Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (2024)

You are getting ready for an epic road trip with your family. The promise of adventure is heavy in the air. You’ll sing cheesy songs, check out roadside attractions, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds your car during every mile. Road trips have forever been a timeless escape into the freedom of the open road. Road trips are also an inexpensive way to travel with your family.

I haven’t always been excited about road trips with my kids. It’s tough to pack the car, navigate, and then deal with the incessant complaints from the backseat crew. But, road trips have also been one of my favorite ways to travel with my family. Every mile is an opportunity to be together. We feel closer to one another. We create shared memories and experiences. We have fun. I’ve found that the secret to enjoying a road trip with your family is all in the preparation. Knowing your road trip essentials makes all the difference!

Planning Your Route and Itinerary

Don’t start on any road trip without a solid plan in place. That’s an easy way to take a fun road trip to not-so-fun. Long before the car is packed, you should have a solid plan in place.

  • Sit down and create an itinerary of your trip. I know this might feel like killing the spontaneity of the trip, but also, whoever said you have to follow the plan 100%. I like having a loose itinerary so that we know where we are sleeping and some basic sites and things we’d like to see.
  • Map out travel times. This is a big one for our family. Our little kids cannot do huge stretches in the car during the day. At night, maybe. But during the day anything more than about six hours starts to wear on everyone. Try to plan in enough stops to fit your family’s needs.
  • Choose a few fun things to see along the way. I know some people prefer to drive straight to their destination. But for most of us, a few stops along the way make a road trip feel more fun. Go see the biggest ball of twine or eat at a “local famous” cafe.
  • Aim to have your itinerary completed before you start driving. This takes away the uncertainty and stress.

We have this atlas and it’s been a wonderful way to include our kids in our road tripping adventures. They love mapping out trips and seeing where where we are!

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National Geographic Road Atlas 2024: Adventure Edition [United States, Canada, Mexico]

  • Road Atlas – Adventure Edition
  • National Geographic Maps (Author)

$24.68 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (2)

Vehicle Maintenance and Safety Checks

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Anytime we know we are going to be taking a road trip, we get our vehicle checked. Consider:

  • Getting the oil changed. This is one of the most favorite errands I could run with my 5 year old son in tow. He LOVES getting the oil changed with me. What could be better than free snacks, a carwash, and CARS!
  • Check your tires. If you are getting your oil changed, they may also check your tires, but if not, take some time to have them looked at.
  • Consider getting roadside assistance. We recently invested in roadside assistance. I don’t know what we have been doing all of our driving lives. Roadside assistance is so worth it. For us, this service has already paid for itself. We had a late night flat tire after hitting debris on the highway on the way home from a trip to see family. It was so nice to call and have someone come and help us within a short amount of time.

Packing the Essentials: Survival Kit

Do you have a good “emergency kit” in your car? Tuck a comprehensive first-aid kit under the seat or in the trunk—somewhere within arm’s reach should scrapes or more serious injuries occur. Be prepared to signal for help in an emergency with brightly colored road flares; they’re more than just beacons of safety, they’re peace of mind. And in case of an unexpected fire, a fire extinguisher is non-negotiable, serving as your shield against potential flames. Remind yourself that these life-saving items aren’t scare tactics, but rather guardians against the unpredictable. Whether nestled snugly in the side compartment or resting in the trunk, ensure these essentials are always accessible—because on the road, every second counts.

These are a few of our family’s go-to car emergency items:

  • Blanket
  • Water bottles with clean water
  • Snacks (emergencies almost always come with a bit of waiting around…snacks help keep our kids busy if this happens)
  • Weather-related items. For example: if you live in (or will be travelling to) an area with a lot of snow and ice, include a small snow shovel, kitty litter, or tire changes)
  • Emergency kit


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$49.99 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (5)

  • Car jump starter. I can’t count the number of times we’ve used our car jump starter. These are inexpensive and save you from needing to flag down another car to help.


