The Art of Gearing Up for a Long Road Trip
By Kimberly Graf. Published on January 14, 2022
Road trips that are longer than few hours can be one of two things – they can either be amazing adventures full of fun and great experiences, or they can be dragging affairs where you're uncomfortable and can't wait to get home. A huge part of the difference is what you choose to bring with you.
We live in an age where there are so many travel-friendly devices available. There are so many things you can buy beforehand to improve your quality of life on the road – and here are some of them. Through experience and a little bit of research, we've compiled this list of the best gear to have with you on a long road trip.
First, let's get the safety basics out of the way. We cannot stress enough how important it is to have your vehicle emergency kit with you. This is true no matter how far from home you're venturing. For longer trips, there are a few modifications – you should have a tire gauge and jumper cables with you, as well as additional food and water. Plus, no matter how classy you are, you cannot underestimate the value of an extra roll of duct tape.
Extra water is definitely a must – it may seem silly and you may think you don't need it, but this resource is invaluable if you happen to get lost (intentionally or not) on a desert road somewhere. So take an extra couple of jugs of water just in case!
You are going to want extra snacks, and you aren't going to want to dig through all of your bags and other supplies to find them. Keep your snacks in a tote near the front of the car so you or your passengers can easily get to them.
Are you one of those people who nods off after just a few hours of driving? If you need coffee to keep you awake through those long hours on the highway, invest in a thermos or travel mug that you can keep in your cup holder. When you fill this up at gas stations along the way, you'll often get more coffee for less by bringing your own container. Not to mention it will keep your coffee warmer for longer!
For your cold drinks, you might consider purchasing a small cooler you can keep in reach in the back seat. You can keep cold sodas and water in here so that you don't have to purchase many along the way – which will save you a lot of money in the long run!
It's important to take care of your passengers on long trips. If you know that your traveling companion likes to nod off on long car rides, you can get them a travel pillow. Most travel pillows compress down to a smaller size for easy storage and pop right back into shape once they're pulled out of their sack. Your sleepy companions will thank you.
On that note, you should also take extra blankets. Not just for your traveling buddies, but they're good to have for emergencies, sudden storms, and finding yourself in a place that gets colder at night than you expect. Thermal blankets are especially good for this, and it's better to be prepared for an event like this than caught off guard by a chilly night.
Is there not enough room in your car for a travel pillow and extra blankets? You're going to love our next item. A cargo box or bag to go on top of your car is invaluable for storing all your extra lightweight supplies that might not fit in your car. Bags are more inexpensive for this purpose, and easily tie down to a roof rack or even through the doors on your car. If you're a full-time experienced road tripper, boxes are more durable and can hold heavier stuff.
Some other things you should definitely keep with you include sunglasses and sunscreen. In some western destinations, the sun seems much brighter than in the east. Keep sunglasses on you to make your drive less painful for your eyes. Sunscreen helps in some of those brighter environments as well – no one wants to be plagued by that type of pain while you're supposed to be having fun.
For the not-so-sunny climes you might find yourself in, it's a good idea to invest in some rain repellent windshield washer solution. Some of these solutions are even good for getting bugs off your windshield, which can definitely fix some of the minor annoyances that come with long drives.
Speaking of windshields, you might also want to pick up a windshield cover with foil backing. There might come times when you don't want to get off the road – but you can't keep driving, either. You can pull off in a roadside park and take a short nap. With a cover, you can block out the sun and get some rest. Otherwise, you can put it in your windshield every time you stop for more than a minute. The inside of your car will stay cool and comfortable.
Being clean is also being comfortable. You can pack your favorite wet wipes, but baby wipes are often much less expensive and they do the same thing. To keep your hands clean or to freshen up after a long drive in the car, baby wipes are essential.
Now let's talk about the fun stuff. Getting lost has never been as easy as it is with your smartphone. If you use your phone as your primary navigation device, you should buy a smartphone mount to go on your dashboard or windshield. Some even slide into your CD Player! Keep your hands free while you let your GPS assistant tell you where you go.
Even if your phone does get you where you need to go, there are going to be times when you aren't going to have service. It also doesn't lend much to adventuring. You should always take a paper atlas with you. They sell them at a lot of truck stops or larger gas stations, as well as at bookstores and other big retailers. You will have an easier time getting lost and unlost with an old reliable road atlas!
Make sure you bring your camera as well, for those unexpected roadside pull offs with breathtaking views. You might think your smartphone camera is enough, but sometimes even the heftiest phone camera can't do justice to the sweeping views.
You're going to need to bring chargers for all of your devices. Cell phones, tablets, and cameras should all have car adapters available. For larger devices, like your laptop or netbook, you can buy specific inverters. When plugged into the cigarette lighter on your car, these provide you with a standard home wall plug that will charge your computers.
You just have to make sure when purchasing an inverter that it is made for laptops or bigger devices – some aren't made to handle that much power and can damage your car's wiring if used improperly. The right device, however, will work wonders!
Our experiences and research have told us that these things are absolutely essential to making your road trip fun and easy. Some are no-brainers, while others just massively improve the quality of life when you're on the road. Either way, you're going to want to check some of this stuff out!