Introducing RoadTripper.ca’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide! If you’ve got someone to buy for this holiday season who loves long drives and carefree adventures, you’re in the right place. Here, we’ve gathered together a list of our favourite gifts for road trip lovers. Some are practical and others are inspirational, but all of them are sure to delight the road trip travel buffs and driving enthusiasts on your list.
Many of these suggestions are great gifts for Canadians, but plenty would work well no matter where the recipient lives. Do you have an idea for a gift for road trip fans we’ve missed? Let us know!
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Where to find great gifts for road trip lovers in your life
Gifts for the car are great for road trip fans
Some car-related holiday gifts for road trip fans are obvious. New parents are certain to appreciate a well-rated car seat, for example. And everyone who drives can make use of a gift card for gas (unless they drive an EV and they need charging credit instead!). Below, we’ve curated a few gift ideas for drivers who spend a lot of time in their cars and may not have considered how much these items could make their lives easier.
A portable car battery booster pack
In our recent post explaining how to build a winter car emergency kit, we mentioned jumper cables are essential but a portable battery booster kit for your car is even better. Why? With a car battery booster kit, you can recover from a dead battery and get back under way without needing a second vehicle nearby. There are plenty of options out there at a wide range of price points. The NOCO Boost X GBX55 linked here is well-rated and will work with most vehicles. (Note that most diesel engines and gas engines over 7.5 litres require a higher-amperage battery pack. For these vehicles types, check out this booster pack.)
A car caddy to help kids stash their gear
If you know parents who take kids on long drives, they won’t know how grateful they’ll be for these gifts for road trip practicality until they try them. This simple car organizer was an absolute life saver for us on road trips in the toddler and preschool years, and we still use it today on longer drives even with teens. It secures into the middle of the second or third row with a seatbelt and will hold snacks, drinks, books, journals and markers, mobile devices, favourite stuffies and more. We find this style more practical that the type that drapes over the back seat, especially with younger kids who will find this much easier to reach.
Seatback protectors to prevent scuffs from tiny shoes
Since you’re not using the front seatbacks to store gear if you use the item linked above, buy these instead. As hard as we try to avoid it, kids will kick seatbacks and leave scuffs from their shoes all over them. This set of seatback protectors will protect a car’s seatbacks and save exasperated parents from trying to buff out scratches and scrapes. Combine it with the item above to make a comprehensive road trip kit for cars with kids. But don’t forget the next item…
A mat to protect the upholstery under kids’ car seats
You wouldn’t believe how deeply a Cheerio can get ground into a car’s upholstery. If you know someone with kids who also loves their car, save them from the agony of spill clean-ups with a pad to go under their car seats. This is a product that needs careful consideration. You want something that will cover a wide surface area but will leave open access for the car seat’s LATCH connectors. It’s also important that the surface be non-slip so that the car seat stays firmly in place.
Our pick is the Clek Mat-Thingy. Clek is a Canadian car seat manufacturer that knows what they’re doing. This crash-tested and non-slip mat will protect your gift recipient’s car as well as their most precious cargo.
Warm gloves that work with a touchscreen
Most cars come with touchscreens these days, and drivers are increasingly relying on technologies like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto while on the road. By the driver in your life a quality set of gloves so they can keep using these functions while keeping their hands warm and toasty. There are plenty of options available, but this unisex set of touchscreen gloves from Timberland is stylish and affordable. If a more feminine and fashion-forward set is in order, consider this pair of touchscreen gloves.
A ready-made emergency kit, ideal gifts for road trip fans
We recently showed how to put together a winter survival kit for your car with items you likely already have at home. But if you have someone on your list who you know won’t take the time to do that, consider buying a ready-made car emergency kit as a gift. It may not draw squeals of delight and you hope it’s the gift they’ll never need, but they’ll be very glad to have it in an emergency.
A CAA membership makes a great gift for road trip fans
Buy your favourite people the gift of peace of mind with a CAA membership. The annual fee is well worth the cost for the roadside assistance alone, but membership offers more benefits like free passport photos, travel discounts and more. A basic membership with a towing distance of 10 km per call is just $75.00 per year. But as gifts for road trip fans, we recommend the Plus membership with 200 km of towing per call at $119 per year. (That’s just $10 per month!) To buy a membership, start by finding your recipient’s region, which you can figure out at the CAA website.
