road trip packing list

The Essential Road Trip Packing List [With Printable Item Checklist]

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Let’s face it, road trips are a lot more fun when you’re prepared, but creating a road trip packing list can seem like a mammoth task!

Where do you begin?

What do you need?

How do you get it all in the car?!

Packing for a road trip is not like packing for a regular vacation. There is so much to consider.

Fear not!

After 1000’s of miles of road trips, and hours compiling travel lists galore, I have finally created the complete road trip packing list. I’ve included all of the must-have road trip essentials that will lead to an unforgettable adventure where you make amazing memories!

It has EVERYTHING!

And guess what?

I’m going to share it with you in this article.

By the end, you will know the best road trip accessories that you must take with you on your trip!

How to Use This Road Trip Packing List

road trip packing list

Whether you’re road-tripping across the country with the family or traveling abroad in your car with friends, this ultimate road trip essentials list will ensure you don’t forget a thing.

A word of warning:

This is indeed, an EXTENSIVE road trip packing list.

4 Simple Steps

  • Step 1: Read the Core Road Trip Packing List.
  • Step 2: Read on to the specific sections which tell you exactly what to pack for a road trip  (on top of the core essentials list) depending on who is on your trip.
  • Step 3: Pack everything using this article as your extensive road trip packing checklist
  • Step 4: Use the printable ‘leaving day’ checklist, to make sure you haven’t left anything vital behind and to put your mind at ease

Taking a trip in Winter? – check out our Winter Road Trip Packing List for any extras you may want to take too.

Road Trip Essentials

road trip essentials

I recommend packing these items regardless of who you’re going with and what you’re doing.

Firstly, gather your essential documents and pack them in a plastic wallet so they are all together and secure. 

You will need these documents at some point during your trip. Put them in a safe place and keep them there, like the glove compartment for example.

Car Documents

  • Car registration
  • A copy of your car insurance
  • Your car owner’s manual – you may need this should you have any issues with your car that you don’t know how to solve
  • Border crossing cards

Same as with the above. Some countries require you to have a border crossing card AS WELL AS a visa to drive across the border.

Personal Documents

  • Passport
  • Visas
  • Driving License

You may not need these if you’re staying in one country. However, if you plan to cross borders, ensure you have done adequate research and applied for them before you set off.

Insurance and Roadside Safety

  • Travel/health insurance

Ensure you are covered for any activities you might take part in. Travel insurance is essential if you are traveling abroad as you will most likely not be covered for any medical expenses without it.

We are partnered with World Nomads so feel free to grab a quote!

  • Contents insurance

Chances are you could be taking some pretty pricey gear on this road trip. Play it safe and purchase contents insurance for peace of mind.

  • Roadside Emergency Kit: A car emergency kit is designed to cover you for any eventuality.

    Along with the other car safety items in this packing list, it will mean you are well prepared. They typically contain Jumper Cables, Light Sticks, Reflective Vest, Rain Poncho, Warning triangle, Whistle, Tire Pressure Gauge, etc.  

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Road Trip Accessories That You Need To Remember

road trip accessories

We covered the core essentials in the previous section. This is a list of key road trip accessories to make your trip easier.

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Your smartphone is probably the single most important road trip accessory you will take on your trip. You’ll most likely use it for navigation, music and a range of road trip planning apps.

However, as using a mobile whilst driving is generally illegal (and unsafe!), a good smartphone car mount is a must.

  • First Aid Kit – This should contain at minimum band-aids, sterilizing wipes, bandages, scissors, pain killers, medication

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CAR GADGETS

In addition to the road trip accessories above, you could consider some great car gadgets!

These road trip gadgets are perfect.

  • Car tracker system
  • Tire pressure monitoring system
  • Bluetooth converter
  • Luxury car seat covers

Dash Cams

  • Standalone Dash Cam

Here is a great Dash Cam

In my opinion, no one should be without a dash cam these days.

Put simply, they are a means of providing indisputable video evidence in the unfortunate case of an accident. As such, they can help protect you against false allegations, undisciplined drivers, and fraud. What’s more, you can record your entire road trip with little effort (great for editing montages of beautiful roads).

There are many makes and models out there, but we break down our 5 favorites here:

Best Dash Cams

Navigation

  • GPS

A standalone GPS unit isn’t quite the road trip necessity it once was, but it can still be a useful gadget on the road. It can keep you from being distracted by your cell phone, for example.

