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Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure

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You are getting ready for an epic road trip with your family. The promise of adventure is heavy in the air. You’ll sing cheesy songs, check out roadside attractions, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds your car during every mile. Road trips have forever been a timeless escape into the freedom of the open road. Road trips are also an inexpensive way to travel with your family.

I haven’t always been excited about road trips with my kids. It’s tough to pack the car, navigate, and then deal with the incessant complaints from the backseat crew. But, road trips have also been one of my favorite ways to travel with my family. Every mile is an opportunity to be together. We feel closer to one another. We create shared memories and experiences. We have fun. I’ve found that the secret to enjoying a road trip with your family is all in the preparation. Knowing your road trip essentials makes all the difference!

Planning Your Route and Itinerary

Don’t start on any road trip without a solid plan in place. That’s an easy way to take a fun road trip to not-so-fun. Long before the car is packed, you should have a solid plan in place.

  • Sit down and create an itinerary of your trip. I know this might feel like killing the spontaneity of the trip, but also, whoever said you have to follow the plan 100%. I like having a loose itinerary so that we know where we are sleeping and some basic sites and things we’d like to see.
  • Map out travel times. This is a big one for our family. Our little kids cannot do huge stretches in the car during the day. At night, maybe. But during the day anything more than about six hours starts to wear on everyone. Try to plan in enough stops to fit your family’s needs.
  • Choose a few fun things to see along the way. I know some people prefer to drive straight to their destination. But for most of us, a few stops along the way make a road trip feel more fun. Go see the biggest ball of twine or eat at a “local famous” cafe.
  • Aim to have your itinerary completed before you start driving. This takes away the uncertainty and stress.

We have this atlas and it’s been a wonderful way to include our kids in our road tripping adventures. They love mapping out trips and seeing where where we are!

National Geographic Road Atlas 2024: Adventure Edition [United States, Canada, Mexico]
  • Road Atlas – Adventure Edition
  • National Geographic Maps (Author)

Vehicle Maintenance and Safety Checks

Man unloading suitcase from car outside hotel. Road trip.

Anytime we know we are going to be taking a road trip, we get our vehicle checked. Consider:

  • Getting the oil changed. This is one of the most favorite errands I could run with my 5 year old son in tow. He LOVES getting the oil changed with me. What could be better than free snacks, a carwash, and CARS!
  • Check your tires. If you are getting your oil changed, they may also check your tires, but if not, take some time to have them looked at.
  • Consider getting roadside assistance. We recently invested in roadside assistance. I don’t know what we have been doing all of our driving lives. Roadside assistance is so worth it. For us, this service has already paid for itself. We had a late night flat tire after hitting debris on the highway on the way home from a trip to see family. It was so nice to call and have someone come and help us within a short amount of time.

Packing the Essentials: Survival Kit

Do you have a good “emergency kit” in your car? Tuck a comprehensive first-aid kit under the seat or in the trunk—somewhere within arm’s reach should scrapes or more serious injuries occur. Be prepared to signal for help in an emergency with brightly colored road flares; they’re more than just beacons of safety, they’re peace of mind. And in case of an unexpected fire, a fire extinguisher is non-negotiable, serving as your shield against potential flames. Remind yourself that these life-saving items aren’t scare tactics, but rather guardians against the unpredictable. Whether nestled snugly in the side compartment or resting in the trunk, ensure these essentials are always accessible—because on the road, every second counts.

These are a few of our family’s go-to car emergency items:

  • Blanket
  • Water bottles with clean water
  • Snacks (emergencies almost always come with a bit of waiting around…snacks help keep our kids busy if this happens)
  • Weather-related items. For example: if you live in (or will be travelling to) an area with a lot of snow and ice, include a small snow shovel, kitty litter, or tire changes)
  • Emergency kit
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Vetoos Car Roadside Emergency Kit with Jumper Cables, Auto Vehicle Safety Road Side Assistance Kits,…
  • ESSENTIAL RESOURCES: Packed with practical supplies from jumper cables, reflective triangle and vest to tow rope, hand-driven flashlight, and tire pressure gauge, we’ve got everything you need to stay safe during an roadside emergency. But that’s not all – it also includes rarely used but essential items like safety hammer, emergency blanket, survival whistle, and 47PCS first aid kit. With these, you’ll be prepared for almost everything the road throws your way.
  • RELIABLE JUMPER CABLES: Say goodbye to hazardous partially or uncoated jumper cable clamps! Our clamps are fully covered with premium PVC material to protect you from electrical shocks and make sure you can use them safely. The four giant alligator clamps are equipped with strong jagged teeth and springs for an excellent grip force. With a 6 gauge thick inner core, our cables are reliable even in cold winter weather.
  • Car jump starter. I can’t count the number of times we’ve used our car jump starter. These are inexpensive and save you from needing to flag down another car to help.
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  • 🚗【SUPER CAPACITY AND PEAK】 The car jump starter can jump-start your vehicle (up to 7.5L gas or 6.5L diesel engine) up to 20 times with 2000-amp peak current and heavy-duty clamps and cables. Even if the car battery is dead, it also can restart the vehicle. Additionally, our battery starter could start trucks, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATV, UTV, lawnmowers, and yachts up in a few minutes, even in extreme temperatures (-4°F~140°F).

