A road trip is like a rite of passage and something everyone has probably done at least once in their life. Planning one can be an adventure in itself before you even hit the road. Many elements go into planning one, and there are some road trip essentials everyone should consider before planning their trip.
A few days ago, I went on an unexpected road trip with my brother. While ours was more of a fool’s errand and not a planned getaway, it made me think of the many road trips I have taken in the past. Today, it seems that planning a road trip has become second nature. And it’s so much fun.
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Road trips and memories of childhood
I think every person has gone on a road trip as a kid. Long drives with one’s parents might not always seem like fun, but they are part of our childhood. It could have been a trip to visit relatives. Maybe a school trip or something fun to do with your friends. Some might have been longer than the others, but we have all done them.
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We used to go on frequent day trips from Toronto when I was younger. It was a great way to see new places and more affordable than flying somewhere. We have travelled quite a bit, even if it didn’t seem that fun at the time. I think today’s road tripping is a bit more fun than it used to be. There was nothing to watch in the car in those days day, and I always had to argue with my dad over the radio. My parents weren’t big on road trip essentials. I think we all have stories of the best and worst road trips with our parents.
How the road trip was born
I think that the best road trips are the unexpected ones. There is something fun about just getting in the car and driving away. When the sun is shining and the roads are clear, that little voice whispers in your head, “Let’s go somewhere!“
This wasn’t always the case. People didn’t go on road trips for pleasure in the past. They didn’t travel for fun. With the creation of cars came the wish to go elsewhere. To get away from the hustle and bustle. Initially, these outings were mainly reserved for the rich, as not many could afford cars. But as they became more affordable, our fascination with road trips grew.
Road trips have even invaded Hollywood. With so many movies made about them, who wouldn’t want to go on one? They always make road trips seem fun and adventurous. After all, it’s an excellent way to see the world. Whether spontaneous or not, even the movies show that everyone needs some road trip essentials list to plan.
5 Road trip essentials
Some people are fanatical about road trips. They plan them for months. They seek out places so that they can go on a road trip. That’s what’s great about this mode of travel, and you can make it what you want. For me, a few road trip essentials always come into play when planning and adventure.
Road trip essentials #1: Companionship
The most important of any road trip essentials is companionship. Being in a car with someone for hours can be hell, or it can be fun. So unless you are into solo travel, finding the right companion is the number one priority. I’ve been on many road trips with Alex, my brother, friends and even coworkers. Luckily, I’ve not had any bad ones, and I hope it stays that way.
As a kid, the trips I took were not as vivid in my memory, so I assume that they were all good. Either that or my mind has blocked them. Ha! Many of us had thought our road trips were boring when we were young, but we look back at them with fondness. Nostalgia is a big part of how we experience the world.
Road trip essentials #2: Destination
They often say that it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters most. While that might be true, you do need a destination. Usually, it’s what provides us with the reason for going in the first place. While seemingly impulsive road trips might seem like they don’t belong on a list of road trip essentials, they still need a destination.
You can plan on travelling to a particular spot, town or attraction, even if it’s just down the road. That is still a destination. You will need an endpoint at some point, and that could be “an hour” from where you’re starting or a day. You can make a road trip out of almost anything.
Many places in the world can inspire epic road trips. I want to drive around Ireland, from one castle to another. Or go on a safari – to me, that counts as a road trip. Perhaps even drive around salt flats in Bolivia or somewhere in Australia. There are so many great spots that can be discovered in a car, whether where you live or in a different country altogether.
Road trip essentials #3: Duration
Another essential factor on the list of road trip essentials is the duration of the trip. The best road trips can last a few hours, days, and even weeks, depending on your style and comfort. However, once you get into being on the road for months, it’s no longer a road trip. It’s called living on the road. At least that’s my opinion. To me, that would be too much.
Deciding on how long your road trip will take will impact the other items on our list of road trip essentials. There are many factors that you need to consider if your trip is longer than a day. At some point, you’ll need to refuel, rest and eat. You are also going to need bio breaks. If you are away overnight, you need to factor in lodgings and where those stops will be during your journey.
