13 Road Trip Essentials For The Perfect Summer Road Trip

13 Road Trip Essentials For The Perfect Summer Road Trip

I love road trips, and for each and every one I take I make sure to be prepared with all the road trip essentials. I have taken road trips anywhere in the world. The most fun one was with with my sister: we rented a car in Mexico and drove from San Cristobal to Cancun and all around Yucatan.

Summer is the best time of year to hit the road. This is as much a part of summer as backyard BBQs and days spent at the beach; a tradition for many in the USA and Canada, and beyond. There’s some epic road trips on the East coast of the USA. Driving around in search of the best beaches in Sardinia is the ultimate pastime where I live! Short road trips hardly require a road trip check list.

However, preparing for a longer road trip is easier said than done. I know from experience that there is always something I may forget, but I now typically write down a road trip packing list, so that I can check it in order to make sure I have everything I need. Feel free to use it as a cheat sheet for all any road trip necessities. I guarantee that all road trips will be a memorable one.

So, before pulling out of the driveway, make sure to have all the road trip essentials that I mention!

road trip check list

Speaking of road trip essentials – how about a car?

13 Road Trip Essentials For The Perfect Summer Road Trip

A valid driver’s license

Sounds obvious, right? Well it is not. My sister has recently been to Crete with her husband. She was meant to rent a car, except when she pulled out her license she realized it had expired more than a year ago. In fact, she had been driving her car around Sardinia on an expired license for a long time! Good thing her husband could drive the car, but the minute she got home she had to go to renew her license. Having a valid license is one of the most basic road trip essentials.

Rental car insurance

Number one in the list of road trip essentials would have to be a car, right? While most people who go on road trips own their own cars, there is a rising number of city dwellers who have given up on them up to make a go at living an automobile-free life. They are able to get 99% of tasks done on foot, by bicycle, or by using public transportation. I do own a car at home, but as I live on an island and I have to fly everywhere, I typically end up rending a car whenever I travel outside of Sardinia. Indeed, there is still that 1% of activities that requires a car – in this instance, it’s tough to go on a road trip without one.

To fill this gap in their lives, people who do not own a car hit up a local rental car agency and hire a sedan, or whatever vehicle meets their needs. However, many tragically choose to forego rental car insurance in a bid to save money. Wrong! If there is one item that has to be on top of the road trip check list, that has to be a rental car insurance.

All it takes is one fender bender to turn a fun holiday into a financial nightmare, so it is definitely better to pay this cost up front to avoid shelling out a lot later. It is the most basic of road trip necessities, really.

Rather than go with the package offered by the rental car provider, I recommend going with a third-party company like Bonzah. These firms are often able to offer much better rates, and provide great help in getting the best deal possible for those of us who have to work hard to earn money. So remember: a rental car insurance is one of the most important road trip essentials.

Sure enough, one of the road trip essentials I wanted with me during my last road trip in Trentino was rental car insurance.

Road trip packing list

Nobody wants to find themselves in the middle of the desert with no cash – that’s one of the road trip essentials

Spare cash

I admit I regularly forget taking cash out. I live in a city, and most of the time I pay with my bank card – it is just so easy. But there are occasions where cards are not accepted, where there are no ATMs available, and where simple old cash is needed for whatever reason. One of the road trip essentials I recommend having, thus, is some spare cash. Because one never knows.

A cooler filled with drinks and snacks

Some road trips may be short in distance, but most involve at least one day spent exclusively on the highway. On days where miles need to be made up, having a cooler packed to the brim with drinks and snacks is definitely one of the road trip essentials, as it will help keep stops to a minimum. It certainly helped me out when I had to drive for 24 hours all the way from San Pedro de Atacama to Santiago, in Chile.

Besides, a cooler has to be in any road trip packing list as it will also keep a happy vibe going inside the car, as thirst and hunger pangs will be kept at bay by the supplies at hand whenever the distances between convenience stores are too long. Just be sure to buy plenty of ice beforehand, and keep refreshing it as it melts.

road trip essentials

An app to establish the route and warn about traffic jams is one of the road trip necessities

Waze

There are a lot of mobile apps which have made road trips much easier these days – for starters, Google Maps comes to mind. As a driver, however, few apps are more useful these days than Waze. This really is one of the road trip essentials for a smooth trip!

There are a variety of features that will make life easier for drivers – it alerts them to the presence of cheap gas, speed traps, traffic jams and accidents, and other obstacles that will slow the trip to a grinding halt. It is one of my go to road trip essentials any time I plan a day out of a major city!

