This year looks like it will be a year of road trip travel! Road trips are a fantastic way to find hidden gems that are overshadowed by big cities. If you choose to do a road trip near your hometown, you may find out about lovely places that have managed to fly under your radar! If there’s one thing you need to enjoy this unique type of travel, it’s a road trip packing list.
I’ve taken a few road trips before, and I can confidently say that taking a road trip is a little different from other types of travel. While planes, trains, and boats all put you in contact with other people, road trips don’t. Consequently, the things that you need to add to your road trip packing list are a little bit different. After all, you wouldn’t have to worry about packing your car manual if you’re headed on a flight!
In this post, I’ve listed all of the necessary things to bring on a road trip. These items can truly make your road trip an even more enjoyable experience.
In This Post:
The Important Stuff
While many of these items may seem self-explanatory, they are vital additions to your road trip packing list. As a matter of fact, without them, you can’t even go on your road trip!
1. License and Registration
If there was only one thing that needed to make it onto this road trip essentials list, it would be your license and registration. After all, how are you going to drive hundreds of miles without the proper documentation? So before you pack anything else for your road trip, make sure you pack your valid license and registration.
As is the nature of road trips, something may go wrong with your car, and you want to be prepared for every situation – even the not-so-pleasant ones. Be sure that you have a comprehensive car insurance plan in place, complete with AAA, towing, and more. That way, regardless of the car situation that you find yourself in, you’ll have an easy solution.
3. Insurance Paperwork
While it is a fantastic idea to have insurance, make sure that you have proof of it as well! Be sure to have a copy of your insurance paperwork tucked away in a safe spot in your car before heading off on your road trip.
In Case of an Emergency
You always want to be prepared for whatever a road trip may bring. Whether that’s a few cuts and scrapes or a flat tire, you can pack a few items to get you through whatever obstacles you may face on your road trip.
4. First Aid Kit
Sometimes road trips can get a little adventurous. Maybe you get scraped up on a hike or get a little car sick after traveling down a winding road. Make sure your first aid kit is stocked up to deal with these situations.
Your basic travel first aid kit should have a few things: Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, Neosporin (antibiotic), pain relievers (for example, Advil or Tylenol), antihistamines for allergies (for example, Claritin), and anti-motion sickness medications (for example, Dramamine).
5. Car Manual
Sometimes people have car troubles on road trips. After driving hundreds of miles, it might start to take a toll on your vehicle. Your car might start flashing some sort of signal that you don’t understand. And if you’re in a patch of land that’s out of your phone’s range, you won’t be able to get answers that way. Instead, you can turn to your car manual to start to sort out the issue.
6. Emergency Car Kit
In addition to your car’s manual, be sure to add an emergency car kit to your road trip packing list. While you may be able to identify the car’s problem with the help of the car’s manual, you may need some tools, courtesy of the emergency car kit, to actually fix the problem.
Emergency car kits have almost anything you may need to fix up your car on the spot. From jumper cables to tire pressure gauges to emergency hammers, these kits can definitely come in handy if you are in a bind.
7. Spare Tire
One item that simply won’t fit in your emergency car kit but should definitely make it onto your road trip essentials list is a spare tire. After all, you don’t want to get stranded on the side of a road, because you don’t have a spare tire to replace a flat one.
In the unfortunate event that you may have to replace a tire or jump your car after dark, a flashlight will definitely come in handy. And don’t forget to have spare batteries on hand for your flashlight too!
Items to Stay Fed and Hydrated
Staying fed and hydrated is an important part of an enjoyable road trip. Don’t let eating and drinking lose priority just because you want to quickly make it to your next stop.
9. Reusable Water Bottle
One of the wisest things to add to your road trip packing list is a reusable water bottle. It can be difficult to stay hydrated while on a road trip, but a reusable water bottle can help you remember to do so.
