A solo road trip is one of the most exciting, life-changing experiences you can have! It is also challenging and more than a little scary. Since you will be on the road by yourself for an extended amount of time, you should think of your packing list as your support system. You’ll need essential items for your personal well-being, safety, day-to-day living, comfort, and entertainment.
The great news is, it is just you and the open road! So whatever fits in your car is yours to take. We’ll get you started with these solo road trip essentials, but you’ll still have plenty of room left over for all the extras.
Solo Road Trip Essentials List
Here is a quick list of solo road trip essentials to add to your packing list. We’ve gone into detail further down in the article and outlined the most useful items that you must have!
- Driving License and Car Documents
- Car trunk Organizer
- Smartphone Mount
- In-Car Phone Charger
- Power Bank
- Roadside Emergency Kit
- Travel Mug
- Day Pack
- Dash Cam
- Travel Cooler
- Water Bottle
- Car Sunshades
- Lug Wrench
- Car Jack
- Jump Leads
- GPS Navigation For Hiking
- Lumbar Back Support
- First Aid Kit
- Travel Towel
- Car Power Inverter
- General Clothes
- Waterproof Clothes
- Hiking Shoes
- Food Containers
- Cooking Stove
- Camping Table & Chairs
- Sleeping Mat
- Sleeping Bag
- Travel Pillow
- Portable Speaker
Detailed List Of Solo Road Trip Essentials
Here we will go into detail on all of the solo road trip packing list items that will prepare you for the ultimate adventure!
You are going to be on a road trip alone, so look out for yourself by making sure you’ve got the essentials for your personal well-being handy!
This includes the obvious like driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. We also recommend your passport and a red Emergency Folder. Keep this in the glove box or driver’s side door and include any medical information you may want a first responder to know and emergency contact information.
A simple document organizer such as the one above can be useful to keep everything safe and in one place.
Car Trunk Organizer
A car trunk organizer is one of the first items I would recommend. It’s a great way to keep all the items for your road trip organized.
You can use the different sections to store food, cooking equipment, and clothes. It’s also useful to stop everything moving around and getting damaged while you’re driving.
Smart Phone Mount
Your phone is going to be your lifeline, for communication, GPS, entertainment, and so much more! Keep your hands free and your eyes on the road with a smartphone mount. You can get a high-end one that includes wireless charging, or go for a budget option.
If you will need to charge your phone and plug it in for music at the same time, go for the wireless charging option. Otherwise, you will have to choose between music… or battery.
Both of these attach to your vehicle’s air vent for ease of installation and use. Compatible with all major smartphone models!
In Car Charger
If you already have a smartphone mount but no ability to charge your phone. You can grab a budget car charger.
Simply plug this into the cigarette lighter socket and insert a USB charging cable to connect to your smartphone… simple!
A power bank is something useful to keep in your day bag when you head out on a long hike. Keep those electronic devices fully charged!
It’s also useful if your car charger stops working and you need a backup device. This one charges via USB, so you can plug it into the Anker car charger listed above which has two ports.
Roadside Emergency Kit
Accidents and breakdowns are likely to happen, especially if you’ll be on an extended solo trip. Keep yourself safe by preparing ahead of time with a roadside emergency kit
This kit contains all the major items you’re likely to need including jumper cables, various tools, and a warning triangle. We’ve also listed some of the individual items lower down in the article. Make sure you don’t buy duplicates!
Who doesn’t like coffee? A travel mug should be part of your solo road trip essentials packing list. It’s a great way to save money by making your own coffee at the start of the day.
Check out the one above if you need a good solid travel mug for your journey. There is nothing like a hot cup of coffee/tea to get you energized on the road.
If you’re the adventurous type, you’re sure to be off hiking or rambling around a new city. A day pack is useful to put all the essentials in before you set off.
It’s also useful if you are planning to stay in a hotel for the night. I like to just pack the things I’m going to need and store the majority of items in the car.
A budget dashcam isn’t just useful to provide footage in the event of an accident, it can also be used to record scenic roads during your journey!
This one attaches to your windscreen for ease of use. You can also get much fancier ones with all kinds of features but I like the simple options.
A decent cooler is perfect for keeping drinks and food cold while on your solo road trip.
