With the virus currently keeping international travel on hold, one of the best ways to experience fun and exciting adventures is by going on a road trip. If you’re not sure where to start, I developed this guide on what to pack for a road trip. In it, you’ll find everything you need to travel with peace of mind.
This road trip packing list is made up of 6 sections—personal documents, car documents, practical everyday essentials, things for a comfortable journey, gadgets, and miscellaneous items to bring. Additionally, if you’re just looking for the bare minimum (road trip essentials), I’ve made a separate section for them at the bottom of this packing list.
My aim is for this to be the most comprehensive list out there, so if you see anything missing feel free to let me know.
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Ready to travel? Let’s go!
I. Personal Documents
- Driver’s License
This is a no-brainer. You need to have a valid driver’s license to legally drive a vehicle. Keep photocopies in the glove compartment and your luggage too to be safe.
- Passport and Visa
What does your route look like? Will you be driving across country borders? Before you leave, check if you need a passport or visa to be allowed entry to the places you plan to visit or drive through.
- Travel Insurance
If going on a road trip abroad, travel insurance is a necessity. It serves as your safety net in case of travel-related emergencies, such as unforeseen medical expenses and mechanical emergencies, while on the road.
II. Vehicle Essentials
- Car Registration
This document is required by law to drive pretty much everywhere. Like your driver’s license, it should be valid and up-to-date. Make sure to keep photocopies too.
- Insurance Policy
Car insurance is another must-have for a road trip. Because policies and coverage vary, do some research to find a plan that best suits your needs. Look for one with high-enough liability coverage in the event of an accident.
- Car Manual
Why is there a red flickering light on the dashboard? How do you get the steering wheel unlocked? The answers to these questions may be found in the car manual, so do not forget to take it with you!
- Spare Car Keys
Believe it or not, people losing their car keys and getting themselves locked out of their cars happen quite often. To save yourself a headache, keep an extra key in your wallet, on the inside of the car bumper, or behind the license plate.
- Complete Vehicle Inspection
When’s the last time you did a thorough inspection of your car? Before you venture out, check that the signal lights, headlight, and backlight work, and tire pressure and engine oil levels are sufficient. You might want to go to an auto body shop for a comprehensive check-up.
- Vehicle Emergency Kit
What do you do if your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and you try to call roadside assistance but there’s no signal? A vehicle emergency kit is your lifesaver! Make sure it includes booster cables, wrenches, vise grips, flashlight and extra batteries, reflective triangles, tow rope, and other tools to get your car back to life.
III. Day-to-Day Essentials
- First Aid Kit
Sprained your ankle? Got bit by a bug? Scraped your hand? Accidents and injuries are not uncommon while road tripping. Having a first aid kit with antiseptic, bandages, band-aids, and other basic supplies is essential, especially if the nearest town is several miles away!
- Cash and Cards
You may need to stop by a gas station to fill up and stock up on food multiple times throughout your trip. While many establishments today accept cards, there are still some that only take cash. Also, paying for road tolls and parking meters with cash is still the norm in a lot of places.
- Water Bottles
Do not forget to hydrate. Water can help keep you focused and alert. And instead of buying bottled water every time, why not have water bottles that you can refill with tap water? Doing so not only saves you money, but it is also good for the environment.
Stock up on protein bars, apples, baby carrots, peanuts, and other food that you can munch on while driving. These can help stave off the hunger and keep you awake until the next rest stop.
- Clothes and Footwear
What time of the year are you traveling? What activities have you got lined up? The kinds of clothes and shoes you pack are dependent on the weather conditions and the adventures you have planned. Going skiing? Pack warm jackets, gloves, and snow boots. Going swimming? Pack swimsuits, sunscreen, and flip flops.
- Toilet Paper and Wet Wipes
How awful would it be to finally do your business in a roadside bathroom only to realize there’s no toilet paper anywhere? Toilet paper and wet wipes should be at the top of your necessities list if you want to avoid this predicament.