Another thing I love about Waze is that it alerts me when I am going above the speed limit – I admit to having a bit of a lead foot. Doing this will prevent me from falling victim to that laser trap I never see coming. Easy to see while this is one of the most basic road trip necessities.

A paper map

I know, I have just talked about all the wonderful apps that help me get around while on a road trip. But one of the most basic road trip essentials is actually a paper map. I have travelled to placed where there is no phone signal, and trust me: having an actual map I could pull out to understand where I should go helped out a lot!

A tablet filled with movies and games

I do not have children that I should keep entertained, but all my cousins do and I occasionally go on short road trips with them. Sure enough, kids get bored quickly. This leads to restlessness which can make the journey a difficult one. One of the top road trip essentials, then, is a tablet that is loaded with movies and games. It helps leaving any concern about the kids being bored at home.

With their favorite cartoons and mobile games available to keep them occupied at any time, if the scenery gets dull or the license plate game stops being an entertaining diversion, including a tablet in the road trip packing list will provide essential help for those long drives.

road trip checklist

Shall we include stunning views among road trip essentials?

An emergency kit

It’s not a pleasant subject to think about, but stuff can go wrong on the road. From minor incidents involving a scraped knee after an unfortunate tumble in the parking lot of a roadside restaurant, to the times when I may witness a motor vehicle accident where life-threatening injuries occur as it happened to me when I was in Cape Town, it is vitally important to have an emergency kit at the ready. This definitely is one of the road trip essentials.

A good emergency kit should contain the following: bandages (both Band-Aids for minor cuts and the ones used for dressing serious wounds), hydrogen peroxide, an emergency blanket, road flares, a flashlight, candles, and matches. Note this is a partial list. Typically, as I put together my kit, I may find I’ll need other supplies and include them as well. Having a road trip check list helps me out in this sense.

road trip essentials

A daypack has to be included in the list of road trip essentials

A day pack

Whenever I go on a road trip, whether short or long, I carry a small day pack with me and put in it what I consider some road trip essentials for the day – stuff such as lip balm, sunscreen, a sweater (it may get cold at night!) and my sunglasses.

A spare tire/jack

BANGphttphttphtt – this is a sound all drivers dread, as it means they now have a flat tire. It happened to me a few times, when driving around in Israel and other places. Try as I might, there’s no way I can see a shard of glass or a nail on the surface of the road driving at full speed, so it’s important to be prepared to deal with an affected tire as soon as it is compromised. There are a few items that have to go on the list of road trip essentials, then.

Many motorists have a jack and a donut tire in the back of their car, but the majority would have no idea how to exchange their flat for the one in their trunk if they were put in that position. One of the basic road trip necessities is being able to change a flat tire, so make sure to learn how to do this before hitting the road.

If the time of departure is approaching soon, one of the good road trip essentials ideas is to sign up for roadside assistance through an organization like the American Automobile Association. I have realized before that attempting to learn by myself on the side of the road can put me at risk for serious injury.

And some spare gasoline

When it comes to Europe, cities are so close one to the other that it really is impossible to get out of gas. But places like North America or Southern Africa are not quite the same, and even though one may fill up right before leaving, it is not uncommon to get stuck on the side of the road on an empty tank. One of the ultimate road trip essentials, then, is gasoline: carry a tank, to be on the safe side.

road trip packing list

Don’t be left in the middle of nowhere with no gasoline – carry a tank, it is one of the road trip essentials!

My favorite tunes

Music is one of the basic road trip necessities. Hitting the open road in search of uncharted territory is a big part of the allure of road trips, but let’s be real here – the further I may get from the big city, the faster music on local radio stations gets, well, interesting.

Try and drive on the Israeli highway on Shabbat, and the music is nothing short of horrible. The same goes for the popular music played in the Andes of Peru. It may be endearing in an odd way at first, but then I get sick of it in a hurry if I don’t have some auxiliary tunes to resort to when passing through a musical desert. Among my road trip essentials, then, there is a playlist of my favorite tunes.

I typically create a playlist suited to the trip on which I am going, upload it to my iPhone, and I’ll be ready to roll. I always make sure to have the right cables (which by the way, are also basic road trip essentials!) to plug into my car stereo (that is, if it doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity), and I’ll have the perfect go-to when local radio starts to stink up the joint.

Miscellaneous stuff

Other things that I include in my road trip packing list are things such a roll of toilet paper, which is really handy in case I need to make a bush stop (also take hand sanitizer!); a plastic bag I can use for trash (I would never ever want to leave my trash behind!); and bug spray (I hate it when a fly gets in my car and does not want to get out!).

