Essentials for Planning Your Next Big Road Trip
Expert Advice

Image: Deposit Photos, alebloshka

Embarking on a road trip can be an exhilarating adventure, full of the promise of exploration and discovery. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway to catch your alma mater battle it out on the gridiron or a cross-country expedition for some much-needed R&R, having the right essentials can make all the difference between a smooth, enjoyable journey and one filled with unexpected challenges.

To prepare you for your next road trip, here’s a comprehensive list of must-have items to ensure your road trip is a seamless and memorable experience.

Navigation Tools

Getting lost is no joke whether you’re heading in the wrong direction or taking a turn into a neighborhood you’d rather avoid. Most newer cars offer some navigation options. If the vehicle manufacturer doesn’t have built-in maps, you can connect your phone via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to use Apple Maps, Google Maps, or Waze. Not only will these give you proper directions but can also help alert you to accidents and offer alternative routes to save some time.

Emergency Roadside Kit

The longer your trip, the more likely you’ll hit a rough patch requiring vehicle maintenance. Be sure that your spare tire has air and that there is a jack and tire iron in the vehicle. A flat tire is the most common issue drivers encounter on road trips.

Some other accessories that can be of help are emergency lights, which can attach to the top or be placed around your vehicle. This is especially important if you’re unable to get your car fully off the highway at night. While jumper cables are helpful, newer boost packs can be purchased for under $100 and can jumpstart your car on its own. They often double as a flashlight and phone charger for added safety.

Roadside Assistance Membership

I’ve been a card-carrying member of AAA since I got my driver’s license, and they haven’t let me down yet. Running from $65 to $125 a year, they’ll give you quick access to an agent who can send out a licensed tow truck driver or provide other assistance.

Another option is your insurance company. Many offer their version of roadside assistance for a few dollars a month.

Keep the Car Smelling Fresh

One rule on road trips is the longer they last, the worse the car smells at the end. Leftover food and drink, yesterday’s laundry, and festering in our own sweat for hours on end can be quite a potent combination.

There are a few surefire ways to keep things fresh. Tossing food as soon as possible is a must and keeping a trash bag handy for everyone to use can be helpful. If the weather permits, keeping a window open, even a crack, can keep us sane. Or bring in some reinforcements like a bottle of Febreze or custom air fresheners to mask the odor until you can fully deodorize the vehicle.

Stay Entertained

Long road trips can get dull in a hurry without some proper entertainment. Prep before your trip by creating some fun playlists or queueing up a podcast you want to catch up on. If you’re in a learning mood, an audiobook is a great way to pass the time and most books can be completed in 15-20 hours.

For the kids, it’s all about tablets and smartphones. Keep some portable chargers handy and invest in a Wi-Fi hotspot so they can scour YouTube or play some games during the journey.

Get Comfortable

The worst part about a trip can be cramming yourself into a confined space for hours on end. While regular stops to stretch are always recommended, we don’t always have that luxury. Pillows and blankets are a great way to relax and catch a few winks during the less scenic portions of the trip. A cooler filled with snacks and drinks is also helpful.

Personal Essentials

There can be plenty of ups and downs on a trip and ensuring you pack the essentials can save you a lot of headaches and discomfort. Keep a toothbrush and toothpaste in a baggy for after meals. Hand sanitizer to stay clean. And don’t forget any medication you, your family, or pets may need on this trip.

Make it a Success

A successful road trip is not just about the destination but also the experiences along the way. Packing these essentials ensures you’re well-prepared for the unexpected, allowing you to focus on enjoying the scenic routes, creating lasting memories, and cherishing the freedom of the open road.