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Essential Gear for a 2018 Family Road Trip

No road trip would be complete without the standard fitting out of gear and gadgets: tents, compasses, road flares, spare tires, and a jerry can for good measure. Alright, so those items might be better suited for a road trip in 1918 than 2018. That being said, though the gear might be more advanced now, the allure of the road trip persists. If you are one of the millions of Americans who will be taking a road trip this year, here are some must-haves.

First Thing’s First: Your Mode of Transport

A road trip is as much about the journey as the destination. Being that the journey is an essential part of the experience, it pays to pick the right car. Planning to live out your own version of L’Avventura in Sicily? Nothing less than a Lancia Aurelia Cabriolet will suffice. Tackling the Darien Gap in Panama? Be sure to bring a Camel Trophy truck. Or perhaps you just want to pack up the kids and make a trip out to Disneyland in California, a la Clark Griswold? If so, might we recommend a Chrysler Pacifica? Not too flashy, yes, but there’s a hybrid version that’s great on gas! The point being, with any road trip, choosing the right conveyance can make all the difference.

GPS (or Good Old-fashioned Paper Maps)

Most modern cars will have you covered when it comes to GPS navigation. If not, the cell phone in your pocket certainly will. To ensure that you’re covered even in areas where you may not have a signal, you can always download offline maps for later use. But if we had it our way, we would stick to good old-fashioned paper maps as much as possible. There is something undeniably romantic about laying out a map across a car’s hood and choosing a destination with a point of the finger. And compared to the small 5-inch screen on your smartphone, a fold-out map is comparatively enormous, letting you see entire states at a glance. Nothing is better for planning a route. Don’t know where to start? You can do worse than one of Rand McNally’s superb maps.

Camera Gear, Mobile Devices, & Accessories

On any road trip, you’re sure to find a slew of gadgets strewn across the front and back seats (especially so on a family road trip), and for good reason: they are incredibly useful. If your family is taking a road trip this summer, you’ll want to pack a tripod and wireless remote for family pics, various tablets and mobile gaming consoles (the Nintendo Switch being perhaps the best road trip console around) to play children’s movies and video games, and your standard litany of chargers and batteries to keep everything running at all times. Yes, we may lament the fact that children no longer play “slug bug” or the license plate game, but as Bob Dylan so eloquently put it, the times they are a-changin. Load up on camera gear, mobile devices and accessories, and you should enjoy smooth sailing.

First Aid & Breakdown Kits

If you don’t already have a first aid kit in your vehicle, you should remedy that as soon as possible (but especially prior to any extended road trip). If the need arises, you will be glad that you have one at the ready. Likewise, put together a basic breakdown kit, even if you are driving a relatively new car. No, you shouldn’t need to stow a spare set of points and condensers if your mode of transport is a car made in the last 20 years or so, but road triangles, flares, mechanic gloves, jumper cables, water bottles, and a can of Fix-a-Flat should be considered essentials. And if you’re traveling in winter, be sure to pack emergency blankets as well.

Snacks, a Backseat Cooler & Travel Guides

Food is as much a part of any road trip as the car you drive or the route you take. Whether you indulge in truck stop staples like beef jerky and hot dogs, or seek out places only the locals will know, there’s a good chance that the food you eat will end up being an essential and unforgettable part of the experience. To keep your food and drinks nice and cold on the road, it pays to invest in a good backseat cooler. If you’re looking to cover large distances, a cooler can help you avoid stopping every two hours to appease your kids’ appetites (though we make no promises on bathroom breaks). However, if you hope to stop often, look to Yelp or LocalEats to find the very best local eateries. You will surely find some gems. Whatever you do, try to avoid simply stopping at every McDonald’s that you come across because it’s convenient. Convenient it might be, but hardly memorable.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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One comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Completely agree with you. Your tips are realistic and helpful. I am a travel freak and travel a lott, can relate to it.Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness., and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.
    People often have a theme that they base their worldly travels on, but how about a mental mantra for your travel? Out of a cheerleading event that consisted of our family shouting supportive words at our daughter who was attempting to kill a rather monstrous spider that the rest of us were too chicken to get close to, came this great quote, “If you don’t think, and you just do….then it’s done!”

    This quote came back to haunt me when on vacation in Seattle. I thought it would be a great idea to take the kids on the Seattle Great Wheel, the ferris wheel overlooking the ocean, but as we approached it, I realized how high it went and immediately panicked! Just as I had decided to put the kids on it on their own, my daughter says, “Come on dad…If you don’t think, and you just do….then it’s done!” What could I do at that point?! She was telling me to stop thinking and creating more fear about the situation and just get on the thing!
    “If you don’t think, and you just do, then it’s done!” We all now keep this quote in our back pocket, ready to whip out at any time to push one of us forward into an adventure we know they won’t regret. No hesitations, don’t allow any time for fear to set in, and be prepared for your kids to turn your life advice back on you!

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