Road Trip Essentials: A Taxonomy

A list of items to get you from point A to point B.

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.

Toilet paper

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. ♦


  • Mary August 20th, 2012 11:11 PM

    Was this post sponsored by Febreze? Not that it’s a problem, I understand that you have to make money somehow, I was just wondering.

    Awesome post!

  • radchildren August 20th, 2012 11:12 PM

    Love this one!! ♥

  • JillianYvette August 20th, 2012 11:13 PM

    I hate family road trips, but I would just love to go on a road trip with my friends for the rest of my life.

  • Maddy August 20th, 2012 11:30 PM

    I like the illustrations! One of my secret goals is to go on a road trip with friends I make in college because although I’m tempted to just be by myself all the time, everyone seems to have an amazing and meaningful experience traveling with friends.

  • M13 August 20th, 2012 11:31 PM

    oh gosh. All of these road trip guides and I JUST got back from an agonizingly long 2-day road trip from Kansas to New York which I spent the majority of tallying cows. Whyyyy weren’t this (and the road trip games article) posted 3 days ago?!?!

  • Adrienne August 21st, 2012 12:21 AM

    Okay, I need to plan out a road trip now… I love the dictionary/thesaurus idea. And oh my god, FRIENDS! Hahaha! I see what you did there… with Rachel..

  • emilycarolina August 21st, 2012 1:05 AM

    I normally hate road trips but now I really want to take one just to use these tips and the road trip games! Grrrr

  • Olivia August 21st, 2012 1:36 AM

    omg the jennifer aniston illustration is the best thing to happen to my internet experience on 8/20/12 so far.

  • gogobionicgirl August 21st, 2012 2:34 AM

    I wish that was febreeze’s actual slogan.

    • BritishFish August 21st, 2012 3:14 AM

      Same here. Or “No more cat pee stank.” Damn cat..

      • missmadness August 21st, 2012 6:18 AM

        As I always tell my boyfriend when he whines about the cat peeing elsewhere, “how would you feel if you had to piss in a box everyday?”

        deep thoughts man, deep thoughts.

  • Susann August 21st, 2012 2:40 AM

    This is really helpful for my upcoming bus trip to Prague! And I really like the drawings :)

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • ivoire August 21st, 2012 5:53 AM

    omg guys you forgot like a sick bag or something!!!!

  • Rebus August 21st, 2012 10:40 AM

    if only i have read this article before i travelled to Spain.. 23 hours of traveling on the second floor of a bus =’)
    but i got home with the best memories ever, and lots of them happened on the bus, with my schoolmates =)

  • elise August 21st, 2012 2:00 PM

    Books on tape are also amazing!
    My family collectively listened to the first four Harry Potter books on our annual road trips, plus a hilarious Steve Martin tape that we quote to this day. Good Timez.

  • sherbert August 21st, 2012 5:30 PM

    sooo funny!

  • MissKnowItAll August 21st, 2012 9:54 PM

    my bestie and I call each other Monica and Rachel :)
    I’m Monica :)

  • Afonso August 23rd, 2012 8:16 AM

    Being a young girl in Lisbon is not that interesting. Just saying.

  • boyfights August 24th, 2012 12:03 PM

    Wish they sold Febreze in Australia. Like dry shampoo for clothes – brilliant. And a no-brainer; get it together Australia!