44 Things For Your Road Trip Packing List

44 Things For Your Road Trip Packing List

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Road trip packing list dog
45 items to put on your road trip packing list.

If you have ever been on a road trip, you’ll know that making a road trip packing list is as important as mapping out your itinerary. It doesn’t matter where you’re planning your road trip, from scenic coastal drives to cross-country journeys. or how long you’re planning to go, there are some road trip essentials you need to take with you.

Of course, you can just jump in the car and go (and I’ve done that too!) but why not take all the stress out of your journey and make sure you tick the basic items off your road trip pack list. So make your own road trip checklist or if you’re too lazy, here are some ideas to help you pack.

ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST GUIDE

Items for your road trip packing list
Use our road trip packing list to get organised for your next journey.

ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS

1- Driving paperwork

Always carry your driver’s license in your wallet or purse and do not leave home without it.

Make sure your car registration is current and make a photocopy of your car insurance policy (contact details of your insurance company) and put it in your glove box.

Don’t rely on your smartphone or notebook, just in case you lose them or the batteries die. Another thing you can do is to take a photo of your paperwork and email it to yourself and to a friend. 

2- Roadside assistance membership

Having a roadside assistance membership is definitely handy for times you might need help.

For a small fee, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that if you really get stuck somewhere, you’ll have someone to call. 

If you already have a membership, review it before you take off on your trip and consider upgrading your membership to include more services or to cover a wider area. 

3- Car manual

Count on that pesky warning light to keep flashing when you just happen to be out of cell phone range.

A car manual might be old school but don’t throw it out, especially if you’re driving an older model vehicle.

Sometimes, these car manuals can have information not available online. 

4- Spare tire

Check that your spare is in good condition before your trip as there’s nothing worse than getting a puncture in the middle of nowhere and realising that your spare is flat too!

If you’ve never changed a tire before, it’s a great idea to practice changing one before you go, as trying to learn how to change a tire when you’re under stress can be a bit daunting for some. 

5- Maps

Paper maps might be fast going out of style but they can be really useful to help you orientate yourself, especially when you’re in an area with patchy cell service.

6- Sunglasses

Pack polarized sunglasses for driving or anti-glare sunglasses for clearer night vision.

Actually, it’s a great idea to pack a spare pair of sunglasses as this is one item you’re likely to leave behind. 

Finding the right kind of sunglasses to buy way out in the countryside can be difficult. 

While you’re buying sunglasses, some other personal items to put on your shopping list are compression socks, comfortable travel pants, a new toiletry bag and perhaps a new duffel bag.

7- Toilet paper

A roll of toilet paper is handy for emergencies – you never know when you might need it and where you’ll be. 

If you happen to be road tripping in South America, India or Asia, make sure you have several rolls of toilet paper as public toilets in many countries don’t have toilet paper at all. 

8- Large Water Bottles

Staying hydrated is essential while on a road trip, especially in summer, so pack more water than you think you’ll need.

Have at least one water bottle for each person in the car and an extra bottle for emergencies.

9- First aid kit

Pack a first aid kit stocked with band-aids, bandages, antiseptic and painkillers (being in a car with a headache is no fun!) and being forced to stop to look for a band-aid can be a nuisance. 

10- Roadside Emergency Kit

You never know when you might have a flat battery or tire and getting the car going on your own sure beats waiting hours for the roadside service to turn up. 

So look for a roadside emergency kit with the essentials for a road trip emergency, such as battery charger cables, window breaker, light sticks and air compressor.

road trip essentials - technology items
If you’re a techno warrior, check out these road trip essentials to include.

ROAD TRIP CHECKLIST FOR TECHNO WARRIORS

11- GPS

Update the software on your GPS before you leave or you risk being directed onto older (and longer) routes. These days, having a reliable GPS is one of the essentials for a road trip. 

Download a mapping app, such as Waze or Roadtrippers, and have a paper map as a backup for when there’s no cell service.

If your GPS is new, do a test run before you go to make sure it’s working the way it should. 

12- Road trip apps

Sign up for a few hotel booking sites, such as Bookings.com, Hotelscombined.com, and download their booking apps before you leave.

Some days, you might be really tired and will need to find somewhere to have a good night’s rest.

