The Road Tripper Essentials Checklist

The road trip is a cornerstone of the American dream. We've seen it in movies, we've read it in films, we've heard it in every Lana del Rey song, the freedom of the open road. Whether you're 20 or 80, the idea of going on a road trip brings a nostalgic feeling of complete abandon.

What the movies don't show you is that there's a lot that goes into creating the perfect vacation. Weeks if not months of planning to map out your route, rest stops, and travel details. And the process can be extremely stressful if you don’t know what you’re doing. But not if you have the road trippers essentials checklist. Follow this list and you’ll be well-prepared for your trip with no last-minute trip stress.

  •  Plan your route

These days many people think they can simply rely on Google Maps when they’re going on a road trip. But that isn’t true. Many areas don’t get cell service. Often signs are missing or unclear. And there’s nothing worse than getting lost on your road trip. Instead of relying on your phone and making decisions as you go plan your route beforehand. 

Decide where you’re going, what route’s to take, and places to stop and refuel. You may also want to mark breakfast spots, grocery stores, and restrooms. Get a map on the route as a backup. You don’t even need a hardcopy. Apps like let you download maps and use them offline. 

  •  Book your stays

Depending on how long your route is going to be you may need more than one stay in between. After all, when you’re going on a road trip the journey is more important than the end goal. So, it isn’t about getting to your final vacation stop. There’s no point in driving all night till you’re dozing off on the side of the highway like you’re Marrion from Psycho. 

Add breaks to your trip. Book your stay well in advance. Find B&Bs and local hotels instead of just relying on whatever motel you run into first. Any trip will take an immediate downturn if you’ve reached the point where you need to stay at a roadside motel just sleep in your car. 

  •  Pack what you need

How much you can pack depends on what car you’re going in, how many people you’re traveling with, and what that does for storage space. You may not be able to take more than a single case. And if you’re going with college friends or your entire family there won’t even be space for an individual suitcase. You’ll have to fit everything you need into a bag.

That means checking the basics first. So, driver’s license, cash, and travel insurance in that order. Then cell phone charger, water bottle, toiletries, sunscreen, and first aid. Also, make sure you keep a spare tire in the car. Depending on where you’re going bug spray, an umbrella, or a cat may be additional needs.

The biggest need for every trip, however, is definitely a kickass playlist. You don’t want to leave road trip music to chance. Curate the vibe and make it a trip worth remembering.

  •  Confirm your vehicle

But, the one thing that adds the most stress is getting your car travel-ready. You can spend weeks taking trips to the mechanic. And none of it will matter. All the tuning, battery checks, oil changes, and tire upgrades won’t’ help you because the truth is cars that are built to function in the city don't drive well on long road trips. 

It doesn't matter how much time and money you spend at the mechanic the result will be the same. And if you do choose to take it regardless of the fuel it will consume will double all your other expenses. Your safest, cheapest option is to rent a car that fits your needs. Rental agencies let you pick vehicles based on size, type, trip length, and seating capacity. 

Call a few rental agencies to get quotes at least a few weeks early to book your vehicle. Check their references and make sure you’re using a reputable agency. The worse thing that can happen during a road trip is car trouble. Make sure you have a spare tire and learn how to change a flat if you didn’t know before.

Also, ask the rental agency to give you a full detail of when the car was last serviced. The rental fee will vary depending on how old you are. Generally, younger drives in their 20s have to pay slightly higher fees to cover the possibility of damages. The same is the case for older customers 60 and over. That brings us to the final item on this list.  

  •  Get travel insurance

If you’re going on a road trip you need rental car damage insurance. You have to prepare for the worst-case scenario. Anything can happen on a trip. Another vehicle could damage yours or someone could steal the car. You don’t want to have to pay the company out of pocket. Sites like Bonzah offer a range of insurance options.

You can pick yours depending on the level of coverage you want. Primary rental insurance goes up to $35,000 and covers damage as a result of collision, vandalism, and theft. It also pays for damage from any cause that was outside of your control, and natural disasters like hail, flood, windstorms, and fire. You may be thinking these are all extreme cases you don’t want to prepare for but do you really want to pay the rental agency for a whole paint job because some kids spray painted the car? Also, the basic plan covers roadside assistance across the US which is a scenario anyone going on a road trip could find themselves in.  

Overall, if you follow this list you’ll find yourself well prepared for your trip days in advance. That means no panic breakouts days before your dream vacation. You can personalize it to fit your trip needs.