Fill it with snacks, beverages, and even pre-packed lunches. Grab a few ice packs too in order to ensure everything stays cool.
Have a reusable water bottle that you can fill up from your personal store or at rest stops to cut down on costs and plastic waste.
It’s also useful when you go on a long hike or a walk around a new place.
When you go out for a hike during your solo road trip, the last thing you want is for the car to be super hot when you return. Car sunshades are also useful for privacy as they can be used as window covers.
This 4 pack of Enovoe Car Window Shades is really useful.
You can also get a sunshade to use for the windscreen, to ensure maximum protection.
Keep the car cool when traveling in the summer months by investing in some sunshades!
Essential tool for removing bolts so you can change a flat tire. You’ll also need the locking wheel nut which should be in your vehicle at all times.
I always keep one of these in the trunk just in case. It’s an absolutely essential item!
If you get a flat tire you will need a car jack to change it. Make sure you get the right jack for your vehicle weight!
Always be very careful if you are planning to change a tire yourself and you aren’t experienced in doing so. It’s not worth getting injured in order to change it yourself rather than getting assistance. Get a good roadside breakdown cover package and request help if you’re not confident.
Jump leads are included in the roadside emergency kit above, so don’t buy them if you already have some. Battery issues are one of the most common reasons for car trouble on a road trip.
A set of jump leads won’t set you back much but they sure come in handy if you need to get your car started.
GPS Navigation For Hiking
GPS Navigation can be really useful if you plan on doing some trail walking or heading out into the wilderness. Getting lost is a real risk.
This navigation device from Garmin is really useful.
Lumbar Back Support Cushion
Use a Lumbar Support Cushion so you don’t develop a backache or aggravate an existing injury.
Using one of these and practicing good posture while driving are two ways to reduce back pain from driving.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is another must-have item. They’re cheap and can be easily stored in the car trunk organizer. You can also take essential items with you in your day bag if you head out for a hike.
This is a simple one you can throw in the trunk of your car as part of your solo road trip packing list.
If you’re looking to pack light you may prefer a travel towel to a normal one. These are easy to throw in a backpack and they also dry quickly.
There are lots to choose from but I thought this seemed like a good budget option for a solo road trip.
I love listening to audiobooks and podcasts on road trips. Sometimes listening to the same music playlists can get a little boring. Audible has a massive library of audiobooks and podcasts to choose from and you can get a free trial with the link below.
Car Power Inverter
a car power inverter allows you to charge electronic devices from your car’s battery. It’s useful for things like laptops, cameras, and drone equipment.
If you’re planning to stay in a lot of hotels this may not be necessary as you can charge your devices there. They’re very useful for charging drone batteries though!
Clothing & Personal Items
Now that we’ve covered those essential items, here are some more lists of things you may wish to take, broken down into useful categories.
- Clothes- You’ll want enough clothes to cover the length of your trip and any weather conditions you may come across. As you are on your own, you will have more room to be extra than if you were travelling with others, but you’ll still want to keep it simple so you aren’t wasting time routing through bags and bags of clothes.
- Waterproof Clothing
- Hiking Shoes
- Towels- Pack a few towels of varying sizes for different jobs. Small towels for cleaning up messes, a larger towel for showers, and maybe even a travel towel for discrete public restroom sink baths.
- Toiletries -Your toiletries bag should be easy to carry, discrete, and have plenty of room. Hot showers can be tough to come by on the road so you’ll be pretty reliant on a public restroom wipe down. We recommend a toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, extra hair ties/clips, personal wipes, a razor, a bar of soap, and travel-size shampoo/conditioner for when you come across a shower. Ladies, depending on when and how long you will be traveling, you may want a separate bag for your feminine hygiene products so you don’t have to bring all your toiletries with you for every bathroom visit.
- Sunglasses -No one wants to spend their road trip squinting into the horizon!
- Pain Killers- Last thing you want on a long stretch of road is for a headache or a little tennis elbow to get you down. Keep some Advil or Tylenol handy.
- Anti-Bacterial Wipes- Keep some wipes handy for cleaning down surfaces in public spaces.
Don’t worry, we also have a printable Essential Road Trip Packing List ready to go!
If you’re planning on camping or sleeping in the car then you may benefit from the below list of solo road trip essentials.
