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Ultimate List of Road Trip Essentials

Let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good road trip?  I mean, there is just something about hitting the open road and exploring the countryside!

I know that we have taken our fair amount of road trips over the year, and I must admit that I have packed incorrectly several times.  With that in mind, I decided to create this list of the ultimate road trip essentials so that you don’t have to make the same mistake that I have. LOL!

Honestly, this road trip packing list will help to ensure that you have all of the items that you need to make your road trip the greatest experience ever! It doesn’t matter if you are road tripping on a long road trip, like to Yellowstone National Park or one of the many glamping sites in Texas, this list will come in handy for you!

Of course, if you are traveling with kids, you want to be sure that you have plenty of road trip activities for kids also. We all know what a difference that can make!

Don’t head out on your next epic road trip without ensuring you have everything you need for the open road!

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Ultimate Road Trip Essentials List: Your Road Trip Packing List

Taking a road trip is almost like a right of passage. I mean, I remember when we used to hit the road with our entire family on our way to Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park when I was a kid. We definitely weren’t taking any trips around the world, but that was ok. We created such great memories anyway!

I remember for our family road trips that my dad would map out our entire route and even know exactly what gas stations and rest stops that we would stop at. The car ride was often full of junk food, fun car games, a rest stop or two, and lots of sleeping.

Along the way, we would often stop at quirky roadside attractions and play silly road trip games. These definitely helped to break up the long road trip stretches that were nothing but fields.

We definitely didn’t use any type of packing lists to help us. I do often wonder if we had what would have been on them. LOL!

I imagine if we did have a list of items for our road trip, my dad would have completely approved of this one!

Of course, Marty and I have set out on many road trips also, and we have made the mistake of not bringing all of the necessary items with us. We used to be especially guilty of this on Texas road trips. I think in our minds, we know Texas so well that we could be less prepared. Boy, were we wrong!

Don’t make the same mistakes that we have made, be sure that you have all of your road trip essentials in order to stay safe on the road and have an incredible journey!

road lined with pine trees and a rainbow in the distance

Essential Road Trip Items for Your Car-Don’t Leave Home Without Them

Vehicle Insurance Card

Make sure to bring a copy of your car insurance any and every time you hit the road, and especially on a road trip.

Driver’s License and Vehicle Registration

Having your current driver’s license and registration is a must while traveling.  Always have this road trip essential handy!

If you are planning a road trip while traveling abroad, always be sure that you check the requirements for international drivers. Some countries will allow you to have your license from your home country, but some will also require that you obtain an international driver’s license. Always check local requirements.

Your vehicle registration is just as important as your driver’s license. This document serves to prove that you are the rightful owner of the vehicle should suspicion ever arise.

Of course, if you are renting a car, then you want to keep a copy of your rental agreement to serve in this capacity also.

Your Car Manual Electronic and in Print

I know, you will probably never need this, but it never hurts to have your car manual handy just in case. Your car manual is a great resource for troubleshooting simple problems that may arise during your road trip.

Roadside Assistance Information

Don’t forget to grab your policy information and phone numbers associated with your roadside assistance program.

A Good Car Dash Camera

road with route 66 painted on it and sunset in the distance

dash camera has to be should definitely be one of the items to bring while road tripping.  They are so useful to document the occurrences if an accident were to occur.  Many times our dash camera has verified our story and kept us from having to fight with insurance companies, making them well worth the extra cost.

Find Your Perfect Dash Camera Here

Trunk Organizer

A good trunk organizer can be such a great addition to your road trip packing list.  There are even trunk organizers with built-in coolers which makes this even a bigger space saver.

Trunk organizers make easy access to the items that you need the most. Making them easy to find when you stop for a quick break at the gas station.

When thinking about what to put in your trunk organizer, consider the items that you will need quick access to the most. We tend to put our favorite snacks and, of course, our first aid and roadside assistance kit in the trunk organizer also.

Roadside Emergency Kit

roadside emergency kit should definitely be on your road trip packing list.  Make sure the roadside emergency kit that you choose includes jumper cables and various tools that you might need to do minor car repair if needed.

If you are going to be on a road trip during the cold months, be sure to include road trip essentials that will ensure you stay warm and safe in inclement weather. These items could include hand warmers, feet warmers, an ice scraper, thermal blankets, and more.

Find Your Roadside Emergency Kit Here

Paper Map For Your Travels

road trip essentials

These days, we don’t depend very much on paper maps any longer. Having a paper map for your route is important though.

