Preparing for a road trip sounds like a no brainer when the idea first occurs. However when you actually begin your planning and packing you find that you may be swaying toward bringing too much or too little with you. Another big decision is deciding how to pack. Like should you put things in certain places or just cram it to be out of the way. This can be easier when you are packing for one, but when the amount of people and distance increases, so does the amount of things you want or need. Also I am writing this article just a few months after moving from Columbus Ohio to Phoenix Arizona, by way of minivan with 3 people (1 toddler).
Food and Water – You should have food and water. You may have money and credit to buy these things along the whole way, but it can be inconvenient due to time and location. So decide if you may benefit from packing a small cooler with cheap basics like sandwich items, yogurt, fruit, cheese, crackers, bread, peanut butter, bottled water, or other drinks. Then remember to keep the cooler in arms reach.
Clothes – Be realistic if you don’t have a lot of space. Take what you need, but give yourself 2 or 3 options. It can help a lot to go ahead and plan out your outfits for the whole trip also.
Emergencies – Planning for emergencies is vital. Make sure you have a spare tire that’s properly inflated, a jack, and make sure you know how to use it. You may have roadside service, but depending on your situation it may be hared to contact them. If you think you will have room, purchase a road side emergency kit. At the least try to pack a cheap first aid kit, flashlight (preferably a cranking one) and maybe an auto emergency tool that is hand held which breaks glass and cuts seat belts. There are some extras to consider if you have space or are going to be driving through no mans land to consider like a lighter, tent, knife, rope, tools, toilet paper, a book on survival skills (how to guide for finding food, water, and building shelters and fires).
Map – You should get a map and/or printed internet directions, even if you have GPS in your car or phone, electronics can and do break. If you can try to plot out the areas you might want to stop, so you can plan for gas, food, lodging, and site seeing.
Entertainment – Trips can be boring. Have lots of music ready. Also audio versions of stand-up comedy and books can help pass time and be entertaining. Make sure you have something that makes using your cell phone easier and hands free. Also don’t forget a car charger. If there is more than one person, especially kids, you might want to consider getting a portable DVD player. Some portable players even have two connecting screens that can be strapped to a seat or set on a surface. Bring books, magazines, notepad, when not driving.
Kids – If you are traveling with kids make sure you can keep them occupied, but keep it small. Bring the typical books and toys; consider travel versions of board and video games. Also it seems that toys often disappear along the way, so try not to bring all the favorites, or even go to a dollar or thrift store and buy small cheap toys. Plan out diapers, wipes, towels (messes), tissues, medicine, and a quick change of clothes.
Organizing – When packing you should start by sitting in the car and thinking about what you want within yours and everyone else’s reach. Keep you maps, phone, camera, insurance info and music in the glove box, doors, or center consol. Keep your drink and snacks near (at least water or gum). If you are going to be stopping for the night or you have a child that might get dirty from food, place cloths in a reachable place. If you are at the end of a long day of driving you will not want to dig through your trunk in a dark motel parking light in the middle of the night. Try to keep the things you need on top of things your won’t during trip. You might even want to have a small bag with a mix of everyone’s things for convenience. Near this bag it will be helpful to have a bag with your tooth brush, deodorant, etc. Keep the toys near the kids. Try to leave a little extra space for things you may buy along the way or at your destination.
Try to enjoy it. Just plan for the essentials, basic emergencies, and common inconveniences, so you won’t be unprepared and surprised. Then remember that poorly timed issues can happen. You may get a flat tire or you or someone can become suddenly sick. It all adds character to the story of the trip latter on.