Planning to go on a road trip? Here is the complete packing list for a road trip with all the essentials you’ll need.
Road trips are the best way of traveling in my opinion. With the freedom of choosing when to leave, where to take a quick stop, where not to stop – it is the perfect way to travel around.
But I know that the excitement of going on one can make you forget some important road trip essentials.
Whether it is just a short weekend road trip or a 1-month long road trip, you need to know the road trip must-haves to make sure that you stay safe, entertained, refreshed, and happy while on the road.
With this road trip packing list, you’ll be able to know exactly what to take so that you don’t reach in the middle of nowhere and realize that you forgot something crucial.
So without any further ado, let’s look at the essential items that should be on your packing list for a road trip.
For easy navigation, this road trip checklist will be categorized into car essentials, road trip essentials to keep you entertained, road trip items to keep you comfortable, those to help with safety, and other general travel items.
The complete Packing list for a road trip
Car essentials for a road trip
To make sure that you don’t have any issues while on the road, below are some of the road trip car essentials to pack.
1. Driving license and registration
The first thing that should be on your road trip packing list is your driver’s license and registration. By no means, do not leave it behind or you’ll have constant issues with traffic officers.
If your road trip is in a foreign country, check how you can get yourself an international driver’s Permit in case your local one is not acceptable.
2. Car insurance documents
Not to scare you but anything can happen on the road and that is why you need to have your car insurance documents with you at all times.
3. Car manual
I have to say that a car manual is one of those road trip necessities that is always overlooked yet very important.
Probably because they get discarded when one feels like they’re now “good drivers”.
But alas, something minor or technical can happen to your car and you don’t have an internet connection to quickly ask google.
This is when a car manual will be helpful and it might just save you when you least expect it.
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4. Border crossing car documents
If you’re road tripping in just one country, you will not need this but if you plan to cross borders, you need to get that paperwork in order.
And if you’re taking your own car, you’ll have to research about it on your own but if you rented a car from a reputable company, they can get that paperwork for you – all you have to do is to inform them in time so that you don’t have issues at the border.
You’ll also need to have some cash with you as some border points require you to pay a “rented car border crossing tax”.
5. Spare tire
One of the crucial road trip essentials is a spare tire. Other than just checking whether each tire is in good condition, you’ll need to have a spare tire for any incidences that might arise.
And no, do not just have a spare tire, also learn how to change it yourself. This can be very helpful if you get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere with no one to come to your rescue.
6. Empty fuel jerrycan
Sometimes it’s hard to know how long you’ll have to drive for before you find a fuel station.
So after filling up your tank, get a no-spill fuel can like this one and fill it up as well so that you never run out of fuel even if you’re in the most deserted places in the world.
7. Car Road side emergency kit
Regardless of whether you’re taking a short road trip or a long one, a roadside emergency kit should be included on your packing list for a road trip – I have to say, it’s the ultimate road trip essential.
A car roadside emergency kit should have a triangle warning DOT, jump starters, Portable Air compressor, Tow strap, Tire Pressure Gauge, all-weather tools, and supplies plus other items.
This car roadside emergency kit has all those items mentioned above and much more to guarantee your safety while on the road.
8. Car sunshade
A car sunshade is so useful when it comes to keeping your car cool while under the scorching sun.
This foldable Windshield sunshade is perfect for shielding you from the UV hence preventing your car seats from burning.
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9. Trash bag
Don’t you just hate those people that throw trash out of their car windows!! Urrggg it gets me so mad!
So to make sure you’re not that guy and stay respectful of the environment or keep your car clean, carry a personal trash bag where you can dump all the trash.
I personally prefer this Coghlan’s travel Pop up trash can as it’s small and very manageable in a car. You can count on it not to “trash” your car as you hit the road humps. It’s also perfect for camping.
10. Car air freshener
From long drives with windows rolled up to having snacks every now and then, the freshness of the car might deteriorate that why it’s important to add a car air freshener like this on the list of road trip essentials for the car.
11. Car charger
From listening to music to playing games on your phone, it’s not surprising that your battery will run dry. And if you’re not traveling alone, the inbuilt car charger will not be enough for the group. So it’s better to buy this kind of car charger.
However, if you plan to use other gadgets like a laptop, I recommend buying this type of car charger as it comes with both the normal phone USB port and the bigger ones for things like a laptop.
Things to pack for a road trip: Gadgets
There is no road trip that is complete without gadgets. So below are the gadgets that should be on your road trip packing list.
Duh!! Obviously, you have to take your phone. I personally can’t travel anywhere without my phone but since we’re creating a road trip checklist, I had to mention it.
There is no way you can go for a road trip and leave a camera behind. In fact, a camera is one of the road trip essentials that goes first in my day back.
It’s the perfect way to capture memories and if you’re road tripping in places with amazing landscapes, you’re likely to stop every now and then to capture that beauty.
