I am no road trip virgin. I love traveling, and have since I was a toddler. My parents used to line the rear of their 1980’s station wagon with blankets and sleeping bags and drag my brother and myself all across the southeast to visit relatives during the summer. Nearly all of my best childhood memories revolve around trips. Sandwiches and cokes from the cooler, napping on the sticky burgundy vinyl seats, watching other people from the huge back windows, stopping to picnic at roadside parks… I adore traveling this way, it’s in my genes.
Those early days of road tripping ingrained in my head what is actually ‘necessary’ and what is not on a long car trip. My list has changed a little over the years, depending on the event and length of trip, but there is a core list that never changes. For road tripping to events, these things are absolutely essential.
1) Comfortable ‘riding’ clothes. Sweats or yoga pants, a loose t-shirt, a loose hoodie, and shoes I can easily take off and put on. Almost without fail, this is what I will wear in the car. I don’t care who is going to see me in a gas station or rest stop, but I will be presentable enough not to scare small children. You can always change in a bathroom somewhere if you’re going directly to the venue. Or change in the car, if you’re not bashful.
2) Snacks. This absolutely will change depending on your traveling companions, but you MUST have snacks in the car. Stopping every time someone is thirsty or hungry is not an option, and often isn’t actually possible. Trust me, bring simple snacks. Dried veggie and fruit snacks, beef jerky, peanut butter crackers, apples and/or oranges, and bottled water are my go-to snacks. If it doesn’t have to be kept cold, even better. Also, this will save you a 2am walk to the snack machine in a sketchy motel if you get the munchies, and you can discreetly carry these into most events to stave off having to purchase festival food until you absolutely have to.
3) Antibacterial hand cleaner. Pack more than one small bottle… gas station bathrooms and porta-potties are gross and you WILL want this.
4) Wet wipes. You will feel disgusting at some point. Bring something to cool yourself off and clean yourself up. I usually have basic wet wipes and a pack of makeup removing wipes.
5) SMALL makeup kit. Ladies, seriously, if you are attending an outdoor event in the summer, your perfectly applied makeup will melt. Having the smallest possible kit to repair it will make you feel better and prevent you from looking like you got face-hugged by Sasquatch. Also, if you are traveling at an unearthly hour of the morning, you can always put on a touch of makeup in the car if you decide to stop and shop or eat somewhere.
6) Cash, especially quarters. Vending machines and toll booths take coins almost without fail. Don’t count on being able to use bills. I keep a bag of random change (especially quarters) in my car now on all trips. Festival vendors will generally take credit and debit cards now, but it is SO easy to swipe numbers these days, cash is much safer to use at festivals. Split it between pockets, keep some stashed in a special corner of your bag, get a phone case with a cash holder… whatever you need to do to have a backup.
7) Maps / paperwork. Road map, venue layout, map of the hotel location. Tickets. Copy of the hotel reservation confirmation email. Know where the heck you are going. Don’t count on something that requires power and a satellite connection, and have a hardcopy of the most important stuff as backup.
8) Event-appropriate clothing. Are you going to be outside the whole time? Inside? Is rain predicted? Will you be standing or sitting the majority of the time? Will you be doing a lot of walking? I have seen girls dressed in practically nothing wearing 5 inch heels at outdoor festivals. Ridiculous. That’s not saying you shouldn’t be cute and wear things you like, but it’s not very cute when you can’t even stand up after being in stilettos for 6 hours and your “so cute” heels keep sinking into the grass. I’m the chick wearing my fabulous flip flops laughing at you every time you stumble. And I’m not alone.
9) Bags. Ok, this one is highly debatable. I would rather not have to carry a bag around all day and keep up with it. If I can fit cash and tickets in my pockets and keep my phone in hand, then I don’t use a bag. Bags attract attention and can easily be stolen. But, if I know I’m going to be purchasing t-shirts and other items, having a bag makes it much easier to transport things without damaging or losing them. Personally, I take a small nylon messenger bag that collapses into its own pocket and judge whether I need it or not at the time of the event. Doesn’t take up much space in my luggage, but I have it if I need it.
10) A reliable travel partner. If you wouldn’t trust them to babysit your dog, then don’t travel with them. It’s really that simple.