Before you hit the road, pack this.
When summer began, we were talking all things road trips and with summer nearly coming to a close, we still can’t seem to get enough of them. Not only are they a great way to experience your state’s small towns and parks, road-tripping is also as safe as they come when talking travel.
To help you prepare for your road trip, whether it be a week from now or a few months down the road, we asked some of our Fodor’s editors about their go-to road-tripping products. And might we say, their recommendations have us not only feeling prepared but craving a road trip of our own.
So, get ready, fill up with gas, and pack these essentials for your journey.
Top Picks for You
This woman-owned company makes soft and cozy (yet sturdy!) blankets that are calling to be packed for a national park road trip. Or morning yoga. Or backyard picnic, if you’re not traveling just yet. The Ecuadane blankets are hand-made by artisans in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, and their skill shows in the high quality and intricate Southwestern-inspired designs. I want to wrap one of these around us and gaze at Half Dome in Yosemite (or at least imagine we are). I also feel pretty good about supporting a company that has noble goals, including aiming to use 100 percent recycled fiber by 2025.
Road trips can be long and unpredictable, and you never know when you might need some form of entertainment, especially the kind that doesn’t need power. And, sometimes it’s good to go back to basics. So what’s more basic, and more entertaining, than a deck of cards? Since 1885, Bicycle playing cards have been providing entertainment for people of all ages in several non-electricity needing ways: group games (poker, rummy, etc.), magic tricks, solitaire, card houses…the list goes on. They are cheap, easy to pack and take up minimal space, and if you forget to bring them along, cards can be found everywhere–gas stations, convenience stores, and souvenir shops. Speaking of souvenir shops, a deck of cards can be a great way to remember your trip or thank someone for taking care of your cat.
While your phone might have the ability to capture your favorite moments, disposable cameras actually incentivize us to print those moments out (rather than archiving them with thousands of other “unforgettable” experiences). Not only that, there’s something rather nostalgic about grabbing a photo of the family or just scenery on a disposable camera, not knowing exactly how the picture turned out until printed.
A Non-Sluggish Snack
I believe one of the best parts of road-tripping (aside from the scenery) is the snacking. It feels like the excuse I need to just totally pig out, which is joyous when it’s happening, but not so fun 30-minutes later when you’re strapped in, bloated, and in a food coma. There’s a solution, however, that doesn’t involve quitting snacks cold-turkey, and it can all be found at your grocery store! Skip the candy in favor of dried fruit (if you haven’t tried Trader Joe’s soft and juicy dried mango, may I introduce you?), and toss the chips aside for something a little lighter (hello popcorn!). These snacks taste just as indulgent while allowing you to feel ready to go for just about any pit-stop.
When I rescued my scruffy schnauzer-mix pup, Charlie, nine years ago this month (yes, there will be cake), I became a certified (certifiable?) dog person. The kind who tongue kisses dogs in the street (OK, that was pre-COVID— now we air tongue-kiss). Charlie is an important member of the family, not that you’d know there were other members if you looked at my phone’s photo library. (Sidenote: Call me, Richard Linklater, if you want to discuss your next big film, Doghood.)
It’s no surprise that when I consider road trips, I’m thinking “What about Charlie?” with every aspect of the plans. From how far we go, to where we stay, to will he have a place to hide from fireworks/thunderstorms, let’s just say this dog dictates. With that in mind, I can’t believe it’s taken until now to get him his own bag for the car! The week away tote from Mobile Dog Gear keeps all his gear organized and easily accessible. There’s plenty of room for his food and treats, his thunder vest, three favorite chewy toys, and seven tennis balls, and it comes with two lined carriers, two collapsible silicone bowls, and a nifty placemat in the front drop-down flap for roadside dining. And there’s a luggage tag so that we can make sure other bitches don’t touch his stuff. Plus, I love that it has a luggage sleeve to fit over a suitcase handle if I ever pack proper clothes in a suitcase again.
Since I’m usually the driver on road trips, a good GPS set-up is paramount for me. I’ve always been about Google Maps (sorry Waze), but it’s taken me a surprisingly long time to find a holder that will fit my phone and prop it up enough in a way that’s safe and easy to refer to while driving. The PopSocket Car Mount goes right onto your a/c vent and makes not having to rely on a co-pilot a breeze. Yes, you have to get a PopSocket for your phone to use it, but the designs for those are super cute these days.
During my latest cross-country road trip, I was lucky enough to have a co-pilot to read me clues for the New York Times crossword. We alternated who drove and who penciled in answers to the puzzle (you can also access it on a tablet). Certain days of the week have simpler puzzles, but the Sunday puzzle took us a healthy five hours to complete; it made the time in the car fly by.
I have something to say that might shock you: I like to write. As such, I like to have things to write on (I can only stare at a computer screen for so long!). Whether you enjoy poetry, illustrating, or even just making to-do lists, paper to put your pen on (in this digital age) is always a good thing—especially on road trips. Some might even consider it good practice to keep a journal in the car at all times. A few I’m vibing right now include the classic Bullet journal (with its dot-grid layout), Moleskin’s The Legend of Zelda series, and the eco-friendly, natural cork notebook from Lemome. Happy writings!
Something to be your designated picnic blanket. It doesn’t have to be fancy, an old sheet or a beach towel will do (although now that I think about it, I might splurge on something comfier and more travel friendly) but just something you can spread out on in a park or drape over a muddy bench. So if you want to stop somewhere along the way or if you want to do something less strenuous (but still outdoors) at your destination, having something to be your little headquarters really opens up your options.