- Hygiene Products
Yes, access to a bathroom might be limited on the road but this should not make you neglect your personal hygiene. Take shampoo, conditioner, and shower gels in mini bottles. Have a travel toothbrush kit. Remember to throw deodorant in there as well.
Are you allergic to certain foods? Do you get motion sickness, tension headaches, or back pains when traveling long-distance? On the road, you might not find a pharmacy for miles, so bringing allergy tablets, painkillers, and other prescription and over-the-counter meds is vital.
- Plastic bags
When traveling, they say, “Do not take anything but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.” Do not just leave your empty snack wrappers, drink bottles and cans, and other trash anywhere. Dispose of them properly. If there are no trash cans around, keep them in a plastic bag and discard them once you find one.
IV. Comfort Items
- Pillows and Blankets
Do you plan to sleep in your car, camp out in a tent, or book a hotel room? Whichever way you go, having comfy pillows and blankets may help give you a good night’s sleep.
- Bug Spray
If you plan to hike, camp, or spend a lot of time outdoors, include bug spray in your packing list. Mosquito bites and other insect bites can cause skin irritation that can be quite a bother. They can lead to severe allergic reactions too.
Ever driven in the daytime and got “temporary blindness” because of the bright sunshine? A good pair of sunglasses should be able to protect you against sun glare, which reduces your visual clarity and comfort. It gives you better visibility, keeping you and others on the road safe.
- Fold-out table and chairs
Practical, lightweight, and comfortable, fold-out table and chairs are especially great for camping and the beach. They are also nice to have if you need to take a break and just sit back and enjoy the views.
V. Electronic Gadgets
Want to take high-resolution photos of the stunning scenery? Take a high-quality camera with you. Do not forget to pack the cables, charger, and extra batteries that come with it too.
Gone are the days when phones were only for calling and texting. Today’s smartphones are quite versatile and can connect to the internet, take photos, and record videos. They can also have navigation, weather, maps, streaming, and other essential apps for a road trip.
Imagine your phone dying while you are figuring out directions to your next destination or needing to make an urgent call. Do not forget your chargers. Pack your USB car charger, phone charger cord, powerbank, and extra ones too.
- Paper Maps
Some might think that paper maps are now obsolete. But in this day and age, these can actually still be useful, especially for road trips. They are lightweight, foldable, easy to read, and do not need to be charged.
- Day Pack
This is perfect for when you go on day hikes, spend an afternoon on the beach, or do spontaneous activities. It just has enough space for your water bottle, camera, phone, and a couple more essentials for a small and quick getaway.
- Pen and Paper
Need to make a list of essentials to buy on your stop in the next big town? Have some important thoughts to jot down for your diary or blog? While you can also do these using your phone, having a pen and paper won’t hurt. And they do not run out of batteries!
- Hand Sanitizer
Worried about germs, viruses, and bacteria? In situations where washing your hands or cleaning surfaces with soap and water is not possible, hand sanitizer, whether liquid or gel, is an effective alternative.
Whether you get caught in a sudden downpour or your hotel does not provide them, towels are good to have. Other than for drying yourself, they can also be used as a picnic mat or sunshade.
Here is my list of road trip essentials. These are the bare minimum necessities you’ll want to bring on a road trip. Maybe you have limited space or are able to do without a lot of luxuries. This condensed packing list can help. It includes some of the items above.
- Driver’s License (and any other related documentation)
- Vehicle Registration
- Vehicle Insurance
- Car Manual
- Spare Car Keys
- Vehicle Emergency Kit
- First Aid Kit
- Cash and Credit Cards
- Travel Snacks
- Destination Maps
It’s exciting to see so many people wanting to explore their backyards by having a road trip. Hope this guide on what to pack for a road trip helps expedite the packing process. No one can fully predict the future, but at least with these items you can have much more peace of mind while traveling.
If you do go on a road trip, let me know where you travel to!