Road trips are a quintessentially American way to travel. The vastness of the country, the ease of our interstate system (well, except at rush hour), and a great park system make a road trip vacation feasible for families across the country. The ease of throwing a few things in the car, loading the family up, and heading out for adventure is irresistible. For a successful and safe road trip, you’ll want to put some thought and care into what you bring with you on your trip. This list of absolute essentials will make sure you are prepared for both fun adventures and unexpected emergencies.
1. Emergency Car Kit
Pack your trunk with the gear you’d need to handle a car emergency. If an issue pops up in an isolated area, you’ll want the basic necessities to help get your car operable. Jumper cables, flares, a spare tire, a jack, a tire iron, rope, gloves, and a gallon of water are essentials. Consider adding fuses and light bulbs to the list, too. Roadside assistance coverage is also a great idea. Check with auto clubs, but don’t forget that your insurance company, cell phone carrier, or credit card issuer might also offer inexpensive coverage.
2. Important Documents
Some states can check the status of your car insurance by checking your license plate number, but that’s not universal, so be sure to bring along your driver’s license, car insurance paperwork, and vehicle registration. Also carry roadside assistance information and your health insurance card. It’s not a bad idea to pack your passport or a copy of your driver’s license separately from your wallet, just in case your wallet gets lost along the way. You’ll also want to bring a list of the numbers for your bank, credit card company, health insurance, car insurance, and roadside assistance. Mobile Internet access is great, but sometimes, a road trip will lead you to places with poor service, and having access to these numbers could be a literal lifesaver.
3. Portable Garbage Can
Not only do you want a garbage can, but you want LOTS of bags! Whether it comes from snacks, on-the-go meals, or spills, trash in a car multiplies fast. Save your sanity and your car’s interior by planning ahead and having a designated trash can so garbage can be dealt with immediately. Anytime you stop for gas or for the night, empty your trash. A portable garbage can is also a lifesaver when picnicking, so you can be sure to leave your spot in great condition.
Don’t forget to protect your car from the sun, or else you might regret it later. No one wants to pull into a sunny parking spot, embark on a long, hot hike, and then return to a car with an interior temperature that matches that of the surface of the sun! A simple sunshade placed in the windshield will help keep the temperature down in the car until you return.
5. Self-Care Items
Take good care of yourself in the car! One key thing to have with you is sunscreen: Americans get a lot of sun exposure in their cars that can damage the skin and sometimes lead to skin cancer. Lip balm, hand lotion, and wet wipes are other great comfort items to keep within easy reach. Most importantly, don’t forget the first aid kit! Make sure you are well stocked with bandages, pain relievers, bug spray, allergy medication, antiseptics, and other basic supplies.
Towels are the unsung heroes of car trips. A decently sized towel can act as a blanket or a pillow, mop up spills, serve as a picnic blanket, or let you dry off after an unexpected swim. Did the car seats get hot while you enjoyed a roadside attraction? A towel will protect your legs from the hot seat. Make sure everyone has a towel, and shake them out/dry them out each night.
7. Day Bag
No one wants to pull a heavy suitcase out of the trunk and dig through it at a highway rest stop looking for a swimsuit/hiking socks/reading glasses/etc. Each person should have a day bag packed with that day’s essentials. Will you be hiking, swimming, going to a museum, or spending the day in the car? Pack the bag accordingly so you don’t have to dig through a suitcase. Also, it’s not a bad idea to keep a swimming bag and a hiking bag filled with essentials in case an unexpected opportunity arises.
8. Phone Charger/Portable Battery Charger
Your phone will probably perform a lot of functions on the trip. It can provide music, audiobooks, directions, recommendations on where to sleep/eat/visit/shop, and a lifeline to home. So what you don’t want to do is end up with a dead phone! Along with packing a spare charger, consider investing in a portable battery charger. These can be charged using a vehicle’s auxiliary power port (just like your phone) but also serve as a portable power source to recharge your phone. This allows you to keep your phone charged while away from your car.
9. All the Apps (and All the Screenshots)
Before you hit the road, check to see if there’s an app for anywhere you’re going. Nowadays, more and more hotels have apps that allow you to open your room door with your phone, which is great if you’re the type to constantly misplace hotel keys. You can also use apps for national parks, other types of attractions, and fast-food places. And there are some great trip-planning apps, too. You also might want to download an app that can help you find the cheapest gas when you need to fill up. And while you’re preparing your phone for the trip, take screenshots of reservations and details about planned stops, so if you lose service along the way, you still have the necessary information to get to your destination.
10. Paper Maps
Map apps are great, but on a road trip, you don’t want to leave yourself at the mercy of cell service and electronics. Bring paper maps and mark your planned travel routes on them, just in case. This way, you can navigate safely even if you do lose service.
Keeping emergency supplies in your vehicle is an important part of road safety. It is also important to understand the resources that may be available to you in the event of a financial emergency. TitleMax is dedicated to helping our clients through financial hardships by providing alternative lending products.