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Now that you know what to figure out or talk about before you go, now let’s talk about what you should bring with to have a successful road trip. I may have mentioned before, but this series is assuming you are in the US. Most of it can be applied everywhere, maybe not AAA, but pretty much everything else. On that note, here are some of the things you should definitely bring on your road trip, wherever you are.
This is really more of a backup emergency plan. If you break down or get a flat tire or something, you can call AAA and get towed or roadside service 24/7. As a member, you can get discounts at all kinds of hotels. Just ask when you make the reservation or at check-in.
It starts at $57 a year and includes 4 miles of towing, 4 service calls per year, mobile battery service, fuel delivery, and auto lockout service. I haven’t had to use this yet, but I feel better knowing I have it.
Maps and GPS
Well, now that you’re a member of AAA (well if you already happen to be one,) you can go to a AAA office to get all kinds of maps and guidebooks for around the US and some of Europe! I cannot read maps, but I always have them in my car, just in case. In case you don’t have AAA, you can get maps on Amazon or usually in bookstores.
I have a GPS, but it’s really old, overestimates time, and doesn’t have a lot of places even after updates, so I don’t have one I can personally recommend to you if you don’t have one already. I would keep maps and GPS in your car to be on the safe side. If you don’t have a GPS, you can always use Google Maps. That’s usually what I do now and it’s scary accurate.
I love my headlamp and bring it everywhere. I’ve talked about it a lot. It’s good for packing in the dark (in hostels,) navigating anywhere in the dark, especially if you’re camping, or reading in the car at night.
On our way from Denver to Salt Lake this fall, I ended up reading a whole book and had to use my headlamp to read most of it. If you do this, just be careful and don’t blind the driver. I would recommend a waterproof one, just to be on the safe side and you can always use it later. Bring extra batteries, too.
I am always hungry. Always. Keep snacks in the car so you don’t have to buy them at every gas station you stop at. I like to have beef jerky, some kind of chips, granola bars and/or trail mix, apples, bananas, fruit snacks or fruit leather, that kind of stuff. This brings me to my next point.
Bring a small cooler to keep a few waters and maybe some fruit and cheese in. You can get ice from your hotels to keep things cool or bring some small ice packs. The only downside of a cooler or ice packs is that your hotel might not have a fridge. I thought my cold food was more of a hassle than anything. If you will be using a cooler a lot, I’d recommend investing in a YETI cooler*. This will keep stuff cold pretty much forever. Like I said, it’s an investment, but it would be totally worth it.
Lots of water
I LOVE WATER. There I said it. I drink so much water, it’s crazy. I always always always have my water bottle* with me and I LOVE IT. It’s insulated and keeps my water icy cold for hours. Along with that, I would keep at least two gallons of water in the car, more if you have more people. In case you break down, you want to be able to stay hydrated. With gallon jugs, you can just refill your water bottle instead of using tons of individual small bottles. STAY HYDRATED.
Pillow and blanket
If you plan on doing tons of driving, like 10+ hours a day, you might want to nap in the car. If there are a few of you and you are driving overnight, you’ll really want a pillow and blanket. I pretty much always bring them on long car trips. The blanket is also good if someone likes the car colder.
A car charger
This is super important. Again, if you break down and your phone is dead, you’re stuck. Keep a charger in your car all the time, cord and the actual plug thing. It also helps if you’re using Google Maps a lot or playing a lot of music.
A portable charger, too
In case your phone dies while you’re out hiking or something, a portable charger will be a lifesaver if your phone is the only way you take pictures. It’s also good to have just in case you end up lost and need help (and happen to have service.) They usually fit in most purses and of course backpacks.
I have this one from Kodiak *and really like it, the only thing I don’t like is that it’s a little bulky, but it’s good if you’re doing a lot of outdoor activities. It’s pretty durable. It’s good for 3-4 charges, and is usually quick, I think and takes a while to charge itself though.
Books on tape
I haven’t personally tried books on tape, but these would be perfect for road trips. Audible is a great place to find tons of audiobooks. Sometimes you might just need a break from music. Don’t be afraid to not have any music or a book on. Sometimes you just need to be quiet.
I’ve said it a thousand times, I’ll say it a thousand more: I love my Kindle SO MUCH. I almost always have this with me, too. It’s perfect at night. It’s perfect in the sun. I have like 200 books on it and have room for tons more. You’ll be in the car for a long time, and I apologize for this suggestion if you can’t read in cars, but I’ve been blessed with that ability and couldn’t be happier for that, but reading is a great way to pass time.
This might not be the most obvious thing to bring, but we brought it on our drive out to Utah and it was pretty fun. Now that I think of it, I have no idea where this went. It was super easy since we probably had the 7th grade one*, it was the highest one at the store, but it was good for passing time. Any kind of trivia would really work though.
Ahh, now that the list is complete, I hope you have a better idea of what to bring. To sum it up, food and water, entertainment, and some safety supplies. If you have anything you would recommend adding to this, comment below and I’ll add it.
What are your road trip must-haves? What would you avoid bringing?