TRAVEL 2023 – Hit the road, Jack.
No, seriously, let’s go. It’s that time of year here in the Great Upstate and beyond: The sun’s rays are vibing with our coordinates, birds are chirping, flowers are in bloom and your allergies feel like pollen plug, but don’t a-choose to stay inside — ’tis the season to put the pedal to the metal and hit the road, Jack (I don’t make the [road] rules).
Whether you’re a hardened wandering warrior or finally shifting that bucket-list road trip into high gear, it’s crucial to have everything you need for an A+ joyride.
You might turn to Google, the 21st-century gospel, for some inspiration, but a quick search yields article after article with listicles including things like plenty of water, trail mix, an extra blanket, a rad playlist, blah, blah, blah.
Sure, that’s all good; you must stay hydrated, right? And no one likes a hangry driver.
But while you’re packing the cooler, think about packing a few tricks up your sleeve to take your road trip to the next exit — I mean level.
Here are some of my road-trip essentials that will make other roadies stop you dead in your (tire) tracks — or at the very least, serve as a distraction until you know exactly how far it is to the next Stewart’s Shop (the No. 1 place to go No. 2).
Feel like lashing out? Scoop up a pair of these from Five Below and your fabu-LASH ride is sure to stop traffic. Just don’t ask me if mascara is included.
With an inflatable bed you turn your car into a five-star hotel and never have to worry about an early checkout time again. Nothing really “mattress” when you’re on the road! Perfect for a power nap, because your Tesla isn’t the only thing that needs recharging.
Car Swivel Tray & Saucemoto (as seen on ‘Shark Tank’)
“When I dip, you dip, we dip.” Those aren’t just the lyrics to the ’90s banger “Da Dip” by Freak Nasty but also my motto regarding condiments. Sauce is life, and I don’t discriminate. Eating on the road can be pretty sweet, but things can quickly turn sour with one sharp turn or pothole.
Enter the Zone Tech Car Swivel Tray and/or Saucemoto, bringing a bit of sophistication to on-the-road meals while keeping your pants and car seats clear of any nasty grease stains. Leave those Shout Wipes at home, baby (on second thought … ).
Programmable LED Car Sign
If you run out of things to talk about with your co-pilots just say something to passengers in other vehicles. Tell passersby anything that’s on your mind. I suggest an interactive message, such as “Honk if you think it’s worth stopping at the world’s largest ball of yarn!”
When traffic blows, blow bubbles! It’s like a party in a jar. I highly recommend U-tTurn to a container of bubbles for an instant mood booster when you’re one “are we there yet?” away from a mental breakdown.
Now, I wouldn’t be caught dead working on a road trip. Mama needs a break. However, it does come in handy for several reasons, including my next suggestion …
Adult Coloring Book
Unleash your inner Picasso and zen out in the back seat with a Pantone palette. Specifically, the “Roadside Attractions” edition is on-brand because this coloring book doubles as an activity and quirky destination inspiration as you color each page. And unlike the driver, you don’t have to stay between the lines! Phew.
Aromatherapy Essential Oil USB Diffuser
Speaking of finding your zen, this may get you there faster. Some intermittent misting never hurt nobody. This is so essential.
(Not your grandmother’s) Card Games
It’s all fun and games until you start playing “Throwing Shade,” a hilariously insulting party game that rewards you for being horrible to your friends, because there’s no better way to show affection than with an insult, amirite? Roasting is my love language; however, this deck of cards comes with a warning label from its makers: “Warning: This is intended as a fun game to play with your friends. Remember, your friends are the family you choose.
So it’s important to live, laugh and love once the game is done.”
I recently found and purchased this liability at Hatchet Hardware, the 518’s favorite Ace Hardware with an identity crisis. (News flash: It wasn’t in the paint section).
I suggest testing the waters with friends during a quick jaunt up to Lake George; if no one kicks you out of the car or leaves you for dead on the side of the road, then I’d take that as a green light to play on longer trips.
If that’s a crowd pleaser, consider adding JOMO to the rotation. This one is made for people like me who are in their “JOMO” era: joy of missing out. Similar to everyone’s favorite cringefest, Cards Against Humanity, players are tasked with providing funny, obscene or downright offensive excuses.
