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10 Essentials for a Throwback Summer Road Trip
Remember those timeless road trips across the country when you were a kid? Relive the magic, but this time, on your own terms.
For some, the Grand Canyon was an annual thing. For others, the Dells in Wisconsin. For our East Coast counterparts, it was very likely the Hamptons. It seems like every section of the country has that one spot that sends shockwaves of nostalgia whenever someone mentions it.
As an adult, you’re now the one in charge of the summer road trip. Whether that means with the kids, your partner, your dog, or 100% solo, there are some new items we wish had been around when we were a kid (and a few others that were).
To get started on planning the ultimate summer road trip, especially “throwback” style, the most important factor is a solid game plan. After you’ve chosen a destination, follow up by making a list of everything you have to pack.
Try including these finds so that you’re ready to go when you hit the road this summer. Our recommendations include all the latest gear, with a few standbys, to keep the fun going for miles and miles.
1. High Road CarHop Large Back Seat Cooler & Play Station
When we were younger, we didn’t have all the gadgets and gizmos that keep today’s kids quiet and occupied in the backseat. Sure, some people had a Gameboy, but a lot of people had nothing better than bingo, word searches, or reading the passing billboards.
Today, we can bring our toys on the trip (smartphones, tablets, computers, GPS devices, etc.). However, if we’re not keeping them organized, we might lose them under the seat.
A better idea is to invest in a car organization system. Whether heading out for a quick drive to the beach or amping up for a cross-country trek, keeping the headphones, maps, and granola bars from scattering will be a lot easier if everything has a place.
Our recommended option has a zipper and insulated cooler. Designed with kids in mind, it’s super accessible for adults. Finding something quick has never been so efficient.
There are eight pockets on this organizer, and it measures 11” wide, 13” long, and 9” deep. The lid is leakproof and lined with vinyl, so you don’t have to worry if your coffee splashes around a little. Everything should stay nice and dry.
One extra road trip bonus: it’s easy to clean.
2. RhinoRack Rhino Waterproof Bag
Road trips these days aren’t just little trips; they’re full-blown productions, especially if you’re dressing to impress or heading out for a camping trip with the crew. Both require some extra luggage space, which is why we’re rooting for RhinoRack.
They offer the Rhino Waterproof Bag that frees up space in the car cabin (offering us ample legroom in the process). The fabric is 500D High-End poly canvas tarpaulin, meaning it’s waterproof and unlikely to rip.
It zips shut, so you shouldn’t worry about your unmentionables flying out onto the expressway without warning. In fact, the Duraflex buckles will keep everything in its place. The fans of this roof rack claim that it’s easy to put up, load, and unload. They appreciate the protection the bag provides on both short and long hauls.
3. KOOSLA Pure Sine Wave Inverter
Who’s going to bring the power supply? We’re living in the 21st century and we have things to plug in, even when we’re out on the wide open road. If we can’t power up our smartphones to showcase all of our adventures, what are we even doing!?
Now then, we do fully support the unplugged road trip. In fact, we’d recommend it! That being said, we recognize the majority of road warriors are going to concern themselves over where they can juice up their laptops, camera batteries, and Bluetooth headphones.
Enter the Pure Sine Wave Inverter by KOOSLA. It’s a power inverter that allows your SUV or car battery to work in a way that you can plug-in household appliances and chargers. This one has landed on our list because it has USB ports and AC outlets.
The device is designed to be efficient, small, and easy to use. It’s considered travel size, so it’s perfect for the backseat of your summer road trip ride. The basic setup requires insertion into the car’s cigarette lighter, but the traditional alligator clip wires can be purchased separately.
The risk management team will be happy to know that it presents a patented safety guarantee thanks to the UL94-10 level fire-retardant materials and 40 amps fuse. Fires are not likely (but follow all manufacturer directions).
The customer is royalty with this brand. The customer service is rumored to be excellent, so you’ll have a hotline to call should any problems or concerns arise.
4. Skyroam Global Hotspot
Some employees have gone remote, and there’s no sign of heading back anytime soon. For these lucky duckies, there’s one catch that’s holding them back from signing off on a cross-state trip: Will there be Internet?
There is a workaround here. You can invest in a Skyroam Global Hotspot, a handy device that offers a secure mobile Wi-Fi connection that reaches the four corners of the globe.
