Essential supplies, energizing tips, and rental car intel, presented by Real Simple and Travel + Leisure.
If you're hitting the road this summer, here are seven essentials to jump-start your journey.
A well-stocked emergency kit.
It should include first-aid supplies, jumper cables, a flashlight and extra batteries, road flares or reflective triangles, a blanket, water, and a few protein bars. Also good to have: neck pillows, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, a cooler with drinks and snacks, and gallon-size zippered plastic bags (for trash).
Duffels and tote bags, which are easy to squeeze into a stuffed car, are the key to packing effectively. Large items go in first, and then work in smaller pieces around them like a puzzle. Whatever you do, don’t bury the emergency kit or cooler in the trunk. And if you’re planning to stop for the night, stock a separate overnight bag with toiletries and a change of clothes.
A universal car charger.
Your smartphone is your lifeline. Make sure it doesn’t run out of juice with a Ventev Dashport q1200 ($35), which powers up devices lightning fast and works with just about any phone.
Have some sights you want to hit along the way? Use the Roadtrippers app (free; Android, iOS) to plot and save a route that incorporates them all. You can also use it to discover nearby restaurants and hotels en route. If your tastes run toward quirkier attractions, try Roadside America (free; iOS), which points out offbeat landmarks and museums around you.
Real-time traffic updates.
The Waze app (free; Android, iOS) will give you directions and alert and reroute you if there’s traffic ahead, thanks to crowdsourced information from users.
A never-ending radio dial.
What’s a road trip without some local radio? TuneIn Radio (free; Android, iOS) will give you access to the stations near you, along with thousands of others around the globe. You can live-stream music, talk, sports, and news stations, or check out the latest episodes of a podcast.
The GasBuddy app (free; Android, iOS) takes scouting gas stations one step further by helping you identify the ones near you with the lowest fuel prices. Type in your origin and destination cities, and it’ll even calculate how much you can expect to spend on gas for the entire journey.
Road Rx: Quick Fixes for when you're feeling weary.
1. Fatigue: Pop a peppermint, which helps to stimulate the brain. If you’re really tired, though, pull over.
2. Motion sickness: Don’t watch the landscape whiz past the side windows. Instead, look out the windshield to the horizon line. Also try acupressure: use your thumb to apply pressure to the underside of the wrist, about two inches below your palm and between the two tendons.
3. Stiffness: Adjust the seat’s lumbar support to align with your lower back or tuck a small pillow behind you. And be sure to stop every two hours for a quick set of stretches.
Rental Cars 101: Three things to know before hopping in a rental.
1. Check your current insurance coverage. You may already be covered by your personal car insurance or credit card. For credit card coverage to be activated, you’ll have to decline the collision damage waiver from the rental-car company.
2. Know the exceptions. Many credit card policies do not cover luxury vehicles or four-wheel-drive cars taken off-road. They also don’t cover rentals in some countries, including Israel and Ireland.
3. Don’t be up-sold unnecessarily. Before you take the agent’s bait for a low-fee upgrade, make sure he actually has your reserved car in stock and is not just trying to sell you a vehicle that they’d have to give you for free anyway.
Want to bring the checklist with you? Download the PDF to print the guide.