14. Extra batteries and memory cards
Speaking of capturing amazing photos, you’ll need to take extra batteries and memory cards to make sure that you’re not limited by either battery or space.
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15. Bluetooth headset
Thanks to advancing technology, you can easily speak on your phone without actually touching it.
And since it’s dangerous to hold your phone while driving, a Bluetooth headset comes in handy.
You never have to miss a call or park your car first to answer it, just connect your phone to this Bluetooth headset and you’ll be set for your highly anticipated road trip.
16. Portable power bank
A power bank should be on your road trip list of essentials for those moments when you can’t charge your phone in the car but you want to stay connected.
This Anker power bank is very efficient for a road trip as it can charge a phone over 3 times making it a crucial road trip item.
17. Hands free phone mount
As a driver, it is not only illegal to hold your phone while driving in some places but it can also be dangerous.
However, checking your phone is inevitable whether it is to check the maps app or something else, you’ll need to use.
But with growing technology, it doesn’t have to be hard, just grab yourself this Hands-free phone mount, mount it on your dash and you’ll be good to go.
18. Noise canceling Ear phones
We have to agree that in most cases our taste in music is different. If you’re road-tripping two or more, you might not be into the driver’s selection and you just want to listen to your own songs.
Or better yet, you just want to block out all the noise so that you read a book or simply just chill in silence.
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19. Small cooler
There is nothing that is satisfying as sipping on a cold drink while driving through the heat of the day.
But if you have nothing to keep your drinks cold, you might end up taking ”warm” drinks and that is not pleasant at all.
So to keep cold drinks flowing or even preserve your sandwiches or other fruits cold, take a cooler.
This Coleman cooler is small enough to fit in a sizeable car and can keep stuff cold for a good number of hours.
20. Portable WiFi device
Going for a road trip means driving through areas where the internet is not guaranteed at all. But with the need to stay connected the entire time even in the most deserted places, a personal wifi device will be perfect.
I recommend this Huawei Mobile WiFi hot spot as it comes unlocked which means that you can use any kind of sim card, it works all across the world, Europe, USA, Africa, Asia– you name it and can support over 10 devices at the same time. That makes it even perfect for road-tripping families.
21. GPS Navigation/Maps
It’s important to have a GPS when driving especially in places you’re not familiar with. You can just download a GPS app and that would be enough.
Google Maps is a good option but I always prefer Maps.me as it is an offline app and it has a number of smaller roads that you might not find on google maps.
Nevertheless, if you don’t trust how reliable your phone will be in terms of battery, then you can get yourself a paper map of that area.
Essentials for road trips: Entertainment
Without any kind of entertainment, road trips become so boring especially if it’s a long drive. So to make sure that you don’t get bored while on the road, add a few things that will keep you entertained.
22. Music playlist
I have to say that the best part about road trips is listening to good music while singing along to every song that plays. But that also means having a kick-ass playlist either on your phone or a stick.
So before you embark on any road trip, create a long playlist of songs that you know you’ll enjoy listening to through your trip.
23. Portable Bluetooth speaker
With a perfect music playlist, you need good speakers to even take the entertainment to the next level beyond your phone speakers.
No, you don’t need to carry huge speakers to achieve that, this portable Bluetooth speaker will do the job perfectly well.
24. Book/ Kindle
Whether it’s on long a high way, chilling at the campsite or at the balcony of your ecolodge, reading is sometimes the best way to relax your mind.
Carry a good book for those times or better yet a Kindle E-reader as you just need one to have access to a variety of books to read. A big plus? A Kindle E-reader is lightweight and it will save you lots of space you would have used for a number of hard copy books.
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If you’re traveling in a group, you’d definitely need to pack some games with you.
This could be board games like this, game apps, or even games you can just play amongst each other.
Checklist for a road trip: Toiletries and personal care
Thinking of what to pack for a road trip? Then toiletries should be among the first things to consider.
It’s so easy to forget a few personal care items yet they’re important when it comes to keeping you fresh and rejuvenated. So below are a few of them.
26. Toilet bag
Before you even start bringing out your toiletries, you need to have a toilet bag.
I prefer this transparent toilet bag as you can easily see wherever each item is instead of having to remove everything every time you need something.
It is also TSA-approved, so you won’t need to worry about buying another one the next time you have to fly.
For extreme heat, it’s recommended that you buy sunscreen with an SPF of 50+. This Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen not only has an SPF of over 50 but is also good for almost all skin types.
28. Baby wipes
However annoying it is, sometimes it’s just hard to avoid sweating while in a car and that’s where baby wipes come in.
Actually, they not only just help with getting a feeling of a cold breeze on your body or clean off your makeup, but they’re also perfect for a “quick dry bath” if you find yourself at a campsite without a shower.
