It’s that time of year again. The birds are singing, flowers are sprouting up from the earth and the open road is calling my name.
This spring break, my family and I embarked on a twenty-two hundred-mile journey through five states. It was a long trip but an enjoyable one.
Our first stop included a couple of days in Tennessee in the Great Smokey Mountains. The fresh air was glorious, but the scenery stirred your soul. The mountains spread out like a painted canvas still dappled with snow, and every craggy rock wall had water seeping from it.
After our time in the mountains, we traveled north to the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum. For years, I’ve wanted to visit and was not disappointed. If you enjoy biblical history, I whole heartily recommend a stop at both museums.
As we drove through large cities, small towns, and rolling farmland, I thought about the breathtaking views and people we met. We tried a mom & pop burger place for lunch and found a dairy farm selling fresh ice cream. I tried the carrot cake flavor! It was amazing.
I’m an off-the-beaten-path traveler and love collecting bits of history along the way.
When we settled into our last stop for the week, I spent some time journaling about what I’d seen and heard during our travels. It’s important to grab the memories while they’re fresh and not try to recall them the week you get home and you’re buried under a mountain of laundry.
Before I crawled into bed that night, I also thought about the little extras I was glad to have taken with me on our journey. Things that didn’t take up much space but made our travel a bit more pleasant.
Here is a list of my twelve must-haves on a road trip. Though they may not be what you’d typically consider, I hope you find them as beneficial as I did.
Stick a dryer sheet in each shoe before you pack them and they will help keep things fresh. Traveling through dry air causes static on our clothes and these help in a pinch. We also have multiple laundry bags after a road trip and I throw a dryer sheet in each one to keep the laundry smell to a minimum. They are great to add to your luggage when you first pack. It helps your day 6 outfit smell just as fresh as your day 1!
LED Candles with a Timer
We tend to imprint our environments into our brains. If we wake up in the middle of the night in our own homes, we could probably walk around the house with our eyes shut. In a new place, not so much. LED Candles are the perfect solution. The timer feature comes on at the same time every night, so you don’t need to remember to turn them on or off. They help shed light on the unfamiliar layout of your hotel or Air B & B, and if you run into bad weather, you already have a candle lit.
Large Plastic Storage Bags
From wet clothes to snacks, storage bags are invaluable on a trip. Use them to organize medicines, socks, activity bags for the kids, and trash in the car. They even work in a pinch if someone has an unexpected flare-up of car sickness.
A Deck of Cards
Not all vacation destinations are created equal. Some don’t even have Wi-Fi. Before we left on our trip, we realized one of our stops didn’t have internet and we were expecting storms. With the possibility of no electricity, I grabbed a new deck of cards and threw them in the car. It’s a small compact way to entertain the family. Just be sure you look up any directions for your card play before you lose power—or you could wing it and just make up your own rules!
If you’ve ever stayed in hotels, you know after a few days with a couple of family members, it’s good to have some room spray. Often there are no windows to open and no fans, leaving the air to become stale. I bring a travel-size room spray on my trips to fit into my toiletry bag. Be careful not to bring something with too much perfume because of the small space.
We are long past having babies or toddlers in our household, but baby wipes have become a staple in our home. These handy little wipes are great for picking up quick spills, wiping down surfaces like park tables before your picnic, and sticky hands when you don’t have running water close by. Our family always makes sure we have a package in the car and I have a travel size in my backpack.
This probably seems like an odd item to throw in right here. However, every car needs a pair of scissors. First, they can cut through seatbelt straps in an emergency. Just make sure you keep them close by, like in the glove box and not in your trunk. Also, make sure they aren’t small medical scissors, get a nice heavy pair. Other times you made need scissors on the road: cutting through medical tape or gauze to cover a wound, fixing bubble gum hair disasters, and cutting electrical tape or duct tape for a quick DIY repair.
An obvious item, but the one time you forget it, you’ll remember it. Whether you’re staying in hotels, Air B & B’s, or in an RV, extra TP on a road trip is a must.
Are you a fan of takeout? Do you have an overabundance of those pre-wrapped cutlery packages you don’t know what to do with? Grab a bunch of them, throw them in a plastic storage bag, and put them in the car for your upcoming road trip. The next time the drive-thru forgets the spoon for your yogurt parfait, you won’t be slurping from the cup down the interstate.
Always have a roll of paper towels in the car. Always. For many years, we traveled with little ones who battled car sickness, and having a roll of paper towels was an absolute must. They’re handy for spills, impromptu lap plates for snacks, and cleaning the film off the inside of your windshield to help you see better while driving toward bright headlights. As a side note, paper towel tubes are wonderful imaginative play items for kids! They can turn into swords, pretend fishing poles, or tunnels for mini cars.
Travel Sewing Kit
Imagine you’re on your way to a family reunion and the button pops off of the shirt you’ve chosen for your special day. A travel sewing kit has spare buttons, thread, or safety pins to keep you from worrying about your clothing mishap.
And last but not least,
A Small Notebook or Sketchpad
Nothing like the open road to get those creative juices flowing. Traveling is like a spark to my imagination and it’s the perfect excuse to pull one of those unused journals off the shelf and jot some ideas down for a new story. Don’t forget a set of double-ended colored pencils or mini markers. They make a great companion for your creative thoughts!
What about you? Has the crisp spring air called out for you to hit the open road? I hope so! There is so much to explore out there.
Whether it’s a day trip in your own state or a weeklong trek across a couple of states, I hope my list of must-haves for my road trip gives you some ideas for your next journey!