Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.
The excitement of a road trip can sometimes be slightly dimmed by the difficulty over what to pack. While on one hand you may be willing to travel light, on the other, you don’t want to be relentlessly berating yourself for the items you left behind. So whether you are planning to drive across a state or across the continent, here is a road trip packing list of 50 essential items that you need to take with you:
Road Trip Packing List: 50 Essentials
1. Music/Playlist: Your mood is likely to change quicker than you think, especially when you get into unlucky situations. So before you even put key in the ignition , ensure that you have at least 30 playlists for the trip. I mean serious, what’s a road trip without music. If you need a fresh set of tunes, try Tune In Radio app at Apple iTunes or Google Play. You can choose from list of 50,000 radio stations from around the globe. This is also an opportunity to learn the names of new artists. Don’t forget your headphones!
2. First Aid Kit: Whether you accidentally cut yourself while gathering wood for a camp fire or you have just eaten a wrong snack on the road, first aid kit will come in handy than you think.
3. Camera: You will need to take some photos to remember the trip and memorize that delighted look on your face when you reached your favorite destination (Great gift idea! See Amazon’s Most Wished For List).
4. Snacks/Food: Your wallets will get empty sooner than you think when you are constantly eating out. Though eating at different restaurants is often one of the most exciting parts of a road trip, you can always do your wallet and health a favor by carrying your own snacks/food.
5. Mosquito Spray: Gotta keep the bugs away!
6. Sunglasses: To protect your eyes from those harmful UV rays. Definitely a must!
7. Hand Sanitizers: You can’t predict the amount of dirt your hands will be exposed to.
8. Auto Essentials: A spare tire and some motor oil, among other motor essentials can help you a great deal when you wind up with a minor accident or when you misjudge the distance from destination A to B.
9. Sleeping Gear: There are unprecedented numbers of places that you can sleep under the stars if you wish not to waste your hard earned cash staying in a hotel every night? If you do need to stay in a hotel, I would suggest booking a room in advance, through Vacay Bookings. At least you can save some money with their price comparison search engine.
10. National Identification card or Driver’s License: These will confirm that you are indeed a homosapien who pay bills and taxes.
11. Travel Alarm Clock: Hotel wake up calls can sometimes be bothersome. You need a familiar sound that will wake you up without a problem.
12. Good Friends: Your company is ultimately what will make your road trip worth it.
13. Portable Power Device: To keep your phone and tablet charged at your convenience take a portable charger. Never rely on rest stops and hotels to recharge your electronic essentials.
14. Journal: A record of those weird local jokes, breakthroughs, surroundings, and thoughts will help you process them later.
15. Keys: You cannot afford to get very far without them.
More Road Trip Must-Haves
16. GPS: Your phone’s GPS will be great until you find yourself in No man’s land with no internet or network coverage, and worse a drained battery. So, I don’t recommend using your phone’s GPS. Instead, A GPS like Garmin or TomTom will come in handy when you hit heavy traffic and need to find alternate routes.
17. Sofa Cushions: No matter the number of songs that you listen to or the number of stories you tell, eventually boredom will set in. This is the time that your friends in the backseat will need to build a fort out of the cushions.
18. Map: Navigating your destinations with a real map is not only a fun challenge but makes you feel like a real explorer as well.
19. Phone: Besides updating your friends about the destination that you will be spending a given night, you can jam to your favorite music playlist while updating your Instagram feed from the road.
20. Sunscreen: A road trip without sun protection is a recipe for disaster. Be sure to lather up on sunscreen periodically throughout the trip.
21. Water: You have to stay hydrated throughout the trip. Don’t even think about soda or juice ; they will make thirst worse.
22. Extra set of Keys: You never know when you will lose the set you are used to.
23. Binoculars: There will be several moments when you will want to whip out your binoculars to get a clearer look at stuff off in the distance.
24. Appetite: You will be snacking on those chemically loaded snacks you never thought you would, under normal situations, put in your precious body.
