I recently moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to the Phoenix Metropolitan Area, which involved a road trip that took over 12 hours. I have always loved road trips, but realize that they take way more pre-planning, organization, and precautions than traveling by plane. If you have everything planned and in place, you will most likely have a pleasant and anxiety-free trip. If you forget all your essentials — maybe, not so much. Here are 15 things that everyone should definitely include when taking a road trip, be it for a quick weekend away or a cross-country adventure — check it out!
Bring plenty of water
Don’t even leave the house for a road trip without bringing an ample supply of water. You will want to stay hydrated and alert to prevent your muscles from cramping and to keep your system working efficiently. You can bring a reusable water bottle, but also bring enough bottled water to last the entire trip for everyone on board. This will also save you from having to buy marked up, overpriced water bottles at a gas station. If the temperature is really hot where you’re traveling, make sure to not leave plastic water bottles in the car, as the heat can leach out harmful chemicals into your water.
Car Charger and Portable Battery
As much as you’d like to completely disconnect during a getaway, you need to have some connection to the rest of the world. This means a charged cell phone (or usually, depending on the number of passengers, several). You will need to have your phones charged, especially if you’re using a GPS to navigate your trip. Get a reliable car charger, preferably one that can accommodate more than one device at a time. It’s also a good idea to get a portable charger, so that you always have access to a charge, whether or not you are near a car or outlet.
Healthy Snacks and Food
Another thing you won’t want to stop at a gas station for is food. The chances that most of your options will be overpriced and unhealthy are high. This is also the case with many convenient drive-thrus. Just because you’re on a trip, doesn’t mean you have to compromise the healthy eating plan you usually adhere to. Save your money, and your health, by packing your own snacks and meals. Think fresh fruit, homemade sandwiches, trail mix, and other natural options. You also don’t want to pack anything that might have you rushing to the bathroom while on the road — just saying!
Hand Sanitizer and Disinfectant Wipes
Ah, the beauty of road trips. You will have to stop for gas. You will touch strange doors and several other things that probably thousands of others have touched. Be prepared. You definitely want to have hand sanitizer and disinfectants wipes on hand. This will keep you clean and lower your chances of getting sick or developing an infection. They’ll also be handy if you have any spills or accidents in the car. Road trips go well when you think of all the things that could go wrong beforehand, and plan accordingly. The last thing you want is a germy mess you have to wait for miles to pull over and fix.
Comfortable Clothes and Shoes
We’re all for fashionable moments (have you seen our fab fashion coverage?!), but if you’re taking a road trip, also dress comfortably — yes, you can do both! This means cozy, breathable clothes that you can move freely in. Think natural fibers like cotton and bamboo, and shoes that are both comfortable and safe to drive in. You want these shoes to be ideal for driving long distances. Sneakers are probably a good choice. Finally, you want to dress in layers, so you can easily adjust to the changing weather around you. Zip-up and cardigan styles are easier to take on and off while on the road.
Remember we said a successful road trip is the result of a lot of pre-planning? That also includes the things you don’t want to think about. Without getting too into detail here, accidents do happen. So be prepared! Sometimes a restroom won’t be in sight for miles and you may not know that until it’s too late. Toilet paper should be on board during a road trip, for a runny nose — or worse. Consider packing baby wipes too. They also make for great face wipes and can clean up general car spills and messes. For even more preparation and accident-prevention, you can also purchase portable female urination devices — FYI.
Downloaded Entertainment and the Perfect Playlist
The landscapes will be beautiful, but your passengers (especially the little ones) might get bored just talking and listening to the radio. Whether you’re choosing digital magazines to browse, movies to watch, or songs to listen to, it’s a good idea to download them, because you might not always have reception. Chances are, you’ll be driving for a while and might not like the offerings on the radio, so why not make an epic playlist? Playing music you know and can sing along to will also help keep you alert on the road. Also, make sure to bring any non-digital games; pre-plan some fun road trip-like ones to play in the car, like I Spy, or a license plate game.
