Going on an extensive road trip is one of our favourite ways to travel. From exploring Namibia to traveling around Australia, Canada, and beyond, we’ve been on our fair share of epic road trips. After so much trial and error (and forgetting something from time to time!), we have come up with our ultimate road trip checklist to make sure that you always pack the right road trip essentials every time.
The freedom and flexibility that comes with taking a road trip, whether for a few days or even weeks at a time, is unbeatable. It allows you to see places at your own pace and is an especially good holiday option for exploring destinations like national parks. However, a successful road trip is only going to be as good if you manage to pack everything that you need.
So, keep reading for your ultimate road trip packing list!
The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List
This list includes all of the road trip essentials that you will need for any kind of holiday on the road. From car essentials for keeping your vehicle safe to all the items for living your best life on the road, this road trip packing list covers everything that you will need for an epic trip.
Breaking this long checklist into sections, we will cover all the essentials, plus some extra items for added comfort and convenience. You can easily tailor this to suit your own needs, whether it’s a family road trip or a solo adventure to a national park.
Road trip essentials for your vehicle
A road trip is nothing without your trusted vehicle. This means that you’ll want to make sure that you pack a few essentials that will help keep it safe and in good condition on the road. Whether you have a rental car or your own, here are the road trip essentials for your vehicle.
License and registration
It might be boring but one of the essentials for any road trip is paperwork. You need to make sure that you have both your driver’s license and registration while you’re driving so that you can prove that both you and the car are perfectly legal.
This can be different depending on the country you’re road tripping through, so make sure that you know what the regulations are wherever you plan on exploring.
One of the biggest mistakes some people make is leaving for a road trip without insurance. While you might think it will save money in the short term, it’s smart to be prepared for any accidents that might happen along the way. Being financially covered for damage done to your car or someone else’s will give you peace of mind as you set off.
If you’re driving a hired vehicle, it’s usually mandatory. Otherwise, it’s up to you to seek insurance for your own vehicle, as well as travel insurance if you think it’s necessary.
A car manual is handy no matter what you’re driving. Whether it’s a hire car or one you’ve had for years, it’s a good idea to add the manual to your road trip packing list. This will ensure that if something was to happen, you can always refer to it for the answers.
It will be able to help with many things such as, what the warning signs on the dash mean and how to turn the air conditioning on. It’s also an especially good idea if you plan on being out of cell service!
Most cars come with a spare tire, although it’s a good idea to check and locate it before departing. For some cars they’re underneath, while for others it can be attached to the back. A flat tire is a real inconvenience but it can happen, especially if you plan on heading off onto unsealed roads.
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Jack and wrench
It’s all well and good if you have a spare tire with you but you will also need some tools to be able to change it yourself. An essential on any checklist for a road trip is a jack, which is used to hoist the car up so you can change the tire.
You’ll also need a wrench to loosen the nuts. While these should come with your car, it’s always a good idea to check before you leave.
Roadside emergency kit
Flat tires are not the only thing that can happen on your summer road trip. A roadside car emergency kit includes some essentials for helping you keep your car on the road no matter the challenges you face. These include jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge, washer fluid, and oil and coolant.
Any road trip pack list should include roadside assistance, especially if you’re planning an extensive journey or heading off somewhere remote. Roadside assistance will be able to help you no matter where you are and is usually an annual fee that is certainly worth the price if you ever need to call for help.
If you plan on driving in winter, then you might want to add tire chains to your packing list for a road trip. Tire chains help you maintain grip and traction when driving through icy and slippery conditions.
Basic Road Trip Safety Essentials
While you’re out on the road, there are some essential safety items you should make sure you have in your car for any injuries or navigation difficulties you might face.
First aid kit
As with any epic adventure, safety is always a valid concern. Bringing a first aid kit is one of the first things you should pack for a road trip as these kits can assist you with any injury no matter how small or serious until you can get further help.
A first aid kit should have basic essentials such as band-aids or plasters, bandages, pain relief medication, antiseptic cream, antihistamine and Imodium or other treatment for traveler’s diarrhea. It’s also a good idea to keep it where it’s easy to reach such as in the glove box.
One of our top road trip tips is to always carry a flashlight with you. It can come in handy in a variety of ways, but is safety essential if something is to happen to your car at night. You should also double-check the batteries before leaving!
