The promise of a road trip always has me eager to get going. All those new experiences, beautiful places and unexpected happenings make road tripping one of my favourite things. The packing? That’s less enticing, as it demands a bit of thought beforehand. Don’t be scared by the 75 items. I promise you there will still be room for you and yours! So here’s my ultimate road trip packing list, broken down into sections so you can skip any you don’t need. Let’s get the show on the road.
Essentials for the Vehicle
- Your keys, and a spare set
- Your licence, insurance, registration and any other documents for the road if you are driving across borders
- Any regulation items you need for countries whose borders you are crossing (even if they aren’t required at home) like a safety triangle
- The number of, and membership number for, your breakdown assistance.
- Cash including coins, for tolls and parking
- Basic maintenance items, and weather gear such as deicing kit or scraper if needed
Essentials for you
- ID document or passport if needed
- Travel insurance details
- Glasses or contact lenses and spares
- Prescription medications and a copy of your prescription can be handy too.
Finding Your Way
- Waypoints for your satnav
- Any apps that you use for mapping or GPS
- A paper map, for when technology fails, or you just want to see the bigger picture. Trust me – there are times when it’s really helpful.
- Notes of the places you want to see en route, whether you keep them on a Pinterest board, in an app or as scribbles in a notebook
- Any reservations you’ve made for accommodation, including addresses for your satnav
- If you’re wedded to a particular experience, a note of opening days and times. It’s frustrating to arrive somewhere and find it doesn’t open on Mondays.
Road Trip Memories: Cotton fields in the Mississippi Delta
- A small first aid kit: plasters, antiseptic, bandages, little scissors, and some basic medications
- A small bag or bin for rubbish
- Climate necessities, whether a snow shovel or bug spray and face cooling spray
- Cables to charge your phone and any other tech
- A powerbank for an extra charge or two
- Your playlists. Trust me, music will be forever associated with the memories of a trip, so choose your soundtrack, and choose wisely
- Books, magazines or e-readers. There will always be times when you are hanging around, and you might as well spend that time enjoyably
- Binoculars. Great to investigate the road ahead, and what’s making that noise in the woods.
- A plug bar and travel plug adaptor if needed for overnight stops. It’s good to be able to charge all the tech in one go.
- Wet wipes. Always a great way to feel human again when on the road.
- Hand sanitiser/antibac. Sometimes there’s nowhere to wash when you really need to.
- Body lotion. Another fine way to feel fresh after a day’s miles.
- Toothbrush and paste. And lip balm.
- Deodorant and body spray. Nothing too overpowering unless you want your companions to suggest you ride on the roof.
- Loo roll. Just in case.
Road Trip Memories: Companions on the road, Lancashire, England
Food and Drink: Picnic Essentials
- A cooler, and some cool blocks to start you off. Later on the road you may want to add ice. There are some very large coolers used by aircrew that will take up to three days food on the road if that’s needed.
- Plastic bags
- Paper towels
- Reusable cutlery and plates for eating on the road
- Water bottles and travel mugs
- Fold up chairs or a groundsheet and towel. Not essentials so much as useful options for a roadside chill. Don’t underestimate the attraction of sitting in a different seat for a while…
Food And Drink: The Good Stuff
- Any food items to help you manage allergies or intolerances, depending on how easy it is to find supplies on the road. I bring gluten and dairy free essentials.
- If you’re trying to be economical, then some shelf-stable food can be heated in the microwave at your destinations each night. I’m thinking pouches of chili, dhal, curries and rice, all of which can be supplemented by fresh food. Depending where you’re road tripping, you could always bring a camping stove and pans for a roadside meal.
- Water to fill your bottles, and a few cold drinks for the cooler
- Snacks for the road. I like granola or fruit and nut bars (Nakd and Kind bars), nuts, fresh and dried fruit, crackers, trail mix, olives.
- Start off with some chilled items in the cooler bag, and replenish it, and the ice, when you reach new supplies. If you’ve got some salad ingredients and fruit, that goes a long way to keeping healthy on a road trip. Try radishes, celery, strips of pepper and anything with a crunch.
- If you’re heading anywhere isolated and extreme – like Death Valley or the Outback for example – seek some guidance and make sure you have what is recommended. I’m thinking lots of extra water for starters.
- Pillow or cushion for back seat snuggling
- A small blanket or wrap for chilly moments
- Extra socks or a fan, in case your temperature likes don’t match up with your travel companions’ preferences
- Sunglasses. There’s nothing worse than squinting in the bright light. Plus it’s bad for your eyes.
- An extra warm layer and a scarf, plus rain gear and an umbrella.
The best thing about road tripping? Never knowing what’s round the next corner.
Documenting your travels
- Your camera. Plus chargers, connectors, memory cards, your tripod and any waterproof casing or harness.
- Any apps you want to use to send pictures on the way. I love those postcards you can create from your pics as you go.
- A travel journal and pens. Keep those memories alive from the road. It can also keep boredom at bay when waiting.
Packing your clothes
- Bring tried and tested comfortable clothes. Two tops to every bottom is a good ratio multiplied for the number of days you’re away.
- Packing cubes with 2-3 days outfits in each. Saves unpacking everything every night; that gets old fast.
- Closed toed shoes you can walk in. You never know when you’ll have a bit of a hike on the road less traveled.
- Extra undercrackers and socks
- Laundry bag, so it’s all together if you need to do laundry en route.
Useful Extras For Your Road Trip Packing List
- A daypack or tote bag to bring essentials with you when you go wandering
- A tote or trug for the car essentials, to make it easier to find things
road trip packing list – Traveling with Children
- Baby wipes and clean up kit
- A favourite stuffed companion
- Tablets loaded with things to do
- An immediately accessible change of clothes for very small ones
- Kid-friendly and travel-friendly snacks and drinks
- A bucket, bag or travel sickness remedies for emergencies
Road Trip Packing List – Traveling with pets
- A lead or leash
- Food, water and bowls
- Favourite toys
- A bed or crate for overnight stops
- Vaccination and health records and insurance details
- Any medications
- Clean up kit, including a towel for muddy paws
- A rug or bed for the car, and any travel harness
Essentials but Intangibles for your road trip packing list
- A sense of adventure. There are always new challenges and discoveries on the road, and some of them may be yours.
- A sense of humour. Being confined in a small space for hours can be uncomfortable, irritating and frustrating, no matter how fine the adventure. Think about how to create your own happy head space.
- A good choice of companion. Whether you’re traveling with me, myself and I, a partner, mates or family, think carefully about who joins you on the road.
- Excitement and anticipation. The trip’s what you make it.
More Travel Hacks
If you want to see more travel hacks, I’ve got my 50 hacks from 50 years on the road for you. We’ve also delved into the best ways to pack light for summer or winter. And funding that road trip? We’ve got you covered.
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