Staying Fueled and Hydrated

Long stretches on the open road require snacks! Acknowledge the temptation to reach for sugar-laden snacks and caffeinated beverages, but gauge the rewards of choosing healthier alternatives.

Load your snack arsenal with treats that fuel. Things like:

  • trail mix
  • granola bars
  • fresh fruits
  • fresh veggies
  • jerky
  • string cheese

Mostly, opt for things that that don’t leave you lethargic or tired. You want to feel good all day long, not just quell the boredom with sweets. Other tips than help:

  • Get enough water: a refillable water bottle is a travel companion you won’t regret inviting along. Not only is water essential for staying alert and preventing fatigue, but it also wards off the unwanted side effects of travel dehydration such as headaches and irritability.
  • Preparedness tip: invest in a dependable cooler. It’s the unsung hero of lengthy expeditions, sustaining the chill on your water and keeping perishable snacks as fresh as the spirit of your adventure.
Iknoe Large Cooler Bag Collapsible 24 Can Insulated Bags Leakproof Lunch Cooler Tote with…
  • 【INSULATED & STURDY】: 5mm pearl foam padding and eco-friendly PEVA lining of lunch boxes keep food warm or cold for 8 hours. Double-stitched zippers and premium metal dual zip pullers of lunch coolers ensure smooth open, rip-resistant and maximum durability.
  • 【LEAKPROOF & WATERPROOF】: Eco-friendly PEVA soft liner food bag is easy to clean with just a wet cloth or napkin and against liquid penetration. The heat-welded seams prevent leaking. 600D durable Oxford surface is programmed for maximum tearing-resistant.
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Insulated Outdoor – Leak Proof Backpack Cooler 30 Cans, Waterproof Lightweight Cooler Bag for 12h…
  • Cooler Backpack Insulated Waterproof:Insulated and waterproof cooler compartment keeps food and drinks cold for 12 hours and protected from the elements.
  • Small and Portable Soft Sided Cooler: Backpack coolers insulated leak proof convenient size and lightweight design make it easy to carry anywhere. Perfect lunch cooler for men work.

Navigation and Tech Tools

Delve into the world of navigation with a savvy mix of old-school and high-tech. Dust off that classic map resting in the glove compartment as a revered backup to the digital age’s wizardry. But let’s face it, you’re likely to lean on the GPS device perched on the dashboard or the smartphone apps that have changed the game of car travel. Have both at your disposal; when signal bars dwindle, that paper map will be your trusty steed guiding you through uncharted territories.

Now, turn your attention to travel apps, your virtual co-pilots offering more than just directions. They’re a treasure trove, — pinpointing cozy inns, elusive gas pumps, and those hole-in-the-wall eateries only locals whisper about. With these apps, you’re not just journeying from point A to B; you’re stitching together the rich tapestry of an open-road adventure.

  • Travel Preparation: Plan routes with a blend of GPS and physical maps.
  • Backup Necessity: Keep maps handy for areas with poor signal.
  • App Magic: Unearth hidden gems and essentials along your route.

Entertainment on the Go

Imagine cruising with the windows down, your favorite tunes setting the stage for an epic adventure. Keep the vibe alive by crafting a music playlist that hits all the right notes for your crew. But don’t stop there; sprinkle in a medley of audiobooks that transform miles into chapters of escapades, mysteries, or rom-coms. Got kids in the backseat? Unleash car games that twist and turn with every mile – a surefire way to make laughter the heart of your journey. Remember, the best road trip soundtrack is one tailored to your travel party’s tastes, so curate with care. Before you rev the engine, download your entertainment arsenal. Trust us, when reception dwindles to nothing, you’ll thank your past self for that foresight.

Read also: Tips for family road trips

We don’t travel without audio books and plenty of movies for the kids. We’re a bit old school, so we still travel with a portable DVD player!

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YOTON 9.5″ Portable DVD Player for Kids and Car, 7.5″ Swivel HD Screen with 4-6 Hours Built-in…
  • 🌷【Excellent visual experience】7.5-inch YOTON portable DVD player has a 270° rotating and 180° flipping eye protection screen, the resolution can reach 800*480. The body is compact and easy to carry, it is very suitable to put on the car seat, giving you an excellent visual experience.
  • 🌷【Break-Point Memory Function】YOTON portable DVD player has an intelligent memory function, when you leave the video and turn it on again next time, the DVD player will automatically jump to the last viewing position to continue watching your movie.

