5 Road Trip Essentials

I spend a spectacular amount of time in my car, whether it’s for day trips to scout for new locations, longer trips for clients, or road trips that cover thousands of kilometers.

And while I love lists, and long ones at that, I think there are just five things I think about when I’m heading out on the road – camera gear and a change of clothing aside. For my upcoming trip to the East Coast, #2 definitely applies!

These are the most important things for me when I get in my car and go; what would you add to this list?

Winding Road through the Oregon forests

1. Getting around: I use my iPhone all the time, but on long hauls to remote areas and/or out of the country, a GPS is totally necessary! I have an old Garmin I keep updating for anything that takes me out of the city. BONUS: It tells me the speed limit, which is super handy when I’m in a foreign country where they use miles and I really have to pay attention.

2. Planning just enough – but not too much: It was important for me to stay in Cannon Beach, since I wanted to shoot early in the morning and later into the evening. But other than the night I landed in Vancouver, and those two nights, I just found lodgings whenever I wanted to stop. NOTE: I have learned to be flexible, because stuff just goes sideways. On my bucket list was a visit to Portland’s Chinese Garden. Guess what? It was closed for renovation (I would have known had I googled, but that’s another life lesson). I was passing through Seattle and thought I’d try stopping at their arboretum. I made it there with two hours to spare, but they’d closed two hours early.

3. Staying in touch: Free wi-fi is everywhere, but this is a double-edged sword, friends. Though I had a roaming plan for my Oregon trip, I knew I’d burn through it looking at maps and websites and posting updates. I found myself at bigger chains more often than I’d like, simply to make use of the free wi-fi. CAVEAT: Public hotspots are not terribly secure. I have a VPN to keep my data safe(r). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_private_network

4. Feeding my body: This one could be a whole post by itself! My first stop on any trip, if I’m not starting from home, is a favourite grocery or bulk store. I stock up on healthy snacks and water, because I know that when I stop for a wi-fi/bathroom break, I’ll be picking up an iced coffee confections and less healthy treats. I have to be careful when I travel, as too much rich food will make me ill and spoil a trip, so I wind up eating frequently at Subway, and keeping those fabulous meals as a treat every couple of days. I always pack a yoga mat, and try to stay at hotels with pools every other night to undo the damage of long drives. TRUTH: The thing I tire of most is eating out every day, and I can’t wait to get home to a simple, home-cooked meal.

5. Feeding my soul: I always have a long road trip playlist under development, adding little bits of happiness until it’s time to hit the road. My rental had satellite radio, and while I really enjoyed having it, my favourite stations did get repetitive AND there were areas of Oregon where the reception was poor. This is also a great time to catch up on podcasts, though I sometimes find them distracting when I’m searching for locations. TIP: download your favourites to your device so you’re not reliant on cell signals or your data plan. This goes double for us Canadians who pay A LOT for data!


6. Renting A Car: Even if my car wasn’t eight years old, for longer trips, I’d still be renting. Why? Putting thousands of kilometers on my car isn’t worth it, and I want to spend my week in comfort. My trip was almost over before it began thanks to that credit card snafu, and I have to give full props to Enterprise-Rent-A-Car for coming through with some seriously top-knotch customer service. SECRET TIP: A Costco membership comes with discounts on car rentals! Highly recommended.

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