If something were to happen to your technology or if you were to find yourself without internet, your GPS might not be available. Having a paper map ensures that you don’t lose your route!

First Aid Kit is One of Your Road Trip Necessities

If your emergency roadside kit does not include a first aid kit, then be sure to purchase one to keep in your car. First aid kits come in handy to treat minor scrapes, aches and pains, and more. Minimally, a kit should include:

  • Tylenol or some other type of pain reliever
  • Burn spray
  • Bandages including band aids, and non-stick pads to cover wounds
  • Antibiotic cream to treat minor cuts and wounds
  • Pepto Bismol or something similar for upset stomach
  • Benadryl to treat minor allergic reactions

Spare Tire or Run Flat Tires

If your car has fun flat tires like ours, then this isn’t a necessity.  If you don’t have run-flat tires, then be sure that you have a spare tire and that it is in good shape.  Not only that but be sure that you have a jack and know how to use it.

A flat tire can ruin your road trip so quickly but a spare tire will save it, so be sure it is on your road trip packing list!

Check and Change Your Fluids

Be sure and have your vehicle serviced and check all of your fluids before starting your road trip. I know this isn’t really an item, but it should be part of your road trip essentials list.

Ensure that your car has fresh oil and a recent oil change as well. This helps to ensure that your fluids are fresh and help to maintain the life of your car.

Oil isn’t the only fluid that is important though. You should also ensure that you have proper coolants and that your reserve tank for your wiper fluids is full and ready to go also.

road with stream going over it

Extra Set of Car and House Keys

Trust us on this one, grab an extra set of car keys, and keep them in a separate place from the first set.  Ideally, in something that you will get out of the car with every time, like your purse or in your pocket.  You never know! It might save you if you lock your keys in the car at one of the gas stations.

Flashlight or Headlamp

A good flashlight is definitely necessary to bring along on your road trip.  You never know when you might need it, so it is better to have it than to not!

Of course, another great hands-free alternative is to get a headlamp instead.

Travel Pillow and Blanket

3 plaid blankets

If you are doing a road trip, then you might as well be comfortable, right?  That is why you need to think about bringing along a good travel pillow and blanket with you as well.

A blanket can serve more purpose than just ensuring that you are nice and cozy for your trip. If you find yourself stranded in the cold, a blanket might be just the thing that helps to save your life as well. Don’t skip this important essential item!

Sleeping Bags

Having a sleeping bag in your car is always a good idea also. You never know when you might need one along the way.

Handsfree Phone Mount

Let’s face it, we all rely on our phones to help us with navigation, especially on a road trip.  That is why a handsfree phone mount is one of our must-haves for a road trip.

road trip packing list

Sanitary Wipes and Spray

You never know when you might need some sanitary wipes and spray.  It is much better to have them on hand….just in case!

UV Window Shade

Protecting your car from the sun is so important. Not only that, but a good UV Window Shade helps to add a touch of privacy in case you need it. This is one of the great items on your road trip essentials list.

Small Cooler With Reusable Cooler Packs

small cooler is a great addition to your packing list for a road trip.  Using it to pack up some drinks and healthy snacks is not only convenient but can also save you some money on the road.

Snacks (Healthy and Fun Treats)

snack tray with apple slices, cheese cubes, and pretzel twists

Is it even a road trip if you don’t have a variety of fun snack foods? I don’t think so! Your snacks don’t have to be unhealthy though. Thanks to the small cooler we mentioned above, you can customize your road trip snacks to fit any type of diet you choose!

We also recommend bringing some large gallons or refillable thermoses of water to use. This helps prevent plastic waste and is cheaper than buying individual bottles of water!

You have to have your favorite snack with you on a road trip.  This is half of the fun!  Some of our favorites to include on our road trip packing list include:

  • Nuts
  • Granola Bars
  • String Cheese
  • Pretzels
  • Sandwiches
  • Twizzlers
  • Peanut Butter
  • Crackers
  • Dried Fruit

Collapsible Travel Trash Can

Don’t let your car get trashy while on the road, and whatever you do, DON’T THROW YOUR TRASH OUT THE WINDOW!  That’s why you need this nifty collapsible trash can. This will ensure that you keep your car and your world clean!

Tech and Entertainment Trip Essentials For Road Trip

Road tripping is so much better when you have some entertainment at your fingertips. This especially holds true if you are traveling with children.

Ensuring that everyone has the technology items that they need can not only help to pass everyone’s time but will also help to ensure peace is kept during the long road trips!

