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55 Road Trip Packing List Essentials [With PDF Checklist]

Jack, author at The Road Trip Expert, skiing in Canada

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There are lots of different aspects to consider when planning a road trip. 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.

Fear not!

After 1000’s 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. We also have a useful article full of road trip food ideas to help you prepare! If it’s cold outside, check out these winter road trip essentials.

Affiliate Disclosure: Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert. When you purchase through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Please see our advertising disclosure for more details.

Road Trip Essentials Checklist

road trip essentials
Some of my road trip essentials
  1. Car Registration and Insurance Documents
  2. Drivers License
  3. Car Trunk Organizer
  4. Smartphone Mount
  5. In-Car Charger
  6. Roadside Emergency Kit
  7. Spare Tire Tools
  8. Day Pack
  9. Travel Mug
  10. Reusable Water Bottle
  11. Travel Cooler
  12. Food Supplies
  13. Snacks
  14. Toiletries
  15. Bug Spray
  16. Sun Protection
  17. Hand Sanitizer
  18. Power Bank
  19. Portable Speaker
  20. Camera
  21. Sunglasses
  22. General Clothing
  23. Jackets & Coats
  24. Waterproof Clothing
  25. Swimwear
  26. Hats, Scarves & Gloves
  27. Travel Towel
  28. Hiking Shoes
  29. Window Sunshades
  30. First Aid Kit
  31. Lumbar Back Support
  32. Dash Cam
  33. Portable Table & Chairs
  34. Cooking Stove
  35. Cooking Utensils
  36. Cutlery, Plates & Cups
  37. Food Containers
  38. Garbage Bags
  39. Road Trip Playlist
  40. Travel Games

Use this road trip checklist to make sure you have all the essentials you need on leaving day. Feel free to download one of our road trip playlists or choose one of our favorite road trip podcasts to entertain you on the journey. Alternatively, keep the conversation flowing with these road trip conversation starters.

Printable Road Trip Packing List PDF

Road Trip Packing List
Road Trip Packing List

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.

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
  • Driving License
  • 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
  • Smartphone Mount With Wireless Charging: 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.
  • In Car Charger

Comfort Essentials

  • Reusable Water Bottle
  • Travel Coffee Mug
  • Lumbar Back Support
  • Car Sunshade
  • In-Car Trash Can
  • Road Trip Snacks
  • Sunglasses
  • Bug Spray
  • Sun Protection
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Spare Cash
  • Tissues
  • Day Pack: An Osprey Day Pack can be useful for storing some of these comfort items. You can keep it in the car with you during the journey and take it out with you on your adventures.
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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.
  • Spare Tire
  • Roadside Emergency Kit: A Car Emergency Kit is designed to cover you for any eventuality.
  • Jump Leads
  • Lug Wrench
  • 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 Vests, Rain Ponchos, Warning triangles, Whistles, Tire Pressure Gauges, etc.  

Road Trip Accessories To Remember

  • Dash Cam
  • First Aid Kit: This should contain at minimum band-aids, sterilizing wipes, bandages, scissors, painkillers, medication
  • Blanket
  • Torch
  • Laundry Bag
  • Shopping Bag
  • Garbage Bags
  • Toilet Roll

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

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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 it relates to medication that requires a prescription in their country.

Car Gadgets

  • Car Tracker System
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Bluetooth Converter
  • Cooling 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 Electronics & Entertainment

road trip electronics packing list
  • Portable Speaker
  • Power Bank
  • SD Card
  • Camera
  • Playing Cards
  • Selection of Road Trip Playlists
  • A Few Good Books
  • Selection of Travel Games
  • Football, Basketball, or other Sporting Items
  • A Kite
  • Portable Wifi

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 are 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

road trip camping packing list
  • 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.
  • Gas Canister
  • 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.
  • Food Supplies
  • Cutlery
  • Cooking Utensils
  • Switchblade – 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 easily 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

I’m a big fan of a road trip picnic! Check out this article for the best road trip food ideas

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
  • Picnic Blanket/Set
  • Large Water Container: Water containers are great for storing drinking water and saving 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.

More Road Trip Resources

Camping Gear

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.

  • 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!
  • Gas fire pit: A great alternative to building your own fire which can come with complications and only requires a…
  • Gas Bottle

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

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How to safely make a fire while camping

Road Trip Clothing

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 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 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


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)


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 Road Trip Clothing

The Essentials (and the easiest to forget)

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


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


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 of what travel essentials you’ll need for road-tripping in the colder months of the year.

Digital Packing (Download Items)

Navigation equipment

Useful Apps

  • Google Maps / – 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, 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 of the below in 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
  • Coolant
  • Engine oil
  • 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:
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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

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.

Daytime entertainment

  • Inflatable toys
  • Armbands
  • Micro scooter
  • Skateboard
  • Handheld games console
  • Ipad
  • Books
  • Coloring books and crayons/felt tip pens
  • Road trip games for kids
  • Audiobooks
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat
  • Rashguard
  • Jelly shoes
  • Waterproofs
  • Strong SPF sun cream
  • Pop-up tent
  • Kids Backpack
  • Lunch box so you can pack up kids’ snacks into different compartments
  • Water bottle
  • Plastic cups with lids

Items For Families

Activities for kids

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

  • 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
  • Fold-out chairs
  • Fold-out table
  • Sing-a-long playlists
  • Road trip word games

Items 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!

  • Beer Pong set
  • Cards Against Humanity
  • Playing Cards
  • Board games
  • Re-usable cups
  • Re-usable straws
  • Ice (straight into the cooler)
  • Music Speaker
  • Guitar
  • Podcasts
  • Printable/Downloadable Trivia Questions

Items 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)

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.

Leaving Day

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.


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!

Jack, author at The Road Trip Expert, skiing in Canada

Jack Mecklenburgh


Hey, I'm Jack. Travel is my passion. I particularly love to load up the car with camping gear and get out into nature. I love outdoor sports, and if I can combine them with traveling, I'm a happy happy man. My road trip highlight was driving an old sedan 6000km through South America. I enjoy sharing road trip tips I've learned from my adventures and writing travel guides on places I've visited. In over a decade of travel, I've visited dozens of countries and spent time living abroad in Canada, Australia, Spain, and Réunion.

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Shauna Marie

Tuesday 2nd of November 2021

WOW WOW WOW!!!!! I CANNOT thank you enough for this detailed article, and thorough lists for each category! I've yet to come across anything this precise, and you really put my mind at ease (worried about the unknown), while helping me feel much more prepared and excited about my long road trip next week. Again, a HUGE thank you, from myself and my car mates!!!!! This was exactly what we've been searching for as first timers!!!!!!!! A sincere THANK YOU, very well done!!!