I absolutely love road trips–the scenery rushing past my car window, my thoughts dancing about in my head and conversation floating throughout the car. The journey can make travel stressful, but it can also be an extremely refreshing, productive time. Whether you’re road tripping through the south of France or along the West Coast, here are 7 road trip essentials.
1. Conversation starters
I’ve had some of the best conversations in the car–not in a coffeeshop, not on a couch, not on the phone. While good conversations can happen in those places, there’s something about the longevity of the journey and unspoken permission for silence in the car. Although Riley and I weren’t super close before we starting carpooling the school, that daily time in the car is something we both attribute to us becoming best friends.
Intentional unintentional time is vital for any relationship, even though that phrase doesn’t make a lick of sense at first glance. It’s good to have that time sitting across the table having constructive or hard conversations, but it’s also necessary to have unstructured time–to let whatever random thought flutter across your mind, not just “what did you do today?”
Some questions to get below the surface level: what is your high and low moment of the week? What’s been the best part of the last semester? What’s been hard about this year? What’s one good thing that happened this week? What’s one thing you’re looking forward to?
Road trip snacks–are they necessary? No, not really unless you’re driving from L.A. to NYC without stopping, which I don’t recommend. But snackies make the journey more enjoyable. Cate and I stopped at Sonic to grab drinks for the trip to go with the cookies I’d already bought (so healthy, I know). And if I’m the one driving, I need a kick of caffeine to get me through the trip.
3. A boppin’ playlist
A good playlist can make time fly and lighten the mood if the journey gets a bit trafficky or quiet. After good conversations, it’s the car singing + dancing sessions I remember most. Also think about downloading some podcasts for your journey. My dad and I typically listen to a podcast together on road trips, which then leads to a good conversation about it (see #1, double whammy!).
Some of my favorite road trip albums: A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay + Folk Hop N’ Roll by Judah and the Lion (oh yeah, remember that time I met them?) Here’s my travel-themed playlist to add to your queue.
4. Trip logistics
To be able to fully enjoy the journey, make sure you have your trip logistics lined up and ready to rumble; think tickets, reservations, itinerary, etc. Nothing’s worse than being 30 minutes into the journey and realizing you forgot the train tickets or you don’t know where you’re meeting the rest of your group.
It’s the 21st century, so don’t forget to pack those phone chargers, laptop chargers and portable chargers–and keep them close! You might’ve overlooked #4 because you already have your plane ticket, hotel reservation and museum tickets saved on your phone, but if you’re phone is dead, what good does that do?
6. Reading material + work
Depending on how long your road trip is, consider bringing some reading material or work to get done. I personally don’t get much done on car or plane rides because I’m too focused on my upcoming adventure or I frankly just don’t feel like it. But for longer rides, you might need a break from your traveling companions or actually need to send some emails for work.
Blech. I’m not the most patient of people – ask anyone. But adding this to your road trip “packing list” will make the time more enjoyable for you and your group. Don’t be in a hurry, and don’t let hiccups become sore points. On the way to St. Louis, Cate and I hit standstill traffic, which added about an hour to our trip. It was frustrating, but we chose to jam out to our playlist of killer throwbacks.
Go ahead and stop to smell the roses. On a recent day trip with my boyfriend, we took time to see his neighborhood and the route he took to school growing up. Sure, it added time, but it made the trip more meaningful than an in-and-out.
It’s okay to stop too. I was raised to believe otherwise, and on longer road trips, these may need to be planned out more strategically. But sometimes you need to hop off the exit because your drooping eyes are calling for a caffeine fix. Other times, nature calls, and you can’t make it two hours without going to the bathroom. (True story, guilty as charged.)
The bottom line is road trips are part of the experience. Once I stop looking at these as a method to get to point A to point B but part of the entire trip, I gain much more from the overall travel time.