We already had our fair share of road trips but this year we made the uber-trip: 6000 kilometers from Florida to California in about two weeks. I really enjoy doing road trips in the US because driving is much more relaxed than in Europe – plus, getting accomodation and food is a breeze. Well, most of the time. Yet there are some things I don’t want to miss when I hit the road so here they are, my five road trip essentials.
Little helper: Apps
For this roadtrip I used two apps frequently: Roadtrippers and booking.com. With Roadtrippers we planned the whole trip in advance. The app is free of charge and you can save several road trips, change them whenever you want ore share the trip with others. It was useful to see how long the trip would be and which route options there are. You can change that easily, depending on which cities you want to visit – or the opposite: In our case we wanted to take a detour to no man’s land in West Texas.
We like to stay flexible and never book hotels or motels in advance – only exception was our Airbnb in West Hollywood where we spent the last three days. When on the road, we simply pick a motel whenever we are ready for the night or we use apps like booking.com to get a hotel room on short notice. Sometimes it’s nice when you know exactly where to spend the night and what it will cost you. Usually I search for a hotel the day before arrival or sometimes just two hours before we arrive at the next stop, right out of the car. We made some great deals with the app from booking.com but there are several other apps like Expedia or Kayak where you can get rooms or flights. Just use whatever floats your boat.
Sure, you can use the navigation system in your rental car but for a long trip, getting your own is much cheaper! We bought our navigation system a few years ago in San Francisco and have used it every time since then. Plus, friends who are going to the US are super grateful when they can borrow it. Definitely on top of our road trip essentials list!
Packing cubes or an overnight bag
A few trips ago, there was pure chaos in my suitcase. I took stuff out – I put stuff back, every night in another motel. After a few days, it took me forever to find a certain shirt or another item. What I learned from this vacation is to stay organized. At first I thought about bringing a small bag where I put all my stuff in for just one night. Its advantage is that you don’t need to drag your suitcase out of the car and into the motel room, every single time you stay somewhere else. I realized that I’m too lazy to pack a small bag every day and instead, I bought some packing cubes. I still have to schlepp my suitcase but at least everything is organized and I find things quickly.
Bring your own music! We never listen to the radio – not at home, not on vacation. But we love music. On every road trip we bring a stack of CDs full of mp3 or use Spotify on my smartphone. Be sure to get a rental car where you can use CDs or plug in your smartphone! We always check that when we pick up our car. You’ll need an AUX cable if the audio system can’t connect wireless to your phone. If you use offline playlists on Spotify, obviously you don’t need CDs. In a weird nostalgic way, we like flipping through the little case full of CDs and choose what to listen next.
Power Inverter or Power Bank
Last but not least on our list of road trip essentials: Don’t forget to pack a power inverter so you can charge your phone. Navigation systems usually come with a charger but probably you’ll need another one for your phone. This year, my power bank saved our lives – kind of – because our first rental car has had both power ports disabled. We used the power bank for the navigation system so we could find our way. Lesson learned – we instantly checked if the next rental car had working power ports. It did – problem solved!
Of course, you’ll need some other stuff when on a road trip – very important stuff like cookies, doughnuts, Dr. Pepper or Beef Jerky. I do not really need to tell you that 😉