What to Pack for a Road Trip: The Only Road Trip Packing List You Need

Not sure what to pack for a road trip or just don’t want to forget any road trip must haves?  I’ve got you covered with the ultimate road trip packing list with a checklist of everything you’ll need.  This checklist is perfect for any road trip – whether doing a short day trip or a long cross country road trip.

My road trip essentials list includes everything you need for you and your vehicle as well as fun things to bring on a road trip. For anyone traveling with kids and/or pets, I have also included family and pet road trip essentials to keep them healthy and happy.

The Ultimate Road Trip Checklist

What to Pack for a Road Trip Checklist including Essentials Not to Forget

Road trip essential items that should always be in your car

  • Driver’s license, registration and insurance information
  • Pen and paper
  • Sunglasses for everyone
  • Cash and coins (for tolls, parking meters or places that don’t accept credit cards)
  • Map  (I always like to bring a paper map just in case as a backup to GPS or my phone dies and I can’t access navigation apps)
  • Smartphone (loaded with road trip apps like Google Maps)
  • Kleenex
  • Nail clippers & tweezers
  • Pocket knife
  • Duct tape

Car care

  • Extra set of car keys!
  • Emergency road side assistance kit – this one by AAA is more affordable or splurge on this one
  • Jumper cables, flashlight, scissors or seat belt cutting tool if not part of your emergency kit
  • Spare tire
  • Tire chains, ice scraper and snow shovel if traveling somewhere cold
  • Extra gas in a can (just in case you run out of gas)


Health and safety

  • Bug spray ( I like this one because it is pocket sized)
  • Sunscreen (make sure to keep sunscreen in the car so that you can reapply)
  • First aid kit  (band aids, pain reliever, allergy medicine, anti-nausea medicine, antacid tablets, cotton balls, q-tips)
  • Antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer
  • Essential medication and prescriptions

Personal care essentials

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste and floss
  • Lip balm, lotion and other toiletries
  • Scarf and extra sweater or fleece (to keep warm if the A/C is too chilly)
  • Body wipes for when you are not feeling fresh

Food and drink:

  • Cooler
  • Lots of water! – Keep some water both in the trunk and inside the car
  • Insulated water bottle (to keep your drinks cool and to fill up at water fountains)
  • Travel mug
  • Food and snacks – Stock up on non-perishable snacks (granola bars, fruit, turkey jerky, nuts, dry cereal, popcorn, crackers,  trail mix) but you can keep some food in the cooler as well.


Other recommended items to keep in the car

  • Car seat back organizer – This one has an insulated main compartment and this is a good one for kids
  • Day pack (tote or small backpack)  – Handy for exploring your destination but also to keep inside the car with your personal items
  • Blankets for keeping warm
  • Umbrella
  • Pillows
  • Towels – Can be used as a seat cover, picnic blanket, to cleanup spills or dry off in an unexpected downpour.
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper in case you run into bathrooms without any!
  • Plastic and trash bags
  • Camera – Make sure to keep a camera in the car.  Also consider a GoPro for videos or instax camera
  • Binoculars
  • Window shades

Family road trip checklist – if traveling with kids

  • Baby wipes
  • Tablets loaded with movies & educational games
  • Headphones for each kid (my niece loves these headphones)
  • Notebooks and colored pencils
  • Change of clothes for younger children – keep in the car so they are easily accessible in case of spills or illness
  • Extra formula/baby food/diapers for infants
  • Flip flops
  • Favorite toy or stuffed animal
  • A bucket for garbage or emergency car sickness

Pet road trip essentials – if bringing your pet along

  • Leash, collar, tags
  • Pet food and bowls
  • Vaccination records and medication
  • Toys
  • Bed or crate for the hotel room

What is on your roadtrip checklist?
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Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

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  1. This list is a great resource! I take frequent road trips and I always carry a paper map as well. I learned my lesson on a cross country trip and we ran into several areas where our GPS lost satellite service. Crazy. I know. But now I carry an atlas in my minivan everywhere I go.

  2. Always find packing lists very useful. I try to get as light as I can whenever I pack and am always receptive to good packing tips.

  3. Before each trip, I think it is very important for us to plan our safe and comfortable road trip especially preparing car for our trip such as checking basic car features, making sure the tires are in good shape, packing first aid kit, tool-box and emergency numbers.

  4. You’ve got some good tips there. I can pack really fast myself because I travel a lot. I just grab things and put them in my suitcase. I leave my ziplock bag ready so I can just grab that and it has everything in it I need.

  5. Great list! I was searching for my first road trip information and find this article. You have gathered almost all things!

  6. I will be going on a road trip this weekend this article is perfect right now. Thank you.

  7. Wow, so much essential road trip. This list is so marvellous and true. Full of grace and love.Thanks for sharing such a valuable post and Keep Posting!

  8. Thanks for sharing so much information. Ideas like these are so useful for a travel freak like me. Looking forward to going for a road trip soon! 🙂

  9. A complete A to Z list.
    nothing is left which can be useful and which is essential for any road trip.
    thanks for sharing such article. Cheers..!!!

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