Road Trip Planner: The Essentials

Sunday, October 23, 2016 - 4:39pm

When you're planning a road trip there are a few items that are absolute essentials. If you leave any of these behind you're setting yourself up for potential issues, and I want you to be set up for success!

(Gawd - I sound like I should be on a stage with a lavaliere mic hawking my life-changing course complete with worksheets and action plans and bonuses worth four billion dollars, but you'll only get them if you buy my course RIGHT NOW.)

Seriously, though. If you have these items and nothing else you can have a happy road trip. These are not your wants; these are your needs. Many of these can be stored in your  or in your center console so next time you want to take off and go, you can.

Road Trip Planner Essentials

1. Paper Maps

GPS is wonderful, and most of the time you can count on it to get you where you want to go. However, on a road trip you're probably going to be driving in less populated areas and that signal can disappear. This is especially true if you're using the GPS on your phone. I've got AT&T (for now), and their signal drops pretty much any time I'm outside of an urban area (hence the "for now" statement).  The whole section of northeastern Iowa is not covered! Plus GPS eats up your phone battery like Chicagoans eat deep dish. That's why it's always good to have paper maps. Your best bet, if you plan on traveling a lot by car, is to invest in an atlas. is pretty much the standard. Plus maps are just plain cool.

Tip: When you enter a new state stop at a visitor's center. They'll have free road maps that will have more detail than an atlas. While you're there you can pick up brochures for local attractions and, if it's staffed, get some advice on fun places to go.

2. Car Charger

You never know when you're going to find an outlet, so your best bet is to get a car charger. I recommend getting a dual charger so both the driver and passenger can charge at the same time.

3. Water

Have you seen how expensive water is at gas stations? Yowza. Pick up a case of water before you go or, even better, fill a large container or two and bring a refillable bottle. You'll save a ton of money and the environment.

4. Cooler

Speaking of saving money, a good cooler is one of the best investments you can make. Cut up some veggies and throw in some lunch meat and cheese and you can make sandwiches on the go. Much better for you and cheaper than fast food. You can also throw in your beverage of choice. Instead of buying ice, which melts too quickly and makes everything soggy, fill an empty gallon most of the way with water and freeze it before you go. The large block won't melt as quickly, and once it does you've got drinking water! I'm a big, huge, gigantic fan of coolers. After three days in 90 degree weather the chicken broth I'd brought on our honeymoon camping trip was still frozen. For the car I recommend getting a smaller cooler that's just for beverages. You'll be getting in and out of it a lot and that makes it less efficient.

5. First Aid Kit

You don't need a big first aid kit, and you can even make one yourself. I picked up a pencil case and added bandages, cotton swabs, gauze, an Ace bandage, tweezers, small scissors, a cold/hot compress and triple antibiotic cream. We also bring along a small bottle of ibuprofen and migraine-strength medicine for my husband. If you prefer to buy one, Amazon's got a wide selection of .

Speaking of Amazon, I'm an affiliate so if you buy anything from these links I'll get a small commission. It's no extra cost to you and it helps fund this site, so thanks in advance!

6. Emergency Roadside Kit

If you have a car, this is a must whether you're going on a road trip or not! (Say yes, mom.) There are various kits available, but at the bare minimum you'll want to have jumper cables, a flashlight, flares or triangle reflectors, extra washer fluid, and some basic tools. has a good list so you can create your own, or you can purchase a .

7. Flashlights

In addition to the flashlight in the Emergency Roadside Kit that's in the trunk, I like to have at least one more in the glove box. If you have to get into the trunk to get the flashlight when it's already dark then you're, well, in the dark.

8. Batteries

Keep a set of back-up batteries for that flashlight.

9. Trash Bag

Next time you get a plastic bag from the grocery store put it back in the car after it's been emptied. You're going to accumulate wrappers and papers and JUNK, and now you've got a place to put all of it.

10. Baby Wipes

Keep some baby wipes in your car and you can clean up anywhere, any time. They're gentle enough for a baby's bottom, so they're going to be gentle enough for your hands, your face, and your steering wheel.

11. A Flexible Attitude

This - THIS - is by far THE MOST IMPORTANT ESSENTIAL FOR ANY ROAD TRIP. Yes, I'm screaming at you. I feel that strongly about this. If you can't be flexible then a road trip probably isn't for you. But if you can be flexible, if you can take any hiccups and turn them into bonuses, then you're up for an amazing experience. Just like at a wedding, when you're on a road trip something always happens. Things don't always go according to plan, no matter how much you've planned things out. Roll with it, and by the time you get home you'll have some unforgettable memories and a much richer life. Do you have any road trip essentials? Please leave a comment!


Next: Road Trip Planner:

Comments

Tip #10 is the best! When I run out of these I feel lost in my car.It keeps things cleaner longer as they are so easy to use. Great list and tips!

Add new comment

About Theresa
Theresa Goodrich's picture

Hello Fellow Traveler! I'm the Emmy-winning founder and publisher of The Local Tourist. I've got insatiable curiosity, wanderlust, and an incurable need to use my words. Thanks for joining me as I explore "drive by towns." I hope you'll pull over and stay awhile!

Where to next? Sign up to get inspiration, musings, and tips delivered to your inbox.