Who can resist the call of the great open road?
Well, Jack Kerouc couldn’t, neither can I, and I guess because you are reading this article, you might not be able to either!
From those huge expansive skies, open possibilities, incredible colours and unforgettable adventures, a great road trip really is hard to beat when it comes to the trip of a lifetime.
Indeed, the sense of freedom it invokes is intoxicating.
From Australia and New Zealand to the US and Canada, to Europe and beyond, the possibility to undertake some incredible road trip adventures are endless.
And there are real advantages to traveling this way too.
Not only can the best road trip be a super cheap way to see a country or a continent, but it can also grant you a huge amount of freedom to go and do what you want, when you want.
With a road trip you are the master of your own itinerary, your own journey and your own destination – now who does want a slice of that?!
So, to get you fired up and ready for the next time your tyres hit the open road, here are 15 must-have items for the best road trip possible.
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#1 Good Wheels
First thing you’ll need if you’re going to have the best road trip is a decent set of wheels.
Many budget travellers opt for campervans, which are a great way to see a country or continent cheaply because you can sleep in them as well as drive in them.
They are also very useful if you are road tripping colder destinations or those with a lot of rain, as you don’t have to set up a tent or cook outside!
However, campervans aren’t known for being the most reliable vehicles and certainly won’t get you too far off the beaten track.
If you prefer something a bit more heavy-duty, then consider opting for a 4wd instead.
This sort of vehicle will allow you to get off the bitumen and see the more remote parts of your chosen destination; be it off-grid camping or hidden national parks, a sturdy 4wd will get you there.
If you’re looking to go super budget however, then a regular vehicle where you can perhaps push down the seats and sleep is also always an option!
Or you can take a tent to sleep outside your car. 2wd vehicles make cheap road trip wheels, but don’t have much storage or sleeping space, so do bear that in mind!
Whatever type of vehicle you go for, always check it is road worthy and get it looked over by a mechanic before you set off.
#2 Good Mates
Half the fun of a good road trip is the people who take it with you, so make sure you round up a good group of people to enjoy your adventure with.
There are several key factors to consider when choosing a travel buddy, but having the same interests, budget and rough plans for your trip is a good start.
Road tripping with others will also make things cheaper as, with everyone chipping in for fuel and food, the costs are bound to be lower.
With the perfect people on board, all you then have to do is get on with making the best road trip happen so that you’ll all have some fab memories to reminisce about for years to come.
#3 Good Tunes
The best road trip can’t possibly be complete without an awesome soundtrack, so make sure you get this organised before you head off.
First, get the stereo and speaker system in your vehicle sorted, buying any additional cables or parts you might need. Think, USB or AUX cables for smartphones and tablets or USB sticks you can load music onto.
Then, start getting your soundtrack together.
Consider buying Spotify Premium, as this allows you to download playlists you can listen to without wifi reception. Otherwise, use your Itunes library to get some fab albums together.
#4 Good Maps
You’re definitely going to need some good navigation tools for your amazing road trip, as it is always easier than you think to get lost in places you haven’t been before.
This can also be stressful, especially for the person driving!
While you have phone or wifi reception, the ever-wonderful google maps via a smartphone or tablet is always handy.
Once you get out of towns and into more rural areas however signals can drop out, so you’ll need to have a back-up.
In this instance, consider investing in a GPS system. It may seem like a big outlay, but believe me, you’ll certainly feel like you’ve got your money’s worth after no time at all.
We love our Garmin Express nuvi 2589 and now wouldn’t be without it!
If buying a GPS is a little out of your budget however, then consider hiring one instead – many rental companies now offer this service.
If that doesn’t take your fancy, then it could just be the old-fashioned paper maps you’ll have to settle for.
Hema, Michelin, Marco Polo and AA maps are all reputable brands that offer paper maps you can buy online.
Another great trick is to head into any tourist offices you pass along the way and round up the free map resources they provide there!
#5 Tons of Water
Do not underestimate the amount of water you’ll need to carry on board during your road trip. Even if you’re not going remote, all that driving can be thirsty work and don’t forget you’ll need water for the vehicle too.
Even if you’re not going remote, all that driving can be thirsty work and don’t forget you’ll need water for the vehicle too.
If you’re going somewhere remote, then it’s best to be prepared and take extra water you can wash yourselves and any clothes / dishes with.
Don’t forget you’ll also want plenty of water in case you breakdown somewhere and are stuck for a while.
I recommend at least 5 litres per person per day, more if you’re travelling in summer, through desert areas or in countries where the tap water isn’t potable.
#6 A Tent
Taking a tent with you, so that you can camp out under the stars, is a key part of the best road trip experience.
Not only will it save you money, but it will also allow you to experience a greater sense of freedom, as with it, you can lay your head just about anywhere (within reason!)
