The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List

We love driving and that’s why we decided to create an ultimate road trip packing list. There’s nothing quite like the freedom and flexibility of the open road. On a road trip, you can enjoy the luxury of travelling at your own pace, stopping where and when you choose, without having to worry about train times or waiting at airports.

And since there’s no baggage limit or expensive fees, you can pack as much as you want. Well, not literally, but you can definitely afford to upgrade your travel toiletries. Sounds appealing, huh?

So, what should be on your road trip packing list before you get behind the wheel?

In this road trip packing guide, you’ll find a break down of everything you need for the ultimate road trip – from caring for your car and carrying the right documents, to beating boredom and staying comfortable on the road. So all that’s left to worry about is finding your ride or die travel companion.

But there’s a lot of ground to cover. So buckle up and let’s get started.

Documentation for you and your car

It’s not the most thrilling part of prepping for your road trip, but it’s possibly one of the most important. So, let’s start with the basics. Papers and documents are the most important part of having a sound road trip packing list.

  • Car manual. Hopefully, this item will remain in your glove box for the duration of your trip, BUT, it’s handy to have in case you run into any issues on the road.
  • Valid driver’s licence. This one is pretty obvious. However, some countries require an international driving permit (Bahrain, Brazil, Cape Verde, to name a few), which needs to be obtained before you travel, so do your research in advance. has heaps of information on driving abroad.
  • Car Insurance info. Boring but essential. In many countries, insurance is a mandatory requirement when renting a car unless you have proof that you have your own cover.
  • Travel Insurance. It’s always good to be covered if you travel to a foreign country. Travel Insurance is usually cheap but gives you peace of mind in case of an accident.
  • AAA membership. Not all countries offer this but they often have an alternative, and if not, make sure you jot down helpful phone numbers from the rental shop.

Road trip essentials for your car

Your car is about to carry you across the country so be sure to give it some well-deserved TLC before you leave home. If you’re hiring a rental, it’s still wise to check that your vehicle is prepared for any bumps in the road.

  • Spare tyre. Is your spare tyre in good shape? And do you know how to use it? The handymen out there will have already packed their jack and tyre iron
  • Fluids. Keep your car hydrated with water, wiper fluid, engine coolant and oil reserves.
  • Winter essentials. A de-icer, ice-scraper, snow shovel and snow chains will help keep your car on the road during wintery weather.

And if there is a bump in the road?

You’ve travelled this far, don’t let a roadside breakdown or a small accident sabotage your trip. Even if you’re travelling through busy, populated areas, you’ll want to be prepared for any roadside hiccups.

  • Roadside emergency kit. In case you do get stranded while waiting for roadside assistance, an emergency kit will come in handy. AAA suggests that a good emergency kit should include a basic tool kit (tyre pressure gauge, screwdriver, pliers etc.), a tow rope, flash light, tyre pump, jumper cables, warning devices, gloves, and other handy tools.
  • First aid kit. A first aid kit should be at the top of any packing list, especially when embarking on a road trip. The beauty of a road trip is that it allows you to get off the beaten path. That also means that a pharmacy might not be within reach should you need one.

Basic must-haves for a road trip

Now we’ve considered car care, let’s look at the little items that can make a big difference to the success of your road trip. Being out on the open road is exhilarating, but it can be less than a perfect trip if you’re not prepared. To ensure you have the absolute best road trip ever, be sure to pack these basic must-haves. Here’s what’s never missing from our road trip packing list.

  • Maps. Smartphone apps like Google Maps and Google Street View are great, but what happens when your phone dies or you’re out of WiFi range? Don’t leave your fate in the hands of your smartphone. Purchase an “old school” map, too.
  • Portable power bank. You know the drill: every passenger wants to use the car’s USB port to play music while the designated navigator – AKA, you – has a dying phone. A long-life power bank will keep your devices charged while you’re on the road.
  • Phone charger and USB cord. You’ll need these to feed your trusty power bank.
  • Bin bags. It’s so easy to accumulate rubbish in your car – tissues, food wrappers, coffee cups… Add to this warm weather and you’re travelling in a stinky wheelie bin. Keep your car clean and tidy with a stash of biodegradable bin bags or an in-car rubbish bin.
  • Umbrella. I’m one of those pessimistic Brits who carries a brolly EVERYWHERE, regardless of the weather. But seriously, no one wants to travel in wet clothes or have the hassle of drying them on the road.
  • Wet wipes. For the sticky-fingered snackers or the days when you just can’t grab a shower get a pack of biodegradable wet wipes.
  • Toilet paper. The road is full of surprises, including un-stocked restrooms!
  • Loose change. Because cash is king when it comes to tolls, parking metres and snack-stops that are miles from civilisation.
  • Water. It might seem easier to throw a few water bottles in your cooler to keep everyone hydrated, but packing a reusable water bottle will save you money, and your conscious. Refill your bottle at petrol stations and restaurants for free!
  • A spare car key. It might sound like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at how many travellers fail to bring a spare key (guilty!)

Food and drinks for the road

If you’re a foodie like me, your biggest concern about a road trip is probably how you’re going to eat on the road. It’s true, healthy habits and tasty food often die on the road. But with smart planning and the right equipment, you can avoid the junk food trap of fast food joints and petrol stations.

First, you need to decide how you plan to store and cook your food. Depending on the type, and length, of road trip you’re taking, you’ll more than likely need a few of these storage and cooking essentials.

