10 road trip travel essentials

January 28, 2019
New places are always on my radar. Whether we're visiting a totally new city, or just getting out to one of our favorite spots a couple of hours away, it sometimes seems like we can never stay put for too long. Andrew and I try and get out of town whenever we can and road trips are what we do best. We've driven all over the southeast, we've powered through Kansas, the Rocky Mountains, the Chihuahuan Desert, and have dipped all the way down to my home town in the tip of Texas. What I'm trying to get at is we're no strangers to being the road. We have quite a bit of experience being trapped in a car for hours or even full days, and I thought I would put together some of the things I've learned about going on the road. I won't waste your time with telling you to remember your shampoo, but I will let you in on a few things that we've learned along the way, usually by going on trips without these items and being worse for wear. I hope you guys get some great tips before heading out on your next adventure!

Car Charger
I know what you’re thinking. This is the most obvious choice for a road trip essentials list. But do you know how many times I’ve used just any old charger and have it either charge my phone at a glacial pace or come back with the “this accessory is not supported” message and not charge my phone at all? Too many times, leaving me to ration my battery and trying my hardest to keep from scrolling through Instagram while we drive through Kansas. Finally, last spring before our DC road trip, I decided to buy a dedicated car charger. It’s the classic coiled charger from decades past-- it’s almost nostalgic. But it charges our iPhone XS Max phones faster than even our wall chargers. When you’re using location services for long haul trips, plus music, social media, texting and/or video games all at the same time, one of these is a must have. You can find this charger here.

Portable Charger
Piggybacking off of my last item, picking out a quality portable charger is a must. Chances are you aren’t going to be hanging out in your Airbnb for the majority of your stay. You’ll likely be out and about enjoying the sights and sounds. Bringing along a portable charger is one of the best investments you can make. But, I’m not talking about some cute, flimsy portable charger that may or may not work or will charge your phone 30% before dying itself. I made the decision to splurge a little on something that I knew could potentially save our trip. Not only has the Jackery Giant saved our butts on multiple trips, it charges our phones incredibly fast. We don’t need to be tethered to a wall or outlet. We’ve charged our phones while sitting at MLB games, while eating out, or sitting on the train. When we're not on the road, we keep it by the couch so we can charge up without leaving our phone in another room. It charges both our phones multiple times before having to charge the unit itself. It is a bit hefty, so if you usually travel light, you’ll probably notice the extra size and weight. This is the one area where I’m willing to compromise, though. The Jackery Giant is available here and is a Prime item.

Mini Backpack
I know a lot of us have been on the backpack-as-handbag bandwagon for a while now, but if you aren’t, vacations are the perfect opportunity to try it out. Even if you’re a crossbody or wristlet person, they don’t compare to the freedom that backpacks give you. You’ve seen multiple pictures of me on trips with some of my favorite backpacks. Most notably, my header photo on this blog features my favorite Michael Kors backpack. Aside from the freedom they offer you, you’re able to carry a lot more and not be bothered by that extra weight that may otherwise be a deal breaker. (Looking at you, Jackery.) I’ve gone as far as getting myself a clear backpack for events like concerts or football games where clear bags are the only type allowed so I have one for every occasion imaginable.

Michael Kors backpack similar here | vintage faux fur shawl, brand unknown 

Rain Gear
EVEN if you check the weather beforehand, EVEN if the place you’re going gets .1 inch of rain a year, take a rain jacket or umbrella, or even some rain boots. You’ll be doing yourself a massive disservice if you don’t. I don’t think I have to explain this one in much detail. Always be prepared, and if you end up not needing them, great! Rain gear generally doesn’t take up too much space, anyway. And if you do, you’ll thank yourself. If you’ve read my DC photo diaries, then you know that the amount of rainfall we saw in the DC metro that week was unprecedented. Not to mention the amount of rain we saw on the way to and from our destination.

Totes clear umbrella

Spare Handbag (Weatherproof)
You guys already know that I always travel with one of my all-weather-leather Dooney & Bourke purses packed in my suitcase. Like the just-in-case umbrella and rain jacket, you don’t wanna find yourself in the middle of a thunderstorm with your bag being battered. Getting yourself a bag that’s weatherproof will keep your valuables inside dry and will ensure the bag itself won’t take on water damage.

Ralph Lauren rain boots similar here | vintage all-weather-leather Dooney & Bourke

Reusable Bags
I’m not trying to preach more about plastics (yes I am), but reusable bags hold so much more than your typical plastic bag. Plus, they’re nicer, sturdier, and keep everything a lot more organized. As much as I love flying, one of my favorite things about road trips is that I can shop without having to worry about whether I’m weighing down my luggage or having to ship things back to myself. Reusables are consistently some of our most utilized items when we're on the road or just running around town. My favorites are from Buffalo Exchange, they're really durable and have lasted for years, but I'm also a huge fan of their designs. I also love the bags that Urban Outfitters gives out when you buy something. They're surprisingly strong, and I'm able to squeeze them into just about any bag.

Reusable Drinkware
If you’re gonna be on the road for a while, then you’ll wanna take a water bottle and/or a coffee mug. It cuts down on waste both in the environment and in your car. Having reusable drinkware means less trash that needs to be dumped out at gas stations or when you get home. Be sure to fill up your water bottles before leaving because once you're out of city limits, there's no telling how long between rest stops or gas stations. 

Blanket/Scarf/Pillow/Eye Mask
Even if you’re travelling in the dog days of summer, you’ll thank yourself for packing a blanket or big scarf for naps while you’re on the road. Take along a pillow and you’ll get just about as comfortable as you can be while cramped in a car for hours. If you’re a needy sleeper like me, you might consider an eye mask to block out the sun so you can really rest. This Bucky eye mask is my absolute favorite. It's dome shaped which is super comfortable to have on, but also allows you to open your eyes without anything pressing down on them. My favorite thing about them is that they block out light completely, even when you open your eyes. I've always found them at my local TJ Maxx stores, but like everything else there, there's no guarantee they'll be in stock. I also found them on Amazon, so if you come across one, get it!

Bucky 40 Blinks eye mask

DIY Travel Kit
I have several of the Glossier pink pouches and make use of them all. They’re clear plastic and zip right open. I always pack a glasses wipe (Andrew and I both prefer our glasses for everyday wear), some eye drops, ibuprofen, hand sanitizer, napkins, face wipes, and anything else you think could be useful to have on the road. It’s nice having a place to keep it all neat and organized. I really recommend using something plastic to avoid damage if the altitude will be changing and making things leak.

Duh. In all seriousness, we always try taking the fresh fruits or things that will likely go bad in the time that we're out of town. If bananas or apples aren't your idea of road trip snacks, then you've never found yourself 80 miles from the nearest gas station with a growing appetite. And because road trips are inherently fun (at least for us), we also stock up some salty or sweet gas station snacks before we head out.

When we first started going on the road, we remembered the obvious stuff like contact solution and our toothbrushes, but would find ourselves without a way to effectively charge our phones or get comfortable in the passenger seat, or making a huge mess in the car. I hope these 10 essentials have given you some ideas for your next trip. Being hundreds or thousands of miles from home and realizing you've forgotten something important or wishing you'd packed something else is one of the worst feelings. Do you guys swear by something that I didn't list? Let me know!