What are your favorite road trip essentials that you would add to this list?

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Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer

Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer

I was only 10 the first time my parents decided to visit Trentino for our summer holidays. I don’t have detailed memories of the places we visited (my mother refreshed my memory and told me we visited Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa), but I do remember that we kept being wowed by the incredible scenery and we had a great time. It’s there that I was introduced to the incredible world of hiking, which is now one of my favorite things to do.

Without the shadow of a doubt, Trentino is one of the nicest places to visit in Northern Italy. It’s a lovely region, located between the Southern Alps and easily reached from Venice or Verona. Its main feature is the Dolomites, a fabulous, unique mountain range which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and which it shares with Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Trentino is a land of mountains and lakes; of gorgeous valleys where nature rules (I am still drooling over my pictures of Val di Fassa). Adding to this already fantastic mix there are great food, welcoming people and a few touches of affordable luxury that make it an excellent destination for families, adventure travelers and, needless to say, solo travelers like myself.

places to visit in Northern Italy

My parents would take me to visit Trentino in the summer, as a child

That’s why my parents kept wanting to visit Trentino. We spent a few summers there, and one summer in Chamonix, France, until I turned 18 and decided that cool kids would not travel with their parents but would rather stay home alone in Sardinia during the summer.

After that, I didn’t really visit Trentino until a few weeks ago, when I finally decided it was time to go again and made my way to visit Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa to participate in Suoni delle Dolomiti, one of the best summer music festivals in Italy.

I am so glad I did! I know Trentino is a very popular destination in the winter time, when snow covers the mountains and it’s possible to ski; but I encourage everyone who loves walking and hiking to visit Trentino in the summer.

Yes: Trentino is a great place to spend summer holidays in Italy. In this post, I highlight 10 reasons to visit Trentino in the summer.

things to do in Trentino

Those who visit Trentino get to see the Dolomites: need I say more?

Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer

It’s home to the Dolomites

I could have just said mountains, but the Dolomites are not “just mountains.” They are unique, mighty and won’t stop surprising visitors, their vertical walls springing up and diving into the sky at every turn. If most people who visit Trentino will be happy enough to admire the peaks of the Dolomites, those who like adventure sports will want to put their hands on them, quite literally.

Adventure lovers will be happy to know that one of the nicest things to do in Trentino, that is best enjoyed during the summer, is rock climbing: the Dolomites provide plenty of opportunities for that.

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Hiking in Val di Fassa is one of the unmissable things to do in Trentino

There’s some fantastic hiking trails

To me, mountains is sinonymous with hiking. One of the top reasons to visit Trentino in the summer is to enjoy the multitude of hiking trails in the Dolomites. I have done 3 short hikes in the space of 4 days, in the Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa areas, and all felt very rewarding with incredible views and unique cultural experiences.

Read more about my hikes in the Dolomites.

I also love multi-day treks (hiking Poon Hill, in Nepal, has been one of my favorite experiences to date), and there’s an abundance of those in Trentino. While I was entertaining myself with the gorgeous views of Val San Nicolò, my friend Margherita challenged herself with a 3-days hike in the Brenta Dolomites. I am pretty sure that the next time I visit Trentino in the summer I will head straight there to hike!

It’s also home to Suoni delle Dolomiti

One of the biggest reasons that prompted me to visit Trentino in the summer is Suoni delle Dolomiti, a music festivals where concerts of various music genres are held in the open, free for everyone to attend. Some of the best classic and jazz musicians are invited. I love jazz so I planned my trip around the jazz concerts.

I went to see Yamanaka Electric Female Trio in Val di Fiemme, and it was a fantastic experience: people of all ages sat on the grass as the band played, pine trees at their back. The concert lasted 90 minutes, which went by in a zip. I was also scheduled to attend a sunrise concert, but when I woke up at 4:30 am to get ready to go it was pouring and I learned that the concert had been rescheduled.

Needless to say, Suoni delle Dolomiti is only one of the many events that those who visit Trentino in the summer can enjoy.

visit Trentino

A violin carved into a tree trunk: Suoni delle Dolomiti is just one of the many musical expressions of Trentino

Music is everywhere – literally

I don’t mean to say that, wherever one goes in Trentino, music blasts loudly. In fact, it is peaceful and quiet (unless an event such as Suoni delle Dolomiti is on!). But there’s always a musical theme. Music lovers may already know that Antonio Stradivari, the famous Italian liutist who lived between the 17th and the 18th century, got the spruce wood he used to build his violins in Val di Fiemme.

