7 Road Trip Essentials to Save Your Sanity


First of all, I want to give a shout out to the


Twitter chatters. They inspired me to start outlining my posts, and this is the first one that was birthed from an outline. Readers, let me know if you find the flow or style any better/different. I'd love to hear what you think!

Sitting in a car for 11 hours at a time sounds fun, right? And it's a super sane way to travel, yes?

As I recover from my week road tripping across the US, I find myself thinking about what really made a difference in my road trip sanity and happiness. There are tons of posts out there that will tell you that things like paper maps, audiobooks/podcasts, etc. are good to have. That may be true, but I've got 7 road trip essentials for you today that you typically don't find on those lists. All of these saved my (our?) sanity!

Road Trip Essentials

1. Ziploc Baggies- So let's start with a super practical one. Grab a couple of Ziploc bags in varying sizes before you go. These are great for storing food, but also for compartmentalizing things. All of my toiletries were in one. Any lightly-used plasticware that you can use again can be tossed in a Ziploc. Messes, be gone.

Why it saved my sanity: Donuts go stale if they're just left out. Ziploc bags made snacks on the road much tastier.

2. Plastic Shopping Bags (think CVS bags!) - Alright, have you stopped reading yet? Numbers 1 and 2 on this list are bags? Amanda. BUT WAIT. This one is a real sanity saver. You know how your car can get messy after a mere 4 hours in it? Imagine double that. And then multiply that by 7 days. I'm not a math genius, but that is a lot of potential trash. Having a couple of plastic bags allows you to clean out the car multiple times. A clean car is a good thing.

Why it saved my sanity: Nobody wants banana peels sitting in their car in the heat. Nobody. That is BAD NEWS.

3. Purple Mascara - Hear me out. I don't usually wear make up. Especially while I'm on a road trip; ain't nobody got time for that. But! After being in a car all day, it felt luxurious to put some purple mascara on for dinnertime. It's easy to feel stale, so anything to freshen up a little bit can really make a difference! And alright, you don't have to bring purple mascara. But it can be some roll-on perfume (just don't suffocate your travel partners), your favorite lipstick, etc.

Why it saved my sanity: Purple mascara is FUN! And definitely made my peepers look less tired than they were!

4. Pillow - This one probably shows up on a few lists. Some people don't like sleeping on hotel pillows, but that is not my issue. If you're traveling with more than one person, it is imperative that you get some sleep when it isn't your turn to drive. Try sleeping a) in a car, and then b) without a pillow. Good luck. Trust me on this one, and grab an extra pillow. Just maybe don't wear your purple mascara while you're sleeping on the communal pillow.

Why it saved my sanity: I think we all know how important sleep is. But this also makes boring stretches of road go much faster. Just don't leave your driver hanging if it's dark outside or they need your navigation skills!

5. Thank You Notes - My favorite nights were when we got to stay with friends or family. I totally suggest checking out your route before you go and seeing who you can visit along the way! A thank you note is always polite, but even more so if they are letting you rest your weary head on a non-hotel (and non-communal) pillow. Pick some that reflect you and write them out along the way! You can also do this for exceptionally accommodating AirBnB hosts! It could be a great way to make travel friends.

Why it saved my sanity: If you have the thank you notes ready to go, the chances of you forgetting to write them are much smaller. Don't forget to thank the great people in your life!

6. Appropriate Electronics - We're in the digital age, man. Even on a road trip, you're probably going to use your phone for navigation, music, or pictures. Make sure you've all got an appropriate charger! If you've got a way to charge multiple devices at once, I definitely recommend that too. Also, make sure everything is working before you leave. For example, you might want to make sure your memory card works in your sister's camera.

Why it saved could have saved my sanity: Well, for one, I would have been able to use a much nicer camera for my photos. Preparation is key, my friends. Don't find out at the Grand Canyon that your camera can fit no more than 20 pics without a different memory card.

7. The Most Awesome Travel Partners Ever - Okay y'all. I apologize for monopolizing my 7th essential with something super personal. I can see if Mike and Adam are up for being lent out, but if you're doing your own long road trip, you need to choose your companions a bit carefully. We were all decent drivers, nobody slacked on driving duties, and we had some very entertaining conversations. It's important to note that sometimes the most awesome travel partner ever is YOURSELF. I've got a bud who adores solo road trips. You do you!

Why it (they!) saved my sanity: Mike - thank you for doing Nickelback impressions and making me laugh hysterically after my longest driving shift. Adam - thank you for providing an iPod filled with more than metal music.

Let's Chat! 

  • Have you been on a road trip? What are your road trip essentials?
  • Are you or somebody you know heading out on a road trip soon? Share this with them!

There are no affiliate links in this post, but if you follow the AirBnB link, we both get $20 to use for our travels! So let's do that, hey?