Let’s face it, road trips are a lot more fun when you’re prepared. However, remembering to pack all of the required road trip essentials can seem like a mammoth task!
When you are thinking about what to pack for a road trip, there is so much to consider
After 1000’s of miles on the road, and hours compiling travel lists galore, I’ve finally created the only printable road trip packing list you’ll ever need. There’s also a simple pdf that you can download.
In addition, I’ve included a simple road trip checklist for leaving day and detailed info on all the items you may need.
Road Trip Essentials Checklist
Car Registration and Insurance Documents
Car Trunk Organizer
Roadside Emergency Kit
Spare Tire Tools
Reuseable Water Bottle
Jackets & Coats
Hats, Scarves & Gloves
First Aid Kit
Lumbar Back Support
Portable Table & Chairs
Cutlery, Plates & Cups
Road Trip Playlist
Use this road trip checklist to make sure you have all the essentials you need on leaving day.
Here you can use our printable road trip packing list PDF on leaving day. Simply click the button below to access our road trip checklist pdf.
Insert PDF Link Here
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.
Detailed Road Trip Packing List
This is the detailed road trip packing list with suggested items. Firstly, gather your essential documents and pack them in a wallet so they are all together and secure.
The Basic Essentials
Car Registration Document
Proof of Car Insurance
Car Document Wallet
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
Car Trunk Organizer With Cooler Bag
In Car Charger
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.
Reuseable Water Bottle
Travel Coffee Mug
Lumbar Back Support
Road Trip Snacks
These are various comfort items that you may want to pack into an Osprey Day Pack and keep in the car with you during the journey.
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.
Spare Tire & Locking Wheel Nut Key
Car Jack 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.
Road Trip Accessories To Remember
First Aid Kit – This should contain at minimum band-aids, sterilizing wipes, bandages, scissors, pain killers, medication
We covered the core essentials in the previous section. There is a list of key road trip accessories to make your trip easier.
Dashcams can 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
Car Tracker System
Tire Pressure Monitoring System
Luxury Car Seat Covers
GPS Navigation Device
In addition to the road trip accessories above, you could consider some great car gadgets!
A standalone GPS unit from Garmin is really useful if you like going out on long hikes. I personally love to use All Trails. A GPS device can help keep you safe by tracking your position.
Road Trip Personal Care Items
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:
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.
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.
Painkillers – Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Cold and Flu tablets, etc.
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 Electronics & Entertainment
Selection of Road Trip Playlists
A Few Good Books
Selection of Travel Games
Football, Basketball or other Sporting Items
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.
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.
Day Packs and Duffel 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.
Day packs – Day packs are for treks and activities and luggage/duffels for packing everything away in the car!
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!
Suitcases would also happily work to pack away your items.
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!
Here’s a couple of duffel bags for your main luggage.
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.
Cooking Equipment and Food
Portable Stoves – 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.
Travel Cooler – 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.
Switchblade – A sweet road trip gadget that has all kinds of uses
Swiss Army Kinfe – 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
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?
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.
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.
The key is to adjust your clothes packing list depending on what you plan to do.
Women’s Road Trip 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
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 of what travel essentials you’ll need for road tripping in the colder months of the year.
Digital Packing (Download Items)
Google Maps / Maps.me – 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
Ioverlander – Shows you all free and paid campsites in a certain area
Gas buddy – Finds you the cheapest gas prices within a certain area
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.
Netflix – 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.
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.
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. 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. The American Automobile Association (AAA) offers a well-known and reliable breakdown cover.
Jerry Can 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
Windscreen Washer fluid
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:
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.
Items For The 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.
Lunch box so you can pack up kids snacks into different compartments
Plastic cups with lids
Items For Families
Pack these items to get everyone involved – fun for the whole family!
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)
Aroad 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!
Beer Pong set
Cards Against Humanity
Ice (straight into the cooler)
Printable/Downloadable Trivia Questions
Items 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 passport (If you’re traveling abroad or across borders)
How To Pack The Car For A Road Trip
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 choose where you want to go.
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.
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!
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