  • Small Cooler. Perfect for keeping your snacks and drinks cool throughout the day. Soft sided coolers are easily folded away and can often be carried as a backpack which makes packing up a picnic and heading out on a hike much easier. Just make sure yours is leakproof!
  • Large Cooler. Most of the larger coolers come with wheels so you can easily cart it to a campsite or the beach.
  • Thermos. Aside from keeping you dosed up on caffeine, a multi-purpose thermos is great for heating soups.
  • Portable grill. Ideal for campers, this culinary device is easy to set up and will ensure you eat like a king while on the road. Recommended: Coleman Gas Stove

Snacks for the Road

Next, you will need to source some snack-size items or individual packages that can be tossed into your cooler. Here’s a few ideas to get you started…

  • Breakfast bars
  • Fresh fruit & nuts (grapes, berries, dried apricots, trail mix)
  • Peanut butter & crackers
  • Apple slices & nut butter
  • Guacamole & sliced peppers
  • Bagels & cream cheese
  • Hummus & carrot batons
  • Sandwiches or wraps
  • Pita pocket sandwiches
  • Mini cheeses
  • Vegetable chips
  • Coconut chips
  • Popcorn
  • Dark chocolate

Kitchen Essentials for the Road

Don’t forget the kitchen utensils and other essentials. Some of these are obvious but easy to forget items which can come very handy on a long road trip.

Entertainment for your road trip

You’ve snacked, slept and surveyed the scenery. What now? Beat boredom and keep the troops entertained on the road with these road trip entertainment essentials.

  • Road trip playlist. You could tune in to the radio, but the spotty service is a real vibe-killer. Create a kick-ass playlist that is guaranteed to keep the party going until your next stop. Who’s up for carpool karaoke?
  • Camera. Exploring at your own pace means ample photo opportunities and, without airline luggage restrictions, you can pack your fancy camera equipment.
  • Tablets. For miles of digital distractions, load your tablet with audiobooks, podcasts and TV shows.
  • Headphones. With all that digital noise, you’ll need a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Short on devices? Purchase a simple headphone splitter for around $10 and share your music or movie with another passenger.
  • Reading. Fully stock your kindle before you travel or dust off the book from your bedside table that you just haven’t found the time to finish.
  • Non-tech travel games. Throwback to a time when tablets and podcasts didn’t exist and you had to fill your road trip with the “the word game,” “the alphabet game,” and my childhood favourite, “I spy.”

The comfort kit for your road trip

It’s hard to feel the same comfort you feel at home when you’re travelling. And while it may not be practical to bring our candles, cosy slippers and coffee machine on the road with us, there are a few items that will make your summer road trip more comfortable for you and your travelling buddies.

  • Sunglasses. Get a good pair of sunglasses with UV protection. Your eyes will thank you.
  • Pillow. The gentle motion of a moving vehicle usually sends me to sleep within 15 minutes of being on the road. My memory foam travel pillow fits comfortably round my neck but is still firm enough to support it.
  • Blanket. Because where there’s a pillow, there should always be a cosy blanket.
  • Eye mask. For blocking out the harsh daylight during nap time.
  • Reusable Water bottle. Always keep a bottle of H2O handy.
  • Sun cream. What’s more uncomfortable than a stiff neck? Sunburn. Slather on sunscreen each morning before hitting the road to protect yourself from the sun and avoid one of those embarrassing “driver’s arms.”
  • Towel. Lightweight, compact and quick-drying, a travel towel is an absolute must-have road trip essential. You’ll be able to take a quick dip or lounge around, wherever the road takes you.

Road trips clothes

Those of us that have attempted to change our clothes roadside, while our partner protects our modesty with a beach towel, will know that it pays to pick a comfy, yet versatile travel outfit.

  • Comfy travel clothes. Leave your jeans at home and slip into a loose-fitting t-shirt and breathable leggings – because you’re in for a long ride. A lightweight dress is also a great one-and-done outfit, but save your expensive outfits for your destination where they can be worn wrinkle and crumb-free.
  • Shoes. Avoid impractical shoes in favor of comfy sneakers that are ready for anything and easy to drive in. Stow a pair of sandals within easy reach so you’re ready for spur-of-the-moment beach stops.
  • Sweater. Pack extra layers for when the A/C becomes too chilly.
  • Raincoat or poncho. And be prepared for whatever the weather might throw at you.
  • Swimwear. Because you never know when you’ll stumble across a hidden hot spring or gorgeous hotel pool.

Road trip packing tips

There’s an art to packing for a road trip. But choose the right type of luggage and you’re already halfway to mastering it.

  • Duffel bags and backpacks. The pliability of duffel bags and backpacks make them easy enough to squeeze into the boot of a car.
    Our recommendation: CAMTOP Weekend Travel Bag
  • Small Backpack. For all those outside excursions, you’ll need a reliable backpack that can hold the weight of your water bottle, snacks and any other day trip essentials.
    Our recommendation: Sunhiker Small Hiking Backpack
  • Packing Cubes. Whether I’m road trippin’ or resort based, packing cubes are my go-to travel accessory. Keep your backpack organised and make the most of the hidden spaces in your boot.
    Our recommendation: Gonex Compression packing cubes
  • Hanging toiletry bag. Compact and water-resistant, with a hook and multiple pouches – the hanging toiletry bag ticks a lot of boxes.
    Our recommendation: Large Hanging Toiletry Bag

Pack wisely. There’s nothing worse than having to stop 5 minutes into your journey to scramble for your sunnies that are buried at the bottom of your bag… the bag that’s buried at the bottom of the boot.

And to make your road trip easier

  • Download helpful Apps. Searching for the closet campsite? There’s an app for that. Stuck in a traffic jam? There’s an app for that, too. Google Maps, RoadTrippers, Waze, Around Me and TripAdvisors Offline City Guide can all make your road trip a little easier.

Happy road tripping!

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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


One response to “The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List”

  1. Anatolijus Avatar

    Will use these tips on my next holiday travel with my husband.

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