American Road Trip: Part 2
Hello, fellow travelers. After a long pit stop, we’re back on the road with part two of our American road trip series. In our previous installment, we talked about some of the most scenic roadtrips in the country, with a bonus international drive. Today, we’re talking about the road trip essentials you shouldn’t leave without. So fill up your gas tank, grab your caffeinated beverage of choice, and let’s hit the road.
We’ll start with the mundane but critically important. Whether you’re setting out along the vast Alaska-Canadian Highway or just popping out to Trader Joe’s for a bag of chips, it’s always a good idea to keep basic emergency supplies in your car. The basics should include jumper cables, a spare tire, signal flares, and a flashlight. I also keep extra non-perishable snacks, work gloves (for tire changing), toothbrush and basic hygiene products, emergency blankets (the tin foil kind), and a first aid kit.
Another old-school item, the road atlas is a relic from days gone by, but it’s still crucial. Take it from a person who still buys paper planners. There are some things that technology can’t replace. In the event you lose service, your phone battery dies, or a low-flying UFO disables your electronics, an atlas can be incredibly handy. Service can be spotty in many national parks (or the entire Midwest; it’s like certain carriers have never even heard of Nebraska) and getting lost would certainly put a damper on your road trip. Alternatively, download area maps on the Google Maps app so you can find directions offline.
Other than sketchy axe-wielding hitchhikers, nothing can kill a road trip faster than old Glee soundtracks. Or, if you’re a parent, listening to “The Wheels on the Bus” 47 times in a row. Arguably the most important aspect of any road trip is the entertainment. My husband and I enjoy listening to audiobooks on long drives, specifically Agatha Christie novels or other murder mysteries. Podcasts are equally entertaining and educational. I’d also suggest a variety of genres of music. Many streaming services also allow you to download shows or movies to your device. Whatever your choice of entertainment, be sure to download everything. And don’t forget the headphones.
Getting into road trip entertainment for toddlers and children is a little daunting. We recently got an LCD writing tablet for our almost three-year-old. I also pack stickers and a little notebook, colored pencils, books, and little toys. I’m still working on this. Drop your favorites in the comments below!
Without food, a road trip is just a commute. All my childhood road trip memories involve eating massive amounts of Red Vines. (A few memories involve throwing up those same Red Vines later.) These days, I love a variety of options. Some of my favorites are G2G protein bars, cut or sliced fruit, crackers, jerky, carrots, trail mix, or anything from the snack section of Trader Joe’s (this post is not sponsored by Trader Joe’s, but we’re totally open to that). Keep in mind that if you have children in car seats, it’s not super safe for them to be snacking while seated. However, I’m also a parent and know this is sometimes unavoidable. In these cases, I like to provide snacks that aren’t likely to become choking hazards, like applesauce pouches or yogurt tubes. These can get messy, so use your best judgment.
This is the obvious, but often overlooked, category. For your sake and the sanity of all the passengers, do not forget charging cords. For passengers in the back seat, extra-long cords are a must. Most cars have USB ports these days, but if not, pack a portable charger or at least an adapter that fits into your cigarette lighter port. This handy gadget gives you all the charging options for everyone in the car. Dash phone mounts are also a nice option, but can quickly turn your phone into a projectile should you have to break quickly or end up in a collision. Use them with caution.
In no particular order, these are some of our other favorites for roadtrips and general travel:
- Flexible phone tripod for capturing your family photo in front of the World’s Largest Block of Cheese or whatever.
- Spray hand sanitizer. A lot of hand sanitize.
- Alcohol wipes for grubby hands and sticky steering wheels.
- A car garbage can. Outer order, inner calm. Even in the car.
- This sauce holder. The inventor deserves a Nobel Prize.
- Soft water bottles. I’m a Stanley fan, but they can literally kill someone in a collision.
- A car organizer.
Whatever your destination this summer, be sure to stop at Flat Creek Inn and say hello!
Breanne Kunz was raised in the Pacific Northwest but grew up spending summers in Idaho and frequently visiting Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. She is a wife and mom who likes to write. She doesn’t particularly enjoy road trips, but flying is expensive.