The longest road trip I’ve done was a seven-day drive around Iceland. It wasn’t continuous driving, and we did stop every night in a new place. I’ve also done road trips that lasted more than a day and those that lasted a few hours. I’m not sure that I have a preference for an ideal length of a road trip. It depends on where I’m going and with whom.
Road trip essentials #4: Entertainment
While talking to your companion(s) is a big part of the trip, you need other forms of entertainment to get through. I love to sing in the car, so the music selection is always a big part of the trip. You can’t always count on the radio, so having your music can save your life. Or at least make the drive less monotonous.
Some people are into games, books on tape, or even watching movies if the car has an entertainment system. It’s important to remember that watching movies can be fun for the passengers, and it’s not the same for the person driving. Whatever entertainment you decide on, make sure it’s not a distraction to the driver. Driving can be tedious and even more so when everyone else is doing something together, and the driver is left staring at the road.
I’m not into watching anything in the car as I think it’s not fair to the driver. I’ve tried reading, but that was also a bust. Most of the time, the motion of the car makes reading challenging. I have fallen asleep many times, which sometimes makes me a lousy companion.
Road trip essentials #5: Food & drinks
Snacking is high on the list of road trip essentials. I’m the type of person who will want to eat or drink something after being on the road for a bit. Candy? Chips? Healthy snacks? Sometimes they all come along with water and tea. After too much libation, frequent bathrooms become a thing, but hey, it is what it is.
When selecting food and drink options for a road trip, it’s essential to choose items that are easy to access, don’t make a mess and can be put away if not finished. Grabbing a sandwich or a piece of fruit is better than a salad or meals that require eating with utensils unless you plan on stopping somewhere that has space for you to eat. A pop can might seem like a good idea, but you can’t close the can if you decide not to finish it.
You should also plan for a container to store trash for when you can dispose of it responsibly. Also, avoid drinking too much, or you’ll constantly be looking for toilets, and that’s not fun.
Memorable road trips
I don’t think I can write about road trips without reminiscing about some of the best ones that I have been on. They were in different parts of the world, and all involved similar road trip essentials.
The first time I went to Iceland, it was a pure road trip vacation. We drove around the island for seven days. We stopped at a different place every night, which was needed after spending most of the day in a car. I loved driving in Iceland as every day was a different landscape. Some days we drove through lush and rainy mountains. On other days we drove through something that looked like the moon. There were waterfalls, rainbows and sheep everywhere—pure happiness.
Canadian east coast road trip
For a while, my brother lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and we visited there several times. I have made the 16+ hours road trip driving from Toronto and back. We usually made an overnight stop, which made the trip more feasible. It also allowed us to see other parts of Canada. It makes you realize just how big this country is.
New York state of mind
When we decided to go to New York City, we opted to take a road trip and make an adventure out of it. This trip was about an eight-hour journey. It was September, which meant that the leaves were changing colours and fall was in full effect. Driving from Toronto to New York City was quite spectacular. Almost as much as NYC itself.
Italian road trip
We have done many road trips in Italy. There was the Amalfi coast, the journey to Calabria and that time we were going to Rimini. After driving from Naples to Rome, we headed east across the country. It was quite a drive. Some parts of the road went through the mountains and cut off the radio. We didn’t end up making it to Rimini. Instead, we ended up in a place called Alba Adriatica. Quite impressive in itself.
Final thoughts on road trip essentials
Road trips are a great travel option. You can visit any place along the way, make as many stops as you want and take as much time as you need. For those short on funds, road-tripping provides a lower-cost alternative to getting away. It also provides offers an opportunity to visit foreign places at your own pace.
The best thing about road trips is that you can control almost everything about them. You’re not dependant on others to make stops or decide to keep driving. You can choose where you stay and for how long. Pulling over to check out the view doesn’t involve asking someone else’s permission. Everything from music, food, stops and how long you are driving is totally up to you. That is the best feeling in the world.