Trust me, when you’re on the road, it’s much easier if you have all your booking apps ready to go. 

13- Smartphone charger

Don’t forget your smartphone charger and take a spare as a backup in case you leave it somewhere unintentionally.

Get one with multiple USB slots so you can keep your GPS plugged in while you charge your phones and notebooks.

14- Bluetooth headphones

Download a selection of travel games on a tablet and pack a set of Bluetooth headphones if you’re planning a cross-country road trip with the kids.

Keeping the kids calm, quiet and occupied will make a big difference to your level of stress. 

15- Battery packs

Pack a high-capacity battery pack, which you can charge up before you go. This might be especially handy if you’re planning on doing a bit of work while on your trip. 

Being able to fire up your notebook to research a new place is a convenience you’ll appreciate while on a road trip. 

16- Portable satellite 

Watch live shows as you cruise along the highway with the help of a portable satellite antenna.

While not an essential item to put on your road trip packing list it’s a fun thing to treat yourself to. 

17- Flashlight

You’d be surprised at how handy a basic flashlight can be while on the road.

Better still, add a rechargeable solar flashlight to your road trip packing list.

There are some really cool models out there and some also double up as a seat belt cutter and glass window breaker.

Some have USB chargers that you can use to charge up your smartphone in an emergency.

18- Download music

Good music should be at the top of your list when packing for a road trip.

Even if the scenery is stunning, there will be long stretches of road where you will enjoy filling the car with the right kind of music.

The last time I went on a road trip, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to listen to on the local radio. 

19- Swiss Army Knife

A Swiss army knife is a multi-purpose tool that may come in handy for a number of reasons.

I’ve used mine for all kinds of purposes, from peeling oranges to fixing the arm on my glasses. 

Technology versions come with USB sticks too.

20- Drone

Capturing the places you visit on your road trip from the air is fun and will provide a memorable visual journal of your road trip.

A mini-drone can cost as little as $50 or treat yourself to the top-of-the-range of portable travel drones.

packing list - road trip

ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST – THE BASICS

21- Blanket

A blanket can come in handy when you happen to come across the perfect picnic spot or if you get cold.

A microfleece blanket dries quickly and is light enough to take with you on your next flight.

22- Travel Pillow

Planning on snoozing in the car? A travel pillow is definitely an item for your road trip packing list.

Even if you’ll be sleeping in motels or hotels, if you are a light sleeper, bring your regular pillow for comfort.

A nifty product to get is a microfleece blanket in a bag that you can use as a travel pillow.

23- Travel Mug

Choose a travel mug with a leak-proof lid to stop the liquid from spilling.

It’s also handy to have one that fits perfectly in the cup holder in your car as sometimes the coffee cups or drink bottles from roadside stores might be too large or too small. 

It’s only a trivial thing but I love drinking out of my own travel mug. 

24- Rain jacket

Add a rain jacket or umbrella to your road trip pack list to keep you dry when you need to get out of the car or go on a walk. 

If you’re visiting places where there are lots of national parks and nature hikes, pack a rain jacket. 

25- Reusable Shopping Bag

They fold up and fit in your handbag and are useful for popping to the shop while on the road.

As many places are banning plastic bags, a reusable shopping bag is a good item to have.

You’ll be doing your small part to save the environment and it’ll save you from having to pay for plastic bags. 

26- Garbage Bags

Keep your car clean of wrappers and other garbage and if you want to be really organized get a leak-proof garbage bag to hang behind the seat.

Actually, put a pack of giant garbage bags on your road trip packing list as they are useful and inexpensive. 

27- Road trip snacks

While on a road trip, the best snacks to nibble on are healthy snacks that will give you the energy to keep driving.

It’s far cheaper to stock up with a big pack than to buy individual items along the way.

28- Hiking boots

Even if you aren’t an avid hiker, there will be times when the opportunity to stretch your legs and explore the landscape will present itself.

A sturdy pair of hiking boots can make all the difference to your comfort level but if you’re buying a new pair, make sure you break them in before you go. 

29- Daypack

There will be times when you decide on going for a hike and need a travel daypack to store the items you should carry with you.

Day packs come in a variety of sizes and styles so get one that you love and you’ll get plenty of use out of it while on your road trip. 

packing list for a road trip collage

SUMMER ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST

30- Window Shades

A pack of sunshades for the car is extremely useful to stop the sun streaming through the side windows.

