Planning your next road trip will give you tons of search results, leaving you wondering what you actually need. The great U.S.A. road trip gives travelers the luxury of driving across the country in the comfort of their own vehicle. Road trips are a right of passage for many first time drivers, great for families who want to visit National Parks or a given for those who want to see distant relatives.
Whatever your reasons are for planning a road trip, there are some items to keep in mind. No need to worry about TSA liquid regulations here, as you will be packing into a vehicle. Aside from the essentials, like a first aid kit or emergency car kit, there are some additional things to consider. Now that your route is planned, here are 5 things to always pack for your road trip:
Pre-Download Music, Maps, and Other Digital Content
First, you need to download all your content. While we do live in a digital age, cell service or internet access can be unreliable on road trips. Maybe the canyon road you are traveling through has spotty reception, or your internet goes out altogether. Instead of experiencing the sudden end of your perfect road trip playlist or audiobook, pre-download the files.
To avoid getting lost when your google maps directions disappear because your phone died or overheated in the sun, pack a physical map. While you may not use the map while driving, a physical map will be a backup in case your phone is lost. It can also be a fun way to plan your road trip as a group during the trip, or for your navigator to use. Plan map backups, and pre-download your digital files so you are ready to go in the middle of nowhere.
Have Trash Bags Inside Your Vehicle
Obviously, long hours in your vehicle may require snacks, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and water. One thing people forget to add in their vehicle is a trash bag to place these used items. The last thing you want is to clean up an exploded Red Bull, only to realize that you do not have a place to store all your used wipes.
Instead of creating a pile until you reach the next rest stop to throw things away, pack some biodegradable trash bags for your trip. This may also come in handy for any car sickness cases that may arise if you forgot to pack Dramamine. You can even sort your true trash and recyclables (but you will create even less waste by packing reusable cutlery & water bottles). Pack trash bags so you can easily tidy up your vehicle at a rest stop. Uplevel this with a collapsible trash can.
Pack Light – You Need Less on a Road Trip Than You May Think
Of course, packing light is a tip for most travelers, so consider packing just like you might for airplane travel. While you may be tempted to pack just about everything, packing light has many benefits. Fewer items on your road trip equal fewer items to lose or keep organized in the car. How many times have you lost a pillow on your road trip?
Packing light will also improve your gas mileage, saving money along the way. The excess weight on your vehicle will reduce your gas mileage (EPA), so avoid excess if possible. This also applies to hybrid and electric vehicles, as it will affect your charge.
Know the Miles per Tank/Charge of Your Vehicle
Next, consider the miles your road trip will put onto your vehicle. If your vehicle typically goes 300 miles on a full tank of gas, you will need to consider this on your road trip. When fueling up, make note of your odometer (or set your trip to zero). This will help you make an informed decision on when to fuel up.
This also comes in handy when you miss exits and have no clue where you are. Yes, this happens. The last thing you want to do is pass the last gas station for 200 miles and realize you have only 100 miles left in your tank. Be aware of your mileage so you can plan out your rest stop or continue driving.
Sunscreen – Yes, Even in Your Car
Since road trips include time spent driving during the day, sunscreen is a must. While this may seem counterintuitive at first, the sun does hit your skin while driving. Known as “truck driver face,” drivers receive more sun damage on the left sides of their face because of UVA rays (The Huffington Post).
While your vehicle may have glass that protects from UVA rays, sunscreen will decrease your risk of skin cancer (The Skin Cancer Foundation, 2021) and should still be worn. On my own road trip to Arches National Park, my left arm was sunburned from this road trip while driving (I even had tinted windows!). You cannot “move” out of the sun when sitting in a car, so pack sunscreen and consider a window shade for the backseat passengers.
Summing up, these 5 items should be considered on your next road trip. There are many more items to pack and insurance to consider. Mad Libs are a fun game to play on road trips when you are tired of listening to books or music. You will get an idea of what items to pack for your own needs. But these road trip tips will help you have a smoother time on the road.
Are you planning a road trip? Let me know what you are struggling with while planning in the comments below and I’ll make a post just for you.