Hitting the road and trying to figure out what to pack for a road trip? Putting together a road trip packing list can be a daunting task, I know.
On one hand, you have the freedom to pack as much road trip gear into your car as you want. Car trips give you the luxury of trunk space and backseats to fill to your heart’s content. Plus, you don’t have to worry about TSA restrictions on how much shampoo you can carry nor do you have to pay extra fees for overweight suitcases.
On the other hand, you still want to pack light and pack smart. No one wants to spend precious travel time that could be used cruising the highway, admiring the world’s largest catsup bottle, or chowing down on fried chicken to instead sort through a messy trunk full of junk just to find their bathing suit.
Your road trip packing list should be thorough, yet concise. It should take into account how long you’ll be on the road, where you’ll be going, and what you’ll be doing on the way, all while balancing your ultimate needs for keeping safe and smart on the road.
Ready to pack your bags and hit the road? I’ve been taking American road trips for years, racking up tens of thousands of miles and perfecting the art of packing for a road trip along the way. So if you need help figuring out what to pack for a road trip, I’ve compiled this ultimate road trip packing list to get you organized and ready to travel. Let’s hit the gas and go…
Road Trip Packing List Essentials
These are your road trip car essentials: things you should never leave home without. You’ll always want to make sure you have the proper identification and registration along with access to enough money to get you where you’re going .
These are the physical road trip items that you absolutely need, but it’s also a great idea to email yourself scanned copies of your passport and drivers license and have on hand relevant contact numbers for your insurance provider, doctor and pediatrician, roadside assistance.
- Drivers License
- Car Key
- Passport (if driving to another country)
- Credit Cards
- ATM Card
- Cash and Coins
- Copy of Car Insurance and Registration
- AAA Membership Cards and/or Phone Number for Roadside Assistance
- Your Car’s Manual
- Prescriptions Medications
Fancy Mobility Car Sun Visor Organizer
Organize your important documents in a convenient wallet that clips to your car’s sun visor. Never misplace your car registration or important documents again.
High Road Glove Box Organizer
Keep all your registration and insurance documents in one place with a small folder that tucks into your glovebox for the ultimate in organization and convenience.
Road Trip Gadgets and Electronics
Even if you’re taking a drive down a classic road, a modern road trip isn’t complete without a little technology. You’ll definitely want your phone to document your road trip on social media, stay connected, snap some photos, and access your music (not to mention make a call in case of emergency). And, if you’re like me, and love taking photos of landscapes, roadside attractions, and your food, you’ll probably want a separate camera like a DSLR or a mirrorless model, for better quality snapshots.
If you’re traveling with friends or family, they might want some entertainment, or distraction, while your eyes are on the road. So, for your traveling companions, extra tablets, e-readers, or iPods are essential.
And, of course, you’re going to need to keep all of those electronics charged and in a convenient place. Don’t forget to bring your chargers and consider getting an extra car charger and/or external charger to make sure your battery power lasts. Be sure to also invest in a phone mount for your car, so it’s easily accessible and visible when you’re using it as a GPS.
- Mobile Phone
- Camera (Check out my recommendations here.)
- Video Camera
- Tablets, eReaders, or iPods
- Electronic Toll Pass
- Phone Charger, Car Charger, Portable Charger
- Hands-Free Phone Mount
Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Digital Camera
The Fujifilm X-T30 is my favorite road trip camera and an essential item in my road trip kit. This mid-range mirrorless camera offers sharp photos in a compact and lightweight package, perfect for capturing all the world’s largest things.
Fire HD 8 Tablet
Individual tablets allow car passengers to watch movies, listen to music, read, or play games on long car rides.
Hands-Free Car Phone Mount
Having a car mount for your phone allows you to put it front and center on your car dashboard where you can easily see your turn-by-turn directions or take hands-free calls from the driver’s seat.
VOGEK Multi USB Car Charger
If you have multiple passengers and multiple devices, you’re going to have a lot of electronics to charge. Keep everyone happy with a multi-port USB car charger to charge up to six phones, tablets, cameras, and more at once.
