I have always been an outdoors kind of person especially when it comes to my places and means of travel. Road trips essentially. For a majority of people these days, the first thought that comes to mind when planning a vacation is flights. The convenience can definitely not be understated. They are quicker and a hell lot more comfortable than driving down to your destination.
Have you never had the experience of just hopping into your car, truck or even a camper and cruising down freeways and highways with a bunch of friends or family. The experience and the thrill are honestly unmatched.
Since I’m a very adventurous person and the nature of my occupation permits me to, I fly from time to time. However, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than an old school style trip on the open road with my jeep.
Everyone ought to unwind by visiting new places once in a while and what better way to do this than enjoying the scenery at the comfort of your car and making those crucial stopovers to take pictures. I mean compared to the bird’s eye view of the Grand Canyon you get aboard planes, there’s nothing as thrilling as getting close to the scenery as possible and getting that adrenaline rush. It’s also relatively cheap for the spontaneous people on a budget.
Now that I’ve proved a road trip is necessary if not a must, here is an ultimate guide on how to prepare and the most important essentials to carry for a road trip. I have categorized these essentials into personal essentials (a traveling waterproof duffel or a handy versatile day bag), car necessities(spare tire, emergency kit), safety requirements(first aid kit), and others items that you can do just fine without.
Things to do Before a Road Trip
A road trip needs a little more preparation in comparison to other means of travel. For any vacation or any thought to be successful you need to prepare yourself, your equipment and most important of all, your car. Here is a list of what you should do prior to leaving.
1. Always pick out your road trip buddies
Road trips on your own can be a bit of a bore when alone. (Unless maybe the trip is for you to get some silence or alone time). The people accompanying you on this road trip could be your significant other, family, friends or workmates.
Ensure you pick people you will be comfortable around given that by the nature of a road trip, you’re stuck with them for a long time and may even butt heads occasionally.
2. Carry proper documents
Of course, you are out there to have fun but, do you really want to deal with identification related problems in unfamiliar territory? Whether it’s your driver’s license, ID, school identity card or passport, you ought to be ready for unavoidable pull-ups or checkpoints.
Long journeys are often met with lots of complications and this is one you can easily avoid just by being prepared. You never know what lays ahead especially in areas where you are unsure of the working of law enforcement. Playing it safe is always the best solution, even carrying extra cash, credit cards or car insurance documents may help you out of hard circumstances.
3. Lay out a labor division sheet
The trip might be long, going for weeks and maybe even a couple of months. You’ll encounter lots of tasks that need to be done and since you’re not alone on the drive, it’s only fair to share them. Plan out driving schedules or who gets to pitch the tent (in case you guys will be camping).
Dividing the tasks is instrumental before and during the road trip to ensure everything sails smoothly. Sharing chores is planned with all involved participants to ensure everybody is equally involved. When everyone knows his/her part to play, things should run smoother. Also, it is important to lay out schedules and suit the labor division to the schedules.
4. Preload your entertainment selections
Taking a vacation with friends and family gives you more time to bond and what better way than through fun and games.
For your entertainment, you can carry along some games especially cards one that you can play when you are relaxing off the road. Come up with a list of games to play in the car along the trip that are both convenient and fun for everyone.
Custom make playlists to suit everyone’s preference and music taste to avoid those little fights that come when Jake is solely controlling the music.
As a group, you all should participate in choosing what to do during the trip for amusement. Whether its music, games or whatever any of you might be in to, you should make proper arrangements before the trip. This is great to know not only yourself better but also each of the members’ personality.
Make sure everybody gets a turn at self-expression. You might learn a thing/track or two that you had no clue about.
5. Have back up plans
There’s nothing better than having more than one plan in mind. Whether it’s a route or an activity plan, an alternative option is always great incase of an unanticipated situation. When planning for a trip, apart from your own personal preparations, a group one is highly recommended.
Having multiple suggestions creates other courses of actions to take in case any turn of events happens. Road trips are meant to be spontaneous but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have any backup plans.
6. Clean and check the mechanical status of your car
Before heading off on your trip, you should pretty much make sure your car is clean and capable of navigating the terrain it will face. Not all vehicles are good for off-road adventures and you should really consider that when choosing or renting one for the trip. Take a car that fits your needs, capability wise and capacity wise.
Before your trip, you need to either make an appointment or a complete do-it-yourself mechanical check of the car. To avoid technical hitches during your long journey, you’ll probably have to give your car some maintenance checkups. You really don’t want a broken down car during your trip and the frustrations that come with it.
