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The Ultimate Summer Road Trip Checklist

May 3, 2019

The sun is shining, temperatures are climbing, and the open road is calling! If there’s a destination that has skyrocketed to the top of your travel bucket list for 2019, summer is the perfect time to plan a road trip. Whether you’re looking forward to a quick weekend getaway or a cross-country odyssey, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed all the essentials before you climb into the car. From innovative apps that take the stress out of travel to the latest car camping gear, here’s our checklist for guaranteed road trip success.

1. An Adventurous Crew

While it can feel incredibly freeing to plan a solo adventure, we think that road trips are the most fun when you’ve got a few friends along for the ride. Long hours in the car can bring out unexpected tensions (even among BFFs), so put some serious thought into assembling your road trip crew. Make sure everyone is on the same page about the important details—timing, budget, destinations, drivers, etc.—before you even pull out of your garage. It’s also key to keep the group small enough that everyone’s comfy in the car; trust us, no one wants to ride in the middle seat for more than fifteen minutes.

2. Planning & Map Apps

Once you’ve assembled your road trip dream team, it’s time to start planning! If you have a few key destinations in mind, there are lots of apps that can make it easier to find the perfect route—and have some fun along the way! Try out Roadtrippers to fill in long stretches of highway with unexpected roadside attractions, Waze to dodge traffic jams and speed traps, Gas Buddy to save a few bucks while fueling up, and Hotel Tonight to find last-minute deals when you need to catch some z’s.

3. Plenty of Snacks

When hanger strikes, your trip can turn from fun to frustrating in mere minutes. Snacks are a critical part of any road trip, great for staving off both hunger pangs and boredom after a few hours in the car. To avoid relying solely on gas station Cheetos and drive-through burgers, it’s best to pack your own selection of satisfying snacks. That’s especially true if you’re taking a longer trip, heading to a remote area, or planning to do some car camping (more on that subject below). Balance healthy options like fruit and jerky with sweet and salty treats for those inevitable cravings. You’ll also want to stock up on water and cold brew to stay energized when you’ve got some serious miles to go. Keep things chill with a roomy cooler stowed in your trunk; here are 2019 buying guides for the best traditional coolers as well as high-tech options that are powered by your car.

4. Comfy Car Clothes

A cross-country road trip is definitely not the time to break in your raw denim jacket or make a fashion statement with that brand-new jumpsuit—this type of trip is all about staying comfy in something cool and casual. Road trips are the perfect time to embrace athleisure; pack a bag of colorful leggings or shorts, breezy tees, baseball hats, sneakers, and Birkenstocks. Bonus: you’ll be ready to get moving when it’s time for sightseeing or hiking! And, of course, don’t leave home without a few pairs of shades so you can enjoy the view along the way. (We’re partial to Fast Lanes when you feel a need for speed, or Mile Highs for vintage vibes on the road.)

5. A Stellar Soundtrack

The windows are rolled down, you’re singing at the top of your lungs…no road trip is complete without some great music! Before your trip gets underway, devote a couple of hours to curating the perfect playlists for a long drive. This probably isn’t the time to dig into the back catalog of your favorite local band from college. Stick to crowd-pleasing picks like classic rock, throwback pop from your high school days, or even songs from your favorite movies—whatever will get you and your friends singing along! If a few members of your road trip crew use Spotify, you can set up a shared playlist and add songs together before you hit the highway. It’s also worth ponying up for the Premium subscription so you can download playlists to prep for your trip. That way, the music won’t run out when you hit areas with bad cell service.

6. Car Camping Gear

National parks are among the most popular road trip destinations in the U.S., and a stop at one (or more) of these natural wonders likely means you’ll be doing some car camping. Exactly how much gear you need depends on how long you’re planning to camp and how far off the beaten path you’re headed. Even the most casual campers will need a tent, sleeping bags, chairs, and some basic cooking equipment, but you can take things to the next level with lights and speakers, collapsible kitchen setups, car-mounted awnings, and even portable showers. These guides from Outside and HiConsumption are great starting points if you want to elevate your camping experience with some high-tech gear.

7. Portable Chargers

The final item on our list might not be the most exciting, but it could be a real lifesaver while you’re on the road. There’s no feeling of panic quite like seeing a low battery warning when you’re fully relying on Google Maps to get you to your next destination. You’re also likely to reach for your phone when you want to snap a few travel photos, change up your playlist, or check in with the fam at home. Avoid any battery-related woes by picking up a portable charger for your devices before your road trip begins. Future you will appreciate those great planning skills!

Planning to hit the road this summer? Take along your favorite sunnies and tag us with #KnockFan to have your adventures featured—and maybe even win some free shades!

Written by Caroline Lees for Knockaround.

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