You can’t get where you’re going unless you know how to get there. Maps, both electronic and paper, are essential items for your road trip packing list.
Most smartphones nowadays have built-in GPS functionality so be sure you have a charged phone with an app like Google Maps installed (pro tip: Google Maps lets you download offline maps so you can still access them if you can’t get a data or wifi signal).
If you don’t have a smart phone or know your kids will be hogging yours the whole way, you might want to get a separate car GPS navigator to give you turn-by-turn directions and alerts for your drive.
Of course, even if you’re relying on a phone or GPS to guide you on your way, it’s always a good idea to keep a paper map on hand. I always keep an American road atlas in my car that shows all the highways and byways of the country. That way if your phone dies or is lost or breaks, you’re not flying (or driving) blind.
- Phone with GPS
- Google Maps App
- GPS Navigator
- Paper Map/Road Atlas
Garmin Drive 50 USA LM GPS Navigator
Even if your phone has GPS capabilities, it’s a good idea to invest in a separate GPS navigator. That was you have that extra insurance in case your phone dies, loses contact, or is in use by a backseat passenger.
Rand McNally Scale Road Atlas
If technology fails you, always have a backup. Explore the roads in all 50 U.S. states and over 350 cites and national parks. A road atlas is always on my list of road trip must haves.
Road Trip Clothes Packing List
When deciding what to wear on a road trip, the number one thing to keep in mind is comfort. You’ll be spending most of your travel time in the car and you don’t want to be dealing with too-tight jeans or a too-hot coat.
When dressing for a road trip, I like to throw on a short cotton dress and some slip ons and call it a day, but it’s important to pack variety of road trip clothing when dealing with different locations and different climates.
What you pack to wear is entirely dependent on what you normally wear and where you’re going. If you never wear dresses, don’t pack them, there’s no need to dress drastically different for a road trip than you would back home. And if you’re not road tripping to a wedding, you might not need to bring a suit.
That said, you might want to be prepared for different situations. Maybe bring a sports coat or dress just in case you want to treat yourself to a nice night out. Bring a bathing suit even if you’re not going to the beach – you might stay at a hotel that has a pool. And always be prepared for temperature changes just in case, bringing some warmer-weather clothes like t-shirts and shorts to colder destinations and a sweater and pants to warmer places.
I always keep a warm hoodie on hand just in case a restaurant is too cold for my liking. And, if I am planning on going hiking or to a beach, I like to keep those clothes in a separate, easy-to-reach bag and change once I get there. Wearing a bathing suit for five hours in the car isn’t exactly the most comfortable wardrobe choice.
And please don’t forget all the other road trip wardrobe essentials: bras, underwear, socks, and a variety of shoes.
Road Trip Clothes for Her
- Tank Tops
- Casual Shirts
- Hiking Pants
- Hoodies or Sweatshirts
- Rain Jacket
- Bathing Suit
- Bathing Suit Coverup or Sarong
- Workout Clothes
- Flip Flops
- Hiking Boots
- Wide-brimmed Hat or Baseball Cap
- Jewelry and Accessories
Road Trip Clothes for Him
- Casual Shirts
- Dress Shirts
- Hiking Pants
- Hoodies or Sweatshirts
- Sports Jacket
- Rain Jacket
- Swim Trunks
- Workout Clothes
- Flip Flops
- Dress Shoes
- Hiking Boots
- Hat or Baseball Cap
Road Trip Clothes for Kids
- Tank Tops
- Casual Shirts
- Hoodies or Sweatshirts
- Rain Jacket
- Flip Flops
Full-Zip Hooded Fleece Sweatshirt
No matter what the weather is like, when I’m road tripping I always keep a fleece hoodie close by. You never know when you’re going to enter a too-cold car, restaurant, or hotel room and that extra layer can go a long way.
Road Trippin’ T-Shirt
Wear your love of road tripping on your sleeve…or on your chest. Road-trip themed t-shirts like this 70s throwback shirt are always a fun addition to your road trip clothing wardrobe.
