The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List (inc FREE PDF Checklist!)

It’s almost Road Trip time, and you’ve started to think about what exactly you need to pack to keep your show on the road. Whether your doing a cross country road trip and driving Coast to Coast across the USA or road tripping South Africa’s incredible Garden Route, we’ve put together the Ultimate Road Trip Packing List to guide you through the various road trip essentials and travelling tips that will keep the car – and you – running smoothly throughout the trip. (Perfect for packing light on  a USA road trip)

Road Trip Packing List

The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List

Keep Your Car on the Road with these Road Trip Essentials

  • License and registration
    Obvious. Do NOT leave home without them.
  • A copy of your car insurance policy and the relevant contact numbers
    Hopefully you won’t need to use your insurance, but keep a copy in the car just in case.
  • Your car’s manual
    Because you never know what light might refuse to turn off when your out of wifi range!
  • Spare tire
    – and check the one you have is in good condition before you set off.
  • Roadside Emergency Kit

    Battery Booster Cables, 2 Light Sticks, Reflective Vest, Emergency Rain Poncho, Warning triangle, whistle, Tire Pressure Gauge, Window Breaker etc. This all in one kit has you covered for any possible eventuality.


Little Road Trip Accessories That Can Make a Big Difference

  • Paper maps/Maps.Me App
    Paper Maps – because there isn’t cell service everywhere. is a free app allows you to download detailed maps which can be used offline and without cell service and acts as GPS. It helped us drive across South Africa and I tell everyone I know about it!
  • Spare money
    Because cash is still king in some places – and in particular for parking meters and road tolls!
  • A notebook, pen, and pencil
    For either jotting down your thoughts or leaving a note of the car you accidentally ‘bumped’.
  • First aid kit
    Basic supplies such a band-aids, bandages, antiseptic and safety pins can be invaluable when the closest town is 100km away!
  • Flashlight
    In case the car battery dies in the dead of the night. Buy two. It means you’ll have a spare.
  • Bug Spray
    Because bugs in the car are not fun and essential on a summer road trip.
  • Large Water Bottles
    If you get stranded, staying hydrated is crucial. Keep a couple of large bottles in the car in case of emergencies. And on warm days on a summer road trip.
  • Toilet Roll
    Don’t get caught short in a un-stocked rest stop!



And if traveling in winter/to cold locations

  • Snow Shovel
  • Ice Scraper
  • Umbrella
    To be honest. Having one of these in the car – regardless of destination – can only be a good thing! And especially this one that collapses inside out specifically to keep your car dry after use! Perfect for both a summer road trip and a family road trip!


Stay connected & Entertained on your Road Trip

  • iPhone charger/USB cord
    An essential. Even when you are not going on a road trip!
  • Bluetooth/Wireless hands free kit for your mobile phone
    It is illegal to operate a mobile whilst driving in some parts of the world. Play it safe and use a hands-free kit to keep you focused on the road.
  • A kick-ass road trip playlist
    Think rock and roll classics and sing-a-longs and belt our your favorites at the top of your voice!
  • Your favorite camera + USB chargers
    My go to travel camera is the Panasonic Lumix Fz70. It should be yours too – click the link to find out why!
  • Instant Camera
    Instant Camera are so much fun and can capture some unusual and quirky shots along the road
  • A good book or two
    Depending on how long your journey is. But not good for those who are susceptible to car sickness.
  • Travel Games
    Perfect for family road trips to keep the kids entertained when there is a lot of time in the car! (Family Travel)