25. Hygiene Bag: You will hardly come by showers while on the road. A hygiene bag with deodorant and towelettes will help cover those unfriendly stenches of sweat. Also bring eco-friendly shampoo and shower soap if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a lake or outdoor shower.
26. Safety Pins: To mend some of your wardrobe malfunctions, clasp the zippers of your day packs together, tack your kid’s pant legs, especially when they are hiking through a mucky terrain among other uses.
27. Pocket Knife: You cannot simply count the number of times that you will use or need to use a pocket knife.
28. Lucky Charm: To keep you free from those bad road juju. For ladies, this will allow you to easily find keys amidst piles of lip glosses, hum packs and old movie stubs. It’s a great item to add to your road trip packing list.
29. Games and activity sets: A deck of cards or backgammon will break up the monotony of the trip.
30. Roadside Emergency Kit: This kit will come in handy in case something goes wrong.
31. Rain Gear: People get rained on even in the desert! A rain gear or waterproof jacket will be useful when you visit misty destinations as well.
32. Tote Bag: To toss around picnic and beach items. You can also use them to cordon off dirty laundry items in your suitcase to preserve the freshness of the unused items.
33. Comfortable items: Wearing comfortable clothes during your time in the car is a given but you should also bring a blanket or a sweater in case you travel through a mountainous area at night or you disagree about an appropriate level of air conditioning with your travel mates.
34. Reading materials: A book or magazine will help you pass time, especially if you like reading.
35. Folding Shovel: A definite must-have in my road trip essentials list. You may need a folding shovel to dig out your truck’s tires from unexpected snow or to fill spots where you are stuck in the mud.
36. Good Walking Shoes: Though this sound like a normal road trip gear, you will seriously need them, especially if you find yourself wandering in grounds where flip-flops or flimsy shoes just won’t do.
37. Travel Mug: To stash transport sunglasses and other delicate souvenirs in your hotel room. Remember, a coffee-stained mug is an unlikely target for thieves.
38. Garbage bags: When you plan a long drive, it is always a great idea to have a few garbage bags to empty trash after each day’s drive.
39. Toilet paper: This will be very handy whenever you think about having that Big Gulp from 7-Eleven.
40. Voting system: To guide you and your team on how you decide on when to stop or where to eat.
41. Silicone Travel Bottles: Generally, TSA-approved mini travel bottles are often considered old news to any avid road traveler.
42. Duct Tape: From bandaging your exploded items to removing lint from your clothing, duct tape will always earn its all-purpose reputation.
43. A cooler: To stuff restaurant leftovers, roadside snacks, soda and anything you want to keep cold. This is a lot cheaper than constantly buying beverages and related food stuffs at roadside stops or gas stations.
44. Underwear: Bring more of them (even 10 more pairs) than you would practically need.
45. Positive Attitude: Nasty things that will push your buttons will obviously happen on the road. You need just to have a positive attitude and remember that pretty soon you will be back home on your comfortable couch.
46. Bandana: The list of obvious uses for this versatile carry-on is long—you can use it as a lens cleaner, hair tie, hand towel, scarf, head band or a cooling devise (when you dampen it).
47. Ziploc Bags: To prevent sandy beachwear from soiling your items and to protect some of your delicate clothing from snags.
48. Multi socket Power strip: This will help you charge most of your electronics at a go. Besides, plugging all your electronic in the same place, a multi socket power strip lessens your chances of leaving any behind.
49. Disinfectant Spray: It’s convenient when you plan to stop by public places like a restaurant or hotel.
50. Plan B: No matter how prepared you are, sometimes a road trip may not work out. Reveal your alternate vacation plan early to avoid crying out loud if things don’t go as planned.
Your road trip packing list plays a major role in the outcome of your road trip, especially if you are not used to long trips. Remember to always be well-prepared and hopefully this road trip essentials list will help make packing easier for you.
More Road Trip Must-Haves
Road Trip Planning Checklists
To help make the preparation process a little less stressful, I created checklists that you can print out. You can download them via the button below!