What To Bring To A Long Road Trip: The Ultimate Guide

Road trips are always fun. You can go on a road trip with your girlfriend, wife, or family. But sometimes we forget to bring some of the essential things, and instead of a beautiful and breathtaking road trip, we end up having a bad one. Here is what you should bring on a long road trip:

  • Good Music
  • Good Food
  • Comfortable Clothes
  • Navigation
  • Planned route
  • Car in good condition

What Should I Do Before A Long Road Trip?

Before you start your road trip, you have to make sure that your car is ready for it. The last thing you want is your car to break down in the middle of nowhere. Here is all you need to do in order to have a smooth and safe road trip:

  • Start by checking the fluids. Check the oil level, open the radiator and check the coolant, windscreen wash, and brake fluid levels. This is important because if your oil level is low, you won’t last long on the road and your car will break down very fast.
  • Check the tires. The tire pressure is printed in the owner’s manual and it is written on the side of the driver’s door. After you check the pressure, check the depth of the tires. If you are traveling in winter, make sure your tires are good to go.
  • Change the oil if its due soon. By this I mean, if you have 500 miles till oil change and your road trip is 1500 miles… you get the point. If your oil level is low, adding extra oil won’t work. The point of changing the oil is to add new and clean oil, free of sludge. Change the oil before you start your road trip.
  • Check your air filter. This filter brings clean air into the cabin. You must always have a clean air filter, especially if you are allergic.
  • Clean your car. Make sure you clean your windshield and windows to improve visibility while driving. Also, clean the interior as well. You don’t want to spend hours and hours in a dirty car.
  • Check the signalization. Make sure that all the lights and signals are working. You will need a help of another person. Make sure you turn on and off the headlights, fog lights, reverse lights, blinkers, etc. Always have a spare light bulb in your trunk.
  • Check your emergency equipment. By emergency equipment, I mean reflective triangle, first aid kit, jack, screwdrivers, flashlight, spare tire, and reflective jacket. Some of the stuff like a reflective triangle and reflective jacket is mandatory only in some countries. But its always good to have them.
  • Update your navigation. We depend a lot on our navigation. As you know, new roads are built every day. So, traveling with outdated navigation can be a problem. What happened to me one time, my navigation took me into a tunnel which was used by cars, but now it was only for bicycles. I didn’t see the sign because usually, my navigations tell me everything like the speed, signs and etc. I ended up with a ticket. The navigation was working fine, but the maps were 4 years old. Now I update the maps every year and I don’t have any issues. This is the navigation that I am using.
  • Bring a car charger for your phone. When you are on a road trip, you must have your phone turned on always. You never know when something will happen. I don’t know how much your battery lasts, but bringing a charger for cars is a must. You don’t need a high tech and expensive one, you can get one for around $10. The one that I use has two slots for two chargers.
  • Portable Fridge. Not only you can cool your drinks and refresh yourself, but also you can bring some food that requires to be stored in cool places. Having a fridge means you can bring milk, cheese, meat, and all the good stuff. Not all cars have refrigerators in them, but no worries. You can grab a portable one here.
  • Portable Folding Pet Cage. If you travel with pets, this is a must-have. Why? Well, at some point, your pet will get really bored and will start jumping around. Even if your pet doesn’t jump on you while you drive, just watching him can distract you. These portable folding pet cages are great for when traveling in a car, bus, train, and plane. You can grab your pet cage here. 
  • Pack wisely. Everyone is excited about the road trip. Everyone wants to bring all their stuff, and I totally understand that. But bringing everything and trying to store it in the car can only turn into chaos. That is why someone invented a car trunk organized and I thank him/her for it. Not only they are cheap, but they are easily transportable, have a great organization and I love them. For me, the most challenging part of packing is to save my electronics. I don’t want to break my laptop’s screen or my tablet. That’s where the trunk organizer comes in. It has multiple compartments where you can store all your stuff. Check out the prices here.

How Do You Plan A Good Road Trip?