Road Trip Packing List – The Comfort Kit

  • Sunglasses
    Driver or Passenger, nobody likes to squint when they’re in the car.
  • Blanket
    For cosying up during a daytime nap, using as a picnic blanket or for extra warmth should you get stranded somewhere after the sun goes down. Warm people = Happy people. And if you’re planning on sleeping in the car, sleeping bags wouldn’t go amiss!
  • Travel Pillow
    On the basis of the above. Comfortable people = Happy people
  • Travel Mug
    Great for hot and cold drinks, and with a seal-able lid, with a travel mug there is less chance of an unnecessary spillage.
  • Reusable Water Bottle
    Sealable vessels stop spillages! And re-using your water bottle is better fro the environment.
  • UV Window Shade
    Driving down the highway with the sun on one side
  • Extra Jumper/Wrap
    Back on the warm and comfortable thing again, but I do hate being cold. And an extra layer doesn’t take up that much room.
  • Hand sanitizer
    Because not everything you touch will be all that hygienic. Keep those germs outta the car.
  • Painkiller/Anti-Inflammatory Medication
    Being in the car with a headache and/or muscle strain/injury is neither fun nor comfortable.
  • Reusable Shopping Bag
    For popping to the shop whilst on the road – avoid using unnecessary plastic bags and pack a reusable one. They fold up small and can be thrown in your handbag after your road trip for everyday use.
  • Mints
    There’s nothing like fresh minty breath for a quick pick me up.
  • A Towel
    In case your motel doesn’t provide them, to dry you from the unexpected downpour that you got caught in. The possibilities are endless.
  • Day pack
    For the times you want to go on a spontaneous walk/hike and need somewhere to store your water bottle/sunscreen/extra jumper etc.


Road Trip Packing List – Your Personal Care Kit

  • Sun Screen
    The sun beating through the glass all day can make for some interesting tan lines if you’re not careful.. helllooo truckers arm!
  • Body Wipes
    A shower in a pack. For emergencies, or a quick re-fresh.
  • Lip balm
    Cracked lips are never fun. Pop one in the glove box and one in your bag so you don’t get caught out.
  • Mini hairbrush
    The wind in your hair may feel incredible – but the bird nest it creates is not fun to deal with! The Tangle Teezer is great because it comes with it’s own case so you’re not going to end up with stands of hair running loose in your bag after use.
  • Hair ties/Grips
    For the day you don’t want to deal with the windswept look.
  • The Three Ts: Toiletries, Toothbrush & ToothPaste
  • Tissues



The Miscellaneous Items

These will entirely depend on where you’re headed and for how long: you may need all, or none of them! Don’t forget your personal item and use the following packing checklist for your cross country road trip packing list to help you save money and plan the perfect road trip!

  • Plastic/Garbage Bags
    Because you don’t want you car to resemble a trash can. Plastic bags (or garbage bags) are also good to keep wet clothes away from dry ones if you get caught in the rain.
  • Snacks
    Snacks are always good. If you’re prone to being hangry (that’s angry when your hungry) it may be best for all parties to keep a stock of energy bars in the car for emergencies. Snacks are true travel essentials!
  • Car Cooler
    This would be a must for me, as I have a little Coca-Cola addiction and I like my cans cold. But a cooler could also be used store other drinks, sandwiches and food stuffs that don’t do so well in hot weather.
  • Tweezers/Swiss Army Knife
    A multi-tool can be helpful in any number of situations.


So there you have it! The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List: Packed full of road trip essentials to keep the car (and you!) safe, comfortable & entertained on your next road trip.
And if you liked this post, please tweet, pin and share – I’d really appreciate it!

Road Trip Packing List  Road trip Packing List

Road Trip Essentials

And if you liked this packing list, take a look at the other packing lists in this series:

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The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List (inc FREE PDF Checklist!) was last modified: by

Vicki is the Lawyer turned Content Creator, Editor-in-Chief and all round Boss Lady at MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld.
She has lived and worked in 7 different countries and started the site to show everyone that it is possible to travel whilst holding down a full time job (because not everyone can – or wants to – quit and walk away from it all).
Her style of travel has always been to get the best out of a destination as a time poor traveler making the most of limited vacation days and all without breaking the bank; BUT she does know where to save and where to splurge to have the most incredible travel experiences – such as luxury hotels and over-water bungalows, safaris, spas and more(!) – where the situation calls for it.

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34 thoughts on “The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List (inc FREE PDF Checklist!)