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29. Toilet paper
Part of going on a long road trip is getting that call of nature before you reach your hotel or campsite – it happens, you can’t fight it.
And when that happens, you might have to figure out where to go. Whether it is a public toilet you come across or in the bush (don’t get grossed out, we hikers know that this is absolutely normal if you do it well), but that does not guarantee any toilet paper.
So always have a couple of toilet rolls in your car not only for those times but also to either clean up spilled liquids or even blow your nose.
30. Chap stick Lip moisturizer
With changing attitudes and temperatures while on the road, your lips are bound to get dry.
So make sure that you add this chapstick to your road trip list of essentials to keep your lips moisturized.
31. Hand sanitizer
A hand sanitizer is one of the most important road trips items to have especially nowadays.
If you went about touching unclean surfaces, you need to sanitize your hands before you start snacking.
In the same way, you may not find soap on that quick bathroom stop – so a hand sanitizer should help you. This hand sanitizer kills almost 99% of bacteria and viruses – pack it before you hit the road.
Gum will not only help you keep your breath fresh especially after a car nap but also help unblock your ears.
Other toiletries that should be in your toilet bag include;
- Body cream
- Dry shampoo
- Razors etc
Packing list for a road trip: Safety essentials
One thing you should never do while going on a road trip is skimping on safety items.
Just like anywhere else, emergencies and accidents can happen. So to make sure that you stay safe at all times, take these safety road trip essentials below.
33. First Aid kit
Honestly, you should never travel anywhere without a first aid kit. Whether it is a road trip across the backcountry, city getaways, or a backpacking trip, always have a first aid fit.
A good first aid kit should have items like bandages, gauze, tweezers, oral thermometer, burn cream, etc but should also be small enough not to take up a lot of space.
This first aid kit has all those qualities though I hope you won’t need to use it. Nevertheless, have it with you just in case something happens.
Related post: How to stay safe when traveling
34. Travel insurance
On top of the car insurance, you should have your own travel insurance.
They say that if you can’t afford travel insurance, then you certainly can’t afford to travel. And since anything can happen while on the road, the best thing you can do for yourself is to be insured.
Most travelers love World Nomads but safety wings is also a great option, perfect for long-time travel. Just get a quote from any of those travel insurance providers and you will have peace of mind while traveling.
35. Bug spray
Add a bug spray like this one to your road trip packing list for those nights you would want to stay out at night at the campfire.
36. Swiss army knife
A swiss army knife is gotta be the most useful small item on any road trip essentials list.
With a number of items like scissors, corkscrew, sharp blade, etc, you can expect it to come in handy whether it is opening a can, a cork, cutting stuff and yes its can also work as a defense tool. Talk about a multi-purpose road trip accessory.
37. Prescribed medication
If you have any underlying condition, make sure that you don’t leave behind your medication.
However, even if you don’t have any health condition, always have prescribed pain killers with you as you never know when a headache might kick in or have an upset stomach.
What to bring on a road trip: Comfort essentials
Road trips are undeniably fun but it can also be tiring to sit in one place for hours and the last thing you need is to be uncomfortable.
So below are the things needed for a road trip to make you absolutely comfortable.
38. Travel pillow
A travel pillow can’t honestly miss on any packing list for road trips as you’re likely to catch some sleep on those long drives.
But even after the drive, you’ll need to stay comfortable especially if you’re camping instead of sleeping in hotels and guest houses.
There are so many travel pillows on the market but I love this compressible one as it’s not only great on the neck but also packs lightly.
39. A large scarf
For those chilly days, a large scarf works wonders when it comes to keeping you warm.
40. Sleeping masks
I am personally not a sleeper on road trips but sometimes it’s just soo hard to contain it. But when it’s time for you shut your eyes, the bright sun is not gonna shut down as well.
And while it’s easy for me to sleep in almost all conditions, it’s not the case for many.
So take a sleeping mask like this to block out all the light while you take a nap in the car.
The other advantage of this sleeping mask is that it is very soft on the eyes so you don’t have to worry about waking up with patches on your face.
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While still at sleeping, don’t forget to throw in a pair of earplugs in your bag.
Though you might want to sleep, other people in the car might still want to listen to that great playlist we talked about earlier.
So the best way to make sure that everyone gets what they want is to grab a pair of these noise-canceling earplugs to block out all the noise as you catch some sleep.
42. Flip flops
I love adorning my Nikes when on any kind of road trip but after a while, I get tired of wearing closed shoes.
And when that happens, I pull out my pair of flip flops to keep myself really comfortable.
What to pack on a road trip: The must-haves
There are a number of road trip must-haves for any kind of road trip. Below are some of them.
A day pack is very useful while road tripping. Whether it is embarking on a short hiking adventure or roaming the city, a daypack is crucial when it comes to keeping all the things you might need while going up and down.
