What to Pack for a Road Trip (+FREE Printable PDF Packing List)

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 FREE printable pdf 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
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Road trip essential items (that should always be in your car!)

  • Driver’s license, registration and insurance information
  • Pen and paper
  • Cash and coins (for tolls, parking meters or places that don’t accept credit cards)
  • Paper 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)
  • Cell phone car charger
  • Extra set of car keys in case you get locked out
  • Emergency road side assistance kit – this one by AAA is more affordable or splurge on this one
  • Jumper cables, flashlight, duct tape, scissors, pocket knife 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 in the winter
  • Extra gas in a can (just in case you run out of gas!)
  • Kleenex
  • Sunglasses for everyone
  • Blankets (for those that get cold from the AC or to keep warm if your car breaks down at night or in the winter)

Cheap Car Rentals

Food, drink and snacks for your road trip

  • 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 road trip snacks (granola bars, fruit, turkey jerky, nuts, dry cereal, popcorn, crackers, trail mix) but you can keep some food in the cooler as well.

Entertainment for road trips

Health, safety and personal care essentials

  • Face mask or other face covering to cover your nose and mouth when going inside a gas station, grocery store, convenience store or other indoor establishment
  • First aid kit (band aids, pain reliever, allergy medicine, anti-nausea medicine, antacid tablets, cotton balls, q-tips)
  • Antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen because you can get sun damage from UVA rays (make sure to keep sunscreen in the car so that you can reapply)
  • Disposable gloves for filling up at gas stations
  • Essential medication and prescriptions
  • 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)
  • Bug spray (I like this one because it is pocket sized)
  • Body wipes for when you are not feeling fresh

Other recommended items for your road trip packing list

  • Cell phone mount
  • Car seat back organizer – This one has an insulated main compartment and this is a good one for kids
  • 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
  • Nail clippers & tweezers
  • Reusable shopping bag for when you leave the car to buy snacks or souvenirs
  • Day pack (tote or small backpack) – Handy for exploring your destination but also to keep inside the car with your personal items
  • Camera – Make sure to keep a camera in the car. Also consider a GoPro for videos or instax camera
  • Binoculars
  • Sun shade to keep your car cool while exploring
  • Batteries for any devices you bring and external battery to recharge your electronics (this is one of my travel essential items for any trip!)

Family road trip checklist – if traveling with kids

  • Baby wipes
  • Tablet for each kid loaded with movies,books, educational apps and games (my nephew loves this kid friendly tablet)
  • Headphones for each kid (my niece loves these headphones)
  • Notebooks and colored pencils
  • Change of clothes for babies 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 toys or stuffed animals

Pet road trip essentials – if bringing your pet along

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

What is on your roadtrip checklist?

Click to download a pdf of my Road Trip Essentials List.
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road trip essentials packing list

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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. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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! 🙂

  6. Great list. We’re going on a road trip next month around California so it’s really useful. We need to start making our playlist and downloading a few audiobooks to keep us entertained on the journey.

  7. I should use this as my go-to list for my next road trip. This will help so much and prevent me from leaving my essentials.

    • Thanks that is a great idea. Will do it next time I revise the list.

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