Some road-trip packing essentials are no-brainers: rocking music, tasty snacks, and a whole lot of patience. But there are plenty of additional items that you might not realize you need…until you need them. Luckily, we’ve got your essential road-trip packing list right here. These items will help you save money, stay healthy, and stay sane during those long hours on the road. (You can also click over to TripAdvisor to see Wendy’s full list.)
Save money with a cooler
Pack your own water and snacks to save money and calories. The cooler (either the old-school kind that you fill with ice from the hotel, or the electric kind that you plug into your cigarette lighter) will also come in handy for picnic lunches. Which reminds us: Toss a picnic blanket in the back seat.
Save your skin with sun protection
For you and for your car. For you and the kids, we’re talking about the SPF kind, and not only for the times when you get out to stretch your legs. If you’re riding with the windows open, slather some on arms and faces—especially the driver’s left arm. Wendy also recommends bringing a windshield sun blocker; the steering wheel and seats can get very hot after a few hours in the sun while you’re all off hiking or seeing the country’s largest peach pit. A blocker will keep the car cooler and cut down on how much you need to blast the A/C once you pile back in.
Save your sanity with emergency kits
You’ll need three kinds to be prepared for just about anything: a first-aid kit, a roadside emergency kit, and a roadside assistance plan, either through an automotive club or an insurance company.
Save your back
In addition to regular stops to stretch your legs, Wendy likes to take along a lumbar support pillow to help prevent back pain from long stretches of driving. (Pro tip: a rolled up towel works in a pinch too.) Then each night at the hotel she likes to use rubber massage balls called T Spheres to roll out cramps and kinks.
Stay on track
Getting lost can be maddening, especially if everyone is tired or hungry and ready to get out of the car. If you’re using the GPS on your phone, be sure to bring a USB car charger so that you always have power (better yet, get a charger with multiple ports so other passengers can charge their devices too). Don’t forget a smartphone mount for your dashboard either, as they make looking at the phone for directions and playlist changes much easier—remember both of these tasks are for your copilot, not the driver! Wendy also recommends a paper map for road trips. Not only are they handy if your devices do run out of juice, but they provide a big-picture overview of the trip and can be used as a roadside-stop journal and kept as a memento of your adventures.
Whether you have to work during your road trip or just want to post pictures of your trip on Facebook, you’ll need to bring a few pieces of tech gear if you want to get online on the road. A portable Wi-Fi hot spot can be invaluable; or you can talk to your cell phone carrier about turning your phone into a hot spot (sometimes this incurs fees, so be sure to check). Finally, pack a voltage inverter; these are special chargers that plug into the car’s cigarette lighter one end and have a three-prong A/C outlet and USB ports on the other.
See Wendy’s full list of road-trip essentials and her tips for how to plan the ultimate road trip itineraryon TripAdvisor, where she’s TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate, and follow her on Instagram for postcards from the California road trip she’s on right now.