If you’re taking a campervan or you can sleep in the back of your car, a tent isn’t so important, but nevertheless, it’s a great idea if you want to go hiking, visit national parks or simply sleep outside and soak up a sense of the great outdoors.
This is, without a doubt, the best app money can buy when it comes to having the best road trip.
Costing only $7 AUD, you can download Wiki camps onto your phone and use it to discover thousands of free, budget or luxury campsites along your road trip route.
Wikicamps also gives you info on picnic stops and rest areas, as well as providing you with useful reviews from other travellers.
A total winner!
Sounds predictable I know, but I hazard matches are probably the most forgotten road trip item of all time.
And what’s a road trip without a campfire at night hey?
Rubbish, that’s’ what!
Matches are also very handy for cooking with. Always keep a plentiful supply!
#9 An Inverter
With all the amazing things you’ll be seeing on your road trip, there’s a fair chance you’ll want to be charging your camera or GoPro on the way.
If you’re wanting to stay in touch with those at home, then a phone will almost certainly come in handy too.
And, if you’re looking to research your next destination or book accommodation, then a tablet or laptop is a must as well.
Brilliantly converting 12V to 240V, inverters allow you to run and charge all sort of household appliances off your car battery – a lifesaver when you’re on the road for a while or going off grid quite a lot.
The cost of not having to stop at a caravan park or motel to constantly use power for these basic things can really mount up over time, meaning buying an inverter before you start your road trip will certainly save you cash in the long run too.
#10 Warm Clothes
There isn’t anything worse than being cold, especially at night, when you’re trying to have the best road trip, so make sure you take enough warm clothes with you – remember you want to be able to enjoy being outdoors after dark!
Without plenty of warm attire, any road trip of mine would be a horrible experience, so take heed!
Even if you’re travelling in the summer, still be prepared, a rain jacket will never go a miss!
#11 A Stubby Holder / Koozie
Crucial for keeping your beer cold at the end of a long day’s driving, your life will be miserable if you don’t take a few stubby holders (otherwise known as beer koozies!) on your road trip.
Cheap, light and easy to carry, these gems really are worth their weight in gold when it comes to getting the best out of your frosty one on a hot sunny day!
#12 A Solar Panel
And, talking of sun, what about harnessing all that free energy while you’re having the best road trip possible.
Buying a solar panel for your adventure can be a big expense, but you’ll soon reap the rewards when you’re getting day after day of free power.
Easy to setup, use and disable, these handy inventions are one of the best things to take, especially if you’re looking to be a bit self-sustainable during your adventure.
We have a 120w model for our road trip around Australia and I certainly recommend something this powerful, even if it is a little bulky.
Alternatively, many companies now have roll-up solar panels, which are a bit more expensive, but take up virtually no room in your vehicle at all – winner!
#13 A Good SIM Card
This is more important if your amazing road trip is taking you across country borders, but should nevertheless be considered even for national-only road trips.
That’s because you really want to make sure that a) you’re not going to be paying a fortune when using your phone during your adventure and b) that your phone will work!
Ok, so you may want to use your road trip as an opportunity to disconnect for a while, but very soon you’ll realise how not having a permanent base or good wifi supply means a lot of phone data time when it comes to researching forthcoming destinations, booking accommodation or keeping in touch with home.
As such, you want to get a SIM card with a decent data allowance for your road trip.
If you’re going international, then you also want to get a SIM with low roaming rates and good coverage, so that you’re not racking up a hefty bill.
And, most importantly, you want to get a SIM card with a decent phone provider who has offers excellent coverage. After all, there’s no point whipping out your phone once you’ve broken down only to find you can’t call anyone!
#14 Dual USB Charger
These genius inventions are a crucial part of the best road trip as they will ensure all those great devices such as cameras and ipods stay topped up and you’re never left high and dry without any music to listen to or anything to capture that great sunset with.
I really recommend ZUS, which is an awesome dual USB car charger that plugs straight into your cigarette lighter.
The beauty of this handy specimen, apart from its very reasonable price tag, is the fact that ZUS charges 2 devices simultaneously at double the speed of a regular charger.
Now don’t ask me how it does this, it just does and it does it brilliantly. I know, because I have one and we use it all the time!
#15 A Good Headlamp
Do not, I repeat do not, even consider going on a road trip without getting a headlamp before you leave home.
Do you know how dark it can get out there and do you know how many potential creepy crawlies you may encounter on your way to the toilet in the night?
Plus, a head lamp is really helpful when trying to cook and/or eat and/or set up a tent in the dark.
Believe me, I know.
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So that’s my list of the 15 must-have items you’ll need to make the best road trip possible.
Let me know your thoughts and what’s on your list?