A Written Version of Your Directions and/or Map
A GPS navigation system is great for those like myself who would get lost in a paper bag. It’s easy to use, reroutes itself when you take that wrong turn and is digital and portable. No bulky maps to unfold and decipher. No outdated information. But what happens if your phone dies? Then what? Printing out a physical copy of your directions, and having a map on hand, is the old-school solution to never getting lost. Besides, in general, you always want to know both the traditional way of doing things, as well as the new, tech-savvy ways. It’s the balance we all need in our lives.
All Necessary Medicines and Vitamins
Just because you’re setting off on an exciting adventure doesn’t mean that your everyday life and schedule ends. You still need to take your medicine and your vitamins, m’ija. Also bring aspirin, painkillers, and something to settle your stomach for emergencies. Don’t bring anything that will make you drowsy or feel unwell while on the road! Same goes for the other passengers in your car. If there are people with life-threatening allergies, don’t forget to pack an Epi-Pen. A magnet for mosquitoes? Bring natural bug repellent. The key is to think ahead and plan accordingly. List making is a great way to make sure you don’t forget anything important.
A First Aid/Survival Kit
The aspirin and painkillers will most likely be found in a solid first aid/survival kit. You want to make sure you have something for any accidents en route to your destination, and for your trip. But also for longer than that, if God forbid the unfortunate scenario extends itself longer than a day or so. This includes non-perishable foods and water. If you want to be frugal, go natural or custom select your items. You can Google lists to make your own kits. A wise choice would be to always have this type of kit in the trunk of your car, so you are always more than prepared if anything was to go down.
A Blanket and Neck Pillow
Why go on a road trip if you’re going to be cold and uncomfortable? You will be in a car for probably hours on end, so make sure to pack as if you’re lounging around the house because getaways are meant to be restorative and fun. This includes a warm blanket, neck or regular pillow, slippers, sleep mask, and any other creature comforts from home that will make you feel pampered on the highway. You can be as stylish or laid back as you want — it’s not like anyone you know is going to see you. Feel free to be as chill as you want.
UV Window Shades
The sun can be relaxing, but it can also be annoying and dangerous. Its rays can beat down on your car so strongly that it can blind you, make you feel warm and cozy to the point of dozing off, and annoy you and your passengers to no end. A UV window shade will help eliminate all this, while also protecting you from harmful UV rays. If you’re driving through super hot weather, make sure to protect your car from the sun in general (consider a sun visor) as it can make your car’s steering wheel and seats hot to the touch.
Credit cards are convenient, and nowadays, you can pay for things with a swipe or click of an online button. But cash will always be king. This is a good tip for traveling in general, but you should always have cash on you while on the road. ATMs can get really expensive, especially in places in the middle of nowhere where people will have no choice but to use them. Also, while traveling among rural areas and places with small indie establishments, you’ll find that there will be more businesses that will prefer to take cash or will only take cash. You want to spend your trip time doing fun stuff, not searching for a place to get moola.
Roadside Emergency Kit
Did we mention enough how it’s imperative to be prepared? Just as you should have an emergency kit for yourself and passengers, you should also have one for the car. In fact, you need to have your car checked and serviced for a road trip before you even think of going on one. That way, you know your car won’t let you down in the middle of nowhere. After that, make sure to have a kit, which will address any and all issues your car might run into. And store your car’s manual in the glove compartment for easy access, should you need to refer to it.
A Positive Attitude
Finally, the beauty of a road trip is that it is a rugged, not-completely-figured-out adventure, that can have unexpected good or bad happenings. You can plan all you want, but you also have to be prepared to go with the flow. Patience, a positive attitude, and reasonable expectations will help ensure that your road trip is a fun one. Besides, all the best travel stories are about the unexpected detours, occurrences, and small mishaps that popped up on that paved road you travel on. If you wanted a completely scheduled-to-the-T, no-surprises vacation, you probably would have flown to your destination, no? Let go, let God, and have fun!