Packing for a true cross-country road trip requires a lot of personal style. Some are expert Tetris players and super organizers and can pack a car so tight that you no longer require seat-belts; other’s play the “open up the hatchback and catch everything you can that spills out” game; and some are forced to tie Granny to the roof and hope for the best. Whatever your style, there are some items that no road trip veteran fails to bring, in one form or another. And here is the comprehensive list of everything you need to squeeze into your car before your next epic road trip:
Maps / GPS / Atlas / Starboard Computer
I personally recommend the National Geographic Road Atlas, but whatever you choose, you need some sort of navigation. Each one has their faults and can be unreliable in different ways, but to at least have something to point you in the right direction is essential in your quests. Bonus points if you nab K.I.T.T (the computer from Knight Rider) for your vehicle.
Music, Audio Books, and Lectures
In this day and age, you can leave the mix tapes and burnt CD’s back at home (if you want). There are a number of options out there for your traveling soundtrack. With new(ish) apps out there like Spotify or Google All Access, you can create playlists, customize your radio stations, and crank tunes almost anywhere in the country. And how about updating your knowledge base during the many miles on the highway? With apps like Audible or Ted Talks, you can learn something new with every milepost.
Spare Tire, Jumper Cables, Ice Scraper; Emergency and Maintenance Items
What you bring for your emergency and maintenance items will depend on where you’re are traveling. If you’ll be going through more desert and arid regions, maybe trade the ice scraper in for a couple of gallons of fresh water, but keep the emergency blanket. Know you’re vehicle and the conditions you’ll be driving it into, and pack accordingly.
Food & Water
For a true road trip, forget the gas station hot dogs and mega-slurpees. Instead, hit your local grocery store and pick up some essentials; peanut-butter & jelly materials, some fresh produce, and snack mix. The gas station visits can be costly enough at the pump, avoid unnecessary expenses by buying groceries in bulk and storing them in your car. It’s a great method to prepare for any emergency situation where you might be stranded somewhere.
Camping Gear – Tent, Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Pad
Again, for a true road trip, forget the hotel rooms as well. And not only is camping cheaper, but it’s part of the experience. Pioneers of past never checked into the Holiday Inn or ordered room service. Get out, be on your own, and experience the wonders of choosing campsites over continental breakfast.
Something easily overlooked, simply bringing a trash bag will help you maintain your mess, not look like a slob, and keep things clean. Throw a couple of trash bags in your car and periodically take the time to fill them up. It will reduce odors and help keep your spirits up for the long haul.
Secret Stash of Cash
Alright, I won’t tell you where to hide it, but it’s very convenient to have somewhere in your car an accessible stash of cash. Believe it or not, there are still places out there that won’t accept credit cards like campsites and toll-booths. Don’t be that person with both arms under their seats looking for loose change. Have some cash available and only use it when their is no other option.
Proper Gauge Levels and Working Parts
Take a look at the car you plan on traveling with. Does it have four wheels and an engine? Does the oil need to be replaced and do the windshield wipers work? Either do it yourself or take it to a trusted professional and make sure that you car is indeed road trip ready. You’re potentially looking at a lot of miles and it will feel like a lot more if you’re car is smoking on the side of the road.
Driving Plans, Do’s and Don’ts
There are a lot of a different ways to split up driving. Depending on the group size, the capabilities of each driver, and road conditions; it is possible to bag some serious distance in little time. If I’m traveling with a large group, I prefer to transit during the night as to not waste any daylight.
The interstate system claims around 40,000 lifes a year, to stay out of that statistic, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Always have two people awake if you’re driving at night,
- Pull over and rest if you need to (a 30 minute cat-nap can do wonders),
- Leave the electronics in the passenger seat, the driver doesn’t need to mess with anything
- Pay attention to the signs – cops love to catch out-of-town plates in speed traps
- Split it up – instead of going for 24 hours at a time, see if you can’t split your drive into two 12-hour segments