While you might rely heavily on Google maps or another GPS app for most of your journey, you should always have a backup map as well. Any road trip has the potential to head out of phone service and fancy electronics also have the ability to fail at even the most crucial of times.
A paper map of the area you’re exploring will simply allow you to navigate without any sort of assistance if you need. Alternatively, we recommend downloading an offline map on your phone using an app called Maps.me.
As a handy tool and all-around safety device, a multi-tool can help fix a range of problems and challenges you might face on any epic road trip. There are a variety of different ones available, but they usually contain essential tools like scissors, a pocket knife, a file and even a wine opener!
Lighter or matches
While a lighter or matches are considered an essential safety item, they can also make for a fun trip if you’re planning on camping out overnight. Campfires are certainly one of the highlights of any camping road trip!
Duct tape seriously fixes everything! It’s one of those essentials that we like to carry with us everywhere we go as you never know when you’ll need it.
While cash is becoming a thing of the past, it’s always a good idea to carry some on you for any trip. It can come in handy when paying for campgrounds, parking meters, laundromats and any place that might accept cash only.
It’s also worth having backup cash or a credit card in case you lose your card or it’s stolen.
Road Trip Essentials for Yourself
While your car is important, you’ll also want to ensure you have a complete packing list for yourself as well. From clothing and electronics to any extra items you might want, here are some road trip essentials for you.
While clothing is a very personal thing, we suggest that you aim for versatility, comfort and practicality when packing for a road trip. While you might not have endless space in your vehicle, you should try to pack clothes that you know are comfortable for long drives and can be worn in many different combinations.
Knowing the climate of where you’re heading will also be essential so that you can pack according to the weather.
However, always packing more than enough underwear and socks is our best tip, then you can put off washing a little longer!
Rain jackets and pants
Of course, you may never know when or if it’s going to rain on your road trip, but it’s still important to be prepared for any kind of weather. Packing a rain jacket and wet weather pants are really important, especially if you hope to be able to explore outside wherever you go.
Cold weather clothing
If you’re going to be travelling in any sort of cooler weather then you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared with appropriate clothing. A beanie or wool hat, gloves, fleece jacket and thermals are some of the essential things to bring on a road trip in the winter.
On the other end of the weather spectrum, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed a swimsuit. While it is essential if you’re traveling near the coast or in summer, it can also be useful in the winter if you plan on checking out some hot springs or if your hotel has an onsite pool, sauna, or hot tub.
While you might be spending a lot of time in your car, thinking about the effects of sun rays is still important. Sunglasses can reduce the glare of the windscreen while you’re driving, as well as keep your eyes safe if you plan on exploring outside along the way.
While you might not consider these road trip must-haves at first, walking shoes are definitely one of our essential items to pack. After long drives, it’s a great idea if you can step out and explore an area further on foot. It’s also perfect for stretching your legs after being sitting for extended periods of time.
Flip flops or sandals
Whether it’s getting out at one of the rest stops or using public bathrooms, flip flops or sandals are a very convenient piece of footwear to have in your car. They are easy to slip on and are especially great for any summer road trip.
If you’re heading on an overnight road trip, then you’ll also need to pack some basic toiletries with you. Toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant are some of the essentials to keep you fresh and clean.
Although you might also need to pack soap or body wash and shampoo and conditioner, if you’re planning an extended trip.
On any long road trip, needing to stop for the toilet is inevitable. However, some gas stations and public toilets may not have toilet paper, so it’s always a good idea to carry some with you, just in case.
No matter where you’re traveling, a good bug spray is a must-have. Whether you’re fighting off mosquitoes on a USA road trip or flies in outback Australia, it’s certainly one of our must-have items.
Sunscreen and lip balm
While road tripping around anywhere, you’ll likely want to get outside and explore. Sunscreen will help keep you safe from the harmful UV rays when you’re out and about and should always be on your road trip packing list.
This also includes UV rated lip balm, which can help protect your lips from cracking or getting burnt in the sun.
To prevent your skin from drying out while you’re away, consider taking your favourite moisturizer along with you.
In these times, carrying hand sanitizer has become part of our road trip necessities. It’s especially important if you’re visiting public places such as a gas station or public toilets along the way.
Biodegradable baby wipes
Baby wipes are one of the best things to pack for a road trip. They can be used for many different things, including cleaning up a spill or wiping your hands after eating.
