Roll of tape
Tape can be used when you need to fix some broken car thing (I’m assuming that it can solve most engine problems), but if the person sitting next to you is beginning to annoy you, you can use the tape to divide the car in half (or in fifths, sixths, etc., depending on how many people you’re upset with), sitcom style, where no one is allowed to cross the tape line. Using tape instead of something more permanent like paint encourages reconciliation.
If you’re like me, you have 50 pictures of your cat sleeping with her tongue sticking out. But this road trip is finally going to give you the opportunity to use your camera with purpose—to take fun, creative photographs that you’ll cherish in the future and show to your grandkids (though, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t also show those cat pics to your grandkids).
Sitting around, not doing anything for hours is tiring. You can use the pillows to make napping slightly more comfortable, or you can turn the backseat into a pillow fort.
Maps that point out roadside oddities
One of the benefits of traveling by car as opposed to plane, boat, or train is that you have the freedom to stop when you want and take in a little culture. Sure, you could visit a museum or a landmark with some real historical value. But you could also see the world’s second-largest ball of twine, which would probably be more fulfilling.
Chips, fruit snacks, Cap’n Crunch, juice boxes—bring all of your favorite treats from home. Share your stash, if you’re so inclined, or barter like 19th century pioneers did as they traveled the Oregon Trail. When driving through different regions of the country, stock up on the local munchies. There’s alligator jerky in Louisiana.
Scarf and sunglasses
If you’re traveling in a convertible, a scarf and a pair of sunglasses are practical (helping to keep you hair in place and to shield your eyes from bugs, debris, and, of course, sun). But even if you’re sitting in the backseat of the family SUV, the scarf-sunglasses combo is just a really good road-trip look.
If you’re on a long trip and don’t have access to a washing machine, or you’re just traveling when it’s especially hot and you find yourself sweating a lot, Febreze Fabric Refresher can neutralize any offensive clothes odors, making the car a more hospitable place. Thai Dragon Fruit, Apple Mango Tango, Hawaiian Aloha—your traveling clothes can smell like anything your heart desires.
When nature calls, you must answer immediately. Sometimes that means pulling over on the side of the road to relieve yourself. Toilet paper won’t prevent passersby from seeing you squat beside your car, but it will help you maintain personal hygiene, and that’s something, right?
Dictionary, thesaurus, metaphors, and similes to help you narrate your journey colorfully
For a long time now, I’ve wanted to be a character in a Terrence Malick movie like Badlands or Days of Heaven and have all of my adventures and thoughts explained via a voiceover full of folksy imagery that’s heartbreakingly beautiful in its simplicity but almost doesn’t make any sense. This kind of narration makes every experience seem super poignant. With a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a metaphor cheat sheet (a notebook of prepared imagery and possibly short sentences lifted from your favorite novels), you can narrate the entire journey in real time, highlighting the significance of everything that happens. If your mom rolls down the window, you could say, “So she’d decided to let some air in and the breeze kissed her face and it was so fierce and true that she recalled an old lover who’d trace his lips across her cheeks when she was a young girl in Lisbon.” It doesn’t matter if your mother has never been to Lisbon—it sounds good, and everyone should appreciate what you’re trying to do.
Road jams/Mega Music Mix
Back in the day, road trip mixes were a point of contention. Particularly when traveling with family, it would be almost impossible to find music that everyone could agree on. Now we have technology, so everyone can put on their headphones and listen to their own music on iPods or iPhones or Zunes or what have you and then download new music when that initial playlist gets old. But road trips are supposed to be these great bonding experiences, and one way to achieve that is through music—you know, maybe get a little sing-along going. Before you head out, come up with a theme for your mix and have everyone contribute an equal number of tracks to the list. If several people in your party have truly unbearable taste, though, you might want to consider swapping the music mix for a language-learning CD. By the end of the ride, you will all be bonded through your knowledge of Swahili.
Inside jokes and “remember the times” are born during these sorts of trips. On the road, you’ll be creating the wonderful (and sometimes less than wonderful) memories that will always connect you few, you happy few, you band of people who once sat in a car together for hours on end. ♦