All you have to do is buy the hotspot and let the SIM-card technology do the rest. You can buy Internet plans for one-day passes so you’re covered for weekend trips and long journeys.
There’s a VPN which is useful for some web-browsing activities. The data works in over 135 countries and connects up to 10 devices, so you can share the wealth. Without a contract, we’re ready for a Wi-Fi-fueled no-strings-attached summer.
5. Yeti Tundra 45 Hard Cooler
What would a summer road trip be without a Yeti? To use a millennial phrase, the Yeti Tundra 45 is where it’s at. Let’s back up for a second. A summer road trip is going to require stocking up on our favorite beverages, the majority of which should be kept on ice. Whether we’re talking energy drinks, iced coffees, orange juice, or bottled water is up to you.
If you’re really bent on saving a dime (or kicking it old school), you might even pack a few ham and turkey sandwiches in the car. Grab a bag of potato chips, and you’re ready for the road. This cooler will keep everything fresh and delicious.
We couldn’t leave it off the list since it was practically designed for a summer’s day. When the mercury rises, everybody does everything they can to keep cool.
The keyword here is durability. A lot of people love their Yeti. This is why – they’re not about to break or crack. Adding value here, the cooler comes with a dry goods basket.
Fun fact: If you order this cooler in white, collegiate, or MLB, logo customization is an option for diehard fans!
Our 2021 color recommendation: desert tan.
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6. Little Trees Hanging Air Freshener
It seems like every classic road trip movie features a dangling air freshener, swaying back and forth under the rearview mirror. It’s the hallmark of adventures to come, and that’s why we had to sneak the Little Trees air fresheners onto the list.
For us, it ticks all of the boxes. Iconic? Yes. Balsam scent that’s fresh like the great outdoors? Yes. Doesn’t dry up too fast? Yes. Royal Pine elegance? YES!
There are always people out there who want to put their own spin on a classic, so the other tropical and fruit-flavored scents might have more appeal. If your road trip is going to include some body odor, this is a definite must-have. If not, it’s just a fun flashback to yesteryear.
7. Jiffy Pop Butter Popcorn
Speaking of flashbacks, why not plan for a bonfire? If your road trip includes camping or a beachside fire pit, you’ve got to come prepared. A lot of people will go for S’mores. However, that’s not really the direction we’re heading on this one. We’re taking the road less traveled: Jiffy Pop.
It’s a stove-top popping pan, pre-filled with butter and kernels. It’s fun to cook over an open flame (with adult supervision, of course). Since 1959, Jiffy Pop has been a game-changer for recreational events. It’s life’s simple pleasures that fill us with joy and watching the tinfoil pan inflate like a popcorn-filled balloon is exciting at any age.
8. iSimple - Bluetooth 5.0 FM Transmitter
The one thing that makes a retro road trip even better is a vintage ride. One problem: how are we going to connect the Bluetooth? Technology has got a solution, so don’t you fret. The iSimple Bluetooth 5.0 FM Transmitter will save the day. It puts all of today’s little hacks like hands-free calling, GPS navigation, and streaming music back into the scene.
This particular model features a built-in microphone, so hands-free calling is back on the menu. You’ll drive safer when connectivity is guaranteed. As for the sound department, we’re giving it two thumbs way up. It should work with most Bluetooth-enabled devices. We recommend giving it a test run before departing just to be sure.
It’s supposed to work all FM radios and comes with the 12V cigarette lighter adapter port required to power it all. A backlit LED display will provide some ambient lighting after sundown.
Speaking of MP3s and Bluetooth, we hope your copilot has prepared a decent playlist for the drive. With Spotify, playlists are easy to build (or find). They’re sharable. There’s even a free version (with ads that require a live internet connection).
If you pay for the service, you’ll be able to download the playlist so you can enjoy your favorite tunes when you’re off the grid.
10. Polaroid OneStep+ Camera (9010)
Take a picture; it will last longer! We used to say that as a joke, but with the passage of time, we’ve come to take the retort sentimentally. This summer, your road trip is going to require some creative souvenirs.
Polaroid fits the bill, just like it did for our parents back in the day. This upgraded and modern version offers a two-month battery life, flash, and a self-timer. It connects to Bluetooth, too. Dad didn’t have the option back in the 80s!
Printing pictures as you go will make you feel like you’re partying it up while making time to live in the moment. It offers the best of both worlds, throwback and 21st century. All that’s left to do is hit the road.
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