Ever wake up feeling like you’ve been living in a bubble? Need to get out? Looking for a (literal) change of scenery?
If so, it’s time for a road trip! You’ll experience a diversity of natural landmarks, people, cultures, and cuisines only accessible by two-lane highways and miles spent behind-the-wheel.
So gas up, channel your inner pioneer, and make sure you have the following road trip essentials before putting rubber to the pavement.
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From stand-up comedy to audiobooks, classical compositions to that “darn rap music” your parents “just don’t get,” your options for road trip entertainment are endless.
When putting together your undoubtedly fire mixtape(s), include a variety of things to listen to, like:
- Stand-up comedy.
- Language learning classes.
Make sure everything is playable offline (i.e., without cell service)—you may encounter long stretches where your LTE network just doesn’t reach. This could mean downloading tracks directly onto your phone, breaking out the ol’ iPod, or even burning a CD (good option for those who like to keep it old-school and/or ironic hipsters)!
2. GPS and/or Maps
This is a given—the last place you want to be is in the middle of Death Valley at a fork in the road, not knowing which detour leads you to the California coast and which takes you deeper into the hot abyss.
Remember, you may not have cell service during parts of the trip—make sure you take screenshots of the step-by-step directions on your phone’s GPS, just in case. Or, with Magellan’s blessings, navigate with a real, paper map.
Yes! Having LaDainian Tomlinson along for the ride is sure to make your road trip delightful as ever.
Also, pack at least two car chargers for your phone (and any other electronic devices you plan to bring)—car chargers tend to mysteriously stop working when you need them the most.
Consider taking a portable charger as well. These are useful in many situations (not just road trips) and ensure you have a source of power if your car chargers don’t work and/or you’re not near the car and need a quick battery boost.
4. Snacks & Water
You will thank yourself for preparing well on this one. Bring plenty (read: more than enough) of both food and water for your road trip. Go for snacks that don’t need refrigeration, like:
- Trail mix.
- Items you can find in the bulk section of your grocery store (e.g. nuts, dried fruits and veggies, chocolate-covered goodies, etc.).
- Protein bars.
- Popcorn (already popped).
Use a canteen to keep your beverage of choice (non-alcoholic of course!) cold throughout the trip. If there’s room, pack a case of water too—this comes in handy for drinking and washing when soft drinks and sinks just aren’t accessible.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring a plastic bag to throw wrappers, bottles, and any other trash away.
5. Pillows & Blankets
The sun is setting on the highway’s horizon and you’re about ready to turn in for the night. But why pay to stay at a creepy motel that was probably the backdrop for one or more horror movies when you can sleep in the (presumably cleaner) comfort of your own car?
Bring enough sheets to cover your windows before you go to bed—this will give you some privacy and security when sleeping in unknown places. Having spare blankets is also handy if you come across a scenic spot, perfect for an impromptu picnic or a much-needed break from the car.
6. Roadside Emergency Items
Road trips are fun and all, but you MUST prepare for the worst. We’re talking flat tires, empty gas tanks, and dead car batteries. Before embarking on your trip, triple-check to make sure you have:
- A spare tire and car jack.
- A gas can.
- Jumper cables.
- A flashlight.
If you have time, look into roadside emergency kits, which are low-cost and include several first-aid items for you and your vehicle—these are a great purchase for any car owner.
7. Game Plan
This one might seem obvious, but having a plan of action eliminates the time, stress, and wasted gas of a “Let’s just see where the road takes us!” sort of trip. Make your life easier by doing some research ahead of time.
Still trying to decide where to go? Pull some inspiration from our articles on planning the perfect road trip through:
- Northern California’s Lost Coast.
- Yellowstone (and other natural beauties) by way of the Beartooth Highway.
- The rich musical scenes of the American Midwest and South.
- Florida’s presidential path.
- The Southwest’s fossil-laden landscape.
The world is your oyster! Keep shucking and you’ll eventually have your ideal road trip planned.
“The green,” “that paper,” “dead presidents,” “payola,” “stacks on stacks on stacks”—regardless of how you refer to it, cash is a road trip necessity.
For one, your bank may put your debit/credit cards on hold for “suspicious activity,” a common occurrence when you use plastic to pay across state lines. For this reason, call your bank BEFORE leaving on your road trip so your cards remain active.
Second, some vendors you encounter on the road might not have credit/debit card readers. If you’re lucky, they may have an ATM with a convenient withdraw fee of just $8,347,329—talk about a deal! But why not make things easy on yourself? Prior to setting out on the road, take out enough cash to at least fill up your tank a few times—it pays to be prepared.
Taking longer road trips will generally mean having to go a day or two without a shower—or a toilet. Don’t fear though! You can still smell okay and do your business with some dignity by packing these essential toiletries:
- Dry shampoo.
- Baby wipes.
- Toilet paper.
- Hand sanitizer.
- Body spray.
- Face cleaning wipes.
10. Good Company
What’s a road trip without being able to enjoy the experience with the people (or pet) you love? Having others along for the ride guarantees great conversation, group pics for Facebook, and shared memories to last a lifetime.
Even if you go the road alone, exploring the country by car offers a refreshingly honest view of the natural and cultural diversity often (and literally) overlooked when traveling by plane. With your road trip essentials in tow, you’ll be in the fast lane to an unforgettable adventure.