Maui Jim Polarized Sunglasses
Polarized sun glasses are a must-pack item for any road trip. Protect your eyes from harmful rays, fight glare while driving, and look cool on the beach with a good-quality pair of shades
Bath and Body Road Trip Necessities
One of the best reasons to choose car travel over plane travel is the ability to pack full-sized toiletries and as many of them as you like. There are no 3-ounce rules in your car. Still, you don’t want to go overboard or your trunk could easily be half-full of shampoo bottles.
How many bath and body products you bring really depends on how long you’re traveling and where you’re staying. For a quick weekend trip, some travel-sized toiletries may be all you need. For a longer vacation, you might want to take more.
Keep in mind that most hotels offer free travel-sized bathroom goodies. Also, if you’re traveling as a family, try to share wherever you can!
Don’t forget to bring any medications you need and some extra medicine for any foreseeable problems. You don’t want a headache or an upset stomach ruining your road trip.
- Soap or Body Wash
- Face Wash
- Shaving Cream
- Makeup (Mascara, Lipstick, Eyeshadow, etc.)
- Makeup Remover
- Bug Spray
- Hand Lotion
- Hand Sanitizer
- Chapstick/Lip Balm
- Prescription medicines
- Tylenol or other headache medicine
- Stomach medicine
- First Aid Kit/Bandaids
- Hair Ties
- Hair Styling Products
- Tampons, Pads, or Pantyliners
- Anti-wrinkle spray
- Kleenex Tissues
- Toilet Paper Roll
Convenience Kits Men’s Necessities Travel Kit
This 20-piece travel toiletry kit compiles everything you need in one package. Get shaving cream, shampoo, deodorant, lip balm and more in a compact package great for on the go travelers.
Convenience Kits Women’s Necessities Travel Kit
Get everything you need in one convenient package. This 20-piece toiletry kit contains shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, disposable razor, and more.
While for some, the thrill of driving and seeing the country is all the entertainment they need, for others, a few extra entertainment choices can go a long way.
If your car is packed with passengers be sure to have plenty of entertainment options packed, like road trip games (check out my guide here), DVDs, and toys. Be sure to load up your iPhone with music, audio books, and podcasts before your journey and give everyone in the car a turn at picking what you listen to.
- iPhone Loaded with Music
- Waterproof Cameras
- Puzzle Books like Suduko
- Road Trip Games
- Road Trip Journals, Pens, and Crayons
- Books and Magazines
- Electronic Games.
- DVDs and Portable DVD Player
WONNIE Portable Dual DVD Players
A duel car DVD player that clips to your headrests can provide hours of entertainment for road trip passengers. This one plays DVDs or digital files stored on a USB or card reader.
Road Trip Journal
Record your road trip adventure with a road trip journal, complete with prompts to help you document where you went, what you saw, and what you ate!
Play all your favorite games on the go. Keep your family entertained and never hear, “are we there yet?” again. The portable design of the Nintendo Switch makes it the perfect gaming system for road trips and back seat play.
Audible Audio Books
Sign up for a service like Audible before your next road trip and listen to audio books while you drive. Take a break from music and catch up on the latest best seller or classics like On The Road in your car. Sign up for a free trial or dive right in with a membership today.
Snacks to Take on a Road Trip
Whether you’re traveling near or far, it’s always good to have some road trip snacks on hand. I like to pack snacks ahead of time because it’s cheaper to buy larger quantities at the grocery store than it is buying one-off candy bars and Cokes at gas station shops.
What snacks to bring on a road trip is entirely up to you and your passengers’ tastes. Do you like salty or sweet? Healthy or meat? It’s good to have a mix of sinful snacks like candy and chips along with some healthier options like nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
I always try to avoid anything that is too messy: keep in mind that chips can get crushed and greasy and chocolate can melt. I always had a rule of no “orange” food, like Cheetos or Doritos, in my car because I didn’t want orange dust all over!
