Road Trip Essentials

So you’ve decided to incarcerate yourself in a small metal object with one more other humans for hours on end, great, you’re in for a good time. But let’s say you’re trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as “legally” possible. In that case, you’re going to need some additional equipment.


(Disclaimer: Guys don’t speed. Don’t go on a Cannonball Run. Don’t watch the movie The Gumball Rally. It’s illegal, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible.)

Radar Detector

First things first, you’re going to need a radar detector. Radar detectors are a perfect example of “you get what you pay for”. A big box store Belltronic’s or Cobra unit is just never going to compete with a high-end Escort or Valentine unit. Depending on how fast you catapulting down the highway, if it saves you from one ticket than it has already paid for itself. More modern units use directional arrows to tell you where a threat is coming from and use a GPS to show what the speed limit is on the road you are currently on. Additionally, both Valentine and Escort have iOS / Android apps that transmit speed limits, speed traps, false alarms and more.

iPad Mini

Something I never thought I would recommend until I actually used one, an iPad Mini. One of these with a data connection is an invaluable tool on a road trip. With a proper mount, it makes a perfect GPS as its larger screen is easier to glance. Traffic apps like Waze are amplified on the iPad too as you’ll be able to see obstacles and threats even farther ahead. Finally, the iPad can interact with the radar detector to really paint a picture of what is waiting a few miles up the road. Speeding may not be advised but, it helps to be prepared.


Part of feeling good is looking good….and it might help when / if you get pulled over.

Power Inverter

It’s easy enough to charge a cellphone or power your radar detector off of a 12v cigarette outlet but when you’re carrying laptops, cameras, iPads and other larger devices you are going to need more power. A small power adaptor will allow you to charge bigger battery pack and devices. A 400w unit should be sufficient but be realistic with your needs. A 400w will charge most devices but, you’re not going to run an air mattress pump off of it.

12v Splitters

A cigarette lighter splitter is a cheap way to keep everyone happy. If everyone can charge their phones simultaneously than you can run a GPS and let your passengers be on Instagram when you’re sick and tired of talking to each other.

EZ-Pass, Fast Pass, Sun Pass, Etc.

Depending on which states you’re traveling through you’re going to want a highway toll pass. They save time and allow you to forget how much you’re paying the state to swerve around their potholes. The North East primarily uses EZ Pass which is linked to a transponder whereas Florida uses a tag that is linked to your license plate. These can typically be picked up ahead of time online or at highway rest stops. Check out local laws. It’s worth noting that on a cross country drive, tolls only become an issue when you get to the East.

DSLR or Film Camera

Your iPhone 7 may have dual lenses but it’s never going to compete with a dedicated camera. If you’re going somewhere worth making an epic drive for that you should make sure you some photos of the entire experience. If you have a laptop or iPad with you than you can even edit the photos to kill time on the highway. Arguably the most important reasons to bring a camera are that better photos get more traffic and if there isn’t evidence on social media, did it actually happen?

Travel Internationally? Buy an Unlocked Phone.

Traveling internationally can be frustrating if you’re tied to a conventional carrier like AT&T or Verizon. The process of calling them up, waiting on hold, selecting and international plan, paying what equates to a second mortgage, arriving at your destination and still not being able to make calls is at its best extremely frustrating. The simple solution to this is to pick up an unlocked phone.

An unlocked cell phone is a device that is not tied to any specific carrier. This means that you can get a sim card from any corner store or airport and have it function in your device. This can be extremely useful and is also a much cheaper alternative to international plans with the typical carriers.

When typically talking about unlocked phones the first thing that comes to mind is a high price tag. Unfortunately, this isn’t inaccurate but there are ways around it. Personally I’ve been using a Google Nexus 5X for the past year and half and have loved it. I picked up from the Google Play Store for $399 and have used it across several different countries. Google’s newest phone, the Pixel is substantially more expensive with a starting price of $649 for a base, unlocked model. If you’re working on more of a budget or don’t need your everyday device to be unlocked, used phones and cheap unlocked phones are a great alternative.

A two-minute search on Amazon produces a myriad of cheap unlocked devices. The BLU R1 HD is a 16gb phone running Android is costs a whopping $59.99 if you have Amazon Prime. Many of these cheaper phones have thousands of positive reviews so don’t let the cheap price scare you away. With a $59.99 buy in for the phone and a $30 sim card, you can have a phone with access to the internet and maps for under $100.

If you’re looking for a higher end option or for an unlocked phone to use every day, some really nice phones can be picked up second hand on eBay. An unlocked 64GB iPhone 6S goes for ~$350 and an unlocked 32GB Galaxy S7 is roughly the same price.