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
- ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS
- ROAD TRIP CHECKLIST FOR TECHNO WARRIORS
- ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST – THE BASICS
- SUMMER ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST
- WINTER ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST
ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST GUIDE
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.
Going on your road trip with friends? Here are some travel with friends quotes to inspire you.
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.
Also, read the best 100 inspiring travel quotes to inspire your journey.
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.
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.
Stop at the local tourist offices for free maps of the regions you’re driving around.
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.
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.
Looking for more road trip tips? Read these posts and get excited about hitting the road.
ROAD TRIP CHECKLIST FOR TECHNO WARRIORS
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.
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.
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.
ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST – THE BASICS
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. Make sure you pack at least one blanket and you can’t go wrong with an extra one too.
22- Travel Games and Toys
If you’re travelling with kids, make sure you pack some road trip games to keep young minds busy.
Don’t forget to pack a few travel toys for toddlers too, especially if you’re embarking on a long journey by road.
It’s too easy to bring electronic games, which can be rather isolating, so take the opportunity to get your kids to have fun the old way and download these printable games or puzzles for your time on the road.
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.
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.
Daypacks come in a variety of sizes, so choose a daypack for your travels that you know you will love and you’ll get plenty of use out of it while on your road trip.
30- 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.
SUMMER ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST
31- 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.
32- Insect Spray
Keep those bugs, sandflies and mosquitoes away by putting a strong insect spray on your road trip pack list.
Insects and bugs can put a dent in your enjoyment of a destination at certain times of the year.
33- Sun Screen
Wear sunscreen if you’re driving long distances with the sun on your skin to avoid sunburn.
You’d be surprised at how easy it is to get burnt, even when it doesn’t look like a particularly hot and sunny day.
34- 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.
These days, keeping germs at bay is essential for good health and when you’re travelling you just never know where you might pick up bad germs.
35- Body Wipes
Body wipes are a great option when you need to freshen up or for emergencies, especially if you find yourself in the position of having to sleep in your car.
A pack of body wipes will do the trick when there’s no running water to be found.
36- Quickdry Towel
Have you ever driven past a beach and have been tempted to jump in the ocean for a swim?
You’d be surprised at how much you’ll use a quick-dry towel.
A visor, hat or cap to keep the sun off your face.
Don’t forget this item and although you can pick up hats while on the road, there’s nothing like a comfortable old friend to take with you on your journey.
If you’re on a driving trip along the coast, pack your favourite swimwear and a spare pair.
Once you get the taste of plunging into the water, you might want to do it often and there’s nothing worse than pulling on wet swimwear
In summer, sandals are great to keep you cool and a neat item for your road trip packing list.
They’re easy to slip on and versatile to wear in different circumstances, whether you’re wandering around town or going down to the beach.
40- 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.
Buying ice-cold soda pop is expensive from roadhouses and you’d be surprised at how much you can save on a road trip by packing your own in a car cooler
WINTER ROAD TRIP PACKING LIST
41- Snow Shovel
Going on a road trip in winter? Pack a snow shovel and look for one that folds up and won’t take up a lot of space.
It’s an item you will be thankful you took the time to put on your packing list for a winter road trip.
42- Ice Scraper
Going on a road trip in winter is an adventure but make sure to tick an ice scraper off your packing list.
There’s nothing more frustrating than scrabbling around to find something to scrape the ice off your windscreen.
Yes, if you feel the cold a warm and comfortable pair of mittens is an essential road trip item for your packing list.
Pack a spare pair in case you get wet.
44- Lip balm
When the air is dry, especially in winter, a pot or stick of lip balm will soothe cracked lips.
45- 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.