In our opinion, tech gadgets are definitely road trip essentials! We love recording and capturing the journey so we always make sure that we have our cameras and that everything is fully charged.

Of course, downloading some of your favorite songs and some great movies is always advised also. These have saved us many times when we have found ourselves in an area without internet or wifi. We are also always traveling with our headphones. There is nothing worse than being forced to listen to someone else’s music or videos when you don’t want to!

cup of coffee and someone holding an iphone

Phone and Phone Charger

Of course, this one probably goes without saying as most of us don’t go anywhere without our phones.  With that in mind, just be sure you don’t leave it or your phone charger sitting on the dresser at home (not that I’m speaking from experience).

Headphones or Earpods

Headphones are another road trip must have.  Not only can they give you some peace in the car, but they also will allow you to watch a movie without bothering the driver.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

We use a VPN all the time, but especially when traveling.

A VPN will help to protect your sensitive information when using Wi-Fi.  Not only that, but it will also allow you to access websites and watch tv shows that might be blocked in foreign countries.

Kindle or Electronic Book Reader

stack of book with e reader propped up on them

A good book is a great way to pass the time on the road or to wind down within in the evening.  The easiest way to accomplish bringing a book with you is to download your favorites to a Kindle.

Find Your Kindle Here

Camera On Your Phone or Otherwise

camera on a tripod taking a picture of a river

A good camera makes tons of difference in the quality of photos that you will achieve while on your road trip.  We personally love Canon products and highly recommend them.  We love Canon so much that we have 3 of them. LOL!

Find Your Perfect Canon Camera Here

iPad or Other Type of Tablet or Computer

We always download our favorite movies and tv shows to our iPad before traveling.

Portable Charger/Power Bank

You never know when you are going to be without a plug.  That is what makes a portable charger a road trip essential for sure! Having a portable power bank has come in so useful for us so many times!

If your car has built-in USB ports, then be sure to keep these items changed while driving. If it doesn’t, then consider buying adapters so that you do have USB ports.

Your Favorite Playlist

Downloading your favorite playlist is one of the must-haves for road trips.  If you need inspiration, we have a list of 125 songs about travel!

Downloadable Maps

Download maps to your phone just in case you find yourself in an area without cell service.  Of course, you can also rely on paper maps if you choose to do so.

We download most of our maps from either Google Maps or use the Maps.me app.

JOBY Tightgrip Tripod

If you don’t have a JOBY Tightgirp tripod, then drop everything and get yourself one!  We love this little thing so much and use it all the time.  The JOBY tripod is awesome for cell phones or DSLR camera.

Trust us, this should be not only one of your road trip essentials but one of your overall travel essentials!

Find Your JOBY Tripod Here

Packing and Personal Items Road Trip Necessities

road trip essentials

Now, I know that this section of the post is very specific, depending on your particular needs. However, there are many items that are easy to overlook, so feel free to tweak these items to fit your needs.

Marty was a Boy Scout when he was younger, so he is always prepared. There are sometimes that we probably have too much stuff, especially when we are on a road trip. He always wants to ensure that we have what we need and are completely prepared.

You do want to be sure that you have the appropriate clothing for the weather at your desired destination for sure. You also want to be sure that you can keep everyone comfortable and cozy for the journey itself also.

The Perfect Day pack or Backpack

girl wearing backpack with back to camera and trees in the background

Your packing list for a road trip should definitely include a good day pack.   Day packs can be used to throw a few clothes in when you stop at a hotel for the night, or to throw snacks and drinks in while you are doing a hike or excursion.

While you can find all sorts of day packs on Amazon, we especially love the Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack.  The Osprey comes in a variety of colors and is the perfect size for your needs, a great addition to your road trip essentials.

Not only that, but you can use it on this road trip and your next road trip!

Reusable Water Bottle To Bring on the Road

A good water bottle is essential, but only if you use it, so refill it often while on the road!  These Hydroflex water bottles are well insulated, have a slip-proof powder coating, and are sweatproof. They truly are worth the investment.

Cash and Your Debit Card

It is always a good idea to have some cash on hand just in case.  You never know when you might pass a cash-only toll or need some change for an old-fashioned parking meter.

Hat and Sunglasses For Road Tripping

hat and sunglasses by the water

Be sure and protect yourself from the sun.  Don’t forget a hat and your sunglasses!

Packing Cubes

One of our tips for traveling with only a backpack is to use a great set of packing cubes.  Packing cubes help to keep your stuff neatly organized.