What to Pack for a Road Trip Checklist
Nothing illustrates freedom like a road trip being in command of your destination, speed, and route. It truly is one of my best ways to spend time with family and friends. A road trip does seem and sound enticing but unpreparedness always ruins the fun and makes it such an uncomfortable experience.
I may not be an expert but speaking from my experiences, you should consider having the following with you on your next trip.
Car requirements for a Road Trip
These should be the car essential requirements needed in events of emergency, for example, a breakdown. You never know what you might face and being ready for anything is the most appropriate remedy. Just as prevention is better than cure. Waste less time on manageable repairs by having a prompt means to control such stress on occurrence.
- Spare tires – Carrying a spare tire is one basic need for a perfect road trip. You never know when you’ll get a flat tire or even a burst so having one or two is really important.
- Mechanical knowledge of the car – Other than just having a spare or two which most people always have, the technical know-how of replacing one is also a major key. Having a spare tire and no knowledge of changing it is practically useless. Additionally, a bit of mechanical knowledge of how certain parts of the car can really go a long way.
- Empty gas can – Exploring places is really the fun and number one reason for taking any trip. Having little or no knowledge about the place makes it worthwhile. Prepared with a gas can comes in handy when you run out and need to refuel. Make sure it is made of metal over plastic (I’m sure you know the basic safety measures).
- Emergency Kit – An emergency kit is a must-have for any road trip. This is really something you shouldn’t leave behind even in your daily motorist activities. The contents inside should be things like a flashlight with spare batteries, a gallon of coolant, a quart of motor oil, jumper cables, a first aid kit, a spare blanket and proper tools(an adjustable wrench, pocket knife, pliers and necessary screwdrivers). These are things you always keep in your car and should often check before heading out make sure they are still in good working conditions or up to the task.
- Roadside assistance – An important yet mostly forgotten requirement is this one right here. Phone numbers of proper roadside assistance personnel.When experiencing a breakdown that you aren’t properly equipped for or just not able to fix, a native rapid response team can be your only way out. Leave your home while well loaded with enough helpful contacts to avoid inconveniences.
- Fluid – Just as you need to hydrate from time to time, your vehicle needs just as much. Spare a gallon of water just for your car in case it overheats. I doubt you want to get stuck by the side of the road as your car spits out all that smoke.This avoids the awkward scenes in movies you’ll probably be tempted to try peeing in the radiator. Additionally, you may opt to carry a coolant too.
- Sunshade – On a scorching day you might stop over a restaurant and a have yourself some cold beverage or ice cream. This leaves your car out in the parking lot heated up.Getting back to such high temperatures isn’t comfy or recommended. Placing a screen shade will help only if not forgotten. Putting them up is quick and seemingly effortless so don’t forget.
- Car Freshener – Traveling in a smelly car always gets me very cranky and car sick. When on road trips exposed to different conditions flatulence builds up in the car.This is a well-tested fact and unless you like bad odors, you should have a car air freshener in place. When choosing opt for one that isn’t too strong but does the job right.
- Tire chains – Driving in snow can be a hassle and is illegal with unchained tires. Chain your car tires or pack them prior for such use to give that extra grip and an easier cruise over the snow. This is only needed during winter or while in snowy regions only. For this kind a scenario, include your snow kit too.
Personal Essentials for a Road Trip
a. Wet wipes
Wet wipes are an ideal travel companion for quick and easy clean ups. They’re not just used for wiping baby’s bottoms but also cleaning up spills in the car, your hands after pumping gas, sweets and many more. This is a must carry item you shouldn’t forget.
b. Toilet paper or Pocket Tissues
You can never go wrong by having your own toiletries at hand for every trip. Avoid dependence on stalls, sometimes the can be intense and you forget to check the stall or the others are occupied so keep it in hand and stop the hassle of knocking only to prank.
c. Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizers are pretty handy where soap and water are unavailable which is pretty much all you will encounter on your trip. Keep them close when you want to enjoy meals or after using the bathroom. Many unfamiliar places come with flaws and this is one you can easily beat when prepared.
Driving in the hot sun causes uneven tans and sunburns. Having the right sun protection can really help in such cases. Sunscreen creams also help in premature aging caused by the sun rays and is something you really consider when driving during the summer.
e. Flip flops
Give your feet some rest and air by picking a sturdy pair flip flops. Quite nice for showering in public showers, getting into restrooms and walking on flat surfaces or even beaches. This is quite essential when going to hot areas. You definitely don’t want blisters because of wearing shoes for a long time.
After a long day on the road, you’ll need to take a shower. This alone keeps you fresh but not for another run the next day. A nice deodorant will keep you smelling fresh even when facing the hard sun. Bad odors come when sweating and this masks that off with a pleasant odor instead.