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Staying Fueled and Hydrated

Long stretches on the open road require snacks! Acknowledge the temptation to reach for sugar-laden snacks and caffeinated beverages, but gauge the rewards of choosing healthier alternatives.

Load your snack arsenal with treats that fuel. Things like:

  • trail mix
  • granola bars
  • fresh fruits
  • fresh veggies
  • jerky
  • string cheese

Mostly, opt for things that that don’t leave you lethargic or tired. You want to feel good all day long, not just quell the boredom with sweets. Other tips than help:

  • Get enough water: a refillable water bottle is a travel companion you won’t regret inviting along. Not only is water essential for staying alert and preventing fatigue, but it also wards off the unwanted side effects of travel dehydration such as headaches and irritability.
  • Preparedness tip: invest in a dependable cooler. It’s the unsung hero of lengthy expeditions, sustaining the chill on your water and keeping perishable snacks as fresh as the spirit of your adventure.


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Iknoe Large Cooler Bag Collapsible 24 Can Insulated Bags Leakproof Lunch Cooler Tote with…

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$15.99 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (9)

Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (10)

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$19.99 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (11)

Navigation and Tech Tools

Delve into the world of navigation with a savvy mix of old-school and high-tech. Dust off that classic map resting in the glove compartment as a revered backup to the digital age’s wizardry. But let’s face it, you’re likely to lean on the GPS device perched on the dashboard or the smartphone apps that have changed the game of car travel. Have both at your disposal; when signal bars dwindle, that paper map will be your trusty steed guiding you through uncharted territories.

Now, turn your attention to travel apps, your virtual co-pilots offering more than just directions. They’re a treasure trove, — pinpointing cozy inns, elusive gas pumps, and those hole-in-the-wall eateries only locals whisper about. With these apps, you’re not just journeying from point A to B; you’re stitching together the rich tapestry of an open-road adventure.

  • Travel Preparation: Plan routes with a blend of GPS and physical maps.
  • Backup Necessity: Keep maps handy for areas with poor signal.
  • App Magic: Unearth hidden gems and essentials along your route.

Entertainment on the Go

Imagine cruising with the windows down, your favorite tunes setting the stage for an epic adventure. Keep the vibe alive by crafting a music playlist that hits all the right notes for your crew. But don’t stop there; sprinkle in a medley of audiobooks that transform miles into chapters of escapades, mysteries, or rom-coms. Got kids in the backseat? Unleash car games that twist and turn with every mile – a surefire way to make laughter the heart of your journey. Remember, the best road trip soundtrack is one tailored to your travel party’s tastes, so curate with care. Before you rev the engine, download your entertainment arsenal. Trust us, when reception dwindles to nothing, you’ll thank your past self for that foresight.

Read also: Tips for family road trips

We don’t travel without audio books and plenty of movies for the kids. We’re a bit old school, so we still travel with a portable DVD player!


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$49.99 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (13)

Comfort and Convenience Items

  • Travel Pillows and Blankets: Guarantee yourself a cozy nest in the backseat with a plush travel pillow and blanket for those on-the-road naps.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Choose breathable, loose-fitting attire that won’t restrict movement during long hours behind the wheel.
  • Sun Protection: Don’t let the sun put a damper on your drive; arm yourself with sunglasses for the glare and sunscreen to shield your skin.
  • Toiletry Kits: Keep a small bag with essentials like toothpaste, deodorant, and soap handy for freshening up at rest stops.
  • Quick-Dry Towels: Opt for these space-saving towels for swift drying, whether after an impromptu dip in a lake or a shower at a campground.


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  • 【New Design Sweat-Resistant/ Washable Cover】Our memory foam pillow is covered with breathable and super soft magnetic therapy cloth, millions of tiny premium microbeads inside, a self-developed sweat-resistant fabric, provides the maximum comfort on your trip. The pillowcase is machine washable, so you will always get a fresh and clean pillow on your journey.