  1. Marcie says:

    I’ve never heard of but it sounds like a total lifesaver! I bet it would even be useful for people traveling abroad to cities where they will just be walking around. And good call on sunscreen. Sometimes I forget that I can still get sunburned while driving.

    • Vicki says:

      Oh Marice – is the absolute best! IAnd you’re right it’s perfect for any traveler – not just those on road trips! And yeah. Wear sunscreen in the car – I got a seriously burnt nose from sitting by the window in our overland truck in Africa. It wasn’t pretty!

  2. Travelling Dany says:

    Me and my husband are huge fans of road trips! We generally rent a car, but as you suggested, we always carry with us license and registration, the insurance policy, and everything else. After all, anything can happen on the road and you better be prepared! What we hadn’t thought about was bringing toilet rolls, but it’s a great tip!!

  3. Natasha says:

    This list is truly awesome. You need so many of these things that are too easy to forget. I have bookmarked this for future when I take my next roadtrip

  4. Anete says:

    Very useful tips! There are so many things that you need to take with you on the road trip, that it’s easy to forget something important. Glad to see that others are also enjoying app. It has been my favourite one thru all my travels until now. I just discovered that it works really badly in Bali and shows non existing directions. It sure needs to be improved in this area. But otherwise it’s always been perfect :)

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Anete – and I’m surprised hasn’t been working so well in Bali – it was good in Africa so I thought they must have the whole world pretty well covered!

  5. James says:

    I am a big fan of too, I used it in West Africa, it even worked in Mali!, all I needed was GPS turned on, on my phone. I can’t agree enough about having toilet roll, it can be embarrassing without it and it’s useful if you spill some food or something in the car too. I learnt a new word, hangry and I have been hangry before in the car, snacks are a good medicine for hangry!

  6. Jean says:

    As someone who road trips more often than not I love this list. So comprehensive. It’s the little things that we forget that always trip us up and cause issues. I’ll have to make sure I save this and read through it before our next big road trip.

  7. Iza Abao says:

    Your list covers everything. When I do road trips with my friends, a camera is the first thing that I would put in my bag. I checked out the link that you provided for the Panasonic Lumix. The price is unbelievable. I thought it would cost more. I do not know how to use DSLR cameras properly. After reading your review, I am considering to buy one.

  8. Jenni says:

    What a excellent list of essentials for a road trip. I suppose you can take more with you if you are dong a road trip and don’t have to worry about carry things. I would definitely need some travel games though if it was a long journey as I tend to get bored. Plus top tip about the first aid kit I always forget mine

  9. David McClane says:

    That’s a pretty comprehensive list! I have to admit that when I roadtrip at home I don’t carry half of these items, particularly things like the roadside emergency kit, but maybe I should start. I am usually more concerned about having enough snacks and a good playlist! I like the sound of, I usually stick to google maps but I’ll give it a go for my next roadtrip.

  10. David says:

    Great stuff, we just finnished road tripping in Alaska and now we are off to Fiji. Your packing list was helpful for a road trip.

  11. Kirby says:

    Nail clippers and file in case u break a nail is a must for me ,, these reminders r so great to assist me when I decide on a spur of the moment trip

    • Vicki says:

      I can only presume you are American to consider ‘self-defense’ items as necessities..

      I don’t advocate traveling with any kind of weapon – and listed the pocketknife as a tool with many uses.
      Carrying weapons is how real life injuries happen, not horror movies.

      [EDIT – I’m not sure why you think sending abuse and calling me names as a follow up comment because I don’t agree with your world view is going to force me to support your opinion. No wanting to carry weapons does not in any way make me weak or scared. Quite the opposite in fact]

      • Karen Kimball says:

        Thank you so much for the great list! My 20 year old son and his friend are planning a cross country trip. And, although we’re NRA members I didn’t think of having him take a “weapon”. Americans are not all barbarians., but we definitely have more than our share of wackos. Thanks again for some great info.

  12. dragonegg says:

    This is good but you forgot the books, coloring stuff, lap-size movie player and two or three favorite stuffed toys! ;)

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