Who doesn't love a good road trip? And I'm not talking about the nightmare, are-we-there-yet, "don't make me turn this car around" kind of road trip. No one loves those except perhaps complete sadists. I'm talking about the good old-fashioned, crank up the tunes and hit the road with your best bud, kind of road trip. Those road trips, I love.
After graduating college, I spent the majority of the next three years touring with Missoula Children's Theater (an amazing company, you can read more about my time touring here).
A large part of the job is driving from town to town. Sundays are dubbed "drive day" and we would sometimes drive up to 10 hours, cross multiple states, and arrive at our next residency ready to hit the ground running the next morning. It's safe to say, we become road trip experts. And as an expert, I've
put together this list of the absolute
must-haves for your next road trip!
This one seems pretty obvious I know. What is a road trip without snacks? The key however, is choosing the correct snacks. Rely completely on candies, you will almost certainly sugar crash. Keep it only to high-function trail mix and granola bars and you will likely get bored. A good mix is key!
I like to keep a few of the following on hand for all extended drives:
Trail mix or a Cliff bar - vital when your energy dips
Sour Patch watermelons and Reese's Pieces (we all have candy weak spots) - keeping the candy bite-sized and easy to grab is key
Baby Carrots - gotta have some cronch
Fruit - something bite sized ideally, berries or apple slices
Jerky and/or Dried mango - something chewy and sweet that gives a little energy boost
My absolute, go-to, can barely live without it, must-have-it road snack is those delicious honey-mustard Snyders pretzel bites. Sweet, salty, bite-sized, they tick all the road-snack boxes. I love them and they are perfect, and I will die on this hill.
Now don't get me wrong, coffee is basically a food group and is an absolute necessity for your morning drive. BUT, nothing much is worse than a dehydration headache hitting when you still have hours left to go. In my years as a barista and coffee enthusiast, I have discovered that water is the key to avoiding a caffeine-crash, to diminishing the headaches from over/under caffeinating, it's basically the key to avoiding all your problems (except maybe too many bathroom stops).
But having water handy is essential to more than just your health. If, heaven forbid, you get stranded somewhere with a flat tire, failed alternator on the side of the highway, or busted wheel bearing outside Green Bay, WI (not that I'm speaking from experience), having some water handy is a must. I am my father's daughter so I keep a lot of emergency supplies ready in just about any situation. Keeping a few water bottles or a gallon jug somewhere safe in your car is a great way to avoid bigger issues. AND drinking water before your morning Starbucks is a great way to avoid crashing (figuratively, at least).
Just like snacks, this one seems pretty obvious. What is a road trip without snacks or tunes?! Silence and solitude are all well and good, but a road trip requires some tunes! I myself, am a bit of a musical completionist. I like some of everything. And thanks to the modern-age we are living in, I have access to just about everything. I am a big fan of playlists, specifically long playlists that I can put on shuffle and just enjoy. SO, I have a number of playlists that I turn to for road trips, including:
Feel-good pop & pop-punk
Favorite Classics (golden oldies, classic rock, motown, ABBA, etc)
Musical Theatre Bangers (yes, that is a thing)
"For the FEELS"
Musical comedy (think Bo Burnham, Luke Null, Garfunkel & Oates)
I will put one of these on and just let it play for hours. Now, let's be honest, I am 100% guilty of putting a playlist on shuffle and then hitting next until I find the song that I actually want. Luckily, I can hit the next button on my steering wheel and keep it moving (seriously, don't look at your phone while you drive...we shouldn't have to say that, but alas).
Additionally, if I'm not quite in the mood to belt my face off as I drive, I love a good podcast. True Crime, Comedy, News, untold Hollywood secrets, top-notch drag queen reporting, there's something for everyone! And much like my music tastes, I tend to go for a little bit of everything. A few of my favorites:
Why Won't You Date Me? (really any of Nicole Byer's 89,237 podcasts)
Las Culturistas (for all things pop culture)
NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me
Fake Doctors Real Friends
My Solo Road (from Divine on the Road, fantastic van-life/travel inspiration)
You Must Remember This
There's no rule that says you can't learn something while you drive! Whether it's new facts from a podcast, lyrics to a new song, or finally listening to the book series you've been meaning to read for ages, you simply must have some quality listening for your road trip.
4. Emergency & Bathroom Kits
Ok, first in this two-part must-have is an emergency kit. This would include your backup water bottles we already talked about. You should also make sure you have supplies for an emergency. Battery cables if you need a jump, flares and reflective triangles in the case you breakdown, a blanket in case you're stranded in the cold, and kitty litter or sand to help create traction if you get stuck on mud or ice. All of these can easily be found in pre-packed kits like these.
I have one in my trunk at all times. It's also wisdom, when setting out for your long journey to have a backup plan. In all likelihood, you won't be stranded in the middle of nowhere, but in case you are, it's really nice to know how to jump your car or change a flat tire yourself rather than having to wait for roadside assistance.
The second part of this must-have is what I'm calling a "bathroom kit" and is similar to your vehicle emergency kit but for your own personal roadside mishaps rather than your car's. This little bag is packed in my trunk right with my roadside emergency kit and contains a first aid kit, hand sanitizer and wipes, a little roll of TP, and even a "poop shovel" for real emergencies (glamorous, I know). You never know what kind of bathroom you'll run into in a moment of need on the road and you certainly don't know how clean or well stocked it may be. Having your own stash of sanitizers and backup help for a personal emergency is a real god-send when all that water you've been guzzling hits on a deserted road hours from the nearest gas station.
Here's what's in my trunk kit right now
5. A buddy!
Ok so this one is less of a must-have but is still pretty vital in my opinion. For my years of touring in a red pick-up truck, I lucked out with the best road trip partner a girl can ask for. Blaire (my tour partner) and I split the driving, shared DJ responsibilities, and helped to navigate every Sunday drive day for over 2 years. Having someone to sing and talk with while you drive through the flat landscape of central Wyoming is a real life-saver for your sanity. It also helps having someone to keep you alert and present, or switch drivers while you take a necessary nap in the passenger seat.
Since retiring from the tour life, I have continued to road trip from my home base in St Louis both solo and with friends. Let me say, solo road trips are fantastic. You get time to yourself with very little pressure to do much of anything. You can go at your own pace, stop only when you need to, and you are in total control of the tunes.
But! Travelling with the right road trip companion simply can't be beat. Whether it's with a human buddy or, what I've been doing a lot lately, travelling with your furry friend, it's great to have someone with you to enjoy the road.
As far as road trips with your dog go, I'm the most spoiled. Benny (my dog, if you haven't met him yet: check him out) is a complete champ. He rides in the car like a dream. Naps on the floor of the backseat, never cries, and will gladly drink and eat from his favorite travel bowl. He's not picky. So for me, planning a dog-friendly road trip to take Benny for an adventure is the best of both worlds. I get to have the solitude and control of a solo trip, with all the benefits of having my best furry buddy along for the ride. Like Hannah Montana said, it's the best of both worlds.
I mean look at him. He's so precious.
Now you're ready to hit the road!
Really! You have all your must-haves and a plan, you're ready to go! Gas up, get your coffee (and water!) and head for the nearest open road! Adventure is out there!