Packing for a road trip

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Summer is almost here and that means road trip time!
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Written on the road by our traveling writer

You'll have more fun on the road when you're prepared.

Summer is almost here and that means road trip time! Whether you're traveling with kids on a family excursion or going solo cross-country, you want to be ready for anything. Also, be sure to read up on some of our other trip packing tips to make certain you leave nothing behind.

Before you grab your keys and back out of the driveway, take a few minutes to get prepared. Here are some ideas for you to consider.

Plan Ahead

If you're a list-maker like me, you already know the benefits of jotting down ideas as they come to you instead of relying on your memory or last-minute inspiration.

Especially if you're traveling with others, you want to apply a few simple strategies to reduce your stress as you load up the car so that everyone shares a similar, positive attitude as you embark on your journey.

The best way to make a list that will work for the whole group is to have everyone (including children!) write down what is important for them to bring. Unless you've made an impromptu decision to travel, allow everyone at least three days to create their list. Feel free to list the categories below as a guideline for everyone to follow.

Then a couple of days before leaving, call a group meeting. If necessary, this can be done over the phone or via email. Use this opportunity to brainstorm for additional items as well as to delete duplicate items or those that are not necessary. For example, you don't want each child brings 3 board games, 6 Barbies and a dozen stuffed animals along for the car ride. In this case, encourage cooperation and sharing. Consider items you will need both while traveling and once you have reached your destination. Are there any items that would be easier to purchase once you have reached your destination? This will reduce car clutter while traveling.


One of the most important items you can pack is a pair of comfortable shoes. Make sure you've broken them in before your trip to avoid blisters and foot pain. Bring comfortable clothing you can wear in layers.

We are currently on a road trip and have traveled from South Florida to the Florida panhandle, through Alabama, Georgia, and now South Carolina and we've experienced a considerable temperature variance. As night creeps in, we've been getting chilly and were glad we threw a couple of button-down denim shirts into the backseat to layer over our t-shirts once the sun dips down. Don't over do it! Shirts such as these can be worn several times, and there are always laundry facilities so don't over-pack.

Car Comforts

Cuddle: Depending on who you will be traveling with, you may find car temperature to be an issue. For that reason, pack a lightweight blanket which folds away easily. A great investment for traveling is a bean bag neck rest or travel pillow. For everyone other than the driver, these travel-friendly items are a must. I first used one on an overnight flight to Europe and found that it made sleeping possible for me. These pillows alleviate neck strain and provide support for travelers who want to read, complete a crossword puzzle, or take a nap. Children will love the bean bags as they come in fun shapes and sizes and are made out of a soft spandex or fuzzy material that invites snuggling.

Clean-up: I wouldn't even go the grocery store without a container of antibacterial wipes. They're wonderful to keep handy at all times. I've used them to clean up unexpected spills as well as sanitize my hands after filling my gas tank. For meals on the go, pack some paper towels. I keep a roll in my trunk for the occasional mishap.

Snack Time: Be sure to pack some healthy snacks so you're not tempted to pull over at every rest stop to grab a bag of chips. Fresh and dried fruit, crackers and nuts, and a spread such as cream cheese, hummus, or peanut butter can provide great mini-meals. Pre-cut veggies, such as carrot and celery sticks, can be easily stored in single-serve Ziploc baggies and taste delicious dipped in Ranch dressing. A plug-in cooler is a great way to keep your drinks ice cold for the duration of your journey. Generally compact, they store nicely behind the passenger seat.


Your list will help dictate what is vital and what is a luxury. Since many of today's electronic devices are small, they are generally worth bringing for the sake of convenience. And of course, some are absolutely necessary! Here are some important items to add to your list:
  • Cell phone chargers (car and wall styles)
  • IPOD charger
  • Laptop and Laptop converter
  • GPS devices
  • Travel alarm clock
  • Electronic games: these can often replace bulky board games and keep children occupied for hours!

To ensure you are ready for your destination, bring seasonal items. If, for instance, your destination is a beach resort, be sure to pack sunscreen, comfortable sunglasses, water shoes, and bathing suits. If you're going on a camping excursion, bug spray, hiking gear, and marshmallows for the campfire may be in order.

Imagine yourself relaxing and bring items that will encourage you to wind down and enjoy some quiet time as well as the company of loved ones. Of course, no matter what your destination, a small first-aid kit is a great supply to always keep in the trunk of your vehicle.

Assurance and Support

Odds are nothing will go wrong. But just in case, AAA, Good Sam's Club, or some other sort of roadside assistance plan is always beneficial. For a small annual fee, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that if your car or RV breaks down, help is just a phone call away. Depending on where you are located, you could have your flat tire replaced and be back on the road in as little as one hour - and you won't even need to get your hands dirty!!

Once you are finished packing for your road trip and ready to go, spend a few minutes double-checking your route and checking both weather and road conditions. If at all possible, plan ahead to avoid extended road construction areas so your trip is not delayed.

Above all, don't let making lists or packing for a road trip, take away from the thrill of travel. Most things you might forget are readily available at stores along the way.

Happy trails!

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