Gifts for road trip adventure
If you know someone whose tone turns wistful when they talk about the open road, this section is the place to start. Here, we’ve got gift ideas to inspire adventure, road trips, and making memories by exploring across Canada.
A Parks Canada Discovery Pass
Why get on a plane to go on vacation when we have so much natural splendour and history right here in Canada? Give the gift of discovery with a Parks Canada Discovery Pass. A pass grants the holder access to Parks Canada’s national parks and historic sites across the country for 12 months from the date of issue. Whether you’re buying for one person or a family-slash-carload, you’ll find pricing that works. To learn more, visit the Parks Canada website.
If your gift recipient lives in Ontario or Quebec and prefers to stay closer to home, a pass for their local provincial parks may work as well. These also make great gifts for people who will be traveling to Ontario or Quebec in the next year and will want to explore natural spaces. To buy an Ontario Parks Annual Day-use Vehicle Permit, click here. To buy an annual pass for Quebec’s parks managed by SEPAQ, click here.
A car mattress for car camping
If you know someone who loves camping but doesn’t love dealing with tents, introduce them to the concept of car camping! We’ve explained how to turn a mid-size SUV into a comfortable camping accommodation here. If your budget can support it, we’re big fans of Luno. Their mattresses set up easily every time and stay comfortable all night. If you’re on a budget but want to support the idea, a single-height double air mattress like this will do the job. An air pump would also be helpful, either battery-powered or with a 12-volt plug like the one we’ve linked here.
Window screens are great gifts for road trip adventurers
We’re not exaggerating when we tell you this simple set of universal window screens for cars or SUVs is a complete game-changer for our outlook on car camping. With these, you can keep fresh air in and bugs and humidity out, especially if you run a small fan for air circulation. If you’re careful, you can even tuck an extension cord under these screens so you have access to power without draining your battery. We don’t know what we did without these, and we promise the camper in your life will love them.
Books as gifts for road trip inspiration
Sometimes, all a great road trip needs is a little inspiration. We provide that for free each week in our newsletter, so please sign up! But if you’re looking for long reads, check out these books that some of our colleagues have written about destinations across Canada.
Backroads of Ontario by Ron Brown
For your Ontario-based friends or loved ones who enjoy exploring off the beaten path, pick up Backroads of Ontario by Ron Brown. This book is Amazon’s #1 most gifted item in the Canadian Provinces Travel category. It delivers more than 30 routes through scenic countrysides and historical landscapes. Backroads of Ontario is available at Amazon.ca.
Saskatchewan’s Best Scenic Drives by Robin and Arlene Karpan
Did you know Saskatchewan has more roads than any other province or territory in Canada? Head out to explore them with Saskatchewan residents Robin and Arlene Karpan in Saskatchewan’s Best Scenic Drives. This book is a winner in the Saskatchewan Tourism Awards of Excellence and is available at major bookstores and gift shops. It can also be ordered directly from Parkland Publishing. Find out more about Saskatchewan’s Best Scenic Drives here.
Practical gifts for road trip fans
Behind every great road trip, there’s an overstuffed suitcase and a healthy helping of anxiety over what we’ve gotten ourselves into. There’s a solution for every problem and a great memory for every worry, we promise! The gifts below are on the practical side but go a long way toward taking care of the details and focusing on the adventure ahead.
Packing cubes for the ultimate in packing efficiency
We’ve only recently discovered the magical world of packing cubes, and we’re instant believers. They let you sort the contents of your luggage and help those items take up less space. You might even find they’re useful for sorting clean and dirty laundry while you’re out on the road. If you’ve never used them before, this affordable set of packing cubes from Amazon Basics is a great place to start.
A rooftop bag to add temporary cargo space
Speaking of basics, we all know someone who owns a small vehicle and struggles with cargo space but assumes roof boxes are expensive. (And many of them are!) For an affordable solution that works on annual road trips, this rooftop cargo bag makes a great gift. It’s not the most aerodynamic cargo box around, but it’s definitely an economical way to add 425 litres of secure cargo capacity to your average car, SUV, or minivan.
An emergency beacon for people who love to wander far from home
If you have a loved one who enjoys driving, hiking, or camping well off the beaten path, an emergency locator may be the most practical gift of all. Many devices are available offering a variety of functions. Most offer one-way or two-way satellite communication so you can be sure your favourite people are safe even when they’re far from mobile phone service. Because there are many types available, this may be a gift to let the recipient choose based on their needs. But if you want to surprise them, a locator with two-way satellite communication like the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is a good place to start.