- Blanket/Sleeping Bag- If your road trip is going to last longer than a day, you’ll need the sleeping essentials!
- Tent- If you have any camping planned, and you don’t want to sleep in the back seat of your car, a tent is a must!
- Travel Pillow
- Flashlight- a must have for those late night runs to the restroom. We recommend a MagLite as they are powerful and hardy.
Food Preparation Items
We can get so caught up in the excitement of the adventure that we can forget the everyday essentials!
- Food- You’ll want to keep plenty of nutritious and filling travel snacks handy so you don’t have to stop every time you get a little snacky. Keep things like trail mix, nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, beef jerky, or protein bars handy. Vegan? Don’t worry, we’ve got some ideas for you in our Vegan Travel Snacks post.
- Cookware- It’s a good idea to bring some utensils, a cooking pot, plate, and bowl, ESPECIALLY if you will be camping.
- Canister Stove and Fuel- Eating out for all your meals can get expensive and tiresome. Plan to do a little cooking for yourself with a canister stove (don’t forget to bring plenty of fuel).
- Water- Store plenty of drinking water in the trunk for consumption or a quick wash out on the road. We suggest keeping a large storage in the back and refilling a smaller bottle to keep up front with you.
Personal and Vehicle Safety Essentials
The best way to stay safe is to be prepared for as many scenarios as possible.
- Jack- You may need to get under the car, especially for a tire change, so don’t forget a car jack!
- Spare tire- All the tire-changing tools won’t do any good without a quality spare tire to see you through!
- Top up fluids– It’s a good idea to keep a plastic box dedicated to things like coolant and washer fluid. You want to have them if you need them, but you don’t want them to spill everywhere!
- Change of bulbs- Bring some spare bulbs for the headlights.
- GPS Transmitter- We love our cell phones, but great stretches of the country actually have very limited service. A GPS Transmitter works on satellites and allows you to send text messages, an SOS signal, and access maps. They’re expensive, but if you plan on a rural solo road trip, you shouldn’t go without it.
- Self-Defence item- Traveling alone can unfortunately make you a target. You may want to consider having a self-defence item to make you feel more secure. Make sure you are aware of the laws on what is and isn’t allowed in the states you are passing through.
- Multi-Tool- You never know what kind of situations are going to come up, so be prepared with a little multi-tool!
- Insurance/Roadside Assistance- best to make sure your insurance is up to date. We also strongly recommend springing for some premium roadside assistance coverage, especially if you will be on a high mileage trip.
- Charging Cables/Charger Have a little bag that contains the charging cables, spare batteries, and portable chargers for all of your electronics. Make sure it is clearly labeled and stored in an easy to reach, but out of direct sunlight, spot.
Your safety always comes first, especially if you are traveling alone. Make sure to keep a friend or family member regularly updated on your location. If you ever feel unsafe, have a plan to exit the situation.
It’s not all work and survival, you are on this solo road trip to have fun! Make sure you bring some entertainment; you’re going to need it for the miles ahead.
These are things you may not NEED, but you will definitely appreciate them as the miles start to pass you by!
- Journal and Pen/Pencil- A solo road trip is all about introspection, personal development, and making memories! Write things down, save scraps of receipts and tickets to paste in later. Your future self will thank you.
- Activity Books- coloring books, Sudoko, word puzzle, whatever occupies your mind! Have something to do at rest stops or in the mornings/evenings so you don’t get too lonely.
- Audiobooks + Podcasts– Download those podcasts you’ve been meaning to catch up, or purchase audiobooks of those titles you haven’t gotten around to reading. It’s a great way to fill the hours on the road without causing too much distraction. We have some inspiring ideas for Best Road Trip Audiobooks and Best Road Trip Podcasts.
- Book- Bring some books to read with meals or before bed.
- Movies- Movies can be a great way to unwind after a long day of driving.
- Portable Speaker- Create a little ambiance by using quality portable speakers.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert.
Lisa Hurd is a born and raised Californian currently living with her husband, daughter, and labrador in the UK. She enjoys road trips with her family and has fond memories of cross-country adventures with her 3 sisters while growing up. She misses the sun… send vitamin D and quality Mexican food ASAP!