One of the most exciting ways to travel the world is by car.
Sure, flights are fast, convenient and perfect for aerial views, but nothing compares to the good vibes of an old-fashioned highway drive. No turbulence, no strangers sleeping on your shoulder, and no worrying about missing connections—just you, your closest friends or family, and the open road.
While the freedom of the open road is incredibly appealing, without a perfectly packed car, your road trip could easily go south (and we’re not just talking directions).
In order to set yourself up for road trip success, we’ve put together the ultimate road trip checklist to guide you through the vehicle must-haves you’ll need!
1. A good car
This is an obvious no-brainer, but it’s an important facet to consider before setting off. If your car has a history of being any level of unreliable, it is incredibly worthwhile to take it to a local mechanic or dealer to have it serviced and repaired. The last thing you’ll want is to be stranded in the middle of Colorado with a wonky wheel or stuttering muffler.
2. Emergency Car Kit
Say you’re traveling through Nevada and a foreboding dashboard light flashes on in your trusty Volkswagen Jetta. If you’re unable to make it to the nearest Volkswagen dealer in Las Vegas, you’ll need the necessary tools to rescue yourself from a potential disaster.
Having an emergency car kit that includes jumper cables, gloves, rope, and a jack will all prove helpful when you’re in the middle of nowhere and need a quick solution.
3. License, registration, and insurance
Before you leave your driveway, make sure you have your glove box stocked up with your license, registration, and insurance cards. In order to keep your road trip legal, each of these documents is a total must.
Bonus tip: If you’re able to obtain roadside assistance with your insurance company, it may be worth your while (and give you some peace of mind) to sign up! You’ll be able to worry less about panicky breakdowns when you know a single phone call could solve your car troubles.
4. Extra fluids
If you’re driving an older car that burns through oil quickly, it’s a smart idea to keep your trunk stocked up with the appropriate fluids. Driving through a dusty desert area? Keep windshield fluids handy to ensure you’re able to wipe your windshield clean day after day or week after week.
No matter what shade your skin tone is or how old you are, sun exposure is damaging to everyone. Protect yourself against harmful UV rays by slathering on sunscreen.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that being on the inside of a car will spare you from the sun’s bake. Coating your arms, face, and legs in sunscreen even in the car will best shield you from burning and the many nasty consequences that come from it.
6. The ability to change a tire
In the event that you’re not able to get ahold of roadside assistance in rural Canada, you’ll need to know how to fix a flat tire on your own.
The first step is making sure that you have a spare tire aboard. The second step is having the know-how to loosen the lugs, jack the car up, and get the job done. Be sure to have an instructional manual that takes you through the steps living in your glove box at all times.
7. Paper map
Our digital world has made us incredibly dependent on our smart devices to get us from point A to point B. These days, free wifi and data help everyone navigate through their holidays. But what happens when you lose internet connection?
Instead of leaving it up to chance when you lose 4G service, equip yourself with a good, old-fashioned paper map. No Google Maps, no problem — you’ll know exactly what road to take just by tracing the path with your fingertips!
8. Cash on hand
It’s easy to forget that not every stop on your map will accept a credit card. There are plenty of smaller towns and rural areas that don’t have the technology to process a card! It’s always best to keep a little extra cash on hand in case you find yourself desperately in need of some supplies.
Remember, road trips aren’t free. There are plenty of expenses you may not have considered initially. Keeping a fair amount of money tucked away is the safest way to ensure you aren’t searching for the nearest ATM in a blind panic.
9. Toilet Paper, Wet Wipes, and Sanitizer
Traveling down highways and old country roads don’t help with hygiene much. If you’re not careful, it won’t just be your car that is caked in dirt! If you have to make an emergency stop, or even pull over to take photos or eat food, cleaning up after yourself is a must.
Not only will it help freshen things up for you, but it will also help boost morale. No one wants to be trapped in a car with a handful of other grimy people. Accidents happen, but with the right type of cleaning supplies, you’ll never have to worry about it derailing your trip or putting a halt in your plans. Trash bags are also useful in this regard. A clean car is a happy car.
10. A Perfect Playlist
Road trips are long events, but good songs can help a trip seem shorter by half. Curating the right playlist for your car is an art, and can make or break a trip. The most important consideration is the people you are driving with.
You make love reggae but if the rest of the car is against it, maybe just leave it off the list. Stick to the hits that everyone enjoys. If it’s guaranteed to start a singalong, that’s a safe pick for your car ride. Depending on how long your planned trip is, you may want to create a couple of separate playlists to cycle through. The last thing your car needs is to hear the same songs on loop for 10 days.
Road tripping is everything it’s hyped up to be, and when you’ve prepared well, nothing stands between you and hours and hours of good times and better memories! Once you’ve prepped your car for days, weeks, or months of open road traveling, all that’s left is adding great company to bring it all together!