Year-round Road Trip Essentials

Oh, road tripping. It’s one of those fun, adventurous things you can do year round + on a pretty small budget. Quite frankly, a day trip to your nearest outdoorsy happy place counts as a road trip in our book. The weekend + longer road trips tend to get more attention, but if you’re in the car on a mission to love life…it’s a road trip! Don’t sell yourself or your adventures short!

The true beauty of road trips is that they’re much easier to plan + prepare for than anything that requires a flight. All you really need is a car, a destination + some gas money. Right? Well, sort of. Technically you’ll survive with that, but you can make the adventure even more fun if you pack along some of these road trip essentials…

Road Worthy Snacks

What is a road trip without a heaping pile of road worthy snacks?! It’s that why you go on road trips…to shovel delicious handfuls of sugar or fistfuls of salt into your face while gazing out at the wonders of Mother Nature!? If that’s not a motivator you should add it to your ‘to try’ list! You’ll love it, we promise!

What snacks are truly road worthy? This depends upon your palate, but we have a few we’d love to suggest.

Salty Awesome: white cheddar popcorn, chex mix, homemade ‘puppy chow’, pretzel bites
Sugar Highs: Skittles, Mike + Ike, almond M&M’s, Red Vines/Twizzlers

Of course, all of this impulsive snacking should probably be balanced out with some ‘real food’. This will keep you from hating life when your stomach starts screaming for some actual nutrients. One way to dip into a few more food groups is eating out — you’ll find some pretty tasty roadside stops. There is also the option of packing along some healthier snacks…

Healthy Eats: bananas, apples, dried fruit, jerky/beef sticks, string cheese, crackers

Once you’ve filled your back seat with snacks…you’re set to go! Right? What else could you need for a road trip!?

Earfuls of Entertainment

Now that you’re on the road, what are you going to do with your time? Obviously you’ll be paying attention to road signs + rules, but there has to be more exciting ways to pass the time, right?! Yes, yes, yes. First, there is the option to pack along a few friends. We strongly recommend this! You’ll have endless hours of conversation to keep you awake + entertained.

Except, what happens when you’ve actually tired of bonding conversation + ridiculous debates? Silence?! NO! This is where someone else’s banter comes into play!

Get your hands on a podcast app or a few audiobooks. There is always the radio + NPR…also great sources of entertainment. But downloaded podcasts + audiobooks will let you avoid the static that accompanies any radio station into remote areas.

Better yet, both podcasts + audiobooks can be free if you plan ahead just a few days. Many podcasts allow you to download from their library for free. Audiobooks are easily accessible + downloaded through subscription services like Audible…but before you throw money at a subscription check out your local library! Seriously, libraries have a little bit of everything + they’ll allow you to check out audiobooks for extended periods of time. You’ll also have the option of downloadable audiobooks or ‘books on CD’. Look into it…you won’t regret it + you just might find a way to make your work commute more bearable post-road trip!

**Looking for some podcast suggestions? Check out our list of “7 Outdoor Podcasts for Your Next Road Trip.“**

Cozy Comforts

It doesn’t matter how awesome your car is…after so many hours it gets uncomfortable + rather claustrophobic. When you’re headed out on a day trip it’s not too bad, but if you’re committing to a week or more on the road. Phew, you’ll love yourself for packing a few comforts from home! Here are a few things we suggest to keep you loving life on the road…

Blanket + Pillow: It can be a throw pillow + the blanket you keep near the couch for your cold toes, but pack something toasty. If you’re traveling with someone else the blanket will come in handy for whomever is a bit more cold blooded — keep the car at a ‘reasonable’ temperature for the hot blooded + wrap the other person in a blanket. The pillow will give the passenger something to snooze on when conversation dwindles or the scenery get repetitive [don’t judge until you’ve driven across Nebraska!]. Combine these two cozy comforts for a backseat nap…whether traveling alone or with someone. Sometimes your eyes just need a break!

Ibuprofen, Allergy Meds, etc: These aren’t so cozy, but they may be able to make your world a lot more comfortable! If your sunglasses are giving you a headache you’ll love yourself for packing along some ibuprofen. Fields of wildflowers + cottonwood fluff blowing on the breeze can be beautiful…if you can see them through your watering eyes. You never know when you’ll discover a new allergy, so pack accordingly.

‘Car Camping’ Gear: If you’re planning on camping while on this road trip don’t limit yourself to your stash of ‘backpacking’ gear. Expand! You have a whole car to pack [okay, that mentality gets dangerous quick, but you have more room in your car than a 50L pack!]. Don’t be afraid to pack along a comfy air mattress + a tent with a little wiggle room.

Of course, there are many more comforts from home you can stash in your car for your next road trip, but we hope this gets your started!

**Find a few tips for making your road trip camping more comfortable here: “Camping: Pick Your Favorite Version!” and get the low-down on car camping essentials with “Keeping Comfy While Car Camping”**

‘Safety First’ Stash

Now that we’ve touched on all the fun stuff…let’s chat about the safety side of road tripping. When you’re traveling in your car you’ll need to have a stash of ‘first aid’ necessities for yourself + your car.

You can grab a standard first aid kit for yourself [or make one from what you already have at home!] + a ‘emergency’ pack for your car. If you’re traveling into some remote areas it’s strongly suggested you watch at least a few videos on how to change a tire + jump start your car [better yet, practice!]. Hopefully you won’t need any of these safety stashes or pockets of car smarts, but you want to be prepared!

So, there you have it…everything you need for road tripping. Sort of. This isn’t an all inclusive list, but it’ll get you started on the road to fun-tastic adventures on the road!

What would you add to this list?! Fill us in…we’re sure you have a few great tips we haven’t thought of yet!

About the Author


Heidi Kumm

Heidi Kumm is a trail runner, world traveler, mountain climber, and all around adventure enthusiast. She is so stoked on adventure that she has made it her career as the owner of Adventure Feet First, a travel company that focuses on getting people outside to explore the world around them. Over the past years Heidi has spent months living abroad, volunteering around the world, living out of a van/car/truck, and finding new ways to explore on foot, by bike, or with a backpack. She has learned the ins and outs of self propelled exploration the hard way, so she's here to help us learn from her mistakes and to help us become more informed on how to make your own mistakes, safely.