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10 Best Family Road Trip Essentials

August 28, 2014

By Jess Bedsole

When you are packing up for an impromptu Labor Day road trip, there are a few things you shouldn’t forget. Whether you’re heading all the way down Route 66, road tripping through the Smokey Mountains or simply heading to a far-off campsite to get away from the hubbub of city life, here is a simple list of the things you won’t want to forget before you leave.

  1. Call your credit union. Wherever you are headed, if it is out of your normal spending area, it is a good idea to call and give your financial institutions a heads-up. To simplify, choose one credit card or debit card you will use on the trip and give that financial institution a heads-up on your travels. This will prevent unnecessary fraud-alert triggers. If we know where you are, we’ll know it’s really you spending as you go.
  2. Smart phone and charger for maps and apps.1 The last thing you want is to get lost, so be sure you have a navigation system ready. Smart phones have map applications that source traffic in close to real-time, so you won’t get stuck on the wrong route wasting gas, and in turn wasting money.
  3. ATM Finder. Knowing the closest place to get cash can really help - especially when the list includes Alliant Credit Union’s 80,000 surcharge-free2 ATMs. 
  4. Don’t check in. Social media is a fun way to keep friends updated on what’s happening in your life, but save the check-ins until the trip is over. Take photos along the way and post them all when you arrive safely home. This limits the number of people who know you aren’t home, lowering the chance for burglary.
  5. Do communicate. Make sure your family knows your whereabouts in the event of an emergency. Call every few days with an update to let them know the trip is going well and they have nothing to worry about. 
  6. Snacks. What is it about being in the car that makes everyone insatiably hungry? Make sure you pack a cooler full of cold beverages and a bag packed with healthy snacks for the whole family to overindulge in. This will save you from extra stops for pricey gas station munchies. 
  7. Cleaning supplies and toiletries. Plastic bags to use for trash, tissues for snotty noses, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will really come in handy. These items get expensive at rest stops, so stock up before you leave home.
  8. A camera. This may be on your phone, but if you’re looking for a deeper level of photography, having a DSLR or quality point-and-shoot camera will help capture every memory of the trip. Certain tourist stops will charge for family photos, and having your own camera will save that money while still giving you a keepsake. 
  9. Electricity power inverter. To your teenager, the worst thing that could happen is if her iPad ran out of charge. Plan ahead and bring a power converter to prevent a pricey stop mid-trip. 
  10. Spare set of keys. While the sense of adventure would hit a new level if your keys were lost or stolen, it wouldn’t be very fun or affordable to replace them on the fly. Prepare in advance by stashing an extra set in your suitcase.