Your summer can hardly be considered complete with out a summer road trip. Here's a list of ten things you cannot leave home without, and one bonus item you just might find revolutionizes your time in the car!
1. Music. happy, adventurous music that will keep you moving down the road. Bring CDs, your ipod, satellite radio, whatever it takes to keep you grooving all the way there.
2. A DVD player with kids' choice movies. If you have kids in the back, this is really a must! I tend to limit my kids' movie watching to half the trip or two movies, whichever is less. Really, after two movies, they are bored of watching TV anyway, so they end up fighting. When we're not watching a movie, we play the license plate game, the alphabet game, read books, color, and tell jokes.
3. Good maps of your destination and roads along the way. Remember road trip season is also road construction season, so be prepared to navigate any detours with current maps of the area. Plus, you may find a scenic byway or other alternate route, but may not have time to risk ending up way out of the way.
4. Books on tape. For kids, or adults, books on tape allow you to be entertained together while still keeping an eye on the scenery.
5. A well stocked emergency kit and first aid kit. Don't let a flat tire or cut finger ruin your trip. You might be able to help someone else out too. Remember to carry some food and water (for the people and the engine) plus an emergency blanket or two in case you are stranded for any reason.
6. A car ready for the road--be sure to have all your fluids (oil, power steering, windshield wiper, and antifreeze), your tire pressure, and your battery checked before you leave for any extended driving tour. Check your wiper blades, and replace them if needed. Have your tires rotated or replaced, if necessary. Check that your spare tire is inflated, and that all the pieces to your jack are in place.
7. Your cell phone and charger...duh.
8. Munchies. Whether the person sitting shotgun is passing out sandwiches from the cooler between the front seats or you stop and get out to eat at a restaurant, there is nothing like red vines and M and Ms to calm the road tripper's restless soul.
9. A Camera. Of course you'll take pictures once you get there, wherever there is, but don't forget to take pictures along the way-- at Tree in the Rock, Wyoming, standing on the Four Corners, in front of the giant thermometer at Death Valley, or wherever else you find yourself stopping to use the bathroom, buy more munchies, or just to stretch your legs.
10. Antibacterial hand wipes. If you're traveling with kids, wipes are an obvious must, but even without kids, you are going to want to clean your hands after using that nasty gas station bathroom, or worse, an outhouse somewhere with no running water. Studies have shown that washing your hands is the number one way to keep yourself from getting sick, and let's face it, no one wants to be sick on the road.
Finally, I add a bonus, the number 11 must have for a successful road trip; it's something you may not have even thought about, but I think it could revolutionize your highway travel: the hitch mounted cargo carrier. I have to say that I have taken many a trip with my foot well and arm space crowded with things that wouldn't fit in the trunk or the back of the van, and that's not in the plan for the perfect road trip. Consider for a moment the ease and utility of a rack mounted to the rear hitch of your vehicle where you could put 3 or 4 suitcases, a cooler, most of your camping supplies, skis, bikes, even a motorcycle. You're smiling right now, just thinking how convenient that would be. So, gather these essentials, and have a great trip! Wherever you're going, may your road be smooth, your scenery amazing, and your companions worthy.

Emily Sandberg is a travel enthusiast who's traveled many a mile on highways all over the western United States. When she needs extra room in her vehicle, she uses a hitch cargo carrier she found on sale at

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