RelayRides is hosting a “Road Trip Essentials” campaign now that summer is officially starting. They are a peer-to-peer sharing car rental service I’d never heard of before, but love the idea. It’s similar to renting out your house, or renting someone else’s when you travel, but with cars. It’s something I’ll definitely look into in the future. Maybe even this summer since I have two road trips coming up.
The question is — what are my absolute road trip essentials?
As I thought about this, I realized that my few “must-haves” are a good reflection of how I like to travel overall. There are things we usually take with us: snacks, CDs, maybe an audiobook or game. But the things that I personally won’t travel without are different than what we pack as a family. Here’s a peek into my bag of 5 road trip essentials as well as a glimpse into my psyche.
1. An Atlas
Surely you’re not surprised by this. After all, I named my blog ‘Browsing the Atlas.’ I really do love them and browse through them. We have a GPS and use it, but I still like to pull out the road atlas as we head down the highway and see what’s around; what cities we’re near and where we might go if we venture off the main drag. Having an atlas helps me put places in context and also gives me a chance to daydream and plan for future trips. Oh, how I love maps!
2. Bookcrossing Books
This is always the first thing I pack, whether I’m going on a road trip or halfway around the world. I take a stack of books with me to release into the wild as I explore. (Read more about Bookcrossing here.) My family knows me well enough to know I never travel without Bookcrossing books, so sometime in the first day or two they usually ask me, “How many books did you bring?” It’s usually about 12. And those aren’t including the ones I bring along to read. I look at it this way: by ridding myself of those books during the trip, I’ve made room for souvenirs. Unless I’ve hunted for and found other Bookcrossing books on the way. It happens. And it’s usually the only souvenir I need.
3. My Travel Journal(s)
I always bring my travel journal with me. I write in it every night and try to capture the sights and sounds of our day. But I also bring a travel notebook journal in which I jot down ideas that come to me, places I want to visit or find out more about, and logistical details I’ll never remember about a place if I don’t write them down. I cannot travel without at least one travel journal. If by some odd chance I forget to pack it, it’s the first thing I have to buy once I arrive at my destination.
4. Travel Guides
I love travel guides and usually bring one with me on a trip even though I rarely use them. Before a trip, I’ve usually scanned a few travel guides and researched places to see online. Every once in a while, I will visit a place that’s recommended in a travel guide but what I mainly use them for is reference. I may not go to the cathedrals/museums/historic sites they mention, but it helps me put the places I do see into context.
Surprisingly, I would rather listen to the radio as we travel than listen to the CDs and iPods we bring with us. Even when all we can get is static-y country stations, I like listening to songs I didn’t pick and hearing the local radio commercials and deejays. It gives me a sense of place and opens me up to music I wouldn’t normally choose. After all, I can listen to my CDs and playlists at home.
What I realized as I gathered up my essentials is that they reflect the way I like to travel. I crave the unknown (radio) and want to be taken away from the familiar. I want a sense of where I’m going, but don’t want too much information (travel guides) to ruin the surprise. I like spontaneity and the chance to turn off the highway and discover the unknown (atlas). I like to put myself there and surprise others, too (Bookcrossing). And finally, I like to capture the experience in my journals and on this blog. The snacks, the GPS, and everything else we pack are creature comforts during long hours in the car, but the items essential to me are the ones that make each trip unique.
What are your road trip essentials?