Road Trip Essentials: Things to Pack for a Stress-Free Road Trip

We know you’re all wondering how the travel industry will pick up during these times of Covid-19? Or when you will be able to travel again and where?  Seeing the trend globally, people have started to take short hiking or camping trips to wherever they can get by car or campervan. Campervans provide a good opportunity to stay on the road for long and come in contact with the least amount of people. It is a great option in campervan friendly countries that have the required infrastructure. Unfortunately, our home country, India, isn’t one of them.

In the Indian context and for those who don’t like the idea of campervans, a road trip by car is the best option for getting out and about when the pandemic situation gets better. Why not go see how nature has revived while all of us have been quarantined in our homes? Even if you don’t really want to spend time outside and hiking/camping is not your thing, then a nice long and preferably scenic drive would be best for you. Since road trips are our only way to satisfy our travel bug in the near future, we decided to write this article on road trip essentials for you to be ready with when you actually hit the road. Beaches and hills are calling! 

List of Road Trip Essentials

Car and Road Trip Essentials

Documents

Carry all your car documents like insurance, registration (RC), driving license, pollution check and car manual. Who knows when these may be handy. We have nearly always been stopped by authorities when driving inter-state and have never had an issue as our documents have always been present and updated.

If you’re renting a car, then make sure you have a copy of the invoice/agreement with the car rental company in addition to the documents mentioned above.

Audit of Self-Owned Car

Get the tire pressure in your car checked and filled to the desired level. Even the SPARE TIRE! A lot of people miss getting their spare tire checked which defeats the whole purpose of having a spare. Also, ensure that you have a full tank of petrol/diesel and soap water in your wiper tank. Check for alerts highlighted on your console for engine oil, brake oil, temperature, battery etc. and get these resolved before you set out for your trip.

Audit of Rented Car

If you’re renting a car, ensure that you take a video of the exterior of the car (interior as well if you want to be extra cautious). On returning the car, this video serves as the basis to determine if any visible damage to the car was done by you or prior customers. If the rent of your car is calculated based on distance driven, take a picture of the odometer before you start and after you end the trip for distance readings. For precautions against Coronavirus, read up on the car rental company’s website or ask them about the measures they are taking to ensure the car is sanitized and safe. Only if you are satisfied you should hire the car. As an additional precaution, you can use a surface disinfectant (like the one linked below) to wipe down/spray the areas you would touch frequently.

Road Emergency kit

You should not go for a long drive without an emergency kit. If your car breaks down it is better to be prepared than be stranded in the middle of nowhere. Important items include- jumper cables (should be long enough), a strong tow rope, a tire pressure gauge, a safety hammer, a seat belt cutter, a reflective warning triangle, a safety vest, a flashlight, an adhesive tape, a raincoat, screwdriver/tools, gloves, and an emergency blanket. Also, ensure your car has tire changing equipment.

Road Emergency Kits are a huge thing abroad but for some reason, I have not come across a decent kit made in India. Some good emergency kits are delivered to India but are a little expensive. See the topmost one linked below if you’re interested in a complete kit else opt for the individual tools that you think are must-haves for your car.

 

It goes without saying that you know how to use the equipment. If you’re my clueless twin, see these helpful videos to learn.

  1. How to Use Jumper Cables
  2. How to Use a Tow Cable
  3. How to Change a Tire

First Aid Kit

If you have a first aid kit in your car, ensure all required items are present and NOT EXPIRED. I say this because all of us think that we already have a first aid kit in the car. However, this kit has usually been in the car since the time of your car’s purchase and we seldom check for expiry. 

If you don’t have a first aid kit at all, get one. Check and buy basics like gauze, cotton, antiseptics wipe or Savlon/Dettol, band-aid, adhesive tape, scissors.

FASTag (India Specific)

I hope you have a FASTag on your windshield by now since it was made mandatory by the government from Jan 15, 2020. If you don’t, get it whether you’re planning a road trip or not. If you do, ensure it has enough balance before you set out for your trip for two reasons.  

First, to avoid queues. We drove from Pune to Hyderabad in January and witnessed cars backed up as far as the eye could see. The queues were huge because only one lane accepts cash at nearly all tolls now. We thanked our stars to be able to zoom through the tolls pretty effortlessly. 

Second and most important for the current situation, to reduce contact with other humans.

Car Phone Stand

If your car doesn’t have a screen that displays maps, get one of these to display maps on your phone and have your hands free to drive. I use a phone stand despite having the screen as it prevents me from turning my head all the way to the centre of my dashboard thereby it enables me to pay better attention to the road.

Maps

Needless to say, you should have a maps app installed on your phone. We have always used Google Maps. If you suspect patchy internet, download maps for the route you intend to take. Downloaded maps have saved us multiple times on South Goa roads in India and on our 18-day road trip in New Zealand.

