Thelma and Louise. Jack Kerouac. Easy Rider. The American road trip is one of those rare and universally beloved archetypes that span the literary and cinematic genres. The open road in all of its mystery and infinite potential is a motif that's undergone a renewed sense of popularity over the past few months. The pandemic halted all summer travel plans and pushed everyone to rethink what adventure can safely look like in 2020 — and thus (re)emerged the road trip, 2020's best vacation option.
I, like the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances, had a summer vacation that fell to pieces once this blunder of a year unfolded. Rather than heading to Europe (Paris! Vienna! Mallorca!), I bunkered down in a 500-square-foot apartment, trying to convince myself that a remote tour of The Louvre or a virtual beachside yoga class would satiate my wanderlust. Unsurprisingly, it missed the mark and once my city began opening back up I strategized a way to escape while still taking precautions and staying respectful to the current Coronavirus climate. The solution was a three-week road trip in the Pacific Northwest.
Aside from a few boutique hotel stays, my primary accommodation was a tent. My meals (with the exception of a few small-town outdoor dining spots) were conceived around a campground picnic table or fire pit. My outfits were comprised of a rotation of versatile, comfortable pieces I felt happy to be wearing. I also made sure to take precautionary measures, packing sanitizer as well as cleaning supplies for wiping down surfaces at rest stops or camp along with a traditional first aid kit. I'm keenly aware that camping isn't everyone's cup of tea (tip: bring an air mattress), however, if you're curious about how to pull off a 2020 road trip that allows you to safely get outside and want to know precisely what to pack, continue ahead.
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After several months spent inside, getting outdoors in nature is a smart self-care move. Even better: Make it the focal point of your road trip. If you're including a few national parks or long hikes in your itinerary, be sure to pack these key staples in your suitcase: hat, sports bra, leggings, backpack, hiking socks and boots, and a face covering. Other useful pieces to bring along include a breathable top, a reusable water bottle, and a lightweight jacket. Oh, and plenty of Bandaids for blisters (the bane of my existence).
Though athleisure pieces will occupy the bulk of your suitcase's real estate, I included a couple easy-peasy dresses for days when I wanted to throw something on with a pair of sandals and go. It checks off the box of feeling free-flowing and comfortable while also looking a tad more polished than a tee and sweats (something that, after several nights in a tent, was a vibe I yearned for).
I can't emphasize the importance of a swimsuit enough when it comes to a road trip. The freedom of being able to pull the car over and fling into a creek or the ocean (or a glacial river as seen above) is guaranteed to make your adventure feel more spontaneous and enjoyable.
If you're curious what hiking is like during the Coronavirus pandemic, it's admittedly a bit awkward. If you encounter other hikers on the trail the proper etiquette is to put on your masks and if you are heading uphill, to face away from the trail and let the others pass you by. It feels unnatural to ignore fellow nature-lovers, but it's the best way to ensure that you're taking care of yourself and others 'til it's safe to go sans face covering. Tip: I secured mine around my hiking pole so I could easily slip it on and off without having to dig around my backpack (or wear it under my chin, which is perhaps more uncomfortable than wearing it over your face).
In addition to packing a few face coverings for your road trip, I also recommend bringing along one face mask to keep your skin in check. Vegan-friendly skincare label Faace has one that's specifically meant for keeping a sweaty face calm and clear with ingredients like argan oil, bergamot, galbanum, and patchouli. Also, if you're curious what the best road trip suitcase of all time is, it's the Lojel one above. Not only is it lightweight, sturdy, and sleek, but it also can zip open from the top, which made leaving it in the car and grabbing things from the main compartment incredibly effortless. Not pictured: a boatload of hand sanitizer.
Is a summer road trip complete without a Hawaiian dad shirt in tow? I think not. Add in some boxy shorts and Birkenstocks for good measure, while you're at it.
In retrospect, I believe the easiest way to feel cute and comfortable on a long road trip is to pack versatile separates in neutral hues with a few accessories that nod to a '90s dad aesthetic. As crazy as that theory sounds, I was never short on outfits all 21 days — 10/10 recommend.
You probably don't need reminding, but sun protection is oh-so important for a road trip and subsequent outdoor stops. On top of my baseball cap, I also included the breathable woven number above and a pair of tortoiseshell sunglasses that go with everything. Also, never neglect your sunscreen!
If your road trip is including stops that don't involve old-growth trees or roaming black bears, then it doesn't hurt to include a pretty floral midi dress and sandals.
After three weeks of being (mostly) off the grid and enjoying the change of pace that everyone has been struggling with since mid-March, the road trip experience served as a useful reminder that escape doesn't always have to come in the form of a far-flung getaway. It's more accessible than I realized and if you're yearning for something similar and safe, get to planning that automobile adventure.