Some models even offer driver awareness features to help you stay alert and focused. Dash Cam/GPS combination units are commonplace these days, so you have everything you need in one device.

Road Trip Personal Care & Comfort

toiletries packing list for a road trip

Most of these items will fit nicely into your wash bag. Here is the list of essentials I like to take to look after myself on any road trip:

Vacation Essentials

  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Toilet roll
  • Lip balm
  • Hairbrush
  • A towel
    Some hotels (especially the more budget-friendly ones) don’t always provide them, and again, if you’re camping (or plan on swimming in a remote lake, etc) you’re gonna need one.
  • Baby Wipes
    Baby wipes serve as a shower when in a pinch and they’re perfect for toilet roll (or lack thereof) emergencies.

Hygiene

  • Soap/shower gel
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush & ToothPaste
  • Hand sanitizer
    Take a few mini bottles. I use this so much when I’m on a road trip, especially if I’m camping and there are no or limited bathrooms around. Hygiene is important.

Medication

  • Painkillers

Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Cold and Flu tablets, etc.

  • Allergy tablets
  • Prescription tablets

Take your prescription with you, especially if you’re crossing borders. Border officers sometimes want to see them if you’re taking medication that requires a prescription in their country.

Road Trip Clothing & Luggage

road trip clothes packing list

Road trips, like any vacation, often involve both chilled and active moments.  You could be walking around a city or hiking up a mountain during the day, for example. You may be hitting a stylish bar or chilling around the campsite at night. This can make packing your clothes a struggle.

This clothes packing list will give you the essentials (which are always the easiest to forget of course!), as well as enough active and casual wear to cover all your clothing needs.

Customize This Clothes List Depending On Your Needs

You may feel like you need a lot of clothes to account for different temperatures, especially if you’re covering diverse terrain and crossing between borders. Personally, I like to pack slightly lighter.

If I’m taking a road trip that is longer than a week, I’ll find somewhere to do laundry – this makes packing much easier. Obviously, if you’re spending most of your time in and out in the middle of nowhere rather than in busy cities, you can simply take fewer formal items and bring more comfortable activewear. This part of the road trip packing list is totally customizable.

Bottom line?

The key is to adjust your clothes packing list depending on what you plan to do.

Women’s Clothing

The Essentials (and the easiest to forget)

Sun Hat | Bikini(s) | Beach Bag | Sunglasses | Purse | Sandals | Light Sweater | Beanie | Waterproof Jacket | Waterproof Pants | Comfy Pajamas | Flip Flops | Fanny Pack | Blanket (yeah yeah I know this isn’t clothing but you’ll want one to snuggle up in!) | Travel Pillow

Active

Dri-fit Shirt | Active Leggings| Sports Bra(s)| Hiking Socks | Running Trainers | Hiking Shoes/Boots | 1 Bikini | Long Sleeve Baselayer | Fleece | Warm Lightweight Jacket (down or synthetic)

Casual

Underwear | Bra(s) |  Socks | Shorts | Jeans | Light Summer Dress | Maxi Dress | Tank Tops | Cotton Shirts | Hoody | Casual Shoes (That you could wear out for dinner) 

Men’s Clothing

The Essentials (and the easiest to forget)

Baseball Cap | Sunglasses | Swimming Shorts | Flip Flops | Waterproof Jacket | Waterproof Pants | Beanie | Waist Pack | Travel Pillow

Active

Dri-fit shirt | Sports Shorts | Hiking socks | Running Trainers | Hiking Shoes/Boots |  Long Sleeve Baselayer | Fleece | Warm lightweight jacket (down or synthetic)

Casual

Underwear | Socks | Casual Shorts | Jeans | Cotton Shirts | Smart(ish) Shirts | Hoody | Casual Shoes 

While there are some warm clothes included in this list for cooler nights (especially if you’re camping), taking a road trip in Winter is a different ball game entirely. Refer to this Winter Specific Road Trip Packing List article for an idea on what travel essentials you’ll need for road tripping in the colder months of the year.

PACKS/BAGS

Even though you’re taking a road trip, you will still need a couple of different bags and packs to take everything with you and pack everything away.

Why?

