It’s almost Memorial Day, and you know what that means: road trip season!
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The weather’s warm, school is out and the open road is calling.
What you bring along can make or break a road trip. You don’t want your car filled with clutter, but also you have to be prepared for everything.
So without further ado, here’s our all-in-one list of what to bring on your next cross-country adventure. It may not include everything, but it’s pretty close to it.
1. Documents for your car
Don’t leave home without your car’s license and registration, a copy of your car insurance policy and contact numbers, and owner’s manual. You never know when you’ll need it.
2. Spare tire
Cars used to always come with a spare tire. These days, almost one-third of new cars do not come with one, as an attempt from the manufacturers to lighten the car and thus increase gas mileage.
Great if you don’t need the spare, but a nasty surprise if you do!
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Check before you go on a long drive that your car has a spare and a tire jack. You can buy one from any tire retailer.
A compressor and sealant kit are also good things to have in the car. These can temporarily fix a leaking tire, if the problem is a simple puncture.
3. Extra keys
The last thing you want on a road trip is to get locked out of your car in the middle of nowhere. Seriously, you don’t want this.
Before you go, make a duplicate key and keep it somewhere on your person, in a purse or wallet.
If it’s a long trip, it may even be worth it to make a spare set for the other people you go with, in case you ever get separated.
Believe it or not, in 2019 there are still places that only accept actual physical money: tollbooths, parking meters and small-town restaurants, to name a few.
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Rather than be caught in a tight spot, keep a supply of cash – including small bills and coins – in your car. Just make sure it’s secure and out of site.
Looking at the scenery is great for a while, but unless your Zen is super strong, you’ll need a bit more than that to keep you and your friends entertained for hours on the road.
Load up your phone with your favorite jams and make a road trip playlist, so you won’t have to fuss with it while driving.
Don’t forget podcasts or a good audiobook to feed your brain!
Pack some games to pass the time and bring everyone together. This doesn’t have to be physical games, though these are handy if you have kids in the car. A few rounds of Word Association, Never Have I Ever or good old 20 Questions can make the time fly.
Look up the rules to a few so you’re prepared for the first dull moment.
6. Water and snacks
Staying hydrated is literally the most important thing on a road trip!
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it’s pretty important. With long hours sitting in dry car air, it’s easy to get dehydrated without noticing. Bring a few bottles of water to drink plus a few in the trunk for emergency. If you ever get stuck on the side of the road on a hot afternoon, you’ll be grateful.
Also bring your own snacks so you won’t have to rely on roadside diners and junk food. Crunchy trail mix and fruits make for great on-the-road munching. (Just not oranges, there’s no way to eat them in the car without making a huge mess.)
That said, it can’t hurt to keep some secret chocolate or other goodies stashed away to boost everyone’s morale during long, hard legs of the journey.
7. Map apps
Google Maps and Waze are the most popular and familiar to most of us. However, they don’t cover everywhere and rely on cell service.
If you may be going off the grid, I recommend trying out Maps.me. It’s a free app that allows you to download maps and acts as a GPS even without any reception.
8. Paper maps
Whenever I’m driving with my mother and I’m not sure where to go, she will lament that people these days are too dependent on GPS and no one knows how to use a real map anymore.
Never mind that people used to get lost all the time using paper maps, long before Waze was a glimmer in Uri Levine’s eye. Still, there’s something to it. If you’re dependent on your phone for directions, you may be in trouble if you run out of battery or with no reception – or if Google Maps just gives you bad directions. (It happens!)
So just in case, get a good old-fashioned map of the region you’re driving through and keep it in the glove compartment.
9. First aid kit
Always be prepared for cuts and scrapes, especially if your road trip involves hiking or camping. A basic first aid kit is a must-have for your car, including bandages of different types and sizes, wound disinfectant, tweezers, painkillers, eye wash and cream for insect bites and stings.
10. Emergency car supplies
In case your car needs some first aid, be prepared with an emergency car kit: light sticks, jumper cables, reflective tape, warning triangle, sturdy gloves and rope are a good start, not to mention tools for switching tires. (This handy kit includes everything in one neat package.)
11. Car fluids
Now, remember I said you should stay hydrated during a road trip? Same for your car!
Stock up on oil, brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid, transmission fluid, and a gallon of water in case your car overheats.
If you’re not sure how to refill these fluids or know when to refill them, ask a mechanic to show you.
Or better two, so you have a spare, plus extra batteries. Good for camping and if your car battery dies.
Protecting your eyes is a matter of health and safety.
