With Memorial Day Weekend comes the beginning of summer road trips. We have gone on winter road trips, such as the multi-day road trip east to Washington D.C. and New York City, but nothing beats dry roads, rolled down windows, and lots of sunshine.
We enjoy road trips of various lengths and sceneries, such as the ocean views of California, the seemingly never-ending turnpikes of Ohio and Pennsylvania, the fields of South Dakota, the sea of vehicles from LA to Las Vegas, and the numerous toll booths from Minneapolis to Chicago. Summer 2016 seems to be our summer for road trips, with trips for Seattle, Wisconsin, and Illinois already in the planning stages.
Everyone who goes on road trips have their own essentials, whether these are items they bring with them, apps on their phones, and/or important information they keep in mind. We thought we’d share our essentials for those who are going on road trips for the first time and those who just want to check-out what else they could possibly need when going on road trips in the US. We didn’t include clothes and toiletries since these are essential items for all types of trips.
- Positive attitude – Road trips are exciting, fun, and sometimes stressful. Cars stop working. GPS systems lead us to dead ends. The weather doesn’t cooperate. We get hangry. We’ve also had arguments followed by minutes of awkward silence while driving. But we try not to let these negative moments affect our entire trip. Starting out on the road with a positive attitude helps us appropriately deal with those few negative moments along the way.
- Rest – There have been trips when we just didn’t have enough time to see everything we wanted to see. But, we do our best to never compromise our safety. When we’re tired, we rest. When we’ve been on the road for a couple hours, we do a quick stop somewhere to walk around and stretch our legs. No one enjoys a trip when they’re sick.
- Car repair kit – Tire sealant, jumper cables, spare tire, tools, and warning triangle reflectors. Our car is our main method of transportation, so we do our best to make sure it works. We were headed to Maryland a few days before New Year’s Eve 2010 and around 11pm at a gas station in Pennsylvania, we noticed that we had a flat tire. It was freezing and dark, and the only other person with us was the gas station clerk who did not want to leave his post to help us. We tried to change the tire, but the bolts did not want to budge (too rusty). We panicked for a bit, but remembered that we had a couple bottles of tire sealant in our trunk. Our car brought us all the way to Maryland without any problems after that.
- Paper map – Our cellphone carrier may have the best service according to their ad, but there have been areas, especially on more remote routes, where we just couldn’t get a good signal for miles. Most of the time, these were areas we did not want to get lost in (usually no gas stations or rest stops close by). A print-out map of our trip and the surrounding area have been of great help during these times.
- Cellphone car chargers – Cellphones nowadays do it all for road trippers, so we thought adding “cellphones” as a separate entry was unnecessary. They are our GPS systems, music and movie players, trip planners, and of course, communication devices. Keeping their batteries charged is a must when on the road. We’re lucky that our car has a built-in USB port, so all we really need are our wire chargers. But for others, remembering to bring the car adapter can be a chore. For our electronics accessories, we have a grid organizer that holds all of our adapters, chargers, USB hubs, USB flash drive sticks, etc. It’s a space-saving tool and it’s easy to just pack it and go without worrying if we have all the adapters and chargers we need.
- Two-way radios (with working batteries!) – As mentioned earlier, cellphone service can be spotty on the road to wherever. So for those times when we’ve had unreliable service, but really need to get through to each other, two-way radios usually come in handy, especially during emergencies or when we just don’t want to go through the struggle of trying to connect a call with maybe one bar of cellphone signal. Just push a button and talk.
- First-aid/emergency kit – Basic first-aid kits usually have similar contents—bandages and gauze pads of different sizes, dressings, non-latex gloves, tape, scissors, antiseptic wound cleaners, etc. The American Red Cross, Nomadic Matt, and REI have great lists for making first aid kits. Emergency kits, however, usually depend on the weather and route. Winter road trips and more remote drives usually require more expansive emergency kits from us, such as including extra jackets, a shovel, and emergency blankets.
- Personal emergency alarm/protection – There have been times when we’ve had to sleep in our car or go to a rest stop bathroom by ourselves in the middle of the night. Having a personal emergency alarm or other type of personal protection can truly make a difference when it comes to safety on the road.
- Wipes (antibacterial and body/facial) – When we go on road trips, we leave most of the comforts of home behind, especially our cozy, clean, well-stocked home bathroom. Antibacterial wipes have worked well for us when faced with questionable public surfaces. Body and/or facial wipes are great for those times when we’ve needed to freshen up, but showers were not possible.
- Cash – Most establishments nowadays accept credit/debit cards, even the small neighborhood gas stations we’ve stopped in along our trips. But we’ve found that cash is still important to have with us in case our route includes toll booths (we rarely drive through routes with them, so we haven’t had the need to get passes), card machines stop working, parking meters and vending machines only accept cash, and the like.
We haven’t gone on international road trips yet, but most of these are probably still appropriate. What are your road trip essentials? Any other tips you’d like to share with us? Please comment below! We’d love to hear more ideas, suggestions/tips, and road trip stories from you. We’d also love to hear from those who have gone on road trips outside the US!