After over a year of quarantines and travel restrictions, we’re all itching to travel and explore as the country slowly opens back up. A road trip sounds mighty nice right now! In fact, my family will be taking our first trip to Las Vegas since early 2020 for my son’s club soccer team.
As usual, I’ve researched the best road trip organization tips and resources to help us (and you) prepare!
In this article:
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After many of us have spent the past year pretty much inside our homes, worrying about our health and our loved ones, who can blame us for wanting a vacation?
With businesses and tourist destinations slowly opening throughout the country, and a reported 60 percent of survey respondents saying they plan to travel more in 2021 than they did in 2019, it’s clear that travelers are ready to hit the road.
Let’s all travel safely and sanely this summer! Before we get into the organization and planning tips, I’ve provided information from the U.S. State Department and the CDC on current travel advisories:
Current Advisories for Travel
It’s important to stay on top of the government’s travel advisories and recommendations with a pandemic still very much in play. I’ve included links to important resources below. I suggest bookmarking them for future reference, as advisories change frequently.
The CDC has issued considerations for traveling within the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. They include getting vaccinated and tested for COVID-19 before traveling, wearing a mask and social distancing while in public.
AAA has a very handy interactive map that displays current travel restrictions and advisories across the U.S. Note that some areas do have travel restrictions as of March 2021.
Now, it’s time to think about what we’ll need to prepare and organize for our trips. Read on for my list of road trip essentials! And… PIN THIS IMAGE for future reference:
Road Trip Organization: Pre-Trip Checklists
Road trips provide a wonderful opportunity to see new parts of the country, spend quality time with the family, and they allow us to easily travel with pets. That’s why, according to AAA, half of traveling families choose the car as their form of travel transportation.
While COVID has made predictions for travel a bit more difficult, it’s safe to assume that many families who do travel this year will do so by car. So, if this is your preferred means of travel, you’re in good company!
To help you stay organized and fully prepared for your vacation, here’s a handy pre-road trip checklist:
✔ Pre-Trip Car Inspection
The pre-trip car inspection is the most important item on the road trip checklist. It’s even more important that having enough snacks for the kids! Long trips cause stress and wear on a car, and there’s nothing worse than breaking down on a long stretch of highway. (Been there, done that. Not fun.)
Before embarking on any car travel, be sure to do the following:
- Check the oil (and change, if necessary)
- Check and top off other fluids, including brake fluid, windshield cleaner, and coolant
- Inspect the air filter (if dirty, replace)
- Check the battery (consider replacing if it’s a few years old)
- Check the air pressure in your tires and inflate to the recommended PSI (don’t forget the spare, too!)
- Inspect the tread on your tires (replace if they’re below 2/32″)
- Make sure all lights and signals are working
- Check the wiper blades (replace if worn)
- Wash the car to ensure maximum visibility
- Give the car a test ride to check for any unusual noises or vibrations
If you don’t want to do all of this yourself (or you’re not sure you know how), you can make an appointment with your mechanic to give the car a complete look-over and tune-up.
I’ve chosen this option before, when I was driving an older model car and wanted to be extra sure it was safe for a long trip. It saves time, but costs money.
✔ Road Trip Essentials Packing List
One of my biggest road trip organization tips is to make a comprehensive packing list well ahead of time. Think about every situation that may arise during the trip, and purchase and pack accordingly!
To help save you some time, I’ve listed below what I feel are road trip essentials. This list includes the “wish I had thought of” items that make all long car rides so much more comfortable. There are also a few new “COVID” essentials that should be kept top of mind.
Emergency Travel Kit
Believe it or not, this is more important than your luggage! Be sure an emergency travel kit is fully stocked and loaded in your car before you hit the road. At a minimum, the kit should include the following:
- Jumper cables
- Emergency warning triangle(s)
- Air compressor/tire inflator
- Air pressure gauge
- First aid essentials
Amazon sells a 76-piece kit from the American Automobile Association’s exclusive licensee. This kit meets AAA’s minimum standards for quality and safety. It contains just about anything you might need if you find yourself with a dead battery, low tire pressure or other roadside emergency.
Keep each of your passengers comfy and stiff neck-free with a machine-washable travel pillow!
The model pictured above features a memory foam core with a washable micro-fiber cover for ultra-soft comfort. Add a travel blanket or two, and everyone will arrive at the destination feeling well-rested and ready for adventure.
