Roadtrip Essentials

I grew up in a driving family. Well, at least with a driving Dad. If he could drive to Australia, he'd rather do that than fly there. I don't know if we learned it, or if we were just born with the same driving gene, but both my siblings and I have it. Every summer we'd go camping, and I always wanted to pick the farther destination because that meant more time in the car, which meant more time listening to music, more time to hang my head out the window, more time to eat junk food, and more time hanging out with just dad.

As a family, we tend to romanticize basic activities, such as driving, as though we're being filmed for a biopic at all times. I'd also like to blame that on my dad and being subjected to 70s rock as elementary schoolers in the car in the morning when he'd drive us. Every third grader knows all the words to "Hotel California", right?

Last week my sister, my dad, and I went on a road trip to Montana and Idaho. (Total time in car in a week: approx. 30 hours). Every year we take a ski trip over President's weekend so whoever is in college at the time is able to have that extra day off for a long weekend. The last couple years we've made it a tradition to go to Big Sky, outside of Bozeman, MT, so that its more convenient for my brother, who's still in school in Missoula. It had been awhile since we'd all piled in a car and drove very far together, and it was just as fun as it used to be. 

I got to thinking about things that make being in the car for an extended period of time more enjoyable. Because, let's face it, no matter how much you love the road, being in a small space, strapped to a seat for more than a couple hours tends to get less than comfortable.

Roadtrip Essentials:
1. Snacks. If you're really on top of your game and thinking ahead, you can make sandwiches, or wraps, or things of that nature that are easily put together and stay in one piece. We were always  fans of jerky/pepperoni (from a butcher, not a gas station). It's hard to eat healthy on a road trip, so you have to plan for that. Along the way, you're usually trying to doddle as little as possible, so the only options are gas station food, or cafes in small towns, which is where you're going to find the best chicken fried steak, or biscuits and gravy. But let's be honest, every road trip needs a box of donuts.

2. Coffee & Water: You need to stay awake, and you need to stay hydrated, and you're just going to have to accept the fact that you're gonna have to make pit stops fairly often. As you get more seasoned in the road trip game, you can probably keep your bathroom breaks to under three minutes, which won't cut into your driving time too much.

3. Music: I kind of did this list in backwards order of importance, and music is almost the number one. Have multiple CDs, albums, (I don't even know what to call them anymore - my 2014 car came without a CD player, which blew my mind)...I digress. Organize your music however it's easiest for you to deal with while driving. I like to make playlists that consist of a few different genres so that I don't get bored, or fall asleep at any point. Spotify is a life saver, let me tell you.

4. (Most importantly) People: as with most things in life, it's not where you are, it's who you're with. Road trip companions are like roommates, and I wouldn't road trip with just anybody. You guys have to be on relatively the same page as far as where you stop and how often, what music you're listening to (that's huge), and you definitely have to agree on which donuts to buy. 



  • Camera: Because you don't want to not have documentation of the world's largest ball of twine, or the epic sunset you're inevitably going to see at some point.
  • Blanket/Puffy coat: to prop up against your door and lean on, because you can promise the driver all you want that you won't sleep, but there will be a little snoozing at some point.
  • Comfortable clothes: whatever you need to do to stay comfortable in the car for an extended period of time. I consider outfits I wouldn't dream of wearing in public normally appropriate on a road trip. Who are you gonna run into?

And I'll let you in on a little want to sit in the back seat. As kids, the front was always the coveted position, but in the back, you can lean against the door, put your feet up, and kick back. You can probably even sneak an extra donut when no one is looking. Don't tell your siblings. Happy trails.