While baseball may be called America’s favorite pastime, road trips come a close second. Perhaps, because instead of athletic ability, you need only time, a driver’s license, and access to a vehicle before you can hit the open road. Whether you’re driving from Maine to Key West along U.S. 1, or across the desert on the famous Route 66, one thing’s for certain: Road trips are about the journey more than the destination.
But in order to enjoy spending hours in the car traveling with other people, it’s important to pack the right things. Otherwise, your group ride can feel more like a punishment. Instead of appreciating the landscapes, landmarks, and pit stops that make a road trip great, you’ll probably wish you’d just booked a flight. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Imagine packing up the car, pulling up the playlist and hitting the road with your loved ones in tow. Only, instead of the sinking feeling of thinking you forgot something moments after you pull out of the driveway, you’re filled with the excitement for what’s ahead on your drive. To help get you on your way, we’ve compiled a list of 25 road trip essentials that will turn you into the MVP of your travel group.
Avoid mutiny by packing a few sweet treats. If gum helps you concentrate, pack it. If you need sugar to be nice to other people, go for it.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but packing enough clothes is key to keeping both yourself and those around you comfortable on the drive. Take a look at the weather conditions in your travel area before you leave, so you don’t get stuck in rain-wet socks.
In a world that makes it possible to do just about anything from your phone, there are still tolls. And tolls require cash. Avoid the fines by keeping some extra cash on you.
Face it, sometimes enough is enough. Nothing says leave me alone like a pair of headphones. Whether you want to catch up on a podcast or listen to your latest audiobook, headphones are a lifesaver on road trips.
Even if you’re staying in an Airbnb or hotel, you won’t regret bringing some blankets and travel pillows along.
Face it, you won’t be able to travel without your phone, so packing a charger will save you that emergency trip to Target.
You might get stuck in the rain. Or you might want to sit on a bench that has morning dew on it. A towel is a flexible, utilitarian item you probably shouldn’t leave home without.
Some views are not worth risking your vision for.
No road trip is complete without the proper tunes. Get a head start by making a playlist, so you don’t have to pull a Taylor Swift and "make the rules up as you go."
If you’re traveling into the tundra, be sure to pack along a snow scraper for your windows, and check local regulations to see if you need to add chains to your tires.
Cracked lips are the worst. A lip balm with SPF will keep your lips moisturized and protected from the sun.
Sometimes your car just can’t keep up with your travels or you come across someone in need of a good Samaritan.
Staying hydrated can be a challenge when you don’t know where your next stop will be. Throwing a reusable water bottle in your bag and filling it up at each stop will not only keep you hydrated, but it will also help the car trash bag stay available for other items.
Stuff happens. Make your parents proud by sticking one of these in your trunk. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared, but it will hurt if you’re not.
So long, pull-out-the-atlas days. Having the right apps on your phone is a road trip game changer. Findaspot is an app that helps you find places to eat and visit between multiple locations, so you can coordinate with others along the way or avoid getting stuck in the foodless sections of the road at dinnertime. Maps.Me is an app that helps you navigate without WiFi, so you won’t be out of luck if you forgot to screenshot your directions.
Just like any other trip, there are some things you shouldn’t leave home without. On a road trip, bringing along toiletries that help you smell and feel good is important for you and your fellow travelers.
Road trips are a great time to catch up on your reading if you don’t get carsick. Throw a few magazines in your bag, download a new book on your Kindle, or watch a movie on your device.
Are all your insurance documents up to date in your glove box?
Hangriness is real. Cut down on the inevitable tension that comes with keeping hungry, tired people in tight quarters by packing snacks to share. Doing so will not only cut down on costs, it will help you eat healthier when traveling through food deserts, where it may be harder to buy fresh snacks.
Trash accumulates quickly when a group of people travel together. Instead of letting it pile up, bringing bags and disposing of trash at each stop will keep the environment inside the vehicle more pleasurable.
No one plans to get a splinter but they do happen, so carry tweezers or a multitool with you.
Traveling with a pared-down medicine cabinet with ibuprofen, Emergen-c, and other over-the-counter medications can keep you on the road.
After a while, I Spy and the license plate game can only get you so far. Enter the trivia app or the classic card game.
Road trips are great opportunities to make memories, and why not document them on an instant camera or something other than a phone?
Road trips run on coffee. Pack along a travel mug or thermos to keep you moving while reducing styrofoam usage.