Road Trip Survival Guide – Ultimate Road Trip Checklist

This entry is a part of a series. Check out the rest of the Road Trip Survival Guide for more valuable information.

Did You Leave the Stove On?

Nothing feels worse than walking out the door for a long journey, believing that you’re forgetting something. Except, perhaps, being several hours on the road and realizing that you did forget something.

With practice, you’ll get so good at road trips that you’ll be able to go on weekend road trips with very little planning. And the planning you do will be so ingrained in your head that it will be like a reflex. But both novices and experts going on trips lasting weeks or months can benefit from a checklist to ensure that nothing has been forgotten. But before we continue, please review the scopes and perspectives that I’ll be addressing each of the questions presented in the Road Trip Survival Guide.

Step 1 – Figure Out Where You’re Going
  1. What kind of trip do you want to take? Do you want to visit a specific destination? Tour a particular niche or engage in a hobby across multiple cities? Or would you rather just drift about aimlessly and let the moment guide you?
  2. Where exactly do you intend to go? If wandering aimlessly, what direction do you want to start off in?
  3. How do you intend to get there? Do you favor an efficient route or scenic meandering? Can you accomplish secondary objectives that lie close to your planned route?
  4. Select some goals for your trip. Specific “touristy” goals are okay, but try for something a little more profound. Learn a skill. Make new friends. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Grow as a person.
  5. Download offline maps, print maps, and/or print driving directions.
Step 2 – Make Time to Travel & Commit
  1. Take the leap!

    Make travel a priority and decide that it is more important than some other obligations.

  2. Don’t allow fear – of losing your job or of losing money – prevent you from living your life. Don’t let anyone convince you that travel is an indulgence for the unimportant. No one is indispensable. Rather than looking at that as an insult, look at it as a liberation.
  3. Decide how long you want your trip to last and schedule a departure date.
  4. Arrange for time off of work, or – alternatively – time away from your business.
  5. Make advance arrangements for the care of your home, children, pets, family obligations, and work obligations so that your absence doesn’t adversely affect these duties.
  6. Structure your plans to permit flexibility for deviations, detours, and side quests. Don’t plan your itinerary down to the minute. Allow yourself time for whimsy.
Step 3 – Be an Adult (Just for a Minute)


  1. Set a budget and estimate your trip expenses.
  2. Trim expenses like lodging and dining by considering alternative forms of shelter and groceries. It is possible (and easy) to travel in such a way that your only additional expense is the fuel your car needs to reach your destination!
  3. Notify your bank that you will be travelling so that their fraud prevention systems don’t lock out your debit card and leave you stranded. Ferret aside some emergency cash, just in case it happens anyway.
  4. Arrange to pay any bills that will come due in your absence.
  5. Ask the post office to suspend mail delivery until you return home.
  6. Consider consulting a travel health professional.
  7. Prepare an emergency information sheet with names and phone numbers of people to contact in case you become incapacitated. List any known allergies, medical conditions, and your blood type for first responders. If necessary, include short-term instructions for co-workers, family, and friends.
  8. Create backups of critical information, cards, travel documents, and phone numbers. E-mail these to yourself via a web-based e-mail service so you can access them anywhere in the world.
  9. Inspect your vehicle and subject it to routine maintenance.
  10. Check the weather forecasts along your route. For longer trips, consider each region’s climate for the time of year you expect to be there.
Step 4 – Be a Kid & Have Fun
  1. Nag your friends to join you on your epic road trip. Convince them to abandon their jobs and families for a week, a month, or a year! Don’t accept “no” for an answer. Blackmail them, if necessary. Use Photoshop to manufacture phony compromising photographs that will end their career or marriage!
  2. Get stoned. When you get he munchies, make a list of the tastiest, crunchiest, chewiest, sweetest, saltiest, and least healthy snacks you can think of. Whatever you crave, put it on the list and buy it at the grocery store. Vegetables are not allowed!
  3. Go through your music and pick out your favorite tunes to jam to. Burn them onto CDs or download them onto your iPod.
Step 5 – Pack Your Bags
  1. Pack only what you absolutely need. Do not pack “just in case” items. You probably won’t need them and – more importantly – you’re not going to die without them. You can’t pack for every contingency, so just plan for what you are certain you will need.
  2. Pack a minimal amount of clothing. For short trips, you can get away with the clothes on your back plus a change or two of underwear and socks.
  3. Keep your grooming supplies down to bare essentials – things you use every day. Virtually anything else in your medicine cabinet at home can be replaced for $5 or less in the unlikely event you need them while on the road.
  4. Don’t forget to pack your passport, itineraries, maps, driving directions, reservations, tickets, vet records, and emergency information in a safe place.
  5. Pack your electronics. Don’t forget chargers, adapters, and a power converter. Don’t pack additional devices if their function is already covered by another device. Most people can get away with just packing their cell phone.
  6. If bringing a pet, don’t forget to pack their essentials, like food, water, dishes, leashes, blankets, toys, and medication.
  7. Pack pillows and blankets unless you intend to spend your nights in hotels, motels, hostels, or couchsurfing. If camping, pack your tent, sleeping bags or air mats, folding chairs, and tools to start a camp fire.
  8. Carabiners, bandannas, ropes, knives, flashlights, bungee cords, and waterproof stuff sacks are great multipurpose tools that should accompany you on any trip, even if you’re not certain you’ll actually need them.
  9. Prepare a “Go Bag” so that you can go off on a weekend road trip on a whim.
Last Minute Details
  1. Load up your vehicle.
  2. Shut off all lights and any other electrical devices (including your stove) that don’t need to be turned on.
  3. Make sure none of your toilets, showers, or faucets are running or leaking water.
  4. Secure your home’s windows and doors. Draw blinds and drapes as appropriate. Consider timers to trigger lights during the evening. Arm security systems, if you have them.
  5. Leave and have fun!
Other Ideas?

Have I missed anything? Do none of these solutions work for you because of specific circumstances that I haven’t considered? Whatever you’re thinking – I would love your feedback! Help me make this Road Trip Survival Guide the best it can be.

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