When done right, road trips are a really awesome way to cover a lot of ground without breaking the bank. I’ve done a number of longer trips – Philly>Key West for Spring Break in College, Kansas>Tennessee to visit family, Tennessee>Pennsylvania too many times to count, Colorado> Wyoming for the eclipse, and most recently Philly to Brattleboro, VT. To me, there are a few key elements that make for a good road trip. There’s the obvious – make sure you are driving with someone you won’t get sick of after hours of sitting in a small space (and vis versa) + a suitcase with the appropriate clothes for your itinerary. Then there are the less obvious things. These are the items of convenience, the things you don’t realize you’re missing until the second before you need them.
I put together a list of the ten things I have found most useful to have with me on road trips. This list has been compiled over time based on the things I have been glad to pull out of the corner of a suitcase or the things I kicked myself over not having brought.
Top 10 Road Trip Supplies
1. Water bottle
It is so easy to get dehydrated when you are sitting in a car for hours on end. I always feel a twinge of guilt when I buy a plastic water bottle, and tend to drink them very conservatively so I don’t have to buy another. When I have a reusable water bottle on me, it’s easy to ask for a refill. I am all about bringing a bottle that keeps my beverage hot or cold all day long, my favorite is Hydroflask.
2. Travel Mug
On the polar opposite end of the spectrum, it;s nice to have a travel mug with you for coffee or tea. It comes in super handy in the morning when you’re a little frazzled getting everything going and on the road. You may have to wait an hour before you actually settle in enough to drink your coffee, and it’s super nice to have it be hot.
You know that moment you are standing in the gas station chip aisle holding Frito’s and Doritos, staring at the beef jerky and the candy bars but all you really want is something relatively healthy? That’s where packing snacks comes in handy. I like to pack a cooler with some prepped snacks and breakfasts so that each morning I can eat breakfast while figuring out the plans for the day (i.e. so I can make plans in a clear-headed non-hangry state, lol) without having to hunt down a restaurant before I have an idea where the rest of the day is going to lead.
On my most recent road trip, Snap Kitchen gifted me a few days worth of breakfasts and snack items. Being able to swing by the closest location to pick up the foods I had ordered through their app the day before on the way out of Philly was GLORIOUS. Having one less thing to prep before the trip with allllll the healthy benefits was a major win!
4. Downloaded Playlists
Nobody wants to sit in silence for the entire trip. You want some ambiance for those deep conversations about the importance of using a turn signal when switching lanes. Don’t forget to download them! If you have spotify, you can select to make playlists available for offline use. You absolutely want to do this – keep in mind that road trips tend to lead you down some of those roads less traveled…and because they are less traveled, they are less likely to have cell service. Don’t fall victim to unintended silence because you don’t have enough bars. If you need some playlist inspo, check out some of my favorite playlists here.
5. Swimsuit / Sweatshirt
This one stands for pretty much every trip. Always, always, always bring a swimsuit and a sweatshirt. The place you’re staying may not have a pool, but you might luck out with a lake on a nearby hike or a super affordable spa nearby with a sauna & pool. Alternatively, your hotel room or host may keep the temperatures super low and having a sweatshirt to snuggle up in can give you a homey way to feel comfortable in an unknown space.
6. A Book & A Deck of Cards
This one is similar to making sure your playlists are downloaded. You never know when you are going to be sitting around for an hour or two, whether it’s because you are the passenger on the drive or late at night when you can’t quite fall asleep. It’s nice to have a non-tech distraction to keep you busy or help you relax into a sweet slumber!
7. Extra Shoes
You may not always use them, but having a pair of super comfortable shoes with you on your trip is absolutely necessary. Maybe they aren’t the cutest, and they don’t go with your outfit, but if you get blisters on day 1 of a 3 day trip you will be so grateful to have that extra pair ready to go. On my most recent trip, I was breaking in new hiking boots. As comfortable as they were right out of the box, there are a few areas that still need to mold to my feet/ankles and having sneakers in the backseat gave me a little peace of mind when I knew we wouldn’t be back to our room until the end of the day.
8. Battery Pack
With all the extra photos you take on a trip, your phone’s battery is probably not going to last the day. Having a battery pack charged and with you means you get to keep taking all those pics, but don’t have to worry when it comes time to get directions to your next location.
9. Downloaded Map of Your Route / Where You Are Staying
These days my reliance on waze is almost to an unhealthy level. Recently my phone’s location services decided to stop working, so I can get map-quest-like directions but not turn-by-turn. This has totally emphasized my belief that you should always have access to an offline map of the different locations you will be stopping on your trip. In the event that you don’t have service, you need to be able to figure out your location and how to get where you need to be the semi-old fashioned way. You can find step by step directions on how to download a google map on both android and iPhone here.
10. A Written List of Contacts
It’s always smart to have a list of emergency contacts on you when traveling in case you find yourself phoneless. You always want to be able to keep a few people updated on where you are and if you find yourself in a situation where you have car trouble, having a friendly voice on the other end of the line is pretty comforting.
I hope this list makes planning your next road trip a little easier!