by Lisa

Packing for a road trip can be stressful.  How many t-shirts should you pack?  Do you need that cocktail dress?  What about these four pairs of shoes?

Whatever your plans, the weather, and any special activities you’ll pursue, these are the things you don’t want to leave home without.

  1. Cell Phone: Your cell phone is your best friend while road tripping.  One upon a time, in the land before cell phones, if your car broke down you had to walk to a payphone.  This could be miles, especially if you’re driving around out west.  Miles in the rain, even.  But now (provided you have a signal), help can be on the way in minutes.  Plus, you can call in — or email, or text — to keep loved ones who may be worried posted on your whereabouts.  Cell phones make road tripping safer for the solo girl.  Make sure you’ve got a reliable one, and a charger, before you step on the gas.
  2. Auto Club Membership:  When you do break down, or get a flat, and pull out your cell phone, who do you call?  Yep, you’re going to call your auto club, because you’ve made sure your membership is up to date before you left.  AAA is affordable and pays for itself if you need them even once while on the open road.
  3. Camera: Don’t just rely on your phone for this.  You’ll want to capture those amazing sights in higher quality.
  4. Music: Yes, part of the fun of driving through the great unknown is experiencing local radio.  Sometimes, however, you’ll run into long stretches of static.  Bring your iPod, or CDs, or whatever you need to sing along to while you’re eating up the miles.
  5. Maps: I rely on my GPS as much as the next person these days.  But maps are fun, and let you see a bigger area and…wait for it…plot your own route.  Imagine that.
  6. Stamps and Addresses: In this digital age, we are quick to email and text and phone, but no longer do we take the time to hand-write a note.  While mass emailing photos and trip accounts — or blogging — can reach a mass audience, nothing can replace the postcard, something unique to your location, selected with someone in mind, with a personal note.  Even if that note is “Wish you were here.”  If you’re not into sending cards to others, consider sending them to yourself, the way Alice Steinbach does in Without Reservations.
  7. Sunscreen: You’ll need it.  You should be wearing it everyday anyway.
  8. Pillow: Whether it’s a little travel donut or your favorite feather pillow, bring it along.  When you get tired on the road, you shouldn’t try to keep driving as you’re dozing off.  But make sure you pull over somewhere safe!

I could close out the list by telling you to bring your sense of adventure, but that would be cliché.  Instead, just keep this in mind: whatever else you bring with you when you set off, it won’t be as important as the memories you’ll bring back.