Great Views: Road Trip Essentials

Great Views: Road Trip Essentials

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Great Views: Road Trip Essentials

Published at October 18 2024 by JFord

This is the time of year when people start traveling more. Or at least it seems that way to me. Summer may be the traditional time to travel with the kids being out of school, but my family always did the longer trips in the fall and early winter. It was just easier to travel then. Remember, the South has that awful oppressive heat until mid-October most of the time. So, when the weather starts cooling down is when we actually want to get out and about.

This time of year is also when we start planning the big trips for the holidays. You’ve got the big ones coming up soon and everyone wants you to come see them. Unless you are able to get airfare every time you want to go somewhere, more than likely you are going to be driving to and from your destination.

Road Trip Essentials

No matter where you are going, no matter who you are going to see, you are going to need some supplies. Mind you, I’m an over packer. Have you ever seen the cartoon of the car so full of luggage that they can’t fit the baby in? Yeah, that would be me.

Some of these things you may never need in your life, but I live by the thought of needing something and not having it. It’s always better to be over prepared and not caught by surprise.

Essentials for the Car

So, there are certain things that I keep in my car at all times. (I’m the mom with the baby wipes and the first aid kit in her purse.) You may think I’m a little paranoid, but I have needed most of it at one time or another.

  • License and Registration – and in some states, you need to have your insurance information handy! This is a given and is something that you should definitely not be without.
  • Car’s Manual – yes, I know, you can look it up online, but it is easier to not have to. This will let you know important things about your car. Like why that one light on your dash keeps blinking.
  • Roadside Emergency Kit – now this one is a tough one. You can buy the ready-made kits and they do just fine. I just keep a bunch of stuff where the spare tire goes in my trunk. There are specific items that are recommended for this, though.
    • Jumper Cables
    • Flares or Triangle Reflectors
    • Quart of Oil
    • Coolant
    • Blanket/Space Blanket
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • Tool kit
    • Fix a flat and a tire inflator
    • Tire pressure gauge
    • Paper towels
    • Spray bottle with washer fluid
    • Ice scraper
    • Paper and pen
    • Bottled water
  • First Aid Kit – the same kind of thing applies here. I’ve got a small one in my glove box, but when we took a trip to the St. Louis Zoo, I packed a bit more. Here’s what is recommended in one:
    • Medications for any pre-existing medical conditions
    • Antiseptic
    • Painkillers
    • Gauze
    • Sterile dressings
    • Bandage tape
    • Band-aids
    • Tweezers
    • Scissors
    • Thermometer
    • Antihistamines
    • Sunburn treatment
    • Insect repellent
    • Insect bite treatment
  • Flashlight – I always keep a small flashlight in the car. It’s perfect for looking for things when its dark or for those times when you need to take a good look at the exterior of the car.
  • Umbrella
  • Water Bottles
  • Toilet Paper – Let’s face it. Not every restroom is going to have toilet paper. Better just to have some with you just in case.
  • Contact Info for Roadside Assistance – And I don’t just mean in your phone. I mean an actual piece of paper with contact information written down on it. I’m always afraid I’m going to shatter the screen on my phone and then I won’t have any of my contact info.
  • Duct Tape – Ah, the miracle of the modern world. If it’s moving and it isn’t supposed to, then duct tape is your solution! At least temporarily. It is a great thing if you just need a quick fix and don’t have time for anything else.
  • Hand Sanitizer – people are gross. They carry nasty stuff all over their hands and they have a tendency to touch everything. Hand Sanitizer is one of the most useful things on the planet. Easy to carry and use, it makes what you touch disappear. Well, not literally, but you get the point.
  • Baby Wipes – Don’t judge me! Baby wipes are super useful. They are perfect for cleaning up sticky messes and quickly. You don’t need to be a kid to use them, but they do smell nice and clean.
  • Multi-tool – Sometimes you just need a pair of pliers or a screwdriver or a bottle opener or a …. Well you get the point. A multi-tool has all of that and can open your bag of chips.

Other Road Trip Must Haves

There are things that you should have in your car no matter where you are going or what season it is. Summer Road Trips and Winter Road Trips are going to need some specialized items.

