We 20-somethings have grown up with movies and television romanticizing road trips with friends and family. The sun is almost always shining, there’s a nice breeze in the air, and you have all of your best friends with you (and never a lull in cell service). I hate to break it to you but road trips aren’t really like this… at all, especially when you’re riding solo. When you have to do a road trip by yourself, the allure can really fade away quickly. One hour in and you’re already trying your best to stay awake. At least, that’s how it usually goes for me. Making a list of your go-to road trip essentials can really make a long and boring trip seem a little less boring.
Lucky for you,I’ve already made the list for you! This past weekend I went “home” to visit my parents. The 6 hour drive down wasn’t too bad but the 6 hour drive back was dreadful. Throw a pair of pups into the mix and you have what (dog) momma likes to call “not fun.” Here are my 12 road trip essentials plus, five bonus tips for traveling with animals!
12 Road Trip Essentials
- Music/Podcasts/Audiobooks – I know, this one is kind of obvious. I read somewhere though that listening to Podcasts or Audiobooks helps you stay awake on long drives. Naturally, I had to test this theory out and found that I do generally stay more alert because my mind is engaging with something it doesn’t already know (which can happen when you’re listening to the new One Direction album on repeat). Most recently, I read “The Girl on the Train” via audiobook. While I wasn’t crazy about the book (seriously, why does everyone think it’s amazing?) I did really enjoy the audiobook format and will definitely be buying more in the future. My newest obsessions though are Podcasts. If you haven’t listened to Serial or Millennial, I suggest you do so immediately.
- Water/Drinks – You definitely want to stock up on this one. The one thing worse than doing a long drive alone is forgetting a road trip essentials like drinks. Grab a cooler and load it up with bottled water (for you and the dogs) and a few caffeinated beverages, just in case.
- Snacks – Along with the water/drinks, make sure to pack healthy snacks. I love grabbing a bag of Goldfish Crackers to munch on while I’m driving. I hate making trips longer than they need to be by stopping often or waiting in a drive thru. While you may occasionally have to stop and use the bathroom, you won’t take longer than necessary trying to decide on snacks. Added bonus? If you pack healthy snacks you’ll be less likely to blow your diet (and budget) on junk food from a gas station.
- Sunglasses – Remember when I said there are few things worse than forgetting one of your road trip essentials? Yeah, don’t ever forget sunglasses. You make luck out and have no sun at all but trying to drive without sunglasses when it’s sunny is not only annoying but also dangerous.
- Comfy Clothes – Always dress in something comfy, especially for those longer trips. You may think, “I’m going to be in the car all day, no one will see me.” But before you know it you’re taking selfies and looking like a hot mess… which is fine but could be better. And think strategically if you have pets. I wore faux leather leggings last weekend.
- Auto Care Essentials – Making sure your car is stocked with auto care essentials is more than just a road trip essentials deal. You car should be stocked at all times because you never know what might happen. Make sure you have a spare tire, the equipment to put it on, etc. And make sure you know how to use that stuff too.
- GPS – My GPS died in a flood a long time ago (seriously, I’m not kidding) and since then I’ve stuck mostly to using the Maps app on my phone. However, these things aren’t always 100% reliable (I got lost 5 feet away from my dad’s new house) so you should also keep an atlas, map, or other directions (do people still use MapQuest?) with you… just in case.
- Cell Phone Charger – You will need one, especially if you’re using your phone as a GPS but I don’t have to tell you that twice. I hate it when I forget to take my charger somewhere. One way to remedy that is by keeping extra chargers around. I have one in my car, one in my purse, one at my office, etc.
- Map – See GPS
- Driver’s License – Um, duh. Just do a quick double check to make sure your ID is in your wallet. You should also carry your insurance cards just in case.
- Roadside Emergency Kit – I recently got one of these from my coworkers and it has everything you need to survive on the side of the road for the night. You can buy one premade or make one your own. Here’s a checklist!
- A Good Night’s Rest – Pretty self explanatory. I know we all like to leave at our planned times but if you haven’t gotten a good night’s’ sleep the night before, do all of us a favor and wait awhile. Take a cat nap and drink some coffee.
Bonus Tips for Pet Owners!
- Water Bowl/Bottled Water – Have you ever tried getting your dog to drink from a water bottle? It’s not easy. I suggest keeping a pop-up bowl in your car as part of your emergency kit. Then your fur babies can always have easy access to water when you make a pit stop.
- Food – Hem likes to get sick in the car so he isn’t allowed to have food before a road trip. I like to keep food in my car (for emergencies) and also in case my dad hasn’t picked up food for them yet.
- Seat Cover – Despite the fact that Gatsby can crawl under this thing in no time flat, this hammock like seat cover saves my seats from being caked in dog hair and Hem’s drool. Well worth the money and they’re super easy to clean.
- Towels/Baby Wipes – Like I said, Hem likes to get sick.
- Patience – Dogs don’t adjust as easily to things as their human counterparts so while you may be perfectly fine with taking the day off for a road trip, your fur babies may not be. Remember that you’re throwing them out of their routine and they may not like it. Hem shakes and drools (and gets sick sometimes) while Gatsby loves being in the car. Just remember to have patience with them.