Some block the sweating while others just cover it with a nice smell. Pick the most comfortable option for you and have a great time on your adventure without embarrassing yourself with body odor.
g. A Hat
A hat of your choosing and liking can really be handy for sun protection in the summer or a rainstorm. This will keep sun rays or raindrops off your face.
Sunglasses are a summer necessity and a must have. This will keep the sun rays away from your eyes and giving you the cool look at the same time. If you have correcting lenses already then don’t despair you get a wider variety of options to choose from.
i. Mosquito repellant
When you go out in the wild or just decide to camp out by a water body for the night, mosquitoes can be a bother. Getting the right repellent can be quite useful.
You’ll need to keep those disease carriers away and avoid painful bites. You can either use a spray or applying cream depending on your preference.
Stay nice and dry in the rain with this item. If the area you are driving to or through is prone to rain then this a definite must-have.
k. Warm clothing
Warm clothes include Sweaters, gloves, socks and extra hats. This is essential if you are driving through cold areas. Stay warm and comfy despite weather changes.
Exposing your warm body to the cold weather for a prolonged time can cause pneumonia or other diseases. Playing it safe even on a cold night is by keeping warm.
l. Sleeping bag
When you decide to sleep outdoors a lightweight sleeping bag should be an item you must carry. For such a product you choose your specific size for a perfect fit and well insulated to keep you warm enough for the harsh night.
m. Travel pillow
Comfort when traveling is a must have. Long journeys with a stiff neck or back may ruin the fun and experience. To prevent fatigue and strain, you should think about packing a comfy travel pillow. This will keep your head relaxed and in the right posture.
Safety Essentials for a Road Trip
1. First aid kit
Getting hurt is part and parcel of any outdoor adventure. The first and most crucial response when someone is hurt is first aid. A fully equipped kit should be helpful enough. Basic knowledge of first aid can save you a lot of stress.
2. Allergy Medication
Allergies can bum you out, the itching, scratchy throat, rashes you name it. Your allergy medication is definitely the fastest remedy for allergic reactions. Sometimes you won’t get time to analyze ingredients used on a meal and an allergic reaction is common so having your medication on you can really be lifesaving.
Migraines and headaches can take the fun out of an adventure, being ready can be the most appropriate action to take
Other Road Trip Peripherals
With most important items checked, let’s tick out some peripherals. Some of what you’ll want to check last is something like tech support and survival utilities. Here are some.
a. Tech support accessories
Today everything is made easy by a mere touch of your finger. You don’t have to be a tech genius to know how to operate your mobile phone. With this gadget, you can get limitless access to millions of applications including games. That said you’ll need a bunch of apps to get you going. Some of these apps including;
- Map app- this will direct you to your destination without even looking. When set to audio all you’ll need is to listen.
- Gas Stations app- this is one of those apps that will direct you to the nearest gas station when you need to add some.
- Hotel app- never again make phone calls or search the web for where to stay. Having such an app will direct you to a near and convenient place to spend the night.
- Camp app- getting one is easy and most are free, after installation you’ll be given multiple sites you can camp without any extra hassle.
- Chargers, cables and power banks – Being able to communicate throughout the trips keeps people back at home at ease. Carrying a charger or a portable charging solution will keep you online, communicating and on the know.
- Phone mounts – Taking directions from apps shouldn’t be a hands-on thing. Taking with you a hands-free phone mount will keep your eyes on the road while driving and at the same time listening. This gadget will keep you listening even on a call without losing focus on the road.
- Bluetooth speakers – Outdoors can be quiet an ideal time to listen to favorite songs while still enjoying the open air. Since all modern day phones have Bluetooth. Having something to connect to can be very handy, you’ll want to get up and dance to your playlists.
Bringing along an icebox or cooler will have you enjoying cold beverages while on the move. This will keep all your drinks cold even in the hot weather. No more stopovers just to get drinks as you can easily pack your favorite drinks from home.
c. Disposable trash can
I am pretty passionate about the environment so this is a must-have. Don’t throw your sweet wrappers or fruit peels out the window. Throw them in the trash can and empty it out when you get a chance to do so.
A littered car is also not the best for a road trip, so keep your car and the environment clean. Don’t forget to reuse or recycle.
Weather conditions change abruptly as seen on most forecasts. Different places face different weather patterns and that’s normal and a fact. The only way to be fully prepared is having the right equipment.
Taking road trips is a summertime thing but bearable winters can be as well. Regardless of your schedule opportune time isn’t season based.
With this what to pack for a road trip checklist, hope you enjoy your next road trip.