Cars are great. Planes or trains may get you there quicker, but they are expensive and run to a timetable. Travelling by car offers freedom, spontaneity and the ability to write your own adventure. So get your motor running and head out on the highway. Road trip!
But in all the excitement of setting off on an epic road trip it’s easy to forget the basics, and whilst the great Jack Kerouac seemed to think all you need is a wheel in your hand and four on the road, we suggest you take a little more. So here we’ve rounded up some essential items to bring along when hitting the open road so you know exactly what to take on a road trip.
Grab a couple of buddies to share the adventure because as far as road trips go, three is the magic number. The miles feel much shorter in good company and the knowledge that you’re all in it together will help overcome any challenges. Mixing things up so everyone takes a share of driving, shotgun duties and snoozing is nice, as is splitting fuel costs. The spare seat in the back means you can just toss stuff back there and not worry about getting everything packed away, and if you’re feeling adventurous you even have the option of picking up a hitchhiker.
The next essential ingredient for any road trip is music. Bring along a good variety of styles so you’ll always have something to suit the mood.
Put together a mix CD or small playlist and play it everyday on your trip. Whenever you hear one of those songs in future it will bring back great memories of your trip. Here’s a few top road trip tunes to get you inspired.
Also, don’t forget about the local radio stations – sometimes you just stumble across one that creates the perfect vibe for the time and place.
Remember to bring an audio jack or bluetooth kit if you plan to play music from a device!
Something that is easy to overlook is bringing along a spare set of car keys. Losing your keys is extremely unfortunate, but when you’re miles from home it could turn into a very stressful and expensive situation. So gain peace of mind by letting your friend look after the spare set. Losing two sets at once is a story you’ll never forget.
Sat nav might get you there quicker but what’s the rush? The best road trips start by looking at an actual map and dreaming of the possibilities. Navigating the way your parents did is lot more rewarding than having a computer tell you where to go, and you’ll come away with a better knowledge of where you’ve been. Don’t be afraid to get a pen and mark out the route on your map – it’ll be a great souvenir of your journey.
In case of Breakdown
Even the most reliable car has the potential to let you down, so before driving long distances make sure you’re prepared for the worst, it could save you a lot of hassle and money. If you have breakdown cover then bring your account details and a roadside assistance number.
Most cars should have some essentials stowed away; spare tire, jack, lug wrench and jumper cables. Check you have them and know how to use them.
These days we are rarely without our phones, and a road trip is no exception. It’s our jukebok, camera, GPS, guide book and emergency helpline all rolled into one, but it’s useless if it runs out of juice. So don’t leave home without the right charger cable, and if your car doesn’t have one built in, pick up a usb converter for your cigarette lighter – so you can keep all your devices charged whilst on the road.
A common side-effect of long distance driving is the age old problem of a numb butt. A neat little trick to relieve the symptoms is to slide a golf ball under your butt to give your muscles a bit of a massage. You can thank me later.
Frisbee or hacky-sack
After hours cooped up in a car, a quick burst with a hacky-sack or frisbee is a great way to stretch your legs and get re-energized for the journey ahead.
Useful in emergencies or for digging out some midnight snacks.
It’s a good idea to carry a large container of water in the trunk in case you get stranded – or as a temporary fix for an overheated radiator. In addition, you should each be responsible for your own hydration. Bring along a refillable bottle so you always have a drink handy.
Top Tip: Grab a straw so you can safely drink from your bottle without worrying about bumps in the road or driver shenanigans.
Avoid slimy ham and soured milk by keeping your food and beverages in a cooler [add amazon link]. The soft ones are preferable because they are easier to carry, making them handy as picnic bags.
You should always carry your license, registration, and proof of insurance – store them in a travel wallet. If you’re planning to cross international borders on your trip then don’t forget your passport!
Blinding glare has many causes: bright or low sun; dazzling headlights; light reflecting off wet roads, snow or even your car’s bonnet. So keep a pair of sunnies handy for when you need more clarity. Make sure they offer good UV protection, and ideally they will have polarised lenses that reduce glare. Most sunglasses will be too dark once the light fades so consider a pair of specialist driving glasses, especially if you struggle with oncoming headlights at night.
There’s so much exciting stuff to see on a road trip that it can be hard to remember everything, especially the details. Take a camera along, even if it’s just your phone, and snap away. Capture the amazing places, the people you meet, and all the magic moments. If your camera uses a battery don’t forget the charger, and if you’re going to be on the road for a while perhaps think about grabbing a spare data card to store all your photos.
Top Tip: Grab a disposable camera and take some goofy snaps along the way. Wait a while before getting it developed and enjoy reminiscing when you finally do.
Sense of adventure
Whilst it’s good to have a plan, it shouldn’t be set in stone. Talk to people along the way, get recommendations of places to visit and things to see. The beauty of a road trip is the freedom it offers.
It’s a chance to break away from the norm, to live life on your terms. Don’t miss out on something special just because it wasn’t on your original route. Be adventurous.
And if you do experience a minor setback along the way, just remember that it’ll be a good story to tell later on.
How much food you need will depend a lot on your personal preference and where you’ll be traveling. Some routes will present you with lots of opportunities to eat fast-food, though it won’t help your waistline to do so. In other areas you’ll need to be more self-sufficient and plan your supplies accordingly.
Your best bet will be things that keep well and are either pre-cooked or don’t need cooking. Make your own sandwiches or bagels for cheap and easy lunches, and bring along a cooler to keep things fresh. Chips, granola bars and beef jerky are are all good options for easy snacking whilst on the move. Sucking boiled sweets or chewing gum can help you stay alert whilst driving. If it’s warm, watch out for melting chocolate – it’s a good excuse to eat it in one go.
Top Tip: Bring along a few clips or pegs to reseal packaging.
Whilst road trips are generally a lot cheaper than flying, you’re still going to have some outgoings. Gas, food and accommodation will be your biggest expenses so budget accordingly. Splitting costs on the go can be a headache – it’s often easier if one person always pays for gas and another for food, then you can tally up afterwards and balance the books.
Top Tip: Keep a bit of loose change in the car for parking charges and unexpected tolls.
When people spend a lot of time in a small space things can get a bit funky… and I’m not talking about your playlist. Remember your personal hygiene and pack deodorant and shower-gel. You’ll also want a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a basic first aid kit (ibuprofen, plasters, bug spray etc). Keep germs at bay with hand sanitizer or wet wipes and pack some emergency toilet paper just in case. Also, don’t forget to apply sun-cream if you want to avoid the classic drivers tan.