When I first started taking shorter, day trips I didn’t put a lot of thought into packing essentials for the car. It was never as big of a problem for longer trips, but especially when you’re planning to be back the same day, it’s easy to overlook some helpful essentials.
Typically it wouldn’t be until I’m in the middle of rural Iowa with no cellphone service and zero snacks that I’d realize I’d made a horrible mistake. So to keep you from being the hangry, lost roadside traveller I’ve been a few too many times, I’ve compiled a list of helpful essentials to toss into your back seat every time you hit the road, whether you’re traveling 500 miles or just 50.
Table of Contents
The correct atlas or map for your trip
Sure, your friends might tease you when they find your giant, bound atlas tucked into the seat pocket of your driver’s seat. But when you find yourself in rural Iowa without a cellphone signal and no idea how to get back to the main highway, you won’t mind. Plus, I’ve found a paper map can offer some much needed perspective over my phone’s digital navigation.
A water bottle
This one seems like a no-brainer but as someone who’s constantly trying to do a better job staying hydrated it’s become an important one. Plus you don’t want to get stuck paying for an over-priced bottle when you stop for gas.
Quick & easy snacks
Similarly to my water bottle dilemma, there have been too many times that I neglected to toss a granola bar or apple in my bag and found myself dangerously hungry while on the road. Maybe the quaint roadside cafe you planned to stop at was long out of business (been there) or you missed the last exit for 50 miles (been there, too). Regardless of the reason, you don’t want to be caught unprepared.
Recently I started getting weekly snack boxes from Graze and I absolutely love them for when I’m on-the-go. So far my favorite snacks have been the Summer Berry Flapjacks and the Banana Carmel Dippers. Plus each snack is one serving and fits perfectly in even the smallest of purses. Sound interesting? Use the code LJX7GTCJB to get your first box for free!
Your camera & extra batteries
There’s nothing worse than jubilantly escaping the car at your final destination to find that your camera is out of juice. Keep a few extra batteries or a recently charged battery pack in your bag at all times to cull any disappoint and avoid being gauged by gift shop battery prices.
A phone charger & adapter
There’s nothing worse than your phone unexpectedly going caput mid-adventure so make sure you always have a charger tucked away. Personally, I’m a big fan of this cup holder car adapter for longer trips.
I almost never carry cash—except for when I’m heading out on a road trip. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that small towns and quirky attractions for infamous for not accepting plastic. And you don’t want that to be the reason you miss out on a fun activity or the best tenderloin of your life.
A jacket or sweater
Even in the middle of summer, you never know how the weather might change mid-trip. In the end, the worst that can happen is you don’t end up needing your extra layers.
When the sun starts to set in your rearview mirror, you don’t want to be blinded on the way home. Never embark on an adventure with your trusty pair of shades.
A notebook & pen
Call me old fashioned, but when it comes to taking notes or keeping track of my must-see stops, I’m a pen and paper kind of gal. Sure, I use apps like Roadtrippers to help plan my trip, but if I see something I want to remember, I’d much rather be prepared to scribble it down in a pocket-sized notebook.