It’s not great for your eyes to be squinting into the sun for hours on end, and it can impair your ability to see the road, especially at sunrise and sunset.
14. Clothes to dress for everything
Obviously, bring all the clothes you’ll need for the trip, and think strategically.
Layering is always the way to go, whether for outdoor adventures with unpredictable weather or in a car where no-one can agree whether to turn the heat/AC up or down.
A good solid hat protects from sun, rain and bad hair days after napping in the back seat.
Be sure to bring at least two pairs of shoes, in case one gets wet. And a pair of flip-flops always comes in handy.
Rain gear is essential, even if you don’t anticipate spending a lot of time outdoors: you’ll be grateful for it if you get a flat tire and have to stand outside. Pack a poncho, umbrella and rubber boots.
Headphones are a great help if anyone wants to be in their own space, especially noise-canceling headphones. These are a necessity if you have teenagers who are going to fight over what music to play.
16. Cleaning supplies
You’re going to be spending a long time in your car, so better make sure it stays clean (or at least kind-of-ok-looking) on the inside. A few basics:
- Garbage bags (also useful for containing wet clothes, dirty shoes, etc.)
- Small hand-held car vacuum
- Cleaning wipes
- Windshield cleaning tool and solution (use an auto-specific glass cleaner or make your own with a half-half mix of water and alcohol plus a capful of white vinegar)
- Laundry bag (if you’re going to be several days on the road)
A few words to the wise: do a few minutes of cleaning every day rather than leave a huge mess to deal with when you arrive at your destination.
Small actions add up! If every time you get in or out of the car you just do one thing to keep the car in order – throw out one loose wrapper or put some unused item back in the trunk – it will make a huge difference by the end.
17. Travel comforts
In case one of your passengers wants to get some rest, bring the same sleeping aids as you would for a flight: a travel pillow (one of those half-doughnut things that go around the neck), a blanket or two, maybe eye shades and earplugs if you want to make it first class.
Want to really kick back and relax? Bring slippers!
As a safety note, if you’re driving late at night, best to have a friend riding shotgun stay awake with you and make sure you don’t start nodding off.
Not only for hiking or swimming along the way: sunlight inside a car is still sunlight!
Avoid trucker’s arm by lathering up while in the car. Drivers especially should be aware, since you can’t move much to avoid exposure through the window.
19. Notebook and paper
Whether you want to jot down reminders of your experience, take recommendations from locals or leave a note on your car, writing supplies will come in handy.
Lousy gas station coffee is one of the underrated joys of road trips (for me at least). However, all those paper cups and plastic lids can add up to a lot of waste.
Instead, bring your own thermos and ask to fill it with coffee or hot water instead of a disposable cup. It reduces waste which is better for the environment, keeps your car clean, and contains your hot beverage better.
21. Reusable water bottle
While we’re at it, cut down on unnecessary plastic by bringing your own water bottle to refill as you go.
Dramamine, ginger pills or other anti-nausea medications is a must-have, especially for kids. If any passenger is prone to nausea, better take a pill before going on a winding road to nip the problem in the bud.
Getting a headache or sore muscles is no fun, especially when you have a long car ride ahead. Some Advil or Ibuprofen will take the edge off of it.
Benadryl is another good one to have, for allergies and mild reactions to bee stings or insect bites.
23. Toilet paper
Sometimes rest stops don’t have any. Fact of life.
Or maybe you want to blow your nose in the car. In any case, a roll or two might save the day.
24. Day pack
Keep a small backpack to fill up with walking/hiking essentials: water, sunscreen, extra layers, camera, etc.
25. Extra time
Give yourself the gift of time on your next road trip: time to get lost, to take the scenic route or enjoy unexpected roadside attractions.
On shorter trips, leaving just a few hours earlier can make space for memories that last a lifetime.
For an extended voyage, plan your stages so that you’ll have plenty of time to explore local sites and change your plans if you hear about something great a few hours out of the way. Maybe you feel pressure to keep moving, but how often in your life will you end up in these places?
“It’s about the journey, not the destination.” This phrase is a cliché because it’s true!
26. A great car
The most important ingredient in a long car voyage is, of course, the car itself!
You’ll want something reliable, comfortable and fun to drive, with plenty of space for your friends and all your stuff.
If you’re looking for a road-trip-worthy ride, like a brand new car to lease, get started with Ignite. Capital Motor Cars’ breakthrough new online leasing tool will help you locate the perfect vehicle for your next adventure.
I hope this list leaves you prepared and excited for your next road trip! Where are you driving this summer, and what car is taking you there? Share in the comments section!