I personally love this osprey daypack as it’s the perfect size, it is lightweight, has great straps to keep you comfortable and it has a water bottle holder not forgetting about how durable it is.
44. Collapsible travel water bottle
As you drive around, you’ll need to stay hydrated and that’s why you need to have a travel water bottle to keep water nearby.
You also won’t be doing a disservice to the environment by buying plastic water bottles while you travel.
Any travel water bottle can work but I prefer this collapsible one as it helps me save a lot of space in my bag when it’s empty – after all, opting for collapsible items is one of the tips for packing light instead of taking the solid ones.
45. Thermal travel mug
Is it even a road trip if you don’t have a thermal travel mug? Certainly not!! My kind of road trip is listening to good music while tucked in a blanket as I sip on coffee – Cozy right?
A thermal travel mug will keep your hot beverages hot making it a perfect road trip essential you should never leave behind.
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46. Flash light
One of the long road trip essentials is a flashlight. If you arrive where you’re going late, you’ll have some source of light.
Or even if you get some issues with the car in the middle of the night, you still have a flashlight to help you work on everything.
I always prefer a strong headlamp like this as I don’t have to hold it keeping my hands free to work on whatever I have to.
47. Micro fiber travel towel
I don’t know if I am the only one who always wants to take a dip as soon as I see a beach along the way or a waterfall!
If you’re like me, then it’s important to take a microfiber travel towel while packing for a road trip.
My go-to Microfiber towel is the Rain Leaf travel towel as it is light, absorbent, and drys quickly which makes it perfect for a road trip.
48. Travel Umbrella
Call me old school but I like to travel with an umbrella. With the weather changing without any notice these days – at least where I come from in Uganda, I never leave behind a windproof travel umbrella.
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It is even a road trip without snacks. Other than just feeling up the stomach, I believe eating snacks makes a longer distance shorter.
But having snacks doesn’t just mean taking potato chips and done. Add in some healthy snacks and fruits.
A few snacks to consider include protein bars, Apples, carrots, chocolate bars, and so many others.
Road trip checklist: Comfortable clothes to pack for a road trip
To make sure that you’re ultimately comfortable on your trip, I recommend packing comfortable clothes instead of ones that you will easily get tired of. Below are some of the clothes to wear on a road trip.
50. Comfortable pants
Leggings are truly the most comfortable clothes to wear while traveling. And the best part is that they can be worn literally everywhere.
Whether it’s on a plane, hiking, city visits, or even long drives – they’re indeed a girl’s best friend.
I prefer this pair of leggings as it is soft, warm and perfect for every body type.
Sweat pants are also cool and super comfortable when it’s a rather long road trip but if you anticipate the day to be extremely hot, then shorts can be a great alternative.
51. Breathable Rain coat
As you pack for a road trip, don’t leave a raincoat behind. Wherever you go, try to be prepared for the downpour.
However, you don’t need to carry a heavy jacket unless it is winter, this lightweight and small rain jacket will work perfectly well.
Either for those chilly nights or when it gets cold in the car, a fleece is a good option to keep you warm. I love the Columbia fleece.
53. Sun glasses
Protect your eyes from direct sun by packing sunglasses. Any kind of sunglasses are ok but ones that are polarized are perfect when it comes to blocking out the sun and keeping your eyes safe.
54. Swim wear
Remember when we talked about taking a dive in a waterfall or a secluded beach? You’ll need to carry a swimsuit to make sure that you don’t miss out on that adventure.
55. Comfortable tops
Merino wool t-shirts are always a great choice for both men and women. They’re good because they absorb sweat which means that you’ll stay dry even if you sweat.
On top of that, they’re are lightweight, dry easily, and easy to wash in case you find yourself at a point where you need to wash them.
Other items to add your packing list for a road trip
56. Dry bag
A dry bag is perfect to keep in your dirty laundry or even keep in your wet clothes immediately after a swim.
Ziplocs are very useful when it comes to keeping your food or snacks properly. You can use them to keep your day’s sandwich or store your food very well.
Before you go for a road trip, get yourself a set of these Tupperware to store food or leftovers well.
Pack a few reusable cutlery for those days you find yourself eating from the car. Or you can grab this set of reusable cutlery.
60. Reusable shopping bag
As we all strive to reduce the use of plastic bags for environmental benefits, I’d recommending getting yourself this reusable shopping bag for when you have to grab a few things from the supermarket while on the road.
There you have if friends! That was the complete packing list for a road trip with all the essentials you might need.
Are there any road trip essentials that I’ve left behind? If so, just drop them in the comment section and let me know what’s the most useful road trip supplies you never travel without.
Need more packing inspiration? Check out other packing lists on the blog
- Packing list for a hostel
- Carry on essentials for a long flight
- Ski trip packing list
- Packing list for winter
- Packing list for Africa
- What to pack for Egypt
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