10 road trip essentials

10 road trip essentials

By Brett Dworski, Tribune Brand Publishing

Planning on heading out of town this summer? Take a look at our 10 road-trip essentials before hitting the road.  

1. The perfect playlist

While it can be refreshing to hear some local radio stations, there's nothing worse than driving without your favorite jams playing in the background. Having the perfect playlist will keep the party going at every moment of the trip. And feel free to group songs based on the states or cities you'll be driving to. You can be as much of a musical nerd as you want - no one's going to know.

2. Money

As literature-worthy as it might sound to ditch the cash and live off the fat of the land, you'll need some money to buy gas, food and that cassette of Elvis' Greatest Hits. Having a good amount of dough in your pocket can be the difference between a successful trip and a miserable one.

3. The right companions

A great road trip is made even better with the perfect group of friends. Assemble a strong cast of characters-including ones who will stay awake with the driver during those late-night trips-and you'll probably have some great stories to tell your grandchildren 50 years from now. And if you're lucky, you'll also have a few stories you'll want to keep to yourself.

4. Hiking and light camping gear

Sure, it's a road trip but there's no rule against traveling a bit by foot. When the beauty of your trip overwhelms you, pull over and do some hiking into the hills and mountains that surround you. Go ahead and live off the land for a day or two. Your trip should be full of surprises and newly gained perspectives.

5. Toiletries

Car face, car teeth, car breath-those are just a few of the hazards of the road trip. Go ahead and pack a toothbrush, some toothpaste, soap, shampoo and deodorant-the essentials. And it's a good idea to throw in a couple rolls of toilet paper as well. Let's just say your rest-stop bathroom options may not always be worthy of a white-glove test, so it helps to come prepared.

6. Compass

No matter the type of travel, it's always important to know where you're going. Isaac French, 20, a student at Columbia College in Chicago, says a compass is essential because you never know when technology might fail you. "If you took away the Google Maps and all the location apps, all you need to know is which way North is," says French.

7. Snacks

Having a good supply of food when on the road is key. Alec Berger, 20, a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has driven successfully to Colorado several times and firmly believes snacks were a contributing factor to his successful trips. "Munching on snacks keeps you full between gas stops, so you don't need to make additional stops," says Berger. Personal trainer Helen Niles agrees, but stresses the importance of healthy fruits and vegetables. "You don’t want to eat a bunch of chips and down a bunch of Cokes," Niles says. "You want to stay awake and alert, so you want to avoid foods that are going to give you a surge and then a plunge in energy."

8. Emergency survival kit

You can put together your own kit or purchase one from a camping store. Pack extra blankets, food, flares, clothes, books, batteries and other items that can help you maintain your physical and mental well-being in the rare instance of a shut-down highway or blinding storm. Never hurts to bring an extra set of car keys-just be sure to keep them somewhere other than locked in the car. Also, don't forget the water. Staying hydrated during your trip is a must. Most people don't realize that the human body is 60 percent water so it's important to maintain the proper hydration levels. Throw a case of bottles in the trunk or-better yet-bring a few refillable water bottles from home. Just remember to fill them with water and ice when you stop

9. A map

We know you're going to rely on your iPhone or the GPS device in your car for directions, but be sure to grab a map just in case the satellites are acting up. Going old school with maps is great for four passengers, plus there's the added benefit of challenging yourself to fold it correctly.

10. An open mind

Whether you're checking out the Allegheny Mountains or driving along the main strip in Las Vegas, it should be pretty obvious that you're no longer commuting to and from your job. Even the most simple road trip can introduce you to new sights, sounds and sensations, so you should remain open to your new surroundings and all of the possibilities that lie within. 

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