Many people’s first choice of travel is planes. So it’s mine, but only for business trips, or when my destination is not reachable by land(traveling abroad). I like to hit the road whenever I get the chance. When I retire, I plan on buying an RV and spend some time on the road. But how do you plan a good road trip? First, make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip, then hit the computer and do some research. Here are some tips on how to plan a good road trip:

  1. Stay off the highway. Depending on where you live, and how much time you plan to spend on the road, google some attractions that you want to visit. After you decide where you are going, plan a route that has as fewer highways as possible and save the route on your navigation. Why? Because you are probably going to work every day via highway, and it can remind you of work. If that’s not the case, highways are boring anyways. Hit that back road, that dirt road. See some landscape, take some photos. Stop in the wilderness, let your dog out to run, make yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy. Man, I got fired-up just by writing. No matter which country you live in, and where you plan to visit, there must be some beautiful landscape to see. Find it, and enjoy it.
  2. Have a loose plan. Don’t try to rush and visit as many places as you can. Instead, go to one or two destinations and spend more time there. If you visit everything on one road trip, you will not have enough time to dedicate to the places that you visit, plus you won’t need to take another road trip. Now, where is the fun in doing that?
  3. Sleep in national parks. If you sleep in hotels or hostels, you won’t have the experience as you would if you sleep in a tent in some national park. Before you start your trip, you will have to google to find out if your car or RV is allowed in some of the national parks that you plan to visit. There are some national parks that allow vehicles up to a certain length.
  4. Plan your budget. This is important. You have to consider the prices of food, hotels, national parks and most important gas prices. Gas prices are different in different countries. Have a couple of hundreds of extra cash, just in case something unexpected happens.
  5. Pack smart. What I mean by this is, think ahead of the items that you will need the most. Pack items like foods, snacks, drink and essential clothes in the top area of your bag. This way, when it’s time to eat, drink or change clothes, all you have to do is open the bag and voila, the items are there, on top of the bag.
  6. Avoid drinking energy drinks. Energy drinks can do more harm than good when it comes to keeping you awake. Why? Well, after you drink an energy drink, you consume sugar and therefore you feel ‘awake’. But, what happens after 1 or 2 hours? What happens when that ‘effect’ wears off? You feel more tired than before, that’s what happens. If you feel tired, stop for a bit, take a break or even sleep. What I usually do is, I get out of the car and just walk and jump around. I know I look crazy, but it’s better than drinking an energy drink.

What Food To Pack For A Road Trip?

For every road trip that was longer than 3 hours, I brought food. Lots of it. However, there are some foods that you have to eat as soon as you cook. Here are some foods that you can bring on your road trip and eat them even the next day:

How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lif...
How Long Can You Drive With Bad Lifters?
  • Carrots, apples, zucchini, pumpkin seeds, roasted almonds, apple pie granola bars, banana bread muffins, fruit rolls, bacon jalapeno popcorn.
  • Greek yogurt, plain or with some nuts or fruit.
  • Hard-boiled eggs.
  • My favorite – peanut butter sandwiches.
  • Smoothies
  • Energy bars

What are the best snacks to take on a road trip?

What Should I Bring On A Road Trip With A Toddler?

  • Safety first. Having a car seat and installing it properly is essential. 3 out of 4 child car seats are not installed properly. Read the owner manual and install it properly.
  • Comfortable clothes. If you are starting your road trip at night, put your toddler in pajamas. Make sure that your kid is in comfortable clothes.
  • Bring a lot of snacks and drinks. Pack water, juice, pretzels, and everything that your baby likes. If you don’t have room to pack a lot of food, plan your route and stop at kid-friendly restaurants.
  • Entertainment. You should pack some sticker books, drawing boards, and toys. If your car has monitors, you can play them some of their favorite kids shows like Dora The Explorer.
  • Darken the windows. If you don’t have tinted windows, no worries. Place a blanket or a towel on the window where your baby is sitting. Putting your baby in direct sunlight for a long period of time is bad. Also, at night time, when your baby is asleep, the lights from the cars passing by will wake him up.

How Long Can A Newborn Be In A Car Seat?

Many parents haven’t heard of the 2-hour rule. This is an important rule that even the car seat manufacturers warn us. Basically what they are saying is that your baby can sit in the child car seat no longer than 2 hours in a 24 hour period. This is because the semi-upright position that your baby is in while sitting in the seat can cause some health issues. These are the most common ones:

  • Issues with the still-developing spine.
  • Lack of air-flow to the lungs. This happens when your baby is asleep with its head flopped forward.

Some experts say that the car seat should be meant only to transport the baby. If your baby falls asleep, you should take it off the seat and place it in a cot or crib. Do not place it directly on the regular car seats because they are not even. Many of the parents don’t know the 2-hour rule, so please make sure you spread the word. Also, don’t buy the cheapest car seat out there. This is the one that I bought for my kid and I am very satisfied. You can check it out here.

How Often Should You Stop On A Long Car Trip?

There is no definitive answer to this question. It depends on whether you are traveling during a day or night, how long is your road trip, are you traveling alone or with kids. The last road trip that I and my wife took was 2,000km or 1242, which was 600 miles in one way. When we started our road trip, I drove the 600 miles in 12 hours. We stopped 4 times, or every 3 hours to be exact. I felt energized and didn’t have the need to stop very often. Just a quick toilet break and off we go. But on the way back, I was so tired that I had to stop every 45-60 minutes. We started our trip at 21:00. It was dark, and my eyes got tired very quickly. Every break that we took, we went outside and we were jumping around, trying to pump some blood and get our blood pressure high. People would look at us strangely. I cannot tell you when to stop for a break, but I can tell you that whenever you feel tired, take a break. If you need to sleep, sleep. It’s better to arrive 2 hours later than never.

Can You Sleep In Your Car In A Walmart Parking Lot?

As night falls, you get more tired and tired. No matter how skilled driver you are, when you get tired, park your car and sleep. Please, do not risk your life. But you cannot stop anywhere. Avoid dark alleys and avoid stopping on the highway. Instead, search for the nearest Walmart. Walmart lets people spend the night on their parking lots. That’s why many people seek ‘refuge’ at Walmart parking lots explaining that they are the safest place where you can park your RV or car. They have good lighting and security 24/7. If there is no Walmart nearby, find some big supermarket and park there. Make sure you ask someone if it’s allowed.

Road Trip Games

Traveling for long hours can be boring sometimes, especially if you travel with kids. They cannot enjoy the view and the ride like grown-ups do, which is why it’s super important to keep them satisfying. One of the most effective ways to keep your kids from asking you every 10 seconds ”Are we there”, is to keep them busy with playing games. Here are some fun games that you can play with your kids while driving:

  1. The license plate game. I and my brother used to play this game all the time. You need a piece of paper and a pen. The point is to spot and write all 50 states as soon as you spot the license plate.
  2. Hangman. This is probably the most famous game. For this game, you also need paper and a pen. One person thinks of a book, movie, country, or anything. For each letter of the word that you think, you need to draw an underscore. The other person then starts telling you letters. For each correct letter, you write it on the underscore. If they get it wrong, you start drawing a little man hanging. The point is to guess the word before the first person draws the full little man.
  3. 20 Questions. This is a very simple game. One person thinks of something. It could be an object, a person, or thing. The other person starts asking questions like ”Is it in the car”, or ”Is he an actor”. The point is to guess the ‘thing’ with no more than 20 questions asked.
  4. The letter. This game doesn’t require any material. It’s played in a way where one person says a word like ”Astronaut”. The other person has to come up with a word starting with the last letter, in this case, ‘T’. It’s played until one person cannot think of a word that starts with the last letter.
  5. Wordplay. This is a game of words. It starts when one person says a word, and then the other person has to say your word and add another. Example: Person 1 says ‘John’, and then the second person says ”John went”, and then the first person ”John went outside”. It is played until one person cannot say the full sentence.