$19.99 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (15)

Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (16)

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$23.99 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (17)


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$5.68 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (19)


Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (20)

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$9.59 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (21)

Protecting Your Trip: Documents and Insurance

Before you revel in the call of the open road, pause to ensure every travel document is within arm’s reach. Your driver’s license, the vehicle’s current registration, and proof of car insurance should be at the top of your list. Picture the peace of mind you’ll have, knowing that if a friendly officer waves you down, you’re prepared with your paperwork pristine and ready. The magic of a road trip lies in the unexpected; thus, having the contact details for emergency services and roadside assistance close at hand is as crucial as your playlist is long.

Consider car insurance your silent guardian, an invisible cloak of financial protection against the whims of travel fate. It’s not merely a travel formality—it’s a travel necessity. Treat these vital documents with the care of a cartographer’s rarest map; tuck them somewhere secure yet accessible, perhaps in a designated pocket of your glove compartment or a travel wallet dedicated to your travel paperwork.

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$21.99 Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (23)


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Road trips can be the best of adventures. But, being prepared for whatever comes is essential. These road trip essentials will help you have the best trip of your life! Here’s to your smooth-sailing road trip adventure, safe travels!

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Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an experienced road trip enthusiast, I can confidently say that I have a deep knowledge and expertise in planning and enjoying epic adventures with my family. Road trips have always been a timeless escape into the freedom of the open road, offering a promise of adventure and unforgettable experiences.

One of the key aspects of a successful road trip is proper preparation. Before embarking on your journey, it is crucial to plan your route and itinerary. While some may argue that following a plan can kill the spontaneity of the trip, having a loose itinerary ensures that you have a general idea of where you are going, where you will be staying, and the main sites and attractions you'd like to see along the way. I highly recommend using tools like the National Geographic Road Atlas 2024: Adventure Edition to involve your kids in the planning process and make it more exciting for them.

Vehicle maintenance and safety checks are also essential before hitting the road. Get your oil changed and have your tires checked to ensure a smooth journey. Consider investing in roadside assistance, as it can be a lifesaver in unexpected situations. I personally found it to be worth every penny, especially when we had a late-night flat tire and someone came to our rescue promptly.

Packing the essentials for survival is another crucial aspect of a road trip. Make sure to have a comprehensive first-aid kit, as well as brightly colored road flares and a fire extinguisher for emergencies. Don't forget to pack blankets, water bottles, snacks, and weather-related items like a small snow shovel or tire chains, depending on the conditions you may encounter.

Navigation and tech tools play a significant role in making your road trip more enjoyable. While classic maps can be a nostalgic backup, rely on your GPS device or smartphone apps for accurate directions. These apps can also help you discover hidden gems and essential stops along your route, such as cozy inns and local eateries.

Entertainment on the go is essential to keep everyone engaged during the journey. Create a music playlist that suits everyone's taste and consider downloading audiobooks for a more immersive experience. Car games are also a great way to make the journey more enjoyable, especially if you have kids in the backseat. Don't forget to pack entertainment devices like a portable DVD player to keep the little ones entertained.

Comfort and convenience items should not be overlooked. Travel pillows and blankets ensure a cozy nap in the backseat, while comfortable clothing is essential for long hours behind the wheel. Remember to protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses and sunscreen, and keep a toiletry kit with essentials like toothpaste and deodorant for freshening up at rest stops.

Lastly, protecting your trip with proper documentation and insurance is crucial. Keep your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of car insurance easily accessible. Store these important documents in a secure yet accessible place, such as a designated pocket in your glove compartment or a travel wallet. Consider investing in a travel document organizer to keep everything organized and easily accessible.

In conclusion, road trips are an incredible way to bond with your family and create lasting memories. By following these road trip essentials and proper preparation, you can ensure a smooth-sailing adventure. Here's to safe travels and an unforgettable road trip experience!

Road Trip Essentials for any Adventure (2024)


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