Bottle With Filter

We didn’t want to buy plastic jugs of water on the road, but we also didn’t want to drink tap water from all over the country, so even though it might have been overkill I brought along this Lifestraw bottle that has a built-in filter (which I love and have written about before) so we could fill up all our bottles and reservoirs with clean water. It was a bit of a process since the bottle only holds 1 liter and has a pretty slow flow rate, but we were all thankful to have clean water, even if we were filling up at the hotel sink.

Yeti Rambler 26-Ounce Water Bottle

If you’re not team reservoir (you really should be), I’d say the Yeti Rambler is the next best thing to drink out of when you’re on the road. Its chug cap makes it easy to drink quickly and its wide opening means filling up with ice and water before you set out is a breeze. It’s a really great bottle not just for road trips but for everyday uses too, which is why it’s our favorite water bottle we’ve ever tested.

Kinder Fluff Car Window Shades

The reason my partner drove their Toyota Corolla separately was because we had our dog, Miso (who was also anxious in the city and couldn’t wait to get out), along for the trip. From past experience we knew the sun coming through the window could make her pretty hot since she has black fur, so we got these car window shades to help. They did a solid job at keeping the back seats cool and it wasn’t too hard to see through the film to check your blindspots while driving.

Cabeau Evolution S3 Travel Pillow

While I couldn’t use this travel pillow because I was driving, my sister took full advantage of it and napped for hours on end. I love the Cabeau neck pillow; I’ve used it on multiple flights and drives after reading our guide to the best travel pillows and it’s the most comfortable neck pillow I’ve ever used.

Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask

We didn’t have one of these on the drive, but trying to sleep in the car can be difficult, especially if the sun is shining in your eyes. That’s why if you know you’re going to want to take a nap on a long drive, this Mavogel eye mask — which is our favorite sleep mask — is essential.

Anker Car Charger Mini

With three people rotating between cars, there were a lot of phones and gadgets that needed to stay charged. This mini Anker car charger was great at juicing up our devices quickly so we could keep all our batteries full.

Ainope Car Phone Holder Mount

I’ve had this car mount for a while now, and while it isn’t as secure as the one from Vanva, it is a lot better than many air vent mounts I’ve used in the past. My partner used this one in the Corolla and had zero complaints.

Yeti Roadie 24 Hard Cooler

An essential for any road trip, the Yeti Roadie 24 is built to fit behind the driver or passenger seat so you can keep drinks and food cold and accessible. We love putting stuff for sandwiches in it so we can quickly throw a lunch together without having to stop for long.

Omcozy Gel Seat Cushion

I tried using this gel cushion to make the drive as comfortable as possible, and while it was super comfy to sit on, it just made me feel too elevated while driving the big truck. I already felt like I was driving above the other cars so I didn’t need the extra height from the cushion, but if your standard car seat isn’t comfortable enough for you, this pad will definitely help.

$199 $159 at Therabody

Therabody Theragun Mini

This is something that I really wish I hadn’t packed away during the move. It was somewhere in the back of the truck, but I would’ve loved to whip out my Theragun Mini at the end of a long day of driving to massage my back or get some blood flow in my legs. Next time I have a long drive, I’ll be sure to put it in my backpack for easy access.

Free or $9.99 per month at Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Spotify

It’s pretty obvious, but listening to music and podcasts was truly a lifesaver during the long days on the road. Spotify helped make the road feel less monotonous, and I liked the automatic driving mode it switches to, which makes the play/pause button a lot bigger so it’s easier to hit.

Free at Apple App Store and Google Play Store

Audible

Another great option to pass the time when driving is listening to an audio book. I didn’t choose to do it this time, but there have been many drives and commutes in the past that have only been bearable thanks to a good book on Audible.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

After eating, showering and jumping into a hotel bed, we definitely all needed some decompression time after each day’s drive. There’s nothing like playing some games on the Nintendo Switch to blow off some steam after a long day.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise-Canceling Headphones

Whether you don’t like the driver’s music choice or you don’t want your videos blasting out for everyone to hear in the hotel room, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones is important to have on a road trip. I have the Bose QC45 headphones but don’t love them, so I’d recommend going with our pick for the best over-ear headphones of 2022, the Sony WH-1000XM4.

Apple AirPods (2nd Generation) Wireless Earbuds With Lightning Charging Case

And if you want a pair that’s easier to use when you’re laying down in bed, nothing beats Apple AirPods. If you want some more true wireless options, check out our full guide on the best earbuds out there.

Anker Powercore 13000

When all the car chargers are taken or the outlets at the hotel are too far from the bed, it’s nice to have a portable battery so you can keep your devices charged. I’ve had this one for a while now and absolutely love it. It can keep your phone juiced for days on end, not to mention it’s also our pick for the best portable charger of 2022.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.

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