If you’re a regular reader our blog, you will know how much we love a road trip. From The Great Ocean Road in Australia to the Pacific Coast Highway in California and many places in between. We love the freedom of being able to go and stop wherever we like. If we see a cool rock formation – we stop. When we see a beautiful rugged coastline – we stop. And when we want to eat, drink or use the loo – we stop. Organised tours are good, but road trips are so much better. I mean come on, who doesn’t love being masters of their own destiny? And on our recent Italian Road Trip, we relished in the freedom having a hire car gave us. Where do you have planned for your next road trip?
Having taken many road trips over the years, there are a number of things we know that we have to pack to ensure that our journey is as safe and as comfortable as possible. These items, of course, include driving licence and copies of relevant insurance policies, a list of contact numbers i.e. hire care company/break down company should we need them or get into an accident, each other (naturally) and of course a kick-ass playlist to sing along (and have been known to dance) to as we hit the open road.
Therefore based on our road trip experiences, especially on our recent Italian Road Trip from Genoa, through Portofino and on to Cinque Terre we have put together a list of essentials you need for your next road trip. We hope you find our list helpful. The top 6 things we always pack are:
Sunglasses are a must for both Mr ESLT and me regardless of the time of year or where we are heading. Ok, Alaska in the middle of winter may be the exception. I have light sensitive eyes, meaning I squint – a lot. Not great when the forehead wrinkles are getting worse by the day. And Mr ESLT has just been informed by his optician that his eyes are UV damaged due to working outside for the past 25 years. Therefore, even when everyone else has packed their sunglasses away for autumn, we still need ours, especially when taking a road trip.
As any driver knows, it’s imperative that you can see the road in front of you at all times, so having to squint is not great. Therefore, a pair of sunglasses is always recommended when getting behind the wheel. Mr ESLT always has a pair in the car and I always keep a pair in my handbag. Especially at this time of the year, when there is the low-level sun in the sky, that always seems to be right in your eyes, which makes driving without sunglasses awkward regardless of light sensitivity or UV damage.
Mr ESLT is currently rocking a pair of Serengeti Aerial sunglasses which are specifically designed as driving glasses. You may think that driving glasses wouldn’t be the trendiest sunglasses in the world, but this pair is great. They are not only modern but sturdy too. They are great for wearing when hitting the road but also for day to day wear too. Protecting our eyes is paramount and this pair of sunglasses does just that perfectly. They are Mr ESLT’s new favourite pair and I think they suit him wonderfully.
A few months ago we were sent a copy of ‘Conversational Italian for Travelers (with Restaurant Vocabulary and Idiomatic Expressions)‘ by Kathryn Occhipinti which was a handy companion on our latest road trip. I’ll be honest I am not the most confident person when it comes to speaking out loud in a foreign language. I always worry that I am going to get it wrong and insult or offend the person who I am talking to. However, what I have noticed over the years of attempting to speak to people that the majority are willing to give you the time to at least try.
This phrasebook is great because the phrases found in it are extremely useful and practical. It is not dry like many phrasebooks instead it is friendly and even humorous. It is also a great size and lived in my handbag during the duration of our trip, ensuring that we had it to hand when ordering food in restaurants, changing money and even asking for directions, amongst other things.
Because we used it a lot throughout our trip and have now added a phrasebook to our list of essentials for all future road trips. As Brits, I think we have become a bit lazy and just expect people to speak English wherever we go, which is not always the case. By having a phrasebook with us, we can try to ask questions in the local language and failing that at least we can point to the question or phrase in the book.
When I’ve visiting somewhere I’m not familiar with, I need some navigational help and that’s when a sat nav comes in handy. Sometimes spending the extra cash when hiring a car is worth it to ensure it has one fitted as standard, especially as it will be configured for the country you are visiting. If not you could always take one from home if you have one of course. Although it’s advised that you check in advance to see if it works in the country(ies) you are visiting.
