Four Essential Road Trip Bags (and what to put in them)

Four Essential Road Trip Bags (and what to put in them)

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When packing for a road trip, it’s important to keep in mind how and when you will use each item you bring and then divide accordingly. You don’t want to end up with something you need at arm’s length locked in your trunk while you’re in the middle of a highway and you don’t want to end up surrounded by things in your car that you won’t even need until you arrive at your destination. You’ll definitely want three or four essential road trip bags to keep your stuff in the right places, your car organized, and your travels smooth. Here are our recommendations on what types of bags you need, what to put in each, and where to store them while on your trip.

Four Essential Road Trip Bags:


The luggage you bring on your road trip can be as big or small as you want. It really depends on the climate you’re driving in, where you’re going, what you plan to do, and how long you’re going for. If you’re driving somewhere colder you might need to bring heavier sweaters or a winter jacket. If you plan to hit the town in big cities you might need a couple of dresses and some heels. If you’re taking a weekend trip you might not need much. If you’re spending a month road tripping Route 66, you might need a few extra pairs of underwear.

Wherever you’re going and however long you’re going for, you’re going to need to bring the essentials: clothes and toiletries. And you’re going to need some luggage to put them in. 99% of the time what you pack in your luggage you’ll only need to when you get to your hotel. So this should be reserved for things you won’t need the rest of the day such as your pajamas, your clothes, your bathing suit, and toothbrush. Because of that you can keep your luggage in the trunk, out of reach, while you’re driving.

Here are some of our recommended road trip luggage:

Car Bag

Since your clothes and toiletries are locked away in the trunk, it’s a good idea to have a bag in your car for things you might need during the day. This is where you’d keep your atlas, snacks, sunscreen, road trip games, and anything else you’d want in easy reach. A duffel bag works great for this purpose and helps you avoid having things strewn all over the car. You, your kids, or your travel companions know exactly where to grab something from and where to put it back in. Your car bag should be kept somewhere convenient, but out of the way, like on an empty seat or under the seat.

Here are some of our recommended road trip car bags:

Purse or Daypack

Your purse or daypack will be where you store things you need to take with you when you leave the car. It’s where you’ll keep your wallet, credit cards, phone, drivers license, and keys when you leave the car to get gas, to have lunch, or to marvel at a world’s largest roadside attraction. You shouldn’t need anything big. And definitely nothing fancy. A small purse or a drawstring bag will do. This is just where you’ll keep the things you need to bring with you or don’t want to leave alone in the car. You’ll always want your purse or daypack close at hand.

Here are some of our recommended road trip purses and daypacks:

Camera Bag

You don’t need a camera bag for a road trip. If you’re strictly an iPhoneographer, your purse or daypack will do. But if you are into photography and have anything more than a phone, a camera bag is a road trip must-have. If you have lots of equipment such as a DSLR with multiple lenses or muliple cameras like a GoPro and a Drone, a camera bag is essential to keeping them safe, secure, and in order. Even if you have just one small extra camera, like a mirrorless digital camera, it helps keep it safe and padded from bumpy terrains.

Here are some of our recommended road trip camera bags:

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Four Essential Road Trip Bags (and what to put in them) -- There are three or four essential road trip bags every traveler should have in their car. Here's what they are, what to put in them, and where to keep them.
Four Essential Road Trip Bags (and what to put in them)

Photo by PHUOC LE on Unsplash


Val is the founder and head road tripper at Silly America. Having grown up near Berwyn's famed car kabob, The Spindle, and a restaurant with a cow on its roof, her fascination with roadside attractions started early. Today, Val has visited over 300 roadside attractions across 31 states and is constantly on the lookout for the next BIG thing!

Val also blogs about her life, travels, and cats on her personal blog, Choosing Figs.

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