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May 26 2011

Road Trip Checklist

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The key to a successful road trip is to be prepared while remaining flexible.  To be prepared requires having the right things to help you through any situation.  In my planning, I’ve come up with the following checklist of supplies you will need while taking a road trip in the USA:

  • Map – and not just the map that the car rental place gives you, or a printout from Google Maps, but rather a decent US road atlas.  You’re going to need it if your GPS packs up and you can’t get wireless, but also its far nicer to sit in a motel room at the end of a days driving and plan the next day over a paper map than relying on technology.
  • GPS – A GPS or Sat Nav will get you out of trouble, and may well mean you can avoid worrying too much about tracking the route you’re taking.  It will help you find your hotel and generally all the navigation duties that would otherwise cause stress.  You don’t want to rely on the rental companies GPS – I’ve used too many of those that are downright awful – and its easier if you use your own GPS anyway, because you are probably used to how it gives instructions.  However you want to ensure it has the right maps for the usa
  • Laptop – We’re in the information age, and these days your laptop is the key to a vast world of information.  No longer do you have to plod down a highway hoping a motel with vacancies will spring into view – now you can have planned, booked and sorted everything out the night before over a glass of whatever expensive wine the motel vending machine has to offer.  Also, it will let you watch some of those Road Trip  Movies, should you want to.  (incidentally, an iPad is almost as good as a laptop for all this)
  • Phone – its the age of the iPhone – but you don’t have to have an iPhone, any smartphone will do.  I’ve searched high and low for decent US prepaid data plans and come to the conclusion that there aren’t any, so we won’t be using your phone for data – but rather its for getting out of trouble in emergencies.  Also, it combines the functionality of map, GPS and laptop in an emergency
  • Guidebook – yeah, sure, the open road ain’t about no guide book.  But a well researched guide will give you places to look out for, and point out where exactly are the best places to go.
  • iPod with road trip music – if you’re gonna drive, you want to drive with rockin’ beats (or, you know, calm soothing beats if thats mor your style)
  • sun block – The sun is a menace (I say that as a pale pasty faced boy who burns the moment the temperature tops 15 degrees celsius).  But you’re going to be out in in, and road trips lead to the unexpected, so make sure you’re covered (Both literally and metaphorically)
  • umbrella – if it isn’t sunny, its rainy.  Don’t let the rain get in the way, you can fit a small folding brolly into your luggage, beating nature and keeping you dry.
  • laptop rucksack – you probably don’t want to leave your laptop in the car – so a rucksack designed for holding it is the best idea for hand luggage.
  • laptop lock – if you are planning on staying in a dodgy hotel, a laptop lock will provide additional protection
  • snacks & drinks – keep these topped up from drugstores and grocers.  You won’t know when your next meal is going to be.  (Also, I’m gluten intolerant, so ensuring I can construct a meal is worth managing as I never know if I’ll find somewhere safe to eat)
  • Towel – there is a hitchhikers guide to the galaxy joke to be made here.  But more than that, a town can get you dry, and stop you making a mess.  It lets you lie on a beach, and makes a makeshift picnic blanket.  Having a towel with you is just as good idea
  • Waterproof Coat – again, it might rain.  and you might have to go out in it.  Something waterproof is a worthwhile investment
  • knife & fork & spoon & plastic plate & cup
  • passport – you won’t get out of they UK without a passport, but also you won’t get a beer in the US without one either
  • drivers licence  you’ll need this (Both photo card and paper counterpart) to hire a car
  • travel insurance docs & copies – keep one in your hand luggage, and one in your case (and also, if you can, email yourself a copy of the details, so you can get to it via the internet).  It’ll keep you covered, and give you a number to ring when problems occur
  • Tickets (plane, train) – again, keeping copies of etickets on the internet is a good way of protecting yourself from loss
  • Hotel booking details
  • Car reservation details


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