Toiletries and Personal Items

Of course, you don’t want to forget any of your toiletries either.  For this, think of the following:

  • Your Personal Medications
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Razor
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Makeup
  • Personal Skincare
  • Body Wash
  • Wet Wipes (wet wipes are good for so many things!)
  • Dry Shampoo
  • Hair Ties
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Duct Tape (duct tape is great for reparing so many things!)
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Bug Spray
  • Comb/Brush
  • Hair products
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers/nail file
  • Toilet Paper
  • Feminine Products
  • First-Aid Kit (if you don’t have one in your car emergency pack)

Clothing and Shoes For Your Road Trip

open suitcase with clothes in it and a hat beside it

Of course, you don’t want to forget the appropriate clothing and shoes needed for your road trip. 

We have recently been introduced to Tropicfeel shoes. After reading a review about Tropicfeel shoes, I think that I will definitely be adding these shoes to my travel essentials.

In addition to your clothes and shoes, some other things you might especially want to consider remembering for your next road trip could include:

  • Prescription Glasses
  • Flip flops (flip flops can in handy for so many reasons, including a quick run into the gas station)
  • Swimsuit
  • Swimsuit Cover Up
  • Sleepwear
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Comfortable clothes for the car
  • Rain Jacket
  • Jacket
  • Coat (if traveling during cold months)
  • Hiking boots/shoes
  • A scarf

Other Things to Bring on a Road Trip

things to bring on a road trip

Windproof Umbrella

A good umbrella is always nice to have on hand, but especially during a road trip.  Consider getting a windproof travel umbrella if you don’t already have one.

Travel Journal or Travel Diary

Document your fun road trip in a great travel journal.

Travel Insurance for Your Entire Trip

You should definitely consider travel insurance for your trip as well. While your car insurance will cover any damages to your vehicle, a travel insurance policy will help to cover costs associated with your trip if it were to get delayed or canceled for any reason. Many policies also cover lost or stolen items and more!

If you have a good insurance policy, then there is no need to file on your personal car insurance if you are in an accident. Instead, your travel insurance will take care of the damages.

If you are traveling abroad, this insurance is even more important as it will cover your medical expenses as well. Most health insurance does not cover you out of your home country.

Final Thoughts on Our Road Trip Essentials

Well, there you have it, our list of road trip essentials.  Of course, every person has different plans for their road trip, so be sure and consider what else you might need in order to have a fabulous vacation! Don’t set out on your next road trip without everything that you need.

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Michelle Snell-Founder That Texas Couple

About the Author

Michelle Snell is a travel writer, history buff, wine lover, and enthusiast of different cultures. Michelle enjoys bringing places to life through creative content creation and her informative writing style on her blogs, That Texas Couple and Totally Texas Travel and accompanying social media accounts.  She is happiest sipping wine in Italy or chilling on a beach with her husband, Marty.

Richa

Monday 16th of August 2021

This is a great list, although we typically make a mental checklist but still miss a few items. I love the idea of having a trunk organizer for long road trips!

thattexascouple

Thursday 19th of August 2021

Thank you, Richa. I used to make "mental" lists also but had to resort to physical ones when I kept missing things. LOL!

Anja

Saturday 8th of May 2021

Wow! That's quite a list! We sometimes hire a car at our destination but fly there with hand luggage. So our first stop is usually a supermarket to get one or two reusable bags, the biggest bottles of water and a bottle of inexpensive Cologne for hand sanitizing as well as some dry snacks and some fruit, and when we leave, we use these bags to carry home our souvenirs :-)

thattexascouple

Sunday 9th of May 2021

That's a great idea! I love it!

Amanda

Monday 18th of January 2021

Such a good, comprehensive list! I'll have to add a few of these to my own road trip list. Great stuff!

thattexascouple

Tuesday 19th of January 2021

Thanks so much, Amanda!! Safe travels!

Pubali

Sunday 17th of January 2021

A comprehensive list of road trip essentials - just what one needs to travel in 2021 :-), as a vast majority of people will prefer to do road trips to taking public transports.

thattexascouple

Sunday 17th of January 2021

You are so right, that is why we decided to make it :)

Renata - bye:myself

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

Wow, your list is so complete - it actually reminds me of those lists we used to get for field trips when I was a child :-D I used to make lists but now I'm so in the groove that I hardly ever forget anything essential at home. And if I do, I simply buy it on the road.