Those who visit Trentino should not miss the chance to visit the Bosco Che Suona (“music forest”) where the best quality spruce trees that are used to build violins and any other string instruments can be found. Each year, musicians that play at Suoni delle Dolomiti are invited to pick their own tree. Other than the great cultural and musical value found in the forest, this is a great place for a walk or a hike!

But there’s more. Located in Tesero, in Val di Fiemme, there’s Ciresa. This is a factory that works the local spruce to produce soundboards for pianos, as well as violins and any other string instrument. In recent years, Ciresa has patented natural loudspeakers: these are beautiful looking wooden boards that reverberate the sounds at an incredibly high quality level, and on top of it look like works of art. Visiting Ciresa is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.

things to do in Trentino

Castello di Fiemme is one of the lovely villages those who visit Trentino will be able to enjoy

The villages are just too pretty

There’s no going wrong for those who visit Trentino: all villages are simply beautiful. I was lucky to have a car when I went, so I could drive around and explore. The only issue I had was that I kept stopping for pictures, so it took me forever to go from one place to the other!

Cavalese is one of the largest villages in Val di Fiemme. It’s a pleasant place to walk around, and there’s an interesting history museum where it is possible to learn more about the history of the valley, as well as a contemporary art gallery. It’s a great place to stop for a late afternoon drink or a good gelato, or – even better – a slice of strudel. After all, eating is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.

Castello di Fiemme is a lovely small village, also in Val di Fiemme. It’s a very quiet place, with narrow cobbled street and a beautiful church that can be seen from a distance, driving down to the village. It’s the kind of place where life goes by slowly, and night brings silence and peace – and it’s a great base from where to visit Trentino.

Val di Fassa also has some gorgeous villages, and those who visit Trentino should not miss an opportunity to explore them. Canazei, Vigo di Fassa, Pozza di Fassa are all nice, but my favorite is Moena, where the majority of the people actually speak Ladin (one of Italy’s 12 minority languages). The first testimony of the village dates back to 1164, which means that it’s probably much older. As I am a lover of narrow alleys, I loved walking around the Quartiere Turco (Turkish Quarters), named after a legendary Ottoman lone soldier who ended up there and decided to settle.

visit Trentino

Not just on a rainy day! Those who visit Trentino will enjoy some lovely art galleries. This one is in Cavalese

There’s some very interesting museums

I get it, most people who visit Trentino in the summer are interested in hiking. The chances of rain during the summer in Trentino are high at night, but slim during the day. But what if it actually rains? Worry not! Trentino is one of the top places to visit in Northern Italy even for history, culture and art lovers. I truly enjoyed visiting the Palace of the Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme, in Cavalese, where I could admire some great paintings by local artists and, most importantly, learn about the history of the region.

The Palace of the Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme is open every day except for Tuesdays, from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:30. Guided tours are offered, and I recommend taking one and it includes a visit to the underground jails, where prisoners have carved some truly interesting lines and drawings on the walls. Learning about its history is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.

Cavalese is also home to a great Contemporary Art Museum, which is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 15:30 to 19:30. It hosts some very interesting pieces by contemporary local artists, and it’s recently gone all the way to acquire its own permanent exhibit. There’s also an art room for children, to get them drawing and painting and overall just closer to art and culture – so a fun place to spend a couple of hours for anybody who visit Trentino.

visit Trentino

One of the nicest things to do in Trentino is enjoying the food

The food is delicious

Those who visit Trentino never go hungry. I can’t comment on the cheese as I am (sadly) lactose intolerant, but cold cuts such as carne salada (salted, cured beef) and speck (an incredibly tasty cured kind of ham) are fabulous, especially if accompanied by rye bread, which is a local specialty too. Polenta accompanies many a dish, first and foremost the delicious slow roasted pork shank.

Let me not get started with desserts! Just the thought of apple strudel is enough to make me want to pack my bags again. For sure, one of the greatest things to do in Trentino, especially after a long day of hiking, is eating all the mouthwatering food. Rifugi are typically good places to have a taste of the local specialties at very convenient prices.

And so are the drinks

I love wine – or else I wouldn’t have spent 4 days wine tasting in Stellenbosch! Trentino produces some great wines. Local grape varieties include Nosiola, Marzemino and Teroldego, but there’s also Chardonnay and Trentodoc, a local sparkling wine. If eating is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino, those who visit Trentino will have to agree that accompanying a fantastic meal with a just as fantastic wine is a must.