Car Cooler with Snack Tray
Let your passengers satisfy their need to nibble and sip with this awesome car cooler/snack tray/travel organizer. It conveniently keeps drinks cold, snacks plentiful, and has pockets for books and other travel necessities. The flip top lid serves as a snack tray and play surface for travel games, too.
Reusable Water Bottles
Staying hydrated is extremely important on a road trip. If your car breaks down on a hot, lonely stretch of highway, you’ll want extra water bottles on hand for every passenger.
Stainless steel, reusable water bottles are a great way to keep drinking water cold longer. Plus, they’re durable and environmentally friendly. And they don’t have to cost a fortune! Amazon offers several varieties at an affordable price, like the ones pictured above.
Dual-Port USB Phone/Device Charger
Traveling with friends or family members in the car? Be sure to have enough USB charging outlets! This Amazon Basics dual-port USB charger works for both Apple and Android devices. Just plug it into the car’s DC adapter and you’re set! (Charging cables not included.)
Road trips with young kids require LOTS of potty stops. But what if the next rest stop is miles away (or worse, closed)? I highly recommend a travel potty! We used one all the time when my son was potty-training (and for a year or so after, on long road trips).
This model is collapsible, so it travels nice and light in the trunk or backseat. It cleans easily and comes with a storage bag.
BONUS TIP: For up-to-date information on rest stop closures, here’s a handy list of Department of Transportation links and phone numbers for every state.
Toilet Paper To-Go
Along with the travel potty, travel toilet tissue is a VERY nice-to-have on a long road trip! Grab a 6-pack or two on Amazon and stash them in your purse, luggage, glove box…you name it.
Map (Paper or Downloadable)
If you’re headed to a location where cell service may be iffy (and you don’t have a navigation system in your car), a map will really come in handy.
Car Trash Can with Lid
Keep all of that road trip trash contained and secured in a covered car trash can. The model pictured above attaches to the center console or hangs from a head rest for easy access. It comes with a vinyl, leakproof lining to keep liquids from spilling onto the car floor.
COVID Travel Considerations
COVID-19 adds a little “extra” to the list of travel organization tips. Different parts of the country have different COVID-19 requirements for masks and social distancing. At this time, it’s recommended that you travel with multiple masks on hand for every passenger. (Young children and those with health issues may not be required to wear masks; check for requirements in your area of travel.)
Masks may be required to enter restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and other public places. A combination of disposable paper and reusable cloth masks is a good idea, especially if you’re not planning to be in close proximity to a laundromat.
In addition to masks, disposable wipes and hand sanitizer are highly recommended for protecting yourself and your passengers from COVID and other viruses.
✔ How to Pack Your Car (Like a Pro)
After the pre-trip inspection and packing list comes the actual packing of the car. Knowing how to pack a car efficiently is crucial! Check out this great video from AAA for travel organization tips that maximize your cargo space:
How to Pack and Plan for the Unknown
Since travel guidelines and restrictions are changing at a lightning pace due to COVID, it’s best to plan for the unknown, no matter where you’re going. Rest stops and points of interest you planned to visit may be closed. Hotels and resorts may change their policies. Restaurants may be offering curbside pickup only. And you may want to limit the amount of exposure you and your passengers experience on your trip.
So, in my final set of travel organization tips, I recommend bringing a few “extras” along that you might not normally pack, as it might be difficult to find them on the way:
- Sheets, pillows and pillowcases
- Reusable travel utensils and straws
- Disposable toilet seat covers
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Ear plugs and sleep mask
- Body and hand wipes
- Dry shampoo
- Hand cream & body lotion
- Blow dryer
- Extra toothbrushes & toothpaste
- Clorox wipes and Lysol spray for sanitizing surfaces in hotel rooms (don’t forget the TV remotes!)
- Mini hairbrush and hair ties
- Hair gel and hairspray
- Extra cash and change on hand for tolls, vending machines, roadside stands, etc.
- Portable chargers for phones and tablets
- Lint roller
- Swiss army knife with bottle opener, tweezers, scissors, screwdriver, etc.
- Plastic grocery bags for extra trash, or to carry items to/from the car
Got a travel organization tip that has worked great for you? Leave it in the comments!