Travel Tips | Road Trip Essentials

As I mentioned in my previous Travel Tips post, road trips are my favourite kind of trip. You have the freedom to truly explore a place, and you see so much more along the way, especially if you get off the highways and interstates every now and again! In 2011 we drove around 5000 miles from Buffalo NY to Miami, and then New Orleans (and most everywhere in between). We've also done LA to Seattle via Reno and the Northern California coast, as well as a few road trips around Australian areas such as the Great Ocean Road drive from Melbourne to Adelaide.

My first memorable experience of road tripping was when my parents decided it might be fun to take their three young daughters in a non-air-conditioned 5 seat car on a four day drive to the top of QLD. One of the daughter being only 9 months old. Let's say, it made for interesting times. Of course they didn't choose the coastal route, but the inland route through old mining towns, deserted swathes of country and places with no running water. I certainly learned a few things about patience on that trip, it brought a whole new meaning to "are we there yet?"

As a well-seasoned road-tripper, I've compiled a list of my essentials for you to take on a road trip. These aren't for you adventurous camping types out there, just some things that I have found are great for raising your comfort level in the car during those long drives.

1. Comfortable clothing

This is totally essential. There's nothing worse than being crammed into skinny jeans and a blazer (for example) in a car seat for 8 hours! Being comfortable doesn't mean you have to sacrifice style though. I'd prefer when I stop somewhere to have a poke around, not to look too much like I've just emerged from my car-cave. Think non-structured dresses with room to move, maybe something a little longer so that they keep your legs from getting itchy on the car seat (does this happen to anyone else?!). Soft cotton t-shirts, loose, comfortable skirts or shorts are the order of the day. Comfy shoes are a must as well, even though you're not walking a lot, your feet can swell from sitting for long periods, and when you do get out of the car, chances are you'll want to walk around a bit.
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2. Towels, blankets, throws

Whatever your weapon of choice, it's a good idea to choose something that can perform multiple functions. A good beach towel can also be used to sit on outside, or as a regular towel to dry off after eating or washing (or for your hair after diving into a roadside waterfall). A waterproof picnic blanket is ideal in all weather, if the ground is wet, you can still enjoy a meal outside of the car in comfort. Finally I recommend a sarong, scarf, poncho or throw that can be used for shading you outdoors, or pinning to the windows for privacy or sun protection. It's hard to tell what the weather is doing when you're in the car, so this will also be handy if there's a sudden chill in the air to keep you warm!

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3. Food

What's a road trip without snacks? On my most recent trip in America, I don't know what I would've done without Trader Joes. Well, I do... I would have eaten crap. While it's fun to snack on treats while you're driving, it's great to keep car snacks like berries, nuts and trail mixes on hand for those nibbly moments. They will save you from the dreaded fast food stops and keep you feeling more fresh and energetic than the carb-heavy alternatives. I'm not sure how much has changed, state-budget-wise since I was last in the USA, but generally you can make a stop at a tourist information centre to use the facilities, and grab a free coffee too! Aside from snacks, consider grabbing some convenient meals at a grocery store, they're often more nutritious and tastier than the food on offer at truck stops.
Make sure you always have a good supply of water for drinking and emergencies

4. Practical items

It's not a bad idea to keep some first aid items on hand, even if you're not going too far off the beaten' track. Simple things like hand sanitiser, wet wipes, band aids and sunscreen will take you far! If you're driving a lot, I think you should bring some painkillers in case you get a 'concentration' headache (I definitely got these!). Some kind of massage oil or topical cream for muscle soreness is also handy, since your arms and shoulders will be doing more than they are probably used to. Having some tissues and toilet roll in the car is also important. Think about bringing an umbrella, poncho and other waterproof gear in case you get stuck in a downpour. A good torch is always handy too.
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5. Sun protection

I touched on it above, you should wear sunscreen, not only on your face, but on your hands and arms! Most people forget the hands. I knew a very delicate lady once who wore driving gloves in the height of summer to protect the skin on her hands! Maybe don't go that far, but you'd be surprised how much sun damage can happen while you're in the car. Sunglasses are also a must, protect those peepers and reduce eye-strain from the glare on the road.

6. Tech stuff

I like to have a good GPS. It was actually cheaper to buy one than rent one, and it's been on two more visits to the USA with family and friends since, so it was a good investment. The GPS is not only for finding your way, but also has great information about local attractions, accommodation and eateries. Don't trust your phone to have a data signal at all times, very often it will be a brick when you need it most! As a backup, you should also take old fashioned paper maps, just in case.

What's a road trip without music? Some cars come with a satellite radio, but I found my iPhone/iPod plugged into the cigarette lighter kept it charged and also provided hours of musical entertainment. Once we hired the car and knew what plugs were inside, we just popped into Best Buy and grabbed an adaptor. Easy! Besides that, local radio can be a really great way to hear a local perspective too, so if you're into that, I highly recommend listening to some to get a feeling for a place.

There are probably other things that you might consider essential, let me know in the comments if I missed anything important!

Kitty
xo


RelayRides inspired this post through their Road Trip Essentials campaign
All opinions are my own and I did not receive any compensation from RelayRides for this post.