Packing for road trip

Table of Contents

17 Top Road Trip Packing List Items + What NOT to Bring (2019)

Updated on April 23, 2019 by Asher Fergusson

Road tripping is a fun and adventurous way to not just get from Point A to Point B, but to see the hidden gems of the country. Although it comes with its challenges and inconveniences, taking a road trip is an experience you won’t soon forget. To help you get out there, here is my list of the 17 most important things to pack for your trip.

What to bring on a roadtrip:

1) Phone charger – This is probably the most important thing you can bring on a road trip, because without your phone, you won’t be able to make emergency calls, have your copilot book the AirBnb for the night, listen to music, or navigate your route. This one is highly rated on Amazon.

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2) Comfy driving clothes – You’re going to be spending a lot of time in the car, and nothing is worse than sitting in jeans for too long! Invest in some comfortable and stylish leggings or sweatpants. Here are the perfect road trip leggings.

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3) GPS App – Apps like Google Maps can help you find your way during your drive. The Maps.me app is particularly awesome because you can download maps for certain states/ regions so that if you lose service, it can still guide you using GPS. The Roadtrippers app is also a personal favorite of mine. You enter in your starting and ending locations and it will show you cool stuff along the way!

View here ➜

4) Snack organizer or cooler – It’s a really great idea to keep a cooler within arms reach from the driver’s seat. Everybody who’s done a road trip knows that your food options are limited to mