Truth be told, I don’t care much for driving when I just have to get myself around town, but drop me in the driver’s seat for a road trip and I’m ready to buckle in for the long haul. I’ve been a sucker for long car rides ever since I was a kid, and, even now, knowing that I have hours to hunker down and bond with my trusty Ford Focus is undeniably comforting and exciting. The road to reach the destination is almost always as interesting and fun as the destination itself.
But I digress.
The point is, I like to road trip … but only if I have a few essential items with me. Regardless of where I go or how long I’ll be on the road, there are a handful of items that absolutely must be in my car. They are:
1. An up-to-date map. It’s not that I get lost. In fact, when I’m not driving, I always play navigator because I don’t get lost. But I am overly cautious when it comes to driving, and I’ll check and recheck a map a dozen times, even though I know I’m going in the right direction. A good map is especially important in the Southwest where the closest town (and therefore the closest place to turn around) is sometimes 50 miles away.
2. A full tank of gas. My dad always told me that people should eat when they can, sleep when they can and use the bathroom when they can because they never know when they’ll have the opportunity to do so again. I would also add that people on road trips would be wise to fill up their car’s gas tank when they can, especially when driving beyond city limits in the countryside or desert.
3. Something to listen to. I still don’t have an MP3 player to hook up in my car, but that’s no problem. My old school collection of CDs still does the job, though I have to make sure I keep them out of the heat. Road trips also give me a chance to catch up on my reading by listening to audio books.
4. Lots of water. I drink a ridiculous amount of water even when I don’t travel, but on a road trip, I might as well hook myself up to a running water fountain. Drinking water keeps my body hydrated and healthy when the stress of travel has the potential to wreak havoc on it. When I’m on a road trip, I drink water all the time, and I refill at every opportunity.
5. Snacks. I hate to nickel and dime my way through gas stations and their overpriced chips and candy. Instead, I try to stock up on non-perishable snacks before I leave home to save money and time. Throughout the years, I’ve also noticed that certain people lean toward particular snacks. My husband loves to chew on sunflower seeds when he drives while my dad goes through Cheetos like powdered cheese factories are closing their doors for good. As for me, I try to keep things healthy with trail mix and granola bars.
6. Sunglasses and sunscreen. It’s a bright world out there. Whether I’m crossing the desert or driving down a highway, I like to keep the sun out of my eyes, especially as it’s rising or setting. I also try to avoid the left-arm sunburn with a good slathering of sunscreen.
7. A camera. Even if I’m on a road I’ve driven a hundred times before, there’s bound to be something I want to capture on film if I do NOT have my camera with me. And to be quite honest, as I’ve gotten older and taken more road trips on my own, I’ve found that it’s those little things I didn’t notice before that pique my interest the most now. Sometimes it’s a weird rock or a fleeting sunset. Sometimes it’s a funky license plate or random earth art. Whatever it is, I’d rather have a camera in the car, just in case I want to take the moment with me.
Are you a road tripper? If so, what must-pack items do you take when you travel by car?