Day packs are for treks and activities and luggage/duffels for packing everything away in the car! I would certainly advise packing smart and keeping organized, rather than just loading up the car with everything.

Day packs

OR

Day packs are a must-have on any road trip or the days you want to go exploring. 

If you’re planning on ambling around a city and soaking up some sites, a good 15l pack should see you through. It will have enough room for a drink, your camera and maybe a hoody.

If you plan on hiking or trekking or taking on something more active, I would recommend a solid 25-30l pack with a chest and waist strap. That way you’ll be more comfortable, and have ample room for additional fluids, a packed lunch, your rain jacket and anything else you might need for a big day out!

Duffels

Duffel bags are my go-to bag for packing everything away in the car.

DO NOT just throw everything in the car. I can tell you from experience, it’s a nightmare when you arrive at your destination at night as you can’t find anything! It also makes it much easier to stack it all in the trunk of your car. Everyone likes the easy shapes in Tetris, right?

I like to have a range of different-sized duffel bags for different items. Each person can use one for their clothes and personal items, you can use one for cooking stuff, one for games, etc.

Other luggage

  • Suitcases would also happily work to pack away your items.

Road Trip Electronics & Entertainment

road trip electronics packing list

I tend to take a fair number of electronics on any road trip, as this allows me to stay connected (when I want to be), entertained, and document my trip. Some people may prefer to take fewer, but this list of electronics will certainly come in useful on the road.

Whatever electronics you decide to take with you, they are often expensive pieces of kit. Remember to keep an eye on them when they’re with you and to keep them hidden and locked away when leaving them in the car.

  • A great selection of playlists for the car
  • A few good books
  • Selection of travel games
  • Football, basketball or other sporting items
  • A kite
  • Portable Wifi

Charging & Adaptors

  • Power Bank

Anker PowerCore 20100mAH Powerbank

A portable charger is a must for any trip.

  • Cigarette lighter USB adaptor (if your 0car doesn’t already have USB ports)

Ainope Car Charger

You may be using your smartphone for navigation and/or playing music and therefore you’ll want to make sure you can keep your phone charged while driving

  • Mains travel adaptor

Necessary if traveling abroad and the power outlets are different in the country you’ll be visiting

Cameras

Camera in the road trip packing list
  • Decent Camera

GoPro cameras are awesome for capturing photos and footage when taking part in more lively activities and your main camera would be at risk of breaking. These times can provide some of the coolest photo opportunities.  An action camera is a must-have for road trips these days.

  • SD Cards

Always take spares in case you fill yours up with epic photos and videos!

SanDisk Ultra 32GB Memory Card

Music

  • Music speaker

Mine is both ‘drop-proof’ (perfect for a clutz like me) and ‘water-proof’ (ideal for days at the lake)

Outdoor Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

COOKING EQUIPMENT AND FOOD

road trip camping packing list

Not only does taking your own cooking equipment and food on your road trip give you more freedom as you drive and explore, but it can also save you from having to eat awful, overpriced food from gas stations.

I’m a big fan of a road trip picnic. Plus, if you’re planning on traveling through any remote areas you might some supplies!

Food

Of course, you will need to pack food, but this is a different ball game entirely. In fact, your road trip food needs a completely separate packing list. Check out this article for the best road trip food ideas.

Portable stoves and gas

  • Gas cooker
  • Spare gas bottles

Cooler box

Taking a cooler on your trip gives you much more freedom as it means you can take foods that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to store

Cutlery/Crockery/Utensils

  • Switchblade/knife

A sweet road trip gadget that has all kinds of uses

  • Swiss Army Knife

Multi-purpose tool that can certainly help out when preparing food on your road trip

  • Portable set of cooking gear

I prefer to have a set that packs away nice and easy and has everything I need in one place. That way it takes up less space and ensures you don’t forget anything. A set typically contains: 1 pot, 1 frying pan, 1 kettle, 4 plastic bowls, 4 cutlery sets, 1 spatula, 1 cleaning towel, 1 net bag for storage

Extras

coffee percolator
  • Coffee percolator

One of my favorite things on this packing list. If you enjoy a coffee in the morning as much as I do, you’ll appreciate this being here. Gas cooker + Coffee Percolator = road trip coffee made easy

  • Corkscrew

How else are you gonna crack open the good stuff once the day’s driving is over?

