What’s in my car for road trips? Glad you asked. According to a friend of mine, all of Walgreens. On a more serious note, these are my road trip car essentials and what’s actually in my car, even as I write this! Don’t feel like you have to pack ALL of these things. These are just items I have on hand most of my vacations.
1. Extra cash/change. My grandpa used to always say, “When you’re on a trip, always have enough cash on you to get home.” I’ll agree, that’s solid advice. I’ll be honest: I barely have cash on me, ever. Toll roads, car washes, and even that old payphone often require cash or coins. Even though your map app may have tolls on it, that doesn’t mean a new one has popped up. On my way to Wisconsin one year, I had to pull off the interstate, find a ATM, find a gas station to get me change, then go through the toll. What a painful experience that was! (and poor planning). And, sometimes the unexpected happens. Last year while in Colorado, both of my passenger windows got broken, and I needed some change for a vacuum at a car wash. A roll of quarters is your best bet. It even goes a long way for laundry, too!
2. A calling card. I know. Sounds like 1998. It’s not. A quick story: a few years ago I was in Yellowstone and there was no phone reception but I needed to get in contact with my roommate. Luckily I had a calling card I used on the payphone (see above) and got everything settled back home. Anyone ever have their phone take a nose dive into water? Enter calling card saving your arse!
3. Music, Podcasts, and Media! I’m a road trip playlist junkie. My car is old enough to have a cd player, so I often throw in some of my favorite albums. Lately, though, I’ve been creating playlists on Spotify. This is my road trip playlist I originally created for a roadtrip through Iceland. Spotify is also nice because you can search for other travel-themed playlists created by users all over the world.
If you have kids, they’ll LOVE Kidz Bop! I mean, I love Kidz Bop, and I’m an adult. They take the songs you know from the radio and clean them up for family-friendly tunes.
If your car is too old and doesn’t have Bluetooth, I recommend the Mpow Bluetooth Receiver. It’s the quickest way to Bluetooth your tunes and phone to your car speakers!
4. Hand sanitizer. There are so many options here, but I do love the Bath and Body Works line and am a huge fan of things that are lavender or supposedly ocean-scented. I know they cost a little more, but I think they’re worth it.
5. Wipes. If you start reading all of my blogs, you’ll notice wipes come up a lot. The best all-around wipe to travel with is a flushable, personal care wipe because you can use them in the restroom or for a drink spill in your car. I usually go with a pack from Dollar Tree because you can get 36 wipes for $1.
6. A box (yes, a full box) of Kleenex. I used to get those tiny packets, and then I asked myself why was I doing something so stupid. A box of the softest ones is the way to go.
7. This Amazing Voodoo. Trader Joe’s Head to Toe Balm. This stuff is amazing. Perfect for smoothing your hair, dry hands, lips, heals, and on and on. It’s an all-in-one can of happiness.
8. An Atlas and Maps. My brother and I used to read the Atlas for fun. In fact, I still do that. I could read through maps all day long and never get bored! I cannot emphasize enough how important maps are even in this day and age with GPS and smartphones. Have you ever noticed how cellphone company commercials say that they cover 95% of the USA? That 5% where you can’t use your GPS is often where the hidden gems are located. If you’re going to a state or national park, I recommend always grabbing a map at the ranger station. Last summer my iPhone GPS technology quit working (it was 30 miles off!), and I had to rely on my maps on a long trip through Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. For around $10, you can get an updated atlas at a local store.
Parents, get your kids involved! It’s never too early to teach kids how to read maps. I love this atlas from Rand McNally and have purchased it for friends.
This is an old, rare jewel, but another atlas I have on hand for national park-related trips. All national and local parks have maps both online and in their information/ranger stations.
9. First Aid Items. I have a tiny, quart-sized first aid kit in my car that includes things such as sting stopper, lip SPF protection, band-aids, and alcohol swabs. When I hike, it’s small enough to throw in my hiking backpack. One time while up in the Adirondacks, some boys hiking on the same trail as my friend and I stepped on a hornet’s nest. That kit came in handy!
PRID is a drawing salve that is homeopathic and works wonders on everything from tick bites to blisters.
I also have a small pill box with Aspirin, allergy meds, Tums, and a few other pills in it depending on where I’m headed. On my way to Peru, I had an allergy attack in the airport. I couldn’t find my pillbox (I had hid it from myself) and had to buy some really expensive Benadryl! Multiple times I have needed Tums or anti-diarrhea meds thanks to traveler’s diarrhea. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to a 3rd-world country or not. Pack stuff for that upset stomach!
In the winter, I’m sure to throw in an old blanket and hand-warmers in case of a breakdown. My college roommate and I slid off I-35 in a snowstorm and had it not been for my dad coming to get us, we would’ve had a very cold night. Since that incident, I try to always stay prepared.
A pocket knife is always a must-have. I have a few Swiss-army types that I bought at Cabela’s I swear I use every trip!
10. Car etc. If you have the room in a hatch, always make sure to have jumper cables, a jack and spare tire, antifreeze, and an extra quart of oil. A wrench and screwdrivers are also good to have on hand. Some really “fancy” pocket knives have the screwdrivers on them!
11. Food etc. If you’re planning on saving money by taking your own snacks or meals, a cooler is a must-have. On solo trips I buy a small one at the dollar store, but on long hauls, I take my Coleman. I fill it up with drinks, food, and snacks! I’ll post more about snacks on a different blog post.
If you want to save the planet, consider a reusable cutlery. These are current favorites of mine, especially if I’m craving ice cream and want to run to the store for a pint. I also have two sets of these travel sets.
Ziploc baggies are something I throw in, as well. Last year I decided to break down and get these reusable baggies, which have held up very well over thousands of miles.
And don’t forget the gum and/or breath mints!
12. Napkins or Paper Towels. I took this lesson from my dad. He’s obsessed with napkins and paper towels, but you’d be surprised how often you may need them! They’re multi-faceted,
13. An Umbrella or Pocket Poncho. For the obvious downpour!
14. Camping Chair and Hammock. Yes, I’m the gal that travels with a camping chair and a hammock in my car. These are camping and hiking essentials! Last summer I was able to nap in my hammock up on Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park after a long day of driving. I have friends who also use the hammocks to sleep in at night! I have the Eno DoubleNest two person hammock, even though I’m single. Double hammock = wishful thinking. Eno also has blankets and tarps that are high quality.
15. Kites. You read that correctly! I usually have a few kites or a parafoil on hand. Kids and adults alike love them, and kites make for an enjoyable afternoon or evening respite. Here’s a link to one that packs up to almost nothing.
16. Fun. If you can handle some car reading, coloring books and travel games are always a must for hours in the car. Pinterest has some perfect Car Bingo and other family-friendly games.
17. Emergency and Safety. Since I travel solo, I do have a few things on hand in case of emergencies besides pocket change and a calling card. I keep several flashlights in stock, pepper spray, and on long drives, this Taser Bolt. I never have had to use it, but did purchase it after someone tried to break into the camper I was staying in on a camping trip.
Thanks for reading this post about what’s in my car! Any suggestions for your trips? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you.