Whether you're driving cross country, along the coast or just four hours away, a road trip can be an exciting adventure. Don't overpack your car, even if you have an SUV with plenty of room. Check the maximum weight load for your vehicle before leaving and resist the urge to pack 10 pairs of shoes. A clutter-free car is more comfortable, and safer, too.
Be prepared in case of a breakdown or other emergency. Fodors recommends keeping an emergency kit easily accessible; pack items like road flares, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flashlight, tire gauge, jack and lug wrench, tire sealant, jumper cables, spare fuses, ice scraper and clean towels or rags. Bring a car charger for your cell phone to ensure it's ready to use in case of an accident or medical emergency. Keep a spare set of car keys in your purse or wallet in case you're locked out. Bring paper maps in addition to a GPS, just in case you can't get a signal. Double check that you have your driver's license, insurance card and registration with you and an EZ Pass or money for tolls.
Entertainment and comfort
Bring pillows and a blanket for each passenger, along with extra blankets for chilly nights. Occupy children with doodle pads, crayons, books and small toys. Portable DVD players and MP3 players entertain young and old. Bring nylon folding chairs to give your passengers a comfortable place to sit when making a stop. An electricity power inverter plugs into your cigarette lighter and can power/charge items like your computer, a small TV or portable DVD player, MP3 player or camera.
Clothing and shoes
Pack one outfit for each day of your trip. If kids are coming along, pack extra outfits in case of spills or other accidents. Pack a swimsuit if you are visiting a location with a pool or beach. Even if the temperatures aren't expected to be chilly, a light sweatshirt or jacket comes in handy at night. Don't forget underwear, socks and pajamas. If you are traveling for an extended period of time, bring a small bottle of laundry detergent to hand wash clothing in a hotel sink.
Bring the basics such as prescription medicines, shampoo, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, sunblock and contact solution (if you use it). Bug spray is invaluable if you spend a lot of time outdoors, especially at night. If you have kids, pack diapers, baby wipes and other necessities. Travel sized items are available at most discount or drug stores. Don't go overboard with products for every conceivable situation; purchase additional items on the road or at your destination.
Eating and drinking
Keep a cooler filled with ice and bottled water, juice boxes or soda in the trunk. Purchase snacks like granola bars, cookies crackers and packaged chips/pretzels in bulk size at a warehouse store. If you're going on a day trip, pack a few sandwiches to keep in the cooler for a picnic lunch. Don't forget plastic utensils, napkins and cups.