It is not in my DNA to be a crazy planner but before I hit the road I wanted to be prepared. Here are the road trip essential I managed to scrounge together.
Cash for Tolls – This is the most important one especially when going through the Midwest and Northeast. I keep an upwards of $40-60 on hand just in case. I recently paid almost $30 to get from New Jersey to Washington D.C. Also, be mindful of banks. Some banks don’t service certain states.
Analog Maps – I picked up an atlas. It is nice to know where in USA you are. There are a lot of little towns and sights you’d never know about if you rely only on a smartphone.
A Gallon of Water – Be sure you have one, just in case you get stranded in the desert, no one finds you for days and you need to hydrate... Just kidding! Or, the more likely scenario happens: your car overheats. If it makes you feel better, I’ve made it 90% of the way without using mine, except to quench a slight hangover one morning.
Windshield Wiper Fluid or Windex – Keep in mind that in colder climates Windex will freeze inside your wiper tubes (is there a name for those?) but since you’re probably not commencing extended travel through the North in the wintertime you should be good. Recently moved from the West to the East Coast? Take note and buy non-freezing wiper fluid before it gets too cold.
Driving shoes – This is something that I didn’t put in my budget, had I, I would have wanted this pair, this pair, or this swanky set. Instead, I wore these out these until it was too cold and wet to wear them. The soles almost completely split off before I threw them away in New Orleans.
Get an Oil Change – This is a must! When you get your car serviced be sure to tell the mechanics you are driving across the country. Ask them to check your belts, breaks, alignment and air filter.
Playlists – I relied on Pandora for most of the ride but Spotify members rave about their playlist making abilities. Remember the desert and some mountain ranges have little to no service.
Audio Books - Public libraries offer a wide selection of free rentable audio books. I found the Carnegie Libraries in Pittsburgh selection to be underwhelming. Have no fear, sometimes you can hop to the next state and pay a nominal fee to access to their collections.
Budget – Make a budget of all your fixed monthly costs. How long can you go paying those every month? I put aside two extra months of savings just to cover my car payment, insurance, cell phone bill etc. Then I added that to the total costs of the trip.
Gum – The road is a beast and can get boring, or smelly depending on where you decide to eat that day. Gum helps with both. Plus it's always nice to clean up for any driving buddies, hotel and gas stations clerks you might be encountering.
Tissues and Allergy Medicine – You don’t know what types of environments you are allergic to until you have encountered them. Come prepared. It is a real drag getting sick on the road.
Tent and Sleeping Bag - This is only if you are up for it but don’t be shy some KOA campgrounds have tiny cabins with swimming pools and wifi.
And last but not least...
Host Gifts – I mainly brought booze followed up with thank you postcards from my trip but I now wish I had spent a little more time planning them and being creative.
Is there anything I've forgotten?