How to Plan Smart for Your Next Road Trip

So, the open road is calling your name … we understand completely! As makers of practical (and pretty) travel bags and accessories, we know a thing or two about travel and planning the perfect road trip.

If your goal is to pack like a pro the next time you set off on an adventure, you’ll need to take a little time to plan and prep in advance. Strategizing what to bring on a road trip is all part of the excitement. With the right travel gear and a few safety precautions checked off your list, you’ll encounter fewer surprises ... and a lot more fun on your journey.

Once you’ve chosen your ultimate destination and where you’d like to stop along the way, you can start planning what you’ll want to bring. A good place to start planning the perfect road trip is making sure you have the right travel essentials, including travel backpacks, travel duffel bags and tote bags. And don't forget day packs for sightseeing, like travel handbags and convenient, hands-free crossbody and belt bags. Just as important as what to pack on a road trip is what to pack it in!

BEST BAGS TO BRING

Let's start with the bag — or bags, as you'll probably need more than one for that well-planned road trip.

WHAT? A large soft duffel in durable, water-repellent material
WHY? Soft duffels are easy to pack, stack and carry.

WHAT? A hanging organizer, preferably with clear zipper pockets
WHY? There’s no better way to access toiletry essentials while in a moving car. We also fill them with travel games and activities, and hang them behind the seats where kids can reach them.

WHAT? A drawstring bag (or two) with a PVC protective lining
WHY? Great for putting wet items or worn clothes in if traveling with little ones. It's an indispensable bag with so many uses.

WHAT? A small backpack with a protective laptop sleeve
WHY? Because it's the handiest, most convenient way to safely tote your valuable tech gear while also serving as a great carryall for other necessities you'll want to keep with you.

WHAT? A sling backpack
WHY? It doubles as a handbag, but stays snug and secure against your body — keeping all-day wear comfortable and effortless.

WHAT? A lightweight crossbody bag
WHY? Convenience and comfort are everything when sightseeing. You'll appreciate having your hands free for sharing all your great trip pics.

WHAT? A small belt bag
WHY? Sometimes you need your hands and arms free of straps and ready to act fast (moms, we’re always thinking of you!).

OUTSMARTING THE WEATHER

When it comes to what to bring inside all those bags, we suggest starting with a detailed packing list and then revising the list as you determine what you can live without. One packing list item we won't skimp on: the right weather gear. Don't let a little thing like a rain shower or the sweltering sun spoil the fun. Add these to your "must-bring" list for sure!

  • Rain jacket
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Travel blanket
  • Umbrella
  • Warm outer layer
  • Flip flops

TOTING THE RIGHT TECH

Whether you’re sharing your adventure on social media or staying in touch with family and work, packing the right tech is important. Our quick list of tech essentials includes your smart phone, tablet, a car charger, a portable battery charger if you have one, headphones or earbuds, a selfie stick, and a hands-free car phone mount if you’re traveling solo or don’t have a GPS or trusty navigator in the passenger seat.

PUTTING SAFETY FIRST

Be sure to do a quick safety check before you head out, too — that includes checking the car, and packing a few just-in-case supplies.

  • Make sure your license, registration and proof of insurance are in the car with you
  • Make sure your emergency contacts are in your phone
  • Let family and friends know you’re leaving town
  • Make sure your roadside assistance account is renewed and activated
  • Pack a first aid kit with antihistamine and ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Make sure you have a car safety kit and a spare tire
  • Pack a flashlight or head lamp
  • Hide emergency cash and toll money in your console or a cubby
  • Make sure your car is tuned up, gassed up, and you've checked your oil, fluids and tire pressure

CAR-FRIENDLY SNACKING AND SIPPING

Snacking on the road can be a sticky subject, quite literally. Our favorite travel hack for clean eating and hydrating on a road trip is to bring plenty of reusable, refillable containers so your car doesn’t fill up with wrappers and empty cups. Be armed and ready for messes too … spilling on a road trip is practically a rite of passage. Be sure to bring along:

  • A re-usable travel mug
  • Refillable travel water bottles (one for each passenger)
  • Reserve water jug or bottles
  • A small cooler for snacks and drinks
  • A small bag or container for garbage
  • Baby wipes, napkins and paper towels for little messes

KEEPING APPS ON TAP

Before you even hit the road, download all your apps while you’re connected to Wi-Fi and make sure you have a fully charged battery on your tablet or smartphone. We recommend the following apps to keep you both entertained and heading in the right direction: your favorite map app, a traffic app like Waze to navigate around road construction and other delays, a gas station app like GasBuddy if you’re traveling on mostly backroads, and a music app like Spotify, Apple Music or iHeart Radio with all your settings and favorite songs ready to roll!

SO, WHERE TO NEXT? OUR 5 FAVORITE DESTINATIONS

Now that you know how to go, where should you go? When planning a road trip, we always looks for fun spots just a few hours away. After all, getting there is half the fun! From our Midwest offices in Fort Wayne, Indiana, there are lots of special spots to try. Here are just a few of our favorites ...

Mackinac Island, Michigan
A National Historic Landmark and soul-renewing resort dotted with Victorian B&Bs and charming eateries, the beautiful Lake Huron island retreat is family friendly and car free — you’ll stroll or peddle the streets and trails and feel like you’ve traveled to a simpler time.

Brown County, Indiana
Rolling southern Indiana and the Hoosier National Forest is a popular destination for adventure enthusiasts of all levels. Known for its miles of trails in addition to antique shops and art galleries, autumn is an especially lovely time to take in the changing foliage.

Chicago
Foodies, sports fans and museum enthusiasts will not be disappointed in this vibrant city framing the shores of Lake Michigan. From soaring views to architectural river cruises and world-class shopping on Michigan Avenue, there truly is something for everyone in the Windy City.

Door County, Wisconsin
A water-lover’s paradise, this Lake Michigan resort is host to a dozen charming towns filled with art galleries, wineries and some of the best scenic hiking trails in Wisconsin. The cherry harvest in July is an exciting time to visit — but if you miss it, you can find cherries on the menu at every restaurant.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
Twelve-thousand miles of shoreline grace one of the largest wilderness areas in the U.S. You can breakfast in the charming town of Ely, then paddle your heart out alongside panoramic bluffs and rare wildlife from the unique perspective of a kayak or canoe.

With a little smart planning and some thoughtful preparation, you'll be on your way to the perfect little getaway. Writing about all this adventure has us thinking of the places we've been wanting to check out and all the fun we'll have getting there. Hope your next trip is a good one ... maybe we'll see you out there on the open road!