Be sure to also pack a cooler with ice packs for drinks and bring along a portable water bottle and coffee cup to fill up at hotels.
- Granola Bars
- Trail Mix
- Dried Fruit
- Beef Jerky
- Bottles of Water
- Juice Boxes
- Soft Drinks
- Fresh Fruit
- Pre-Cut Veggies
- Fruit Snacks
- Cheese sticks
If you’re planning on picnicking or camping, or just want to save money on dining, you might want to pack some extra food such as:
- Hot Dogs and Buns
- Hamburgers and Buns
- Sandwich Items (Bread, Meat, Cheese)
- S’mores (Marshmallows, Chocolate, Graham Crackers)
And don’t forget to pack some extras to keep your food fresh, safe, and accessible: and your car (and passengers) clean:
- Ice Packs
- Wet Wipes
- Zippered Plastic Baggies or Sandwich Bags
- Plastic Tupperware Food Containers
- Paper Towels
- Reusable Water Bottle
- Reusable Coffee Mug
- Butter Knife
- Sharp Knife
- Paper Plates
- Plastic Bowls
- Cutting Board
- Can Opener
- Bottle Opener
- Reusable Shopping Bag
- Portable Grill
Engel HD30 Waterproof Soft-Sided Cooler Bag
A cooler is a must-have item on your road trip packing list. Stock up on drinks and keep them cold so you don’t have to buy a soda every time you stop for gas or load it up on sandwich fixings and hot dogs for a camping adventure. A high-quality soft sided cooler like this Engel model is the way to go: it’s more flexible design allows it to squeeze into valuable trunk space and will keep your food chilled for days at a time.
S’well Stainless Steel Travel Mug
S’well travel mugs keep cold beverages cold for 24 hours and hot beverages hot for 26. You’ll save money and time (and the environment) on road trips by filling it up at hotels so you always have refreshing water or pick-me-up coffee on hand.
Snack Chest Care Package
Can’t decide what snacks to pack for a road trip? Get a variety pack! You can get a big box of road trip snacks delivered to your door packed with your favorite treats. If you’re looking to snack lighter on your road trip go for a healthy snack pack filled with veggie straws, fruit snacks, granola bars, and trail mix.
Waterproof Picnic Backpack
If you’re planning on packing your own food, camping, or picnicking on your road trip, consider getting a picnic backpack complete with plates, glasses, and utensils. It’s better for the environment than using disposable plastic plates and forks, and will have every thing you need to eat your meals on the go.
Road Trip Essentials for Kids
When road tripping with kids, you have a whole new list of packing needs (in fact, you might want to pack an extra car). I don’t have kids myself, so you’d make the better call as to what should go on your family road trip packing list. But ,when thinking about what to pack for a road trip with kids, here are some essentials.
- Car Seat
- Folding Step Stool
- Baby Carrier
- Sippy Cup
- Story Books
- Pull Ups
- Swim Diapers
- Baby Wipes
- Waterproof Sheet
- Childproofing Items
Kids Travel Tray for Toddler Car Seat
This foldable, compact travel tray gives your child the freedom to keep his or her things at arm’s length and a surface to play on short or long car trips.
National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas
Entertain your kids with this educational book featuring maps, games, activities, and more.
Road Trip Items for Your Car
For the best long car trip experience, make sure you always have these road trip essentials on hand. These are little things that can make a big difference in the comfort of you and your passengers and keep your road trip running smooth. From organizers to keep you organized to baby wipes to keep you clean to an umbrella just in case it rains, you won’t want to shift into drive without these items on hand.
- Car Organizers
- Trunk Organizers
- Emergency Cash and Change
- Toll Pass
- Car Air Freshener
- Car Garbage Can or Extra Plastic Bags
- Baby Wipes
- Tide To-Go Pen
- Hand Sanitiser
- Paper Towels
- Travel Pillow
- Sweatshirt or Hoodie
- Batteries and Chargers
Oyrgcik Backseat Car Organizer
Keep everything neat and organized on your next road trip with a car organizer that slips over the back of the front seats and has room for tablets, toys, games, snacks, and all the other road trip essentials you need on hand.
