Road Trip Essentials

Roadtrip Essentials: On the road with dramatic clouds in Germany

We’ve been going on a road trip nearly every weekend for the past two months. When you live in the middle of hundreds of castles and historic sites, and everything is closed on Sundays, well, you get the idea.

Our road trips are generally for day trips, though on our recent drive to Paris, our set-up was basically the same, with added luggage. We aim for no more than 3 hours one way, and start out just after breakfast, and head home just after dinner. There are a few things we do to make our trips more enjoyable for everyone, and we’ve honed our techniques over the past couple of months. We tend to roll with a pretty minimal set-up, I really dislike packing for a day trip taking longer than the trip itself!

Yum! Nothing like being prepared for lunch on the road.
Yum! Nothing like being prepared for lunch on the road.

Snacks and coffee

It’s imperative that we have snacks in the car that work for everyone on our road trips, because otherwise you’re stopping every 20 minutes and it takes forever to get anywhere! We have a cooler bag that sits on the back seat opposite my son, and we stock it with a selection of:

  • Muffins or oatmeal cookies (recipe suggestions below)
  • Good cheese in slices
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Peanut and raisin mix, called Studentenfutter here in Germany
  • Limited number of protein granola bars for hangry prevention
  • Large 2L of water, plus our own individual refillable water bottles
  • Thermos of latte

If we’re doing lunch on the road as well, it also has:

  • Pretzel buns
  • Sliced meats or leftover roast chicken or salmon
  • Little containers of mayo and mustard
  • Grapes

The coffee is critical for us, as decent coffee at the roadside services in Germany is expensive, and not all that satisfying.

I try and whip up a batch of either these Carrot Cake Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies, or these Chocolate Zucchini Muffins and take them with us. Both are pretty solid eating, relatively low sugar, and easy to make – plus they quell the sweet thing craving that hits mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Obviously part of the joy of these trips is trying out a local coffeeshop, but if nothing takes our fancy it’s easier to say no when there’s something good in the car.

Dramatic clouds on the road in Germany.
Dramatic clouds on the road in Germany.


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We have all seen the first 100km or so from our place endless times, so the window views don’t do much for any of us at the beginning. We have a headrest iPad holder for my son, so he doesn’t sit there with his neck in a crooked position for two hours, and he watches Netflix shows we download before we leave, with headphones on. We bring a notebook and a few pencils and pens for drawing as well.

Whichever parent isn’t driving is the designated researcher, and we read out some interesting facts about where we’re going. Phones are pretty much the main adult distraction, which often includes German practice on Duolingo. Silently. With headphones. I sing when I drive, like the whole time. Everyone else seems fine with it. No, really.

One external battery, plus enough cables so everyone is plugged in while in the car covers battery usage.

Comfort and safety

We used to bring several pillows, but realized they just took up space, so one regular bed pillow is all we bring now, plus a cheap IKEA blanket that stays in the car. It can double as picnic blanket if we didn’t bring our regular plastic-backed one. All coats and bulky bags and cameras go in the trunk. I bring antihistamines, both liquid and cream, and usually have a few plasters tucked away somewhere.

Things we don’t bring on a road trip

As it’s just the three of us and my son is seven, I don’t bother with a change of clothes for anyone (on a day trip) – though that’s probably tempting fate. I’ve seen suggestions to fill a backpack with toys, but to be honest, they just get lost, either in the car or at a rest stop, so we don’t bring anything like that. Luckily, nearly every roadside services has a play area for kids, so my son burns off a bit of energy there. Huge bags for garbage just seem to expand full of stuff, so we’re vigilant when it comes to de-junking the car at every pit stop.

What do you bring?

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