The passengers in the back seat will thank you. 

31- Insect Spray

Keep those bugs, sandflies and mosquitoes away! Put a strong insect spray on your road trip pack list. 

32- Sun Screen

Wear sunscreen if you’re driving long distances with the sun on your skin to avoid sunburn.

33- Hand sanitizer

A bottle of hand sanitizer is helpful when you come in contact with germs or can’t find somewhere to wash your hands.

34- Body Wipes

Body wipes are a great option when you need to freshen up or for emergencies.

35- Quickdry Towel

Have you ever driven past a beach and have been tempted to jump in the ocean for a swim?

36- Hat

A visor, hat or cap to keep the sun off your face.

37- Swimwear

38- Sandals

39- Car Cooler

There’s nothing like an ice-cold drink on a hot summer’s day and a car cooler is also useful to keep sandwiches and other food fresh.

ROAD TRIP PACK LIST

WINTER ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST

40- Snow Shovel

Look for one that folds up and won’t take up a lot of space.

41- Ice Scraper

42- Mittens

43- Lip balm

When the air is dry, especially in winter, a pot or stick of lip balm will soothe cracked lips.

44- Car seat warmers

If your car doesn’t already have an inbuilt seat heating function you can get car seat cushions to keep your seat warm.

If you think of anything else that should be on our road trip packing list, please leave a comment below to let us know.

ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST
ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST
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I'm a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia, when I'm not on the road. I've lived in three continents and my career as a travel journalist has taken me to all seven continents. Since 2003, I have contributed travel stories to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. I have won many travel writing awards and I'm a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Great suggestins for a road trip packing list. We used to take many road trips when our son was home. We always carried a cooler in the car and also used apps for our destinations. There is a lot of useful information on these apps.

  2. I don’t think I have ever made a road trip packing list in my life. But this is one really awesome list and handy too. Particularly love your section for “techno warriors”. A lot of brilliant suggestions to take on board.

  3. I have done several road trips in the last few years and I’d have to say you have covered pretty much everything one needs on the road! I have never, however, done a road trip in the winter and this is very helpful for me to know what I need to take care of if and when I do one, thanks 🙂

  4. This is a good ready reckoner of things to carry and prepare before a road trip. You just need a check box to tick them as you prepare for the road. Sharing it around with a lot of road trippers who will love the list.

  5. I’ve never been on a road trip before but we are planning to go in one soon. Your packing list looks pretty complete. I like that you included some personal items (e.g sunscreen and hand sanitiser) on the list.

  6. I am looking at this list (as an experience road tripper in Europe) and I am sure there is something missing but I cant see it. He he. I think you covered everything. Was gonna mention baby wipes and swiss army knife but you got there before me. They are very essential. 😀

  7. A guide for all seasons! Good tunes are of the utmost importance for any road trip. Or maybe it’s snacks… I didn’t realize that drones could be so cheap! That will make the road trip that much more fun to document. Thank you for the guide to road tripping!

  8. I wish I was like that dog, while packing for travels 🙁
    I think you have a comprehensive list and have left nothing out. However, during road trips, we tend to carry a bit more as there is no weight-limit 😉

  9. I guess the road trip packing list depends on where you’re going (for example, you’d need a blanket if you’re in a country where you have the possibility to stop and enjoy a nice picnic or you’d need toilet paper if you’re in a country where they don’t usually stock much in the public toilets) but this pretty much sums it all! It’s quite the comprehensive list I’d say. I definitely make sure to carry some good music, keep the roadside assistance number handy and have GPS or access to maps on the phone, even a hard copy helps at times when you’re in areas where you may not have a GPS signal at all!

  10. I appreciate that you included roadside assistance as part of the packing list to have a hassle-free road trip. Doing this will allow us to contact someone when things get out of our control. We cannot predict what situation we will be in while on the road which is why it’s better to be prepared than panic when such situation arises. I always have this so I can directly contact someone when I needed some assistance for my roadside emergencies. Which is why it’s highly recommended to follow several tips to have a smooth road trip. About a month ago, I found a blog which includes this as one of their essential tips for a smooth road trip.

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