For Your Comfort

Pillows and Cushions

From neck support pillows to fully inflatable beds, the variety of pillows has me baffled. These can help you stay comfortable in the car and take those little naps without putting stress on your neck.

Cap / Hat

Caps and hats help protect your face and hair from the damaging rays of the sun. A great way to mind the sun and stay fashionable at the same time.

Sunglasses

Sun glare can be extremely dangerous, especially to drivers. Always keep those shades to protect your eyes!

Scarf

A super multipurpose garment you should always have for any and every kind of trip. It can be used as a blanket/shawl when you feel cold, to cover yourself when the sun is too hot, folded up to be used as a cushion, like a window screen to block out the sun, and much more.

Jacket

Always be ready for a change in weather, even if you set out for a drive on a sunny day.

Personal Care Items

Sunscreen

Soak up the summer sun, but with a sun protection factor of at least 30. Yes, this is important even if you are not prone to sunburns, lest you want your skin ageing faster than it should. My favourite sunscreens are linked below.

The first one, Nivea, is a nice light-weight, water-resistant body sunscreen spray. I tried this one kept in a hostel common room in Bangkok for everyone’s use and instantly fell in love. The second one, Plum, is an amazing sunscreen for those with oily skin. The third one, La Shield, is a physical sunscreen perfect for those with sensitive skin. Despite being a physical sunscreen, it does not leave a ghostly white cast on the face. It is THE only sunscreen that suits my mother.

Lip Balm

Same for your lips, you need SPF and hydration. Even if you think you don’t! Modi thought he didn’t require one and well, now he doesn’t deny the need of it.

The first two are lip balms with SPF- 30 and 15 respectively. Burt’s Bees, however, is my favourite all-time lip balm by far. The Pink Grapefruit flavour is divine.

Hand Sanitizer and Paper Soap

We have always carried hand sanitizer and paper soap, but the importance of these have increased exponentially. These are much needed for not only trips to the toilet but also to keep yourself sanitized and hygienic at all times.

We use cute paper soaps like this one that we picked up from the Hongkong Airport. 

Anti Pollution Mask

 I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one! Do I?

Wet Wipes

Wet wipes are helpful to not only wipe off sweat and stay fresh but also when you get sticky food on yourself. Your fingers will thank you for getting all that ice-cream, chocolate and Cheetos residue off!

Toilet Roll and/or Tissues

We all know how handy this one is in multiple situations. 

Insect Repellent

It’s so annoying when these tiny creatures get in the way of you driving or just sitting and enjoying the trip. Use this to keep those pesky bugs and flies away.

Hairbrush

Do you never roll down your window because your hair becomes a tangled mess? Just tie a scarf and/or carry a nice detangling brush to keep your mane tamed while you enjoy the wind in your hair.

Tangle Teezers are de-tangling experts. Seriously!

Personal Hygiene

These personal hygiene products solve a huge problem all travellers face- using public toilets without contracting germs! No more UTI!

Toiletry kit

If you’re travelling overnight or for a longer period, you’ll need all the basics like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, paste, brush, facewash etc. 

Food and related items

Snacks

Isn’t munching on your favourite snacks one of the best things about a long road trip? Keep chips, chocolates, biscuits, sandwiches etc. And maybe some healthier items like flavoured yoghurt and fruits.

Chewing Gum and Mints

Mints and gums help stay alert while driving, so why not have these on you at all times?

Portable Cutlery

It is always better to have your own cutlery on you just in case you want to have that yoghurt I mentioned or the likes. Plus, it helps stay away from one-use plastics. Mother Earth says thank you!

Thermos and/or Travel Mug

Again, an eco-friendly option. Plus, it’ll keep your coffee (or tea) hot for a long time. Carry your hot or cold beverages from home and enjoy them at the right temperature while on the road. This is a great option if caffeine is your life and if know you won’t find anything to your liking on your route. A must if you’re a coffee lover based in India!

The first two are thermos type mugs to keep drinks hot or cold. The last two are mugs that can be made small and compact when not in use. These compact cups are the perfect way to avoid using disposables and maybe even save a few bucks in countries like New Zealand where you get a discount on bringing your own cup.

Filled Water Bottles

Let’s avoid those single-use plastic bottles as much we can. Carry water from home in your own bottles, and refill wherever you think you can get filtered water.

Extra Tote/Backpack

For shopping for snacks and other items. I love packable ones. They are light and usually water-resistant.

Stay Connected and Entertained

Make and Download Playlists

The best part of a road trip is music! Online music apps have made our lives so convenient at just a nominal cost. Keep your music playlists downloaded in case of bad internet.

