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Does the great American road trip make you think of beautiful National Parks, hole-in-the-wall diners, and discovering whimsical new towns? Or do you remember long hours in smelly, sweaty, cramped cars? Here are five essentials to make your next summer road trip as comfortable as it is memorable.

1. Get an air conditioning recharge

A passenger hangs their feet out the window of a hot car while its driving.
Road trip passenger | Anja via Unsplash

Nothing can ruin a road trip faster than busted air conditioning (AC). When you check your car over to make certain it is ready for a road trip, it’s essential your AC is blowing cold. Even on a cool day, you may end up baking in the sun without good AC. If your air conditioning is weak, take your car in to the shop. If you’re trying to road trip on a shoestring, or are a dedicated DIYer, you can buy a can of freon and try to recharge your AC yourself. This won’t always solve the problem, so make certain to check your AC again before heading out.

Check out this video on how to recharge your air conditioning yourself:

2. Use hotel lobby bathrooms

A woman and her dog driving down the road.
Road trip driving | Toni Tan via Unsplash

A dirty, grafitti-riddled gas station bathroom is a quick way to ruin a road trip’s mood for both you and your passengers. Sure, sometimes you are in a hurry and a rest stop is your best option. But the lobbies of nice hotels are an excellent place to ask to use the rest room, even if you’re not a guest! Any road trippers who need the bathroom will appreciate the professional level of cleanliness. And everyone else can enjoy the hospitality of a nice hotel lobby while they wait.

3. Get a trash container for your car

A woman leans against the open door of a parked car, facing the sunset.
Road trip rest break | William Christen via Unsplash

After a few days road tripping in your car, the fast food wrappers and coffee cups can turn it into a real pigsty. Trash isn’t just an eyesore, but a messy car can actually be unsafe when locking up your brakes fills your cabin with flying debris. Make sure to gather up the trash and throw it out anytime you stop to fuel up (or give one of your passengers this job). But in the interim, a scented trash bag, or even a small trash can designed for cars is a real road trip essential.

4. Wear a baseball cap

A baseball cap on the dashboard of a car that's driving through the rain.
Baseball cap | Andrew Nee via Unsplash

Driving into the setting sun can be a real pain in the eyeballs. Sometimes it’s so bright, even sunglasses won’t help. At certain angles, your car’s visor won’t block the sun. In these instances, a baseball cap can be just the ticket to protect your eyes. I personally find that during a long day of driving, my sunglasses can become uncomfortable. If you feel the same way, swapping between a cap and glasses can offer some relief. And finally, if you’re rolling in a convertible with the top down make sure to apply that sunscreen early and often!

5. Pack snacks and even a camelbak

Woman sits on the hood of a green Volkswagen Beetle parked on the beach.
Volkswagen Beetle | Amos Bar Zeev via Unsplash

Make sure to pack plenty of snacks for you and your passengers. Something filling, like hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky, or meal-replacement bars is essential for keeping everyone on your road trip content without making continual stops. And a cooler and sandwich makings can save you a lot in restaurant bills. But even more important than snacks is water. If each passenger doesn’t have their own, large water-bottle, a gallon jug from a gas station is not overkill. Some long-distance road trippers even prefer to hang a camelbak or other hydration bladder off the back of the driver’s seat so they can sip while keeping their hands free.


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