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.