Aux Wire

The one is for older cars which don’t have Bluetooth. For how long will you listen to the radio, use CDs and USBs. Connect the aux to your phone and listen away!

Games

Keep yourselves entertained with games like Spot That, Sing-a-Song containing the last word or the previous song, Related word, etc. Read this article for some interest games. Also, you can make the most of sitting in the back seat for long hours in traffic, or at your destination, by playing card games like Uno, Playing Cards, Dobble and Monopoly Deal. These are easy to carry and super fun!

Earphones or Headphones

For if you need personal space, have a music choice that doesn’t match your travel partners’ or you want to listen to music when others don’t. You always need a set!

Kindle

Best for any kind of trip. Read whatever you wish, whenever you wish. But hey if you have motion sickness, don’t read in the car.

I have motion sickness so I never read in the car. But I carry a kindle wherever I travel because you never know when you might need to pass some time or find an amazing reading spot you want to surely make use of. I have been using mine happily for seven years now.

Download Shows, Movies and Videos

Keep your favourite shows/movies/videos downloaded so you don’t have to rely on sketchy internet on the road.

Notebook and Pen

For penning down your thoughts, sketching the scenery, etc.

Car Charger or/and Portable Charger

Charge your gadgets conveniently with car chargers. We always carry one with two USB outlets when going on road trips. You can even get one that charges bigger items like laptops. If you don’t want to spend on a car charger as your car has enough USB ports for charging, you can make do with a portable charger for when you’re out and about.

Charging Cables for all Devices

Carry your USB chargers for charging your phone and other gadgets on the go. Stay connected always!

Miscellaneous

Garbage Bag or Car Bin

Garbage Bag/ Car Bin- So that you don’t litter the car or your surroundings outside the car. Please never throw anything out of the car. It is unacceptable.

Umbrella or Rain Jacket

You don’t want to be soaking wet and uncomfortable on your holiday. Have an umbrella or rain jacket for when the weather isn’t in your favour.

While an umbrella protects me till I get to my car, I always get wet in the process of shutting it and getting in. Option number one resolves this issue as it closes upward. It is a great option to keep in the car at all times. The second option is a compact and automatic travel umbrella with multiple colour options. Its best feature is that it has a wind vent which prevents the umbrella from overturning in windy conditions.

Day Bag

A bag that holds all your essential when you step out of the car for a hike, walk, visit an attraction etc.

Swiss Knife

A swiss knife has pliers, knives, scissors, bottle opener and so many other tools in a compact setting. This versatile tool can be a life saviour in umpteen situations.

General Medicine

Keep all basic meds for headaches, ingestion, muscle pain, cold and flu, fever, etc. Don’t let these unwelcome guests ruin your trip.

Wallet with Cash and Debit/Credit Cards

Don’t forget to keep cash and debit/credit cards for purchases, food joints, vendors, tipping, fuel, and for toll if you don’t have a preloaded RFID sticker (FASTag in India).

Optional (depending on the type of trip)

Icebox with Ice

For carrying chilled drinks and food.

Portable Bluetooth Speakers

Portable bluetooth speakers are much needed when you’re going to be camping or for a picnic. If you or your any of your travel partners play the guitar, skip this and take a guitar! Or maybe take both! We carry our UE Wonderboom everywhere as it is not only waterproof but lives up to its name- booming all the way.

Hiking or Sports Shoes

Being comfortable during hikes and walks as it of utmost importance. Either wear this or carry it, your feet will be thanking you!

Camping Gear

If camping overnight, do carry the necessary items like a tent, sleeping bag, mat, cookware, stove and plenty of water.

Swimwear

Carry swimwear if you’re headed to a place with a lake/pool. What’s better than a cool dip on a road trip! This website has really nice swimwear for both men and women.

Towel

Carry a micro-fibre towel that folds small and can fit easily in your day bag, if you expect to be going swimming.

Clothes

Take extra clothes with you, if you intend to go for an overnight or multi-day trip.

Camera and Tripod

If you’re into photography and your camera phone just doesn’t cut it.

Laptop

In case your boss doesn’t leave your back. Hopefully, you’ll leave this one at home and enjoy your road-trip!

Read these helpful tips for road tripping with your dog, in case you have a dog and are considering taking them with you.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to remember to carry all of these road trip essentials when you actually travel, don’t worry! We have you covered. Download a checklist with all the mentioned items by signing up below. 

Get Our Road Trip Essentials Checklist by Signing Up Below
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trisha and modi chicago bean
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We, Mayank and Trisha, are travel and photography enthusiasts from India. We love hiking, exploring towns and cities on foot, and trying out new things be it food or activities. We hope to make planning a vacation easier for you and inspire you to wander more.

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