Or failing that, Google Maps is your friend. If you have a European sim card in your phone, then the data used to operate Google Maps should just come off your contracted allowance meaning no hefty phone bill waiting for you when you get home, which is never a nice souvenir of your holiday. If you don’t have a European sim card and data costs you a £1k per MB then check out Maps.Me which provides offline maps using OpenStreetMap data. This means no sneaky data roaming charges.
Regardless of what technology you opt for, please remember to pack a good old fashioned road atlas, just in case something goes wrong with your sat nav/phone. You can pick one up from Amazon for a few quid. It could, in fact, prove to be the best few quid you have ever spent. Having a contingency is always advised as getting lost in a foreign country can be very frustrating.
Of course, water for you, especially if driving through a hot country. Dehydration is real. So if you plan to cover a long distance in one go without stopping – water is your friend. Together with glove box snacks of course. Therefore, don’t forget to fill your water bottle before you set off and at every stop thereafter. If you don’t have a water bottle maybe it’s time to invest in one. There is far too much one-time use plastic making its way into our waterways. Not to sound preachy but it is our responsibility to protect the earth for future generations. We all have to play our part. If we all make one small change, in this case for something that will cost you a few quid, it can have a big impact on our planet.
Also, your car may need water. It can be put into your radiator should the car begin to overheat. Obviously, proper coolant liquid is better but if you are in the middle of nowhere and having to make do with what you’ve got – water will work in the interim. If your car becomes too hot, it could lead to lasting engine damage, which could be pretty pricey if it’s your own car and maybe not covered by your insurance policy if it’s a hire car.
Also, a stash of water is beneficial should you run out of window washer fluid. As water is a suitable substitute until you can buy some more pre-mixed fluid. Different terrains can leave various things on your windshield. This could affect what you can see on the road in front of you. Therefore, ensuring your windshield is debris free at all times is vital to avoid accidents.
I’ll be honest, I am not a massive fan of guidebooks for city breaks as more often than not you only end up doing what the guidebook lists and you don’t stumble across things for yourself. Therefore, when I visit a city, I quite often like to ‘get lost’. You know what I mean, put the guidebook down and just wander. More often than not I read a guidebook before I visit somewhere. I do this just for pointers and to give me a rough idea of what to expect.
However, whenever we take a road trip, we always pack one. The freedom of a road trip allows you to stop anywhere you fancy, which we love. However, it is also nice to have an idea of what to do should you stop somewhere unexpected. If you are like us, you want to make the most of your time wherever in the world you are and would kick yourself if you missed out on something.
Our favourites are guidebooks with pull out maps enclosed for the times when you actually don’t want to get lost. Again, Google Maps is a great thing but sometimes that little blue dot dances across our screen and we get beyond frustrated with it. Therefore, a trusty paper map is the way to go. It also allows you to ask people (i.e. hotel receptionists) to mark places of interest, restaurants, ATMs and other relevant places on it with ease.
Comfortable clothing is a must when travelling, especially if you’re going to be sat for a long period of time. I personally opt for loose-fitting cotton layers when possible. There’s nothing worse than the waistband of your jeans digging in or getting too hot or too cold. Ok, when you’re the passenger on a road trip it may be easier to take things off or put them on, as necessary, but if you’re the driver, you’d have to find a safe and suitable place to pull over.
Layers are also great if your start destination is not the same temperature as your final destination. For example, when we took a Californian road trip last year it was 12 degrees in San Francisco, yet 35 degrees by the time we reached Yosemite. Meaning the sweatshirt I was wearing in our leather-trimmed convertible (the roof was down, naturally) Mustang became redundant quickly as the temperatures started to rise. Unfortunately, I had not layered up, which meant we had to leave the highway and find somewhere for me to get changed. Therefore, adding unnecessary time onto our journey.
Also, shoes need to be considered, especially if you are going to be sat for a long time and even more so if you are in fact the driver. I personally am not a high heel wearer. Therefore, would never wear them on a road trip but others may plan to. In reality, do you need to? Unless you’re driving to a gala ball, why not go without them? Obviously, if you’re the driver wear sensible, flat shoes and leave the flip flops in your bag ready to hit the beach if there is one when you get to where you’re going.
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