As the wind whips in your face through the car window, an empty road lies ahead.
With the radio on, the sounds of company and a world outside unseen, the road trip picture is complete.
The road trip is a way of travel we don’t always consider in today’s world of fast flights and rapid trains.
However, getting behind the wheel does bring back many memories of the traveler’s first steps, where you would pile in the back of a vehicle, grovel with siblings, use the phrase “are we there yet” too many times and discover a world away from home, complete with Disney soundtracks and crayons.
For me, road trips across the United States were my first tastes of travel. As I prepare to take a road trip a little older from Colorado to California, I am reminded of just how iconic and rewarding the road trip can be. Those moments of utter bliss on the open road with nothing but big sky would be nothing without these road trip essentials.
Sun Protection—A road trip without sunglasses can be painful. A road trip with a sun-burn can be, ironically, even more of a nightmare. While the prospect of showing off your strange shadow arm tan from the car window might drive you not to put on sunscreen, looking in a mirror post strange car sunburn may. Just because you are in a car, doesn’t mean you can’t get burned. To make sure you keep on that road, sunglasses are a must to fight those long morning stretches where you can’t escape the sun’s brightness.
Good Old Fashioned Road Maps—Especially after recent incidents in the news of travelers relying solely on GPS and being lost for weeks, a good old fashioned road map should be your guide. Not only do you feel like you are truly on a road trip with big fold-out maps, but you also stand a better chance of not straying completely off track like those who only use GPS. In a world where most put all faith in smart phones and tablets, a road trip needs a constant that won’t let you down. Blame the map-reader not the map.
A Cooler—Being on the road for hours and days on end may start to wear your stomach down. The grease is part of the experience, but for those days where you can’t take another French Fry, a cooler full of drinks, fruits and whatever other healthy edibles you can find will be a nice relief. Feeling sick after one too many Doritos is a key step on any road trip, but you want to make it to your destination feeling somewhat healthy in order to enjoy it.
Music—Unless you enjoy listening to the sound of the air conditioner for hours on end, a successful road trip is one filled with music. A road trip across the country is not the time for friends with poor music taste to be in charge of the mixes. If you don’t have a fancy satellite radio system in your car, make sure you have your iPod charged and ready to go or a steady stream of mixes on hand. The music you listen to on a road trip always ends up be those memory cues of your great adventure.
Good Company—A road trip alone is doable, but it is not necessary the best road trip. Part of the experience is the complaints of “are we there yet” and “I need to find a bathroom in the middle of the desert”. Without the chatter of friends and family, those stretches of road can seem lonely and long. I am all for solo travel, but road trips need good company. Just make sure you select your passengers carefully.
What are your road trip essentials?