  • Bottle Opener

See above

  • Picnic Blanket
  • Large Water Container

Water containers are great for storing drinking water and to save you from having to keep buying plastic bottles of water. You might also appreciate them in the case of an emergency.

  • Travel Mug

For your coffee from that coffee percolator!

  • Reusable Water Bottle

Reusable options are always the best options – they help save the planet and they are actually more cost-effective in the long run.

See these 2 helpful articles for more on this:

How to save money on a road trip (11 simple tips)

Eco-friendly travel – 16 easy steps to be a more conscious traveler

Road Trip Safety Items

Ok, they’re not the most exciting things to pack, but they are one of the most important – you’re taking a road trip in a car, after all. That’s why they’re second in this packing list. You will need all the below in the case of an emergency. They also help prepare your car for a road trip and will hopefully keep you moving on your trip.

  • Roadside assistance documents

If you’ve read my article on how to save money on a road trip, you’ll know that roadside assistance could be the key to saving you a lot of money on your trip and to getting you out of any unexpected sticky situations. Purchase roadside assistance if you haven’t already got it. Print off your documents so you always have a copy available should you need them.

Don’t have roadside assistance yet?

The American Automobile Association (AAA) offers a well-known and reliable breakdown cover.

Enter Your Postal/Zip code here to find your local AAA/CAA club and helpful roadside assistance.

Spare Tire

  • A spare tire and equipment for changing it

Check your spare tire is in good condition. Make sure you know how to change a tire before you go. If you’re unsure, use this helpful resource to revise:

Fluid replacements

When traveling long distances in remote areas, it’s a good idea to fill up your tank AND a jerry can whenever you come across a gas station

DIGITAL PACKING (DOWNLOADABLE ITEMS)

Download anything you need before you leave (while you still have guaranteed Wi-Fi)

While these things might not necessarily always come under ‘packing’, I like to have a list of things to download before I go. If you have read our list of best road trip planner apps then you know there are a number of apps to help you on your way with your road trip (I would personally recommend downloading all of these). However, it’s not just apps that you will want.

This is the list of the things I like to include in my packing list to ensure I remember to download them while I still have Wi-Fi.

Navigation

Navigation equipment

Google Maps allows you to download areas for use offline. If you’re not taking a standalone GPS system this can be extremely useful in areas where you might not have data (abroad for example). Similarly, Maps.me is a great app to download which lets you navigate without data

Apps

As I’ve already said, there are so many great apps that can help you with your road trip, and you can read all about how they function and their best features right here. But if you’re going to make sure you’ve got any before you depart, make sure you have…

Shows you all free and paid campsites in a certain area

Finds you the cheapest gas prices within a certain area

Music

  • Road trip music playlist
    Belting out your favorite tunes behind the wheel is the road trip dream, right? Remember to ‘pack’ or download your favorite road trip playlists before you go.

    I personally like to use Spotify to listen to music.

Entertainment

Alright, I know I shouldn’t be watching TV when I’m on vacation, and honestly, I don’t tend to. I like to spend most of my time outdoors. However, if you’re road-tripping for a long time it’s sometimes nice to cuddle up with a movie at night. My girlfriend and I have frequently enjoyed pulling up at a sweet spot in our van, brewing some tea, and settling down to a movie and a great view.

______________________________________________________________________________

OK, now that you’ve been through the core packing list and determined what you have and what you need, use the following packing lists depending on whether you plan to camp during your trip and who will be going with you.

Step 2: Specific Road Trip Packing Lists

Use these depending on what you’re doing and who is going on your trip.

Road Trip Packing List for CAMPING

camping equipment

Camping can be an integral part of any road trip, and that’s why it deserves its very own packing list. If you’re simply driving between cities and sleeping in hotels, feel free to skip this section.

I personally like to take all the below on any road trip as they allow for a bit more adventuring. I also love camping, and these items are essential for nights around the campsite.

For a more in-depth list, take a look at our Complete Road Trip Camping Packing List.

  • Swiss army knife

The perfect multi-functional tool to get you out of a sticky situation (or just to use as a cool corkscrew to impress your friends)

  • Tent

Pop-up tents are the best as they are so quick and easy to put up and take down. However, if you need more of a canvas palace as you have a larger group, go for a more traditional style.

