Charger cords? Check. Map app. Check. Sense of adventure. Check and check. Nothing says summer like “road trip,” whether you’re heading to the beach or a music festival. But being stuck without something you need on a road trip is a summer bummer. Here are 6 easy-to-pack necessities you’ll be glad you threw in at the last minute.

The right snacks

Part of the fun of a road trip is indulging in junk food. But if you’re faced with a stale convenience store donut or an iffy-looking fast food joint, you might be happy that you stocked up on some of your faves before you hit the road.

If you don’t want to waste time with a full-blown grocery store stop, raid your pantry and fridge for whatever you’ve got on hand. Staples that can work unexpectedly well on a last-minute road trip include crackers, chocolate chips, protein bars, and leftover Easter candy. (Tip: stock a mini cooler with a zip-top bag full of ice cubes since many convenience stores charge full price, even if you’re filling up your own reusable bottle with ice.)

Multi-purpose clothing

Even those of us who are masters of the layered look can find ourselves unprepared for the unexpected. Two items that every road tripper should have are a bathing suit and a fleece. No one’s ever sad they brought a bathing suit. But they might be bummed they didn’t when happening upon a hotel hot tub or pristine mountain lake. Plus, it doesn’t take up much space in your suitcase. Ditto on the fleece. Even if you’re headed to the desert, you never know when an unexpected breeze could kill your al fresco dinner.

A rocking playlist

Take some current hits, add a few of your old-school faves from back in the day, and prepare for the miles to fly by as you belt out hits from your high school days. Podcasts are another great way to pass the time.

Hygiene items

Fact: road trips will make you feel a bit grimy. If you want to arrive at your destination looking fresh, stash a few grooming staples in your road trip bag, such as wipes, dry shampoo, and a toothbrush (mouthwash can work in a pinch). Just raid your bathroom medicine cabinet or gym bag and you’ll be on your way.

Playing cards

Whether you’re stuck in your hotel room due to an unexpected deluge or have an interminable wait at that roadside dive you’ve just got to try, a deck of cards can make the time pass fast. And let’s face it, playing cards is a lot more fun than blindly scrolling through your social media. Post that selfie of you in front of the epic ball of string and then put the phone down. (Cards can also come in handy if you’re waiting for roadside assistance.)

Emergency kit

Make sure you’ve also packed a roadside emergency kit that covers all the bases. That way, you’ll be ready no matter what happens.

Travel hacks | Getting there


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.