49 Essentials for a Road Trip Packing List + Free Checklist

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Whether you are road tripping across the country or just a few hours from home, it’s important to include these top essentials on your road trip packing list to be prepared, stay safe, and of course, have fun! I’ve learned a lot over the years after some pretty great road trips around the USA, Scotland, and Australia.

As a solo female traveler, I used to think road trips were dangerous, but after I went on a few of my own, I realized those fears were all in my head. Stopping whenever and wherever you want, not having to perfectly pack and repack a suitcase, more room to stretch your legs, and the ability to travel to those unique “off the beaten trail” destinations are a few reasons why road trips are my favorite way to travel!

In this post, I’m sharing all my favorite road trip essentials, from car safety gear to entertainment and comfort items that are important to making the most out of any road trip.

If car camping is something you are interested in, check out these car-camping road trip articles. I went on a US cross-country car-camping road trip in 2021 and had a phenomenal experience. Car camping is a great way to see the country and save a TON of money!

Road Trip Tips

  • Always keep the gas tank at least 1/2 full.
  • Plan your route ahead of time and have an idea of where you are going, what stops are possible, and a general idea of how to get there.
  • Don’t have a strict plan/itinerary. The best thing about a road trip is the flexibility of stopping anywhere that looks appealing at a moment’s notice. Don’t limit yourself to only pre-planned adventures.
  • Download offline maps over WiFi before you leave
  • Have a paper map as a backup
  • Talk to locals to get info on hidden gems that most travel guides don’t know about.
  • Bring snacks and plenty of water
  • Know car care basics such as how to check engine oil levels, measure tire pressure, jumpstart a car and how to change a tire.

Car Care Travel Essentials

Whether renting a car or driving your own, insurance, a safety plan, and emergency essentials should be on top of your road trip packing list. Use these items to maintain the car and keep it clean and have peace of mind.

  1. Car insurance
  2. Driver’s license
  3. Rental Agreement (if renting)
  4. AAA or some kind of roadside assistance
  5. Car manual
  6. Spare tire + flat tire change kit
  7. Jumper cables
  8. Tire Pressure Gauge
  9. Quarters (in case you need to blow a tire up or use a vacuum at a gas station)
  10. Trash Bag
  11. Hand Towels
  12. Emergency car kit this car emergency kit contains Battery Booster Cables, 2 Light Sticks, Reflective Vest, Emergency Rain Poncho, Warning triangle, whistle, Tire Pressure Gauge, Window Breaker etc. This all in one kit has you covered for any possible eventuality.

Road Trip Accessories

All of these items will make your drive smoother and get you where you need to go safely. Make sure to download your maps before you are out of WiFi range. Some apps like Here We go and Maps.me offer offline maps, but I find Google Maps the most convenient, reliable, and easy to use (as long as you remember to download offline maps before you are out of WiFi range)

  1. Paper maps/directions
  2. Offline Maps
  3. Cash or coin for tolls
  4. Flashlight/headlight
  5. Extra batteries
  6. Hands-free phone mount
  7. Portable battery charger
  8. Car chargers for electronics
  9. Reusable shopping bags


I usually take the scenic route and stop every few hours to avoid boredom, but playlists and podcasts are my go-to for long stretches of road. I love a mix of Yacht rock, Tropical house, and upbeat pop to get me moving. Kygo, Jonas brothers (Happiness Begins album), Fleetwood Mac, and the Eagles are some of my all-time favorite car riding tunes.

If you are going somewhere remote, a portable wifi device is an awesome accessory. I used one in Iceland, and it was a lifesaver. Also, don’t forget a camera or two to document your trip and remember it for years to come.

  1. Playlist
  2. Podcasts
  3. Wifi Hot Spot – Solis
  4. Digital Camera- Sony A6100, is a great beginner camera that’s lightweight, easy to use, and takes very nice photos.
  5. Water proof action camera- GoPro
  6. Additional recording devices, (phone or drone)

Personal Care Essentials

Some of these road trip packing list items are “just in case”. You might not use them every day, but when you need them, you will be glad to have them!

  1. Glasses or contact lenses
  2. Disinfectant wet wipes
  3. Reusable water bottle
  4. Travel Mug
  5. Snacks/Food
  6. Cooler
  7. Immunity tablets
  8. Medication/Motion Sickness Pills
  9. 1st aid kit
  10. Deodarent/Body Wipes
  11. Chapstick
  12. Bug spray
  13. Sunscreen
  14. Toilet paper
  15. Additional Toiletries (tooth brush, toothpaste, comb, lotions, face wash ect.)

Comfort Car Riding Essentials

Most of these items are great for napping in your car or staying cozy if you are riding shotgun.

  1. Pillow
  2. Blanket
  3. Sunshade
  4. Eye mask + ear plugs
  5. Rain Poncho
  6. Flip Flops or slip on sandals (for quick stops and showering in public showers)


That may seem like a long list, but most items pack small. Don’t forget your luggage with clothing, swimsuits, toiletries, shoes, etc. If you are interested in car camping this post shares all the must-have items I bring on my car-camping road trips.

I hope you found this list helpful and enjoy road tripping as much as I do. Below is a link for a printable road trip essentials checklist. I always use one of these when I am packing to ensure I do not forget a thing.

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Sam wearing backpack and hat walking through town.

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  1. I’m enjoying your blog so much, Sam. I’m thinking of living in my car as a tiny house and just traveling, and your posts are perfectly informative, accessible and insightful. Thank you. Happy travels,

    1. This makes me so happy! I am so glad you found my site helpful. I’ve been doing a lot of living out of my car on and off for 3 years now. It gets exhausting but nothing beats the freedom I feel while on the road or the ability to wake up in nature and watch a sunrise without having to get up extra early to drive somewhere to see it. Best wishes for your future travels! Please let me know if I can answer any specific questions you may have.

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