5 Essentials for Every Close-to-Home Road Trip

By Chasity Hobbs

There is nothing better than a road trip—the flexibility and freedom of spending some time on the road are unmatched. One of the best parts about a road trip is getting to pack whatever and however much we want. A vacation without expensive plane tickets, hefty baggage fees, or throwing out toiletries? Count us in!

Looking back on my first road trip, I cringe at all the things that went wrong because I wasn’t prepared. Luckily, I have lived to tell the tale and now I’m sharing those tips with you!

When it comes to road trips, it’s all about the journey (and a fun destination doesn’t hurt either). Whether you’re itching for a solo adventure, taking the entire family on a budget-friendly trip, or choosing to drive instead of fly, it’s important to plan ahead and pack what you need to ensure a safe and hassle-free drive. This guide contains the five essentials you need for every close-to-home road trip.

1. Safety Equipment

On the first solo road trip I ever took, I relied solely on my phone’s GPS to get around—that was until there was no longer service and I was in the middle of nowhere. Talk about a stressful situation.

Protection and safety are the number one priority when it comes to embarking on a road trip. Research your destination and your route prior to leaving so you know what to prepare in case of an emergency. In every scenario, bring a whistle, a light, road cones, and items that will keep you visible and attract attention if you’re stranded on the side of the road. Always let other people know where you’re going and when they can expect you to return. When at your destination, keep valuables out of sight and lock your car.

2. First Aid Kit

It’s extremely important to carry a first aid kit when heading out on the road. Even a basic first aid kit is better than none at all. Some small things to consider are band-aids, over-the-counter medications like Advil or Motrin, any extra prescription medications, antiseptic wipes, gloves, tape, and tweezers. Larger things include bandages, a space blanket, a cold pack, and scissors. Make sure you know how to use all of your supplies and keep up-to-date in basic first aid knowledge and skills.

Remember how I mentioned losing service and not knowing where I was going in tip number one? Yeah, well, I also broke down on that road trip. In the middle of a Utah winter. Thankfully, I had plenty of blankets to keep me warm until help arrived.

3. Useful Miscellaneous Items

Think of these as the “break glass in case of emergency” items. They can include anything like batteries, a portable charger, flashlight, headlamp, lighter, water filter or purification tablets, GPS, toilet paper, or a spare paper map. You might not need them, but it’s wise to bring them just in case. You never know what kind of situations you might get into when out on the road.

4. Food and Water

You and your travel buddies will inevitably get hungry and thirsty on your road trip, and the food you pack shouldn’t have to be the unhealthy snacks you’re likely to find in a rest stop. If you’re worried about overspending or eating greasy gas station food, then make sure you prepare your snacks and pack healthy choices like granola bars, fresh fruit and vegetables, and healthy sandwiches. As far as water is concerned, just remember to bring more than you think you’ll need.

5. Inspect your Vehicle

Always check your vehicle’s condition before leaving. (This tip could have come in handy on my first solo road trip.) Check your battery terminals for signs of corrosion, inspect the belts and hoses, make sure all the lights are working, inspect the brakes and tires, and top off your fluids. Also, make sure you have your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance, contact information for roadside assistance, and a roadside emergency kit that consists of oil, coolant, tire chains (if snowing), spare fuel canister, spare tire, and jumper cables. If you don’t feel comfortable checking your own vehicle, be sure to have it checked by a professional before leaving for your trip.

There’s no better sensation than the freedom and independence that road trips bring, but it’s best to be prepared for any situation so you can confidently, safely, and successfully navigate the open road. Go make your road trip a memorable success with these five essential tips.