Comfort and Convenience Items

  • Travel Pillows and Blankets: Guarantee yourself a cozy nest in the backseat with a plush travel pillow and blanket for those on-the-road naps.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Choose breathable, loose-fitting attire that won’t restrict movement during long hours behind the wheel.
  • Sun Protection: Don’t let the sun put a damper on your drive; arm yourself with sunglasses for the glare and sunscreen to shield your skin.
  • Toiletry Kits: Keep a small bag with essentials like toothpaste, deodorant, and soap handy for freshening up at rest stops.
  • Quick-Dry Towels: Opt for these space-saving towels for swift drying, whether after an impromptu dip in a lake or a shower at a campground.
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MLVOC Travel Pillow 100% Pure Memory Foam Neck Pillow, Comfortable & Breathable Cover, Machine…
  • 【Provide Perfect Support】With perfect curves shape design, this memory foam travel pillow can better fix your neck, prevents head from falling forward, relieves neck pain during travel. The added adjustable rope lock, you can adjust the angle and the size of the pillow randomly, meeting different neck size requirements, choose to provide support and comfort where you need it.
  • 【New Design Sweat-Resistant/ Washable Cover】Our memory foam pillow is covered with breathable and super soft magnetic therapy cloth, millions of tiny premium microbeads inside, a self-developed sweat-resistant fabric, provides the maximum comfort on your trip. The pillowcase is machine washable, so you will always get a fresh and clean pillow on your journey.
urnexttour Travel Blanket and Pillow- Premium Soft Airplane Blanket with Durable Travel Bag, Hand…
  • The Urnexttour Travel Blanket Set is a super soft and fuzzy blanket that is lightweight and keep you warm on long chilly flights. The long 60″ length and 43″ width provides excellent coverage and enwraps you in warmth and comfort, that is perfect for snuggling with your friend to rest in many locations, such as the car, plane, airport, camping, and many more.
  • High Quality Plush Material: The super comfy blanket is made of 100% plush polyester microfiber fabric which have a velvety and furry touch, so you can falling asleep easier all flight long and relex yourself comfortable. Our travel blankets are universal in all seasons. It is also suitable for air-conditioning blankets, bedding sheets, lunch break blankets or car trips.
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Electronic Organizer Travel USB Cable Accessories Bag/Case,Waterproof for Power Bank,Charging…
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  • Carrying Case External dimension: 7.48” (L) x 4.33″ (W) x 2.16″ (H).
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18pack Travel Bottles for Toiletries,TSA Approved Silicone Travel Containers jar for Toiletries,Leak…
  • ✈️【Designed for Travel accessories】Our 18pack reusable travel bottles set with 1 waterproof bag, 2 pcs silicone bottles (3oz/90ml), 2 pcs silicone bottles(2oz/60ml), 2 pcs spray bottles(1.05oz/30ml), 4 pcs cream jars(0.35oz/10ml), 1pcs funnels, labels, brush and 2 pcs spatula!Different accessories for your different needs
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Protecting Your Trip: Documents and Insurance

Before you revel in the call of the open road, pause to ensure every travel document is within arm’s reach. Your driver’s license, the vehicle’s current registration, and proof of car insurance should be at the top of your list. Picture the peace of mind you’ll have, knowing that if a friendly officer waves you down, you’re prepared with your paperwork pristine and ready. The magic of a road trip lies in the unexpected; thus, having the contact details for emergency services and roadside assistance close at hand is as crucial as your playlist is long.

Consider car insurance your silent guardian, an invisible cloak of financial protection against the whims of travel fate. It’s not merely a travel formality—it’s a travel necessity. Treat these vital documents with the care of a cartographer’s rarest map; tuck them somewhere secure yet accessible, perhaps in a designated pocket of your glove compartment or a travel wallet dedicated to your travel paperwork.

Travel Document Organizer – RFID Passport Wallet Case Family Holder Id Wristlet
  • STYLISH, HIGHER QUALITY PU LEATHER passport wallet for women – passport holder
  • GREAT SIZE – fits multiple passports (up to 4), tickets, money, travel documents, 6+ credit cards, pen, ID card or driver’s license, phone. Excellent for solo trip or trip with kids and family
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Travel Passport Wallet, Lightweight Large Family Passport Holder RFID Passport Cover Case Waterproof…
  • HIGH QUALITY TRAVEL WALLET – Our passport wallets are made of super sturdy and durable fabric which is lightweight and waterproof, the perfect combination for traveling. It looks very attractive design which can be a great gift choice for men, women, friends and families.
  • PERFECT SIZE FAMILY PASSPORT HOLDER – Size: (5in×9in×0.78in), Family travel document organizer stores money, up to 6 passports, tickets, 4-10+ cards & travel documents. It is a perfect size for family travelling.

Road trips can be the best of adventures. But, being prepared for whatever comes is essential. These road trip essentials will help you have the best trip of your life! Here’s to your smooth-sailing road trip adventure, safe travels!

road trip essentials text with picture of hat and map

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