Any Road Trip

  • Paper Maps – unfortunately, we don’t live in a world of ever-present phone signals. And free WIFI is hard to find. So, make sure you don’t get stranded without a backup plan.
  • Cash – some places still don’t take that magical plastic stuff. It’s better to have some cash on hand, just in case.
  • Notebook with a pen or a pencil – this is great if you need to write down directions from locals or if you just want to record your trip.
  • Extra Car Key – this shouldn’t be on the same key ring as your original.
  • Gas Can

    Summer Road Trip

  • Bug spray
  • Extra Sunscreen

    Winter Road Trip

  • Ice Scraper
  • Snow Shovel
  • Snow Chains
  • Extra Blankets

Road Trip Entertainment

The days of playing roadkill bingo are long gone, thank goodness. The modern traveler has access to some really cool stuff. Why not use it to keep everyone happy?

  • Phone Charger/Portable Battery/Car Charger
  • Playlist/Radio App/ Audio books
  • Camera and Chargers
  • Instant Camera
  • The Internet (Portable WIFI) – our phones have a feature where you can share the signal of your phone as WIFI. There are also dedicated devices for just this purpose.
  • Good Book or 2
  • Travel Games

“Go" Bags

My family has an odd tradition. We carry a bag with us when we are going places. These bags hold essentials and snacks for walking around. They save your life when you have kids. We call them “Go" bags.

In the car, they tend to be easily accessible. This makes it easy to take care of everyone’s needs.

  • Extra Sunglasses
  • Blankets
  • Travel Pillow
  • Travel Mug
  • Water Bottle
  • Pain Killer and Antihistamine
  • Towel
  • Slip-on Shoes


The last thing that you want to make sure to pack in the car is a supply of toiletries. You’ll have the majority of what you need in your luggage, but this is stuff that you may need throughout the day on a long trip.

  • Sunscreen
  • Body wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Lip Balm
  • Lotion
  • Mini Hairbrush
  • Hair Ties
  • Tissues
  • Feminine Products

Tips for a better Trip

Here are some tips to make your trip just a little bit better. I love road trips because Arkansas has so many pretty and cool things to see. Making a road trip less stressful is always a plus.

  • Use Duffel Bags – Use duffel bags instead of suitcases, especially if you’re not planning an extended stay. You can pack as much or more in a duffel bag that you can in a suitcase. Duffel bags are easier to squeeze into tighter areas, so you can fit more stuff in a vehicle.
  • Use Cubes or Baskets – If you are not planning an extended stay in a hotel, use packing cubes or laundry baskets to carry your items on the trip. These don’t take as much room as traditional suitcases and you can find things easier.
  • Hanging Toiletry Bag – A hanging toiletry bag will make travel and hotel showers so much easier. They allow you to have access to your things without scattering them all over the counters.
  • Be Aware of Your Destination – Pack clothes for your destination and the activities you have planned. We recently went to the St. Louis Zoo. If we hadn’t all been wearing tennis shoes, we would have been limping by the end of the day.
  • Pack Smart – Take items that can be mixed and matched and worn multiple times. I wore the same shoes the whole weekend, not because I’m particularly stylish, but so I didn’t have to pack more than one pair.

What NOT to Pack

There are certain things that you just shouldn’t take with you. My favorite question is: “Is it going to cause a mess if it thrown around the backseat?" If you can answer in an affirmative to that, you probably don’t need to take it with us.

  • Imported Fruit – Now this is a weird one. Depending on if you are traveling out of the country and where you are going, bringing in a fruit from another ecosystem may do a lot of harm to where you are going.
  • Snacks that need to be prepped – If you need to cut, slice, dice, or otherwise prep something, then you probably don’t need to take it. Stick to pre-packaged foods or do the prep work at home.
  • Carbonated Drinks – They will get shaken up while you are driving. In higher altitudes or with extreme altitude changes they may burst, and they’ll also make you urinate more, so you have to stop more.
  • Nice Clothing and Jewelry – If you are going somewhere where you might actually need this type of attire, it would be better just to keep it in your luggage.
  • Bulky Luggage – Pack as small and light as possible. The more luggage you have, the more you have to deal with at every stop. Try to pack in different types of containers and to pack things that can be mixed and matched and worn multiple times.

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