Fortem Car Trunk Organizer
With three spacious compartments and some extra side pockets, a car trunk organizer like this one will help keep your snacks, supplies, and emergency items in one convenient place.
Spill-Proof Car Trash Can
Keep your car clear of candy wrappers, messy napkins, and fast food receipts with a compact garbage can that attaches to the headrest, console, or side door.
Road Trip Safety Essentials
When planning your what to pack for a road trip checklist, you can’t forget the safety essentials. These are things to have on hand just in case, to protect you, your car, and your passengers, if something goes wrong.
You should definitely have a roadside emergency kit in your car. This will help you whether you run out of gas, pop a tire, or have a dead battery. You should also have a first aid kit on hand to treat any minor medical mishaps that might otherwise dampen your vacation.
It’s always best to be prepared, so don’t leave on a road trip without having these items packed in your car.
- Roadside Emergency Kit
- Air Compressor
- Jumper Cables
- Tow Rope
- Window Hammer
- Booster Cables
- Spare Tire
- Tire Jack
- First Aid Kit (Pain Reliever, Band Aids, Antibiotic Cream, Benadryl, Tums)
- Tool Kit
- Duct Tape
- Empty Portable Gas Can
- Washer Fluid
- Transmission Oil
- Brake Fluid
- Rags and an Old Blanket
- Extra Car Key
- Gallon Jug of Water
For winter road trips or snowy locations you should also bring:
- Tire Chains
- Ice Scraper
- Non-Clay Kitty Litter
- Folding Shovel
- Warm Clothes
- Heavy Blanket
Coocheer Auto Emergency Kit
You can never be too prepared when packing for a road trip. Keeping a car emergency kit in your trunk is a must for road trips both short and long. This one has an air compressor, reflective warning triangle, tow rope, hammer, jumper cables, and more to give you piece of mind that you’re prepared for any emergency on the road.
Surviveware Small First Aid Kit
Be prepared for anything by storing a first aid kit in your car. Choose a waterproof model like this one packed with everything you expect and need: antiseptic wipes, adhesive bandages, an emergency blanket, splinter probes, and more.
3-Piece Snow Survival Kit
If you’re taking a winter road trip, you have to be prepared for the elements. You don’t want snow to ruin your drive. At the very least equip your car with a windshield ice scraper, a mini hand car windshield snow scraper, and an aluminum car safety shovel before you take off.
Road Trip Bags and Luggage
With all those items to pack for your road trip, you’re going to need a place to store them. Choose a duffel bag, suitcase, or backpack for your clothes, a toiletry bag for your bathroom needs, and a smaller road trip backpack and/or purse for use during the day. You might also want to bring along a laundry bag to separate your used clothes from your clean clothes and a couple of extra bags to organize your sweatshirts, snacks, and anything else you want to keep on close to hand in the car.
- Duffel Bag, Suitcase, or Backpack
- Small Backpack
- Day Pack
- Small Bags for the Car
- Toiletry Bag
- Laundry Bag
- Camera Bag
Plambag Canvas Duffle Bag for Travel
Duffle bags make for great road trip luggage. The soft exterior make them flexible when storing in the trunk, the straps and handles make them easy to carry up to a hotel room, and the multiple compartments make organizing your bag a breeze.
Osprey Packs Daylite Plus Daypack
On a road trip, you always want to bring a small, empty backpack to use as a daypack. Use it to take only the essentials to the beach, hiking, or theme parks so you don’t have to lug around your luggage or go without.
Road Trip Purse
When choosing a road trip purse you should pick something that is bulky enough to hold all your essentials (wallet, phone, car keys, sunscreen, etc.) but not so big that you might as well exchange it for a backpack. I like a nylon crossbody bag that is easy to carry and has plenty of space without the extra weight.
Road Trip Packing List Printable
Download our free road trip packing list printable with all the essential ideas for what to bring on a road trip. Print it off while you’re packing your bags and cross out the items you go.