[UPDATED JAN 2021] 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, road tripping South Africa’s incredible Garden Route, or just taking a few days to explore your own back yard – we’ve put together the Ultimate Road Trip Packing List to guide you through the various road trip essentials PLUS a heap of road trip tips that will keep the car – and you – running smoothly throughout the trip. (It’s perfect for packing light on a USA road trip or anywhere else in the world! – which we’re sure you know if you arrived here from our story!)
Disclaimer: This very helpful post contains affiliate links, which means that should you click any of the links and make a purchase I may get a small commission at absolutely no cost to you. If you are thinking about buying some road trip essentials – which if you are here I presume you are – please consider using the links below. And you can read the legal stuff about it all in my Disclosure.
The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List – All the Road Trip Essentials You Could Ever Need!
Table of Contents
- 1 Keep Your Car on the Road with these Road Trip Essentials
- 2 Little Road Trip Accessories That Can Make a Big Difference
- 3 Stay connected & Entertained on your Road Trip
- 4 Road Trip Packing List – The Comfort Kit
- 5 Road Trip Packing List – Your Personal Care Kit
- 6 Helpful/Miscellaneous Road Trip Items
Keep Your Car on the Road with these Road Trip Essentials
- License and registration
Obvious. Do NOT leave home without them. They are the ultimate road trip essentials!
- 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
This car emergency kit contains 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 (if there was you could easily rely on Google Maps).
Maps.me 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!
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
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 and has a looped handle which rests on your arm to keep your hands free! It also comes in a variety of double layer designs and colors to suit your mood (mine is red on the top with navy blue and white spots inside) It’s Perfect for both a summer road trip, a family road trip and for adding some colour to wintery shots!
Stay connected & Entertained on your Road Trip
- Phone chargers/USB cord
A portable charger is 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! Its one of my top musthave essentials for a long car ride and you can even throw in some audio books for a bit of variety!
- 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! (and if you want to know which are the best cameras for travel, click here + the best drones for travel – click here!)
- Instant Camera
Instant Camera are so much fun and can capture some unusual and quirky shots along the road
- Portable Wifi
For those that doesn’t have great roaming plans/options in the destination you are in, a portable wifi device can be a necessesity if you need to stay connected to the outside world.
- 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
Driver or Passenger, nobody likes to squint when they’re in the car.
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.
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.
- Flip Flops
The perfect slip on shoe.
- Day pack
For the times you want to go on a spontaneous walk/hike and need day bags to store your water bottle/sunscreen/extra jumper etc.
Road Trip Packing List – Your Personal Care Kit
- Toiletry Bag
A wash bag is essential to put all the below items in and keep everything close to hand in the same place.
- 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
Wet wipes or Baby wipes are essentially 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
Helpful/Miscellaneous Road Trip 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 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 or granola bars in the car for emergencies. Snacks are true travel essentials and the perfect road trip food!
- 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, juice boxes, 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!
And if you liked this packing guide, take a look at the other packing lists, travel resources and travel guides in this series:
- The Ultimate Travel Gear Packing List – everything you need for a long term adventure trip.
- The Ultimate Ski Trip Packing List – packed full of ski essentials to help you have the best time on the piste
- How to Pack your Carry On Like A Pro – full of travel tips to make the most of those pesky weight and space restrictions!
- The Best Travel Backpacks for Women – because us ladies need a bag thats built for us and is going to stand up with us for every adventure.
Hi There! Thanks for reading my Ultimate Road Trip Packing List – Packed to the brim with Road Trip Essentials (and includes a free printable checklist). I just wanted to let you know that this post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something after clicking a link, I may get a small commission – which is at absolutely no cost to you. If you enjoyed this article and are going to be searching for some of the things I mention anyway, I would love it if you could click through from the links above & thank you in advance! Read my full Disclosure here.
And Thanks for reading the MakeTimeToSeeTheWorld travel blog which is packed full of useful travel blog posts.
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.