Road trips are always fun to plan, but packing for them can be a bit of a headache (especially if you’re going on a cross-country road trip). There’s just so many things to keep track of and remember!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and relax. Packing isn’t all that bad if you’ve got a handy checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything. In fact, we’ve put together a list of 25 road trip essentials to help you prepare for the long drive ahead. Let’s dive right in!
What to Pack for a Road Trip
Knowing what things to pack for a road trip is important if you want to be prepared. Here’s a road trip packing list to help you in case of emergencies, save you a trip to the store, and keep your car clean and organized throughout your entire trip:
Basic Road Trip Essentials for Your Car
- Driver’s license: This one’s a no brainer since you can’t really hit the road without having it on you. That being said, you should bring your driver’s license along whether you’re traveling domestically or internationally as a form of legal documentation. If you’re planning a road trip in a foreign country, make sure you check local laws to see if you need to obtain an international driver’s license; for some countries, a home license isn’t enough.
- Car registration: Your car registration holds the same amount of importance as your driver’s license; you need this to prove that you, a family member or friend, or the car company you’re renting from, owns the vehicle you’re driving. And more importantly, you’ll have to show this along with your driver’s license if you ever get pulled over.
- Insurance information: Many countries like the United States and Canada require you to have car insurance to financially protect you in case of an accident — so make sure you have this information readily available for yourself at all times! In addition, it’s a good idea to have travel insurance if your road trip is happening abroad. Just remember to check if your insurance policy covers injuries from motor vehicle accidents.
- Owner’s Manual: You probably haven’t used this much, but keeping the owner’s manual in your car at all times will save you from confusion and frustration (especially if you’re renting a car). It covers everything you need to know about your vehicle, such as the safety guidelines and maintenance program, and gives helpful troubleshooting tips.
- Roadside assistance contact information: Being stranded on the side of the road without having someone to call for help is a driver’s worst nightmare. But as long as you have the contact information for roadside assistance, you can have your car fixed and be on the road again in no time!
Road Trip Essentials to Keep Your Car Clean
- Car trash can: If you want to prevent your vehicle from becoming a landfill, then keep a car garbage can around at all times. This will help keep your vehicle clean and mess-free whether it’s food wrappers, tissues, or dirt that needs to be disposed of. It’s also a good idea to bring an additional car trash bag or two for extra reinforcements.
- Handheld vacuum for car: No one likes driving in a dirty car. But if you’re on the road, your vehicle is bound to get messy from food crumbs, dust, and dirt. To make the long drive more enjoyable and comfortable, you should bring a portable car vacuum cleaner. A little cleaning here and there never hurts!
- Air freshener: If your road trip is going to be a long one, the last thing you want is to be stuck in a car that smells bad. Keep an air freshener in your vehicle to get rid of odors and make the air more breathable.
- Kick mats: Muddy shoes are a car seat’s worst enemy. So if you’re going on a road trip with a toddler, you should consider installing kick mats on the front or back of your seats to protect them from dirt and debris.
- Disinfectant wipes: The last thing you want is to get sick on your road trip. Keep your car germ-free by bringing a pack of disinfectant wipes!
General Road Trip Essentials
- First aid kit: There’s no telling how far the next closest drug store will be, so prepare for any kind of emergency by bringing a first aid kit. Having basic items like bandaids, bandages, and tourniquets will be a lifesaver for when you actually need them.
- Cash: As much as we love the convenience of electronically paying for things, bringing paper money when traveling isn’t always a bad idea. You never know when you might need to have a few extra dollars and coins on hand, especially for the road tolls and parking meters.
- Map: We don’t just mean a GPS or navigation app on your phone; we’re talking about a physical map. Even if you haven’t used one of these in years, it’s a good idea to bring one with you in case there’s ever spotty Wifi or bad reception. The last thing you want is to get lost in an isolated area without knowing your way around!
- Medication: Long road trips can be physically draining. Whether it’s allergies, headaches, or muscle aches you’re suffering from, you definitely don’t want to hit the road without bringing painkillers or allergy medication.
- Snacks: No one likes being hangry. And if you’re on a cross-country road trip, you’ll want to save the hassle (and money) of buying food at a store by bringing your own from home.
Personal Care Road Trip Essentials
- Toiletries: Toiletries include basic personal care items like soap, toothpaste, dental floss, etc. Your road trip packing list shouldn’t be missing this one unless you want to make an extra trip to the store.
- Hand sanitizer: Road trips are never germ-free, and you won’t always have a bathroom sink and soap dispenser at your disposal. To help prevent yourself from getting sick on the long drive, bring a bottle of hand sanitizer!
- Sunscreen: Sunburns are no fun, so don’t forget to bring a bottle of sunscreen with the perfect SPF!
- Tissues: Prepare for the allergies and runny noses from cold weather by bringing a box or small pack of tissues with you. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.
- Lotion: No one likes having dry skin. No matter where your destination is, bring a bottle of lotion to keep yourself moisturized and prevent cracked or flaky skin.
How Do I Organize My Car for a Long Road Trip?
A long road trip calls for a long road trip packing list. With that said, how do you make sure that there’s enough storage space for all the items you packed? The answer is pretty simple: organization! Here’s a small list of some other road trip essentials that are helpful for keeping your car neat and organized.
- Trunk organizer: If you’ve ever dealt with rolling groceries and piles of shopping bags before, you know the struggle of keeping things tidy in the car trunk. However, using a car trunk organizer will free up plenty of space in the back of your vehicle and keep things nice and neat.
- Car seat organizer: Just like a trunk organizer, a car seat organizer is great for freeing up storage space and maintaining a mess-free vehicle. Whether it’s toys, books, or bottles that are scattered everywhere, using a car seat organizer will prevent your vehicle from becoming a junkyard.
- Carabiners: Carabiners are coupling links that have safety closures on them. They’re often used by rock climbers to fasten ropes to harnesses, but they can be used for other purposes too. So if you need more space in your car, bring along a few carabiners and use them as hooks by attaching them to the grab handles of your vehicle.
- Small cup / gum container: If you’ve got loose change lying around, keep it all in one place by using a small cup or gum container. You never know when you’ll need to grab a few coins for a parking meter!
- Folder / binder: Important documents like your car registration, insurance papers, emergency contact numbers, and owner’s manual should be filed away and kept together for easy and immediate access. So, make sure to put these documents in a folder or binder and store them in the glove compartment of your car.
No matter what kind of road trip ideas you have, always make sure you have a solid road trip packing list to help you prepare beforehand. If you have everything you need before leaving the house, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time, money, and trouble. With that said, it’s now time to get packing!
Contributing Writer: Rebecca Lee