My relatives in the US love to go camping during the summer holidays. They see it as an opportunity to commune with nature and get away from city life. On a visit to California in 2001, I went on such a trip with them to a national park one long weekend. My aunts took turns preparing meals. My mom’s younger sister was particularly proud of her breakfast burrito so everyone waited in anticipation as she prepared her stuff for our trip. Aside from bringing out premium cheeses, sauces, eggs, and meat, my aunt also had with her knives, cutting boards, graters, and equipment that one would not usually see outdoors. This led my cousin-in-law to quip, “Dala yata ng tita mo yung buong kusina nila (Your aunt seems to have brought along her entire kitchen)!”
To bring or not to bring?
When packing for a road trip, there seem to be two schools of thought: fit one’s home in a suitcase or travel light. People who advocate the first one either have a vehicle big enough to accommodate tons of stuff or they are traveling with kids or persons with special medical needs.
For parents who travel with their kids, it’s automatic to pack more clothes to keep the latter warm or bring extra sets to change them when they get sweaty, dirty or wet (which may be all the time during the trip!) Having kids in tow also means preparing snacks or toys to keep them from getting hungry or bored.
Meanwhile, traveling with people who have special medical concerns means bringing everything, including the non-negotiable items such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, portable commodes, etc., that will make the trip comfortable for them.
For the “pack your entire home” advocates, the reasons above seem to be justifiable. However, the advice that some people will likely give to vacationers is to pack light. But the most important question is, “What should be brought along?” (or conversely “What should be left at home?”).
The bag matters
Before even thinking of what to pack, the kind of bag that will be used is an important consideration. While suitcases are better when it comes to organizing your stuff, duffle bags or gym bags are easier to stack up or arrange in a car. These bags can be the designated “day bag” with toiletries and next-day clothing. These can also be easily accessed while inside the vehicle; bigger bags containing non-essentials can be stowed in the innermost part of the luggage compartment of the vehicle or under a seat. If bringing a suitcase is a must, a soft one (instead of one with a hard casing) is better as it can be easily stacked in the car.
After choosing the appropriate bag for the trip, the following are the basic items that need to be brought:
- Clothes – Two bottoms are enough for a week-long trip. Bringing tops for each day of the trip is obviously hygienic, but make sure to pack ones with light, breathable material. Dark colors hide wrinkles and stains better but if one is going to the beach, light-colored (but not necessarily white) clothing is advised.
- Accessories – While most people mainly bring sunglasses and hats to complete the summer look, these are necessary accessories to prevent damage to the skin and eyes due to prolonged exposure to the sun.
- Snacks – Preparing sandwiches or wraps at home is cheaper than going to pit stops for snacks. The key consideration is to prepare non-messy food items. Chips and other munchies are best bought in bulk from the supermarket prior to the trip than at convenience stores at gasoline stations. Bringing foodstuff from home not only ensures the quality of food the family eats but also shortens the trip by lessening snack breaks.
- Water – Adequate water intake for men and women varies from three to four liters a day. A sufficient amount of water should be packed for each person given that road trips also mean having a limited or no access to a water dispenser and being exposed to heat and other outdoor elements while in transit.
- First Aid Kit and Medicine – The kit should not only include provisions for cuts and minor injuries but medicines for headache, other forms of body pain, dizziness, stomach issues, and allergy. Again, persons with special medical needs should bring all prescription medicine with them at all times.
- Special Toiletries – These include sunscreen for the face and sunblock for the exposed parts of the body as well as insect repellant, itch lotions, and balms for insect bites or jellyfish stings.
- Amusement – This includes games for the kids and music while in the vehicle and sports equipment (like balls or Frisbees) when already on site.
Before heading out, it is very important to check the vehicle that the family or group of friends will be using. Checking everything under the hood for parts and fluid levels before hitting the road is a must. It is also a necessity to ensure that tires have the right amount of pressure to carry a heavy load and endure a long trip. Other safety checks to do include:
Keeping a spare key (and battery in case car doors are operated by a remote control) in the wallet, purse or glove compartment
Ensuring that seatbelts and airbags are working
Preparing a car seat for infants or toddlers
Having a toolbox to fix engine problems or flat tires (this also includes fluids such as coolants and brake fluid)
Keeping an emergency roadside kit (which includes reflectorized warning signs, a flashlight, and a roadside assistance company membership card, or emergency number) in the event of a car breakdown.
It goes without saying that the passengers of the vehicle should also be prepared physically and mentally for the trip:
Ensure that the driver gets enough sleep the day before the trip. One should also assign an alternate driver for long trips.
Get kids vaccinated in case the family is heading to a destination where specific diseases are rampant.
Prepare an emergency plan in case of a mishap; teach children to use the cell phone for emergencies (and not just for gaming!).
Use pit stops or toilet breaks as opportunities to check under the hood or ensure tire pressure is correct so that the vehicle remains in good working condition.
Know where the nearest emergency or medical facilities are, whether en route or already at the destination.
Vacations should be an opportunity to unwind and to relieve oneself and the rest of the family from the pressures of everyday life. A trip that is well-planned and safe means that factors that can hamper or make it inconvenient have been eliminated, thereby ensuring a stress and worry-free journey ahead.