Trentino also has some excellent breweries. And let me not forget about grappa. I visited Distilleria Marzadro, right outside Rovereto, and truly enjoyed learning about the history of the distillery and about the way grappa is made. Grappa originally was poor people’s alcohol, made with the skins, pulp, seeds and stems that are left over when pressing the grapes for making wine. Nowadays, it is a much more sophisticated drink. Trying grappa is a must for those who visit Trentino.

things to do in Trentino

QC Terme is a great place to get some pampering, and a must for those who visit Trentino

It’s a great place to get pampered

Is there anything better than getting pampered after having hiked for one day or more? I don’t think there is! That’s why those who visit Trentino can enjoy QC Terme, a fantastic spa in Pozza di Fassa.

I spent a whole day at QC Terme, at first thinking that my active self would get bored after a couple of hours of doing nothing. I guess I was wrong, because I ended up staying the entire day (I also enjoyed lunch and a light delicious dinner there), moving from one treatment pool to another, from a sauna to a relax room, napping, chilling and enjoying the incredible views of the mountains.

The atmosphere is super chilled

One of the things that make me fall in love with a place is the atmosphere. That’s why I love Tel Aviv, and why I would go back to Cape Town any time. Trentino is the kind of place where I felt I could relax completely. The vibe is very friendly, welcoming: people who visit Trentino all share a love for nature, adventure sports and good food; locals are friendly, genuine and generous – the kind of people that I can’t help but warm up to.

I am sure that these are more than enough reasons to visit Trentino in the summer, and for those who decide to do so, here’s some logistics information to organize a trip there.

things to do in Trentino

Next time I visit Trentino, I hope to stay in the gorgeous Val San Nicolò

Where to stay and eat in Trentino

Those who visit Trentino will be happy to know that there’s an excellent range of accommodation options, as well as some fantastic restaurants. I have selected a couple of hotels in Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa that also serve dinner – though I recommend eating out for the best food!

As eating is one of the best things to do in Trentino, I recommend going to the following restaurants to enjoy food at its best:

  • Miola di Predazzo, in Predazzo, Val di Fiemme, offers some of the best traditional food in the area. I had a delicious salad with walnuts and local apples, a selection of local cold cuts which included “carne salada” (salted cured beef) and pork shank.
  • Baita Paradiso, in Val di Fassa Passo San Pellegrino can be reached from the ski-lift (Seggiovia Costabella) or after a short hike, has the best beef fillet cooked in a bread shell along with onions and pine needles; as well as the best polenta in the area (not to mention an incredible selection of wines.

How to get to Trentino

There are no international airports in Trentino. Those who visit Trentino are better off flying to Verona, which is roughly a 2 hours drive from Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa, and then rent a car to go all the way there, or get a bus to one of the many beautiful villages in the region. Other airports would be Bergamo Orio Al Serio, a budget airlines hub, or Venezia Marco Polo, which is better connected internationally.

visit Trentino

Dressing appropriately is one of the things to do in Trentino

What to pack when visiting Trentino in the summer

Those who visit Trentino in the summer should make sure to carry comfortable clothes that allow layering up, as it may be quite warm in the middle of the day, but chilly in the morning and early evenings and night. Here’s what I recommend packing:

  • A pair of hiking boots, best if water proof and with good ankle support. Also pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
  • Hiking pants, best if water repellent. My favorite pants for hiking  are the Kuhl Kliffside Convertible and I find the Kuhl Skulpt Skinny to be easy to dress up if I wear a nice top.
  • Plenty of cotton shirts. I love Kuhl Kyra and Nora Tank. I find Alva to be the top pick on colder days.
  • A sweater (I love Kuhl Lea Pullover). I also recommend taking a wind and rain proof jacket. My favorite is Kuhl W’S Airstorm Rain Jacket.
  • A small backpack for the hikes. I recommend the 20 liter Osprey Daylite Plus.
  • A flask – tap water in Trentino is really good and it’s better to drink that than keep buying bottled water and cause unnecessary waste.
  • Sunglasses to protect from the sun and the wind, and a hat.
  • Sun screen with a high protection factor, since the sun can be really strong when at an altitude.
  • A swimsuit for those moments at the spa.
  • An umbrella, as it may well rain.
  • A good camera and lens to capture the magnificent views. I have a Nikon D3300 and a 70-300 mm wide lens. I also travel with my iPhone 6S Plus, which takes some pretty sweet shots.

Would you ever visit Trentino in the summer? What would you like to do there?

Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Visit Trentino during my trip, and I wish to thank them for showing me their incredible region. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are my own.

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Discover why you should visit Trentino in the summer via @clautavani