Having your own personal towel is always a nice addition to your packing list. If you’re trying to save space, then you can opt for a microfibre towel that packs down small and is also quick drying.
Extra Comforts for Yourself
If you’re after a bit of extra comfort for your road trip, then you might want to consider some of these extra items for your road trip checklist.
While a pillow might seem silly at first, you won’t regret packing one if you’re going on an extended road trip. Whether you opt for a proper pillow or an inflatable travel pillow, it will mean you can enjoy a more comfortable rest along the way.
A nice warm blanket can come in handy in a number of ways. Whether you want to have a rest stop snooze or turn it into a picnic rug for lunch on the side of the road, a blanket or rug never goes astray on a road trip.
Perhaps not something many people would think about when wondering what to pack for a road trip, but a daypack is one of our essentials. It’s a great item to have for any day trips you might take on foot, especially if you want to get out and explore a national park. It can carry a few things that you need while you’re away from your car for the day.
Cooking and food essentials
Food is essential for all road trips no matter how big or long they are. If you want to make sure you keep hunger and thirst under control along those long roads, then you’ll want to pack some essential food and drink items.
Snacks are the ultimate road trip companion. They can make all the difference between a fun and boring trip. Make sure you pack all your favourites, plus some healthy, energy dense foods like trail mix or fruit to keep you feeling satisfied between places and stops.
Bringing a reusable water bottle is one of our top sustainable road trip tips. This is a great way to ensure you stay hydrated and avoid buying single use plastics along the way.
Reusable coffee cup
Another sustainable road trip essential is a reusable coffee cup or mug. If you’re keen to stop at cafes and grab a caffeine fix, then this way you can use your own cup and avoid contributing to non-recyclable coffee cup waste.
Whether you want to self-cater your own food or opt for take out along the way, having your own reusable cutlery set will help save the planet from more waste. They are usually cheap to buy and easy to store as well, so they’re a great addition to any road trip packing list.
If you’re opting for a long road trip and want to make some of your own meals or even enjoy some cold drinks on a warm day, then bringing along a cooler is a great idea. There are a range of different sizes to fit into any car, and you can either opt for a cooler chilled with ice or one that can plug into a 12V power source in your car.
You may not encounter trash cans or waste removal services on every road. So, it’s always a responsible thing to be prepared to carry your own waste out with you, which means having your own bag for your trash.
Reusable shopping bag
For all those quick food shopping stops, one of our favourite eco-friendly essentials for a road trip is a reusable shopping bag. They usually fold into themselves and can be taken anywhere so you can avoid single use plastic bags.
Electronics and entertainment essentials
Staying connected during any road trip is part of traveling in the 21st century. Whether you need your phone for music or a camera for recording memories, here are some electronics you’ll want to pack.
It’s likely that you’ll be using your phone for many things on your road trip. From listening to music to using a GPS app and taking photos, you’ll need to keep it charged along the way. A car charger is definitely one of our road trip essentials that you don’t want to forget.
Car phone mount
A hands-free phone mount for your car is a great way to be able to safely use your phone for music and as a GPS. There are various designs around, including ones that stick onto your windscreen or dash which make it easier if you want to move it around to where it feels convenient and safe.
Portable charger or power bank
If you’re camping out for the night or simply don’t want to rely on charging your devices through the car, then having a fully charged power bank can be a very convenient portable charger.
While you might use your phone as your camera, if you’re an avid photographer and really want to capture your trip, then you might want to think about bringing along a camera. If your camera comes with a number of lenses don’t forget to pack those along with extra batteries.
Book or Kindle
Curling up with a book is a great way to relax t the end of the day. While bringing a couple of books along is a great idea to pass the time, you can also consider a Kindle if you want to save space.
If you want to stay connected during your trip with multiple devices then consider getting a Wi-Fi hotspot. You can choose a range of plans and options depending on your needs, but it will allow you to connect all your devices to the internet wherever you go.
An essential for all family road trips, car games will let those miles fly by without any boredom. There are a range of fun games to come up with for your next journey, from seeing who’s first to name the song on the radio to the old 21 questions game.
Otherwise, cards and board games can also be a great way to pass the time around a fire pit after a long drive.
Whether you’re into music or podcasts, it’s essential to have something playing through the car speakers. You can easily make your own playlists on Spotify and download them for offline use.
Not everyone wants to hear the same music or podcast all day, so packing some headphones, especially noise-canceling ones might be a nice idea.
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