I've spent 300 hours on road trips across the US. Here are 8 things I always pack for a long-haul drive.

I've spent 300 hours on road trips across the US. Here are 8 things I always pack for a long-haul drive.
  • Americans are opting for road trips over air travel this summer, according to recent studies.

  • After 300 hours of US road trips, I know exactly what to pack to make your drive easier.

  • Wear your comfiest shoes, and don't forget to bring trash bags, wipes, and a camera.

Americans are tired of flying.

According to a recent study by Advance Auto Parts, 70% of the US population is more likely to take road trips this year than last to avoid air travel stress.

Another recent study by the Vacationer found that 196 million Americans plan to drive to their destinations this summer.

When it comes to American road trips, I'm no newbie. From the Southwest to the Northeast, I've traveled more than 20,000 miles to destinations around the US.

When it comes to packing up the car, I've certainly made some mistakes. I've forgotten important items and longed for essentials that I didn't even think of.

But 300 hours and more than a dozen trips later, I think I've mastered the art of packing for a road trip. Here are the things I'll always bring with me, no matter the destination.

I often forget to pack motion sickness medicine on road trips and stop for some on the way.

The author uses Dramamine to combat motion sickness.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I've always been prone to motion sickness, but even if you're not, driving through the mountains could make you feel queasy.

I hate that I need caffeine to stay alert, but that's where I'm at.

A hand holds a mio energy bottle
The author's favorite Mio flavor.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

On a road trip, I prefer Mio Energy, a flavorful boost to add to water, because it keeps me hydrated.

I download playlists and podcasts to keep myself entertained.

A hand holds a white iPhone in a yellow case with a screen displaying a Spotify playlist called Not Quite Classical
The author's downloaded playlist.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

When you're driving on open roads, you never know when you'll lose service.

I've always road-tripped with other people. And as someone who values alone time, packing headphones is the only way to get it in a cramped car.

The author's wired headphones with a standard 3.5 jack
The author's wired headphones.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

For introverts like me, using headphones allows me to take breaks from socializing.

Especially when road-tripping with others, comfy shoes feel essential to sustaining my good mood.

White slip on shoes in front of a black backpack and a white pillow on a blue chair inside a train cabin.
The author wears her comfiest shoes for a 30-hour train journey in 2021.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

I typically wear cozy shoes that slip on and off easily.

Another mood booster for me is a clean car.

a banana peel, bottle, and cup filled with wrappers on the mid console of a car with a black interior
This car probably doesn't have a trash can inside.victorass88/Getty Images

From empty food containers to candy wrappers, a road trip can quickly make a car messy. So don't forget to bring a small trash can or bag to keep things tidy.

Don't forget wipes — especially when eating in the car.

The author's toiletries on a white sheet including a sweatband and white package of laundry sheets on top of a pink rag. Below these items, there's a white and blue electric toothbrush with an astronaut helmet shaped cover, an orange bag of liquid items, a black package of wipes, and a thick, white scrunchy meant for drying hair.
The author packs wipes for a trip.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

When something spills or your hands are sticky, you'll be glad you packed them.

And lastly, don't forget a camera to capture those stellar American landscapes.

A silhouette of the author holding a camera with a sunset and cable towers in the background.
The author stops for photos during a southwestern American road trip.Joey Hadden/Business Insider

Of course, there are other essentials for road trips, like emergency gear, sunglasses, and a reusable water bottle. But the items on this list have helped me make a long, bumpy ride go smoothly.

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