  • Sleeping bags
  • Blow-up mattress
  • Fold-out chairs
  • Fold-out table
  • Flashlight
  • Head torch

Try putting up a tent at night without one.. makes for an interesting evening!

  • Hanging/magnetic led lamp
  • Fire starting equipment

Hatchet, firewood, fire starters, matches – be sure to research whether fires are ok where you’re traveling, and remember to stay safe when making a fire!

OR…

  • Gas fire pit

A great alternative to building your own fire which can come with complications and only requires a…

  • Gas Bottle
How to safely make a fire while camping

Road Trip Packing List for KIDS

Taking a road trip with the kids requires some planning. You need to keep them occupied during long stretches of driving, keep them safe and most importantly, ensure they have fun! This road trip packing list for kids has everything you need for the younger members of the family.

road trip packing list for kids

Daytime entertainment

  • Inflatable toys
  • Armbands
  • Micro scooter
  • Skateboard

Evening Entertainment

  • Handheld games console
  • Ipad
  • Books
  • Colouring books and crayons/felt tip pens

In-Car Entertainment

Download these before you go – a great way to keep the kids occupied and engaged during long car rides

Clothes (additional items on top of their regular daily clothes)

  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat
  • Rashguard
  • Jelly shoes
  • Waterproofs

Accessories

  • Strong SPF sun cream
  • Pop-up tent
  • Kids backpack

Eating/Food

  • Lunch box so you can pack up kids snacks into different compartments
  • Water bottle
  • Plastic cups with lids

Road Trip Packing List for FAMILIES

Pack these items to get everyone involved – fun for the whole family!

Active Games for Everyone

Activities for kids
  • Inflatable Kayak
  • Inflatable Stand-Up Paddle Board (Trust me these are a game-changer if you’re traveling near anywhere with water such as a lake, river or the ocean – they provide hours of active fun for everyone and are easy to pack away)
  • Frisbee
  • Baseball Bat and Ball
  • Swingball
  • Football

Mealtimes

  • Fold-out chairs
  • Fold-out table

In-Car Entertainment

Road Trip Packing List for COLLEGE STUDENTS

A road trip with your friends can be the ultimate vacation between college semesters. Make sure you pack all these items so that your trip is an unforgettable one!

Games

  • Beer Pong set
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • Playing Cards
  • Board games

For partying

  • Re-usable cups
  • Re-usable straws
  • Ice (straight into the cooler)

Music/Instruments

  • Music Speaker
  • Guitar

In-Car entertainment

  • Podcasts
  • Printable/Downloadable Trivia Questions

Road Trip Packing List for PETS

road trip packing list for pets

So, you’ve decided you’re taking your furry friend on your road trip with you? And why not? Why shouldn’t they get a vacation too? Just don’t let them have all the fun hanging out of the window. Here I’ve compiled a list of all the things you will need to pack when taking your pet(s) on a road trip with you:

  • Pet Crate
  • Pet Food
  • Water bowl
  • Food bowl
  • Toys
  • Poo bags
  • Treats
  • Pet passport (If you’re traveling abroad or across borders)

PACK!

OK, you’ve persevered this far. You know what the essentials are, and you’ve worked through what to pack specifically depending on who is going with you. It’s now time to load up the bags and pack the car. Use this article as your extensive packing list and get everything ready to go.

REMINDER: You can easily navigate around this article using the links to return to the contents section and then choosing where you want to go.


Leaving Day Checklist

It’s finally leaving day! You’ve been waiting for this moment, and you’re well prepared and all packed up. Right? This simple pdf checklist will make sure you haven’t missed anything vital and put your mind at ease. For a printable version of our ‘Leaving Day’ checklist click here.

BON VOYAGE!

leaving on a road trip with a complete packing list

Now it’s your turn.

Was this road trip packing list helpful?

Is there anything else you would recommend that you really like to take on a trip with you?

Leave a comment below and let us know!

This packing list took a LONG time to compile and create. If you find it useful and you want to support the site, you can use the links included to purchase anything you might need.

Not only is this a convenient way to get your road trip shopping done, but we might earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

More From The Road Trip Expert

Whilst you’re here…

We have a new Road Trip Tips article you might be interested in as well as an awesome article on and planning a road trip.

Feel free to check them out!

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