Road Trip Music

A road trip without music is unimaginable. I remember one time when the radio broke down on the car that I drive at work. Even though I work only 7 hours, from which I spend 2 hours in the car, I can say that my shift felt like 40 hours. That being said, if you don’t bring music on your road trip, you won’t have a good time. I would also suggest that your playlists consist of songs with lyrics. Singing while driving will keep you awake. Here are my 10 favorite songs, which I think that you will like also:

  1. Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
  2. Willie Nelson – On the Road Again
  3. Ser Ray Charles – Hit The Road Jack (the best)
  4. Miss Tracy Chapman- Fast Car (one of the best)
  5. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (one of the best)
  6. Led Zeppelin – Going To California(if you are going to California)
  7. Jackson Browne – Running on Empty
  8. Arcade Fire – No Cars Go
  9. Tom Petty – Runnin’ Down A Dream
  10. Stone Temple Pilots – Interstate Love Song

Road Trip With A Pet

This can be tricky for a couple of reasons. If you are traveling with a dog, and you are planning to visit national parks, you need to check and see if they allow dogs. Also, some national parks allow dogs, but only certain breeds. It can be challenging if you travel with a Doberman or a Pit Bull. Those two breeds are labeled as ‘violent’. I don’t agree with people labeling dogs, but it is what it is. Now that we got that out of the way, here are some tips that can make your road trip easy and comfy for your pet:

  1. Pet-friendly route. If you are going to travel with your pet for more than 2 hours, you need to think ahead. Pets need to go to the bathroom too. So, plan your route so when you stop in a rest area, make sure that they have a bathroom for the pets. Most of the rest areas have bathrooms and areas where pets can stretch their legs, or play.
  2. Learn pet calming techniques. You know your pets, and you know if they are going to enjoy a long ride or be nervous and anxious. So, before you plan your road trip, you can learn some pet calming techniques. There are a lot of tips and tricks on YouTube. Another alternative is to give your pet some stress relief supplements. A friend of mine trained his dog to enjoy car rides. He took him to pet shops, and not only to the vet. So, whenever they went on a ride, his dog thought that they are going to the pet shop.
  3. Make sure your pet is tired. If possible, make sure you play with your pet before starting the trip. If your pet is tired, it will behave well and sleep most of the trip. So, run around the house or the yard before getting in the car.
  4. Entertain your pet. Bring some toys that your pet loves. If you have a dog, bring him something to chew. Also, it’s a great idea to bring a Frisbee. That way, when you stop for a rest, both you and your dog will stretch. If you have a cat, tie a thread behind your seat and tie some toy to the end. This will keep your cat busy.
  5. Take frequent breaks. Just like you need to take breaks to stretch your legs and go to the bathroom, so does your pet. I would say that stopping every 2-3 hours is best.

Road Trip Clothes – What To Wear

If you are planning to travel in cool and trendy cloaths, just don’t. You are going to sit in the car all day, and nobody will see you. There is no need to wear good clothes. What you need is something comfortable. I love traveling in shorts, no matter what season it is. On my feet, I usually wear sandals, and socks(if its cold). I know that I look silly, but I don’t care. Here what to wear when you travel:

  1. Footwear. Like I said, I wear sandals. Maybe you are not a sandal guy. In that case, you can either wear crocks or some comfy shoes. Do not travel in boots, never. So, wear the most comfortable footwear that you own, and pack the fancy shoes in your bag.
  2. Clothes. I like to wear cotton shorts and a simple t-shirt without collard. This is as simple as it gets. My wife likes to travel in a dress. She doesn’t like yoga pants or jeans, because they are not comfy. So, get dressed in the comfiest and simple clothes that you have. After you get to your destination, you are going to change, so it doesn’t matter what you wear.
  3. Sunglasses. Sunglasses are very important, especially if you are driving. I have a separate sunglasses in green color which I wear only when I travel. The color green keeps my eyes relaxed. Invest in some glasses, don’t buy cheap ones.

That’s all folks. Remember, on your first road trip you will forget to bring some stuff, it is normal. As times goes by, and after many road trips, this will become a routine for you and you will be excellent. Try to have the time of your life and don’t stress. Cheers.

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Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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