Selfie Stick Tripod
We’ve all been there: You’re trying to take a selfie in front of the Cardiff Giant in Cooperstown (or some other roadside attraction you discovered in the adult coloring book), but your arms are having a T-Rex moment and you need an assist (“Instagram or it didn’t happen,” right?). As much as selfie sticks are artifacts from 2014 and, at times, low-key embarrassing, they can be lifesavers on the road, framing picture-perfect memories one pit stop at time. So be a little SELFish and scoop one up for the road.
It’s all in the details, so it doesn’t suck to pack a mini vacuum on hand, because let’s face it: No one likes a crumby ride. Drive-thru spill? Sandy day at the beach? Four-legged friends? Bark-seat drivers? Not something you want to mess with on the road. Keep your ride clean, bumper to bumper.
Carpool Karaoke The Mic
You say four-hour car ride, I say four-hour concert! Host an open-mic night right from the back seat of a sedan. This wireless mic is a must: packed with light effects that synchronize to your music and a built-in rechargeable battery, belt out a duet with the driver for hours of continuous performance.
Pro tip: Consider curating custom tunes for your passengers, because nothing says “I’m sorry for the things I said when we were playing Throwing Shade” than a playlist. Can you say “Mic drop?”
Tile Pro Key Finder
Speaking of key changes … if your car keys are anything like mine, they’ve been known to run off every now and then. Rude. Pump the brakes and attach a Tile Pro Key Finder to your keychain instead. It’s perfect for road trippers who are busy going back and forth from their car to gas stations, roadside attractions, motels and more. Don’t forget my keys’ favorite activity: falling between the seats. Ping the tile from your phone and locate your keys no matter where you left them.
Because if you’re not running on fumes, you’re doing it wrong.
You might have mist the exit, but one refreshing spritz might be the wake-up call the navigator needs. Just don’t try to catch any fog …
Simply Gum, Ginger flavor
Step aside, Dramamine, there’s a new sheriff in town. If you’re prone to bouts of motion sickness, chew on Simply gum. Not to burst your bubble, but most gum out there is made of a synthetic plastic base. Simply hails from the great state of New York, crafted at its Brooklyn factory by a team of “gum chefs.” (Yes, you read that right). Made from chichle, a tree sap, each piece contains about 1 gram of sugar and none of the fake stuff, like aspartame.
Pretty sweet, huh?
Pro-tip: Pack the Maple flavor for your fall foliage frolics.
Like most millennials I don’t carry much cash on hand, and I haven’t used coins since before I had an E-ZPass; however, a tire isn’t the only spare you can rely on. There’s always an opportunity to spend some loose change and besides, what are you going to use when you come across one of those penny machines? Cheapest and most fun souvenir there is.
Bonus points if you find one with “Road Trip Money” stamped on the front (Etsy is full of them). Stay on-brand.
This one’s for my Schenectady people: If you’re not filling up at Alltown Fresh, what are you waiting for? A chef-driven concept, Alltown offers everything from freshly blended smoothies to mouthwatering breakfast sandwiches, made-to-order salads, bowls and more. Need a buzz? This coffee bar is what caffeinated dreams are made of. Download their free app for benefits such as contactless payment, rewards on food and fuel purchases, or placing your breakfast sammy order while you’re standing at the pump.
Pro Tip: They offer a student discount, so keep that ID handy and start using an eye cream to maintain that youthful glow.
Homesick scented candle in ‘Road Trip’
Because sometimes someone has to take one for the team and stay home to feed the kitties, mow the lawn and water the plants, this one’s for the house-sitters, or SO’s who aren’t invited to the bachelor(ette) weekend. With notes of amber, musk, leather, paper and jasmine, one whiff will transport them to riding shotgun on the open road. Makes scents, right?
And there you have it: Whether you’re cruising up the Northway or driving down the 101, this packing list will go the extra mile while keeping it wheel, not matter where your GPS takes you.
Katie Alois is a freelance writer. When she’s not road tripping, she lives in Schenectady.
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Categories: Life and Arts, Life and Arts, Travel 2023