Before I had a list
I got an hour away from my house and realized I left all my passwords at home. I couldn’t just turn around and go get them, so I had to find another way to make my genealogy research road trip worthwhile. Being ill-prepared is very frustrating for me, especially when I plan an entire day on a genealogy research quest.
I created an organized system and packing list for myself so that I don’t have to plan ahead EVERY time I want to take a road trip on a whim. All I have to do is grab my backpack and go over the checklist in it. In about a half hour, I’m ready to go with no worries.
A list was born
It’s completely frustrating to leave home and get an hour away only to find out that you forgot important information to help with your genealogy research.
This is the reason that I created a handy packing list. A lot of genealogy research can be done online at home. Sometimes it’s necessary to leave the house and utilize other resources at different locations. If I find that I have time on an especially nice day to go for a drive, I want to be ready and not have an excuse for why I can’t go.
The best thing about preparing for your genealogy research road trip ahead of time is that you start the day out with less stress. You can focus on working and thinking through your genealogy tasks efficiently for the remainder of the day.
Being prepared not only makes the day stress free, but allows you to make the most of your time. It’s amazing how fast time flies when you’re researching your family tree. A couple of hours seems like minutes so being unprepared is costly in terms of how much time you have to do real research.
The Packing List
Backpack or Tote bag
The first thing that you will need is a sturdy and durable bag for all of your supplies. I use a backpack because the bag will be heavy and it’s easier for me to carry it on my back. You could also choose a large tote back that has strong handles or a gym bag. Once you compile everything else on the list, you can decide which bag style and size will work best for you.
What goes inside the backpack:
- Passwords: If you don’t have your passwords stored in a cloud or on a password app, then you will have to have a safe method for carrying your passwords. Whatever that is, you should make sure you have your passwords with you. A piece of paper is too easy to lose, so I would suggest a small book that you keep safely with you at all times.
- Small zipper bag: Preferably not see-through. I have a bag about 6” x 10” that I take with me into libraries. It holds my pencil, cell phone, credit card (for purchasing copies) my library card and personal ID, a few dollar bills and the key to the locker where my other important things are stored while I’m inside the research library. The whole bag fits nicely in my research folder and nobody notices it.
- Notebook: to write information or new leads to more information; and to write any notes that will help once you get home
- Folders: you will want to have a safe place to carry paper copies or photographs that you print from a library or other location
- Economy sheet protectors: I use these to add copied information to my albums. By carrying them with me, it saves me an extra step once I get home. After I print a copy of a document at the library, I label it and then slide it into a sheet protector right away. It’s then all ready for the album. You can also copy the printed list in this post and slide it into a protector sheet. Keep the list in your road trip bag so that you have a checklist of everything that should be in the bag at all times.
- Pencil and small sharpener: If you’re going to a library, most will not allow pens so be prepared and bring a couple pencils.
- Albums: If you’re bringing any of your family tree albums, these will add a lot of weight to your bag. I used to try to bring several albums wherever I went, but I realized that I only need to work on one or two in a day. There just isn’t enough time in one day for any more than that. It’s nice to have only the album of the family I’m working on so that I can see where I have gaps in my information and supporting documents. Bringing your albums is optional based on how you organize and keep up on your own research progress.
- Cash: for copy machines, flash drives or parking meters, etc. Some research libraries don’t allow bags into the library and they may have inexpensive rental lockers for your convenience. Check ahead of time if the library allows bags inside or not.
- Electronic devices: Cell phone, iPads, or laptops that may have your genealogy information on them.
- USB Flash drive: This is so handy for copying photos at libraries. Sometimes libraries sell small memory flash drives. If you bring your own, attach a tag or label to it so you know what it is for once you get it home. Remember to put it back in your road trip bag after you upload your images to your home computer.
- Camera: Decide what kind of trip you’re taking for the day. You may be satisfied with your cell phone camera, but if you’re going to a cemetery, you may want higher quality photos and will need your DSLR camera. Make sure you have an extra camera battery and that the extra battery is fully charged.
- Chargers: It’s helpful to have extra phone or computer chargers that you can leave in your genealogy research bag at all times. Tie a tag around the cords and label them “road trip bag”.
Prepare for the outdoors
Check the weather ahead of time for the day you plan your road trip. Here are some lightweight things you could easily throw in the bag in case you will be outdoors:
- rain coat or cape
- hat or cap
- bug repellent spray
- sunglasses and lens cleaner
Even if you start your day out early, there won’t be a lot of time to drive around to find a place to eat or even have enough time to sit down for a meal. Plan to have some nourishment! Think of things that are non-perishable and can stay in the bag for a few months. That way you can stock up for several trips at once.
- Snack bars, trail mix, fruit, jerky, etc.
Pack for safety
- Pepper spray: Play it safe, especially if you’re road tripping by yourself.
- Printed directions: You may not stick to specific route. It’s a good idea to print one or two copies of where you plan to go for the day. This is a good idea for two main reasons. you’re less likely to get lost First, if your GPS signal gets lost, you’ll still have help in an unfamiliar area. Second, give the extra copy of the map of your route to your spouse or a friend. It’s helpful in an emergency if somebody knows where you are going to be.
- Plan your drive times with rush hour traffic in mind.
- Extra face masks for Covid-19 requirements
Other things to bring or think about
These things may not be practical to carry in your road trip bag, but you can add them to your checklist (as extras) and bring them with you before you leave:
- Cooler (add ice packs – optional, if you want cold water)
- A few water bottles
- Appropriate shoes or boots for the weather
- A full gas tank!
- Extra windshield wiper fluid!
Ready to go!
When you need to hit the road for your genealogy research road trip, a well-planned supply list like this one will help you make the most of your day. Time goes so fast when you are working diligently on your family tree research. Assembling all the things on this list won’t take too long. You’ll most likely think of a few more things that you want to include.
Do you find this list helpful? Is there anything else that you would include in this packing list? Comment below and let me know!