50 Packing Essentials to Survive a Road Trip

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road trip packing list

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 cross country road trip essentials that you need to take with you:

What Should I Bring On A Long Road Car Trip?

When traveling on the road for a few days or a few weeks, you need to think about all the cross country road trip essentials that will keep the car and the trip running as smooth as possible. You have to think about the weather, things that will keep you entertained for a long period of time, things that will give you comfort and personal care too.

This road trip packing list is your guide to use for your cross country road trip so you can plan accordingly and save money. At the end, you’ll find a road trip packing list pdf that you can download and print out at home for your convenience!

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!

READ: 22 Most Useful Road Trip Apps To Download

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: Bring one to save all the fun memories you had with friends during your trip.  (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! Forgot this on my last trip and it was a nightmare. I’m never forgetting to add this to my road trip packing list ever again.

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 Expedia.

10. National Identification card or Driver’s License: Naturally you need to bring a Driver’s license to operate a car but if you plan to check in at a hotel, a photo ID might be required depending on the state or city.

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: Bring a journal to jot down your road trip memories. You can even get creative like drawing your favorite moments or print out photos to add them to your journal. An item I always include in my road trip packing list!

15. Keys: Don’t leave home without them!

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.

road trip essentials

18. Map: Great as a backup if your GPS stops working or if you phone battery dies.

19. Phone: Besides updating your friends about the destination that you will be spending a given night, you can snap photos and jam to your favorite music playlist while updating your social media accounts 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: Just the thought of losing your keys can leave you stressed but it can happen. Have an extra set just in case.

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. Spare cash:  Bring a stash of cash just in case you run into a road toll or need to pay for parking meters.

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. Flashlight: If your car battery dies in the middle of the night, you’ll want to have a flashlight handy. Matter of fact, buy two so you’ll have a spare.

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! An umbrella 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 need to clean up spills or happened to go inside an unstocked rest stop.

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: Unexpected situations will obviously happen on the road. Just remind yourself to stick with a positive attitude so the remainder of trip is stress-free.

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: Great for organizing your trunk properly and remove unnecessary clutter.  Will definitely help your car remain clean.

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.

READ: How To Plan A Road Trip For Beginners

Road Trip Packing List PDF

I created road trip planning checklists for you to download and print out for your own convenience. It also comes with a road trip packing list PDF! You can find them in my resource library. To gain access, click the banner below to subscribe to my email list!

Happy travels!

Is there anything else to include in this road trip packing list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

23 Comments

  1. nice post!
    That’s true, a lot of things to consider !

    We do so many road trips lately, which I write about in my blog (www.innagram.com) I would add extra battery for the charger, power transfer and power banks! 🙂

    here is my list for road trip and camping that we use in Australia http://innagram.com/camping-checklist/

    let me know what do you think ♡♡

    xx
    Inna from

  2. Great tips…Thank you I am taking a long road trip this year and I will be reading this again. I am doing most of my trip solo so when it is over I may be able to add some do’s and don’ts for solo travelers. Happy Holidays

  3. Great post! (⁎⚈᷀᷁▿⚈᷀᷁⁎)

    Can’t believe I didn’t think of sofa cushions! BRILL!

  4. A package of baby wipes, a roll of paper towels, for the hygiene list,and of course you did mention trash bags. I keep a trash can with a liner in my car all the time, and not a little one-I keep a kitchen sized 13 quart can. I have it within reach in the back seat.

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