Not only will using a reusable water bottle help you stay hydrated, but you’ll also be saving the planet and saving money! Instead of buying tons of plastic water bottles over the course of your road trip, your reusable water bottle can replace all of them instead!
To refill your reusable water bottle while on your road trip, keep an eye out for water bottle refill stations or water fountains during your stops.
One of the most important items to add to your road trip packing list is snacks! Many road trips have long stretches of open land with nowhere to stop. If you’re lucky, you might find a fast food place, but you can only eat fast food so many times. Instead, stock up on some snacks!
Granola bars, string cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are just a few of the classic road trip snacks. But why not get a little more creative with your snack plans? Crunchy chickpeas, popcorn, and banana nut muffins can all be added to your arsenal of flavors.
While some road trip snacks can stay fresh on their own, others need a cooler to taste their best. So in addition to the string cheese mentioned above, why not add a cooler and other healthy chilled snacks to your road trip packing list? Carrots and hummus, apple slices and peanut butter, and an assortment of fruits and veggies make for fantastic road trip snacks.
12. Hand Sanitizer/Disinfectant Wipes
Before snacking on anything, be sure to use some hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes to keep your hands germ-free.
13. Garbage Bags
The longer you continue on your road trip, the more garbage you’ll compile. Between snack wrappers, disinfectant wipes, and whatever else you gather along the way, you’ll have a lot of trash. To keep the trash from littering your car, bring a handful of garbage bags to contain all of your trash.
Items to Stay Entertained
Entertainment is nearly as important as food and drink on a road trip. Luckily, this road trip packing list has a few fun ideas.
14. Awesome Playlist for Music
Arguably, one of the most essential things to bring on a road trip is an awesome playlist for music. After all, the quintessential road trip activity is singing along to nostalgic jams. While the best road trip playlists are the ones that you create for yourself, Spotify has quite a few road trip playlists that you can enjoy as well.
15. A Good Book or Kindle
If your journey is particularly long with no stops in sight for a while, consider curling up with a good book. While the adventure may dim for a bit on the wide, open road, you can still hold onto that spark of excitement while diving into a different sort of adventure in a book.
And if you’re a fast reader, consider packing a Kindle. That way, instead of bringing a handful of books and taking up a ton of space, they’ll all fit nicely onto your slim, lightweight device. Do know that reading in the car is not a great idea for those who experience motion sickness.
If you really want to try something different, you can intersperse your music with chapters from an audiobook or podcast!
16. Travel Games
There are tons of road trip games out there, many of which don’t require any supplies at all, including I Spy, Punch Buggy, and the License Plate Game. That said, there are a few fantastic travel games that you may consider bringing along with you.
Mad Libs, Rubix Cubes, and a slew of games you can play with a deck of cards are all great activities to keep you occupied during the downtime of a road trip.
Other Road Trip Packing List Essentials
17. Phone Charger
As you play music for hours on end, map the route on Google Maps, research things to do at your next road trip stop, and inevitably end up scrolling through Instagram, your phone will get drained of battery pretty quickly. Remember to add your phone charger to your road trip packing list to keep your phone charged and ready to use!
There’s a good chance you’ll catch a lot of sun on your road trip. To avoid squinting for days on end, remember to pack your favorite pair of sunglasses!
After exploring your various road trip stops and singing along to your fantastic road trip playlist at the top of your lungs, you may want to take a nap. Slide into the passenger’s seat or the back seat and curl up with a cozy blanket before dozing off.
20. Day Pack
When thinking about the things to pack for a road trip, many people often forget to pack for the road trip stops. Instead, they simply remember to pack the essentials for the road trip itself.
One item that must be added to your road trip packing list is a day pack. That way, each time you reach a stop, you can load up your day pack with whatever you need for the day (depending on the activities that you have planned) and head out.
I hope you found this list helpful! Hopefully, you know what to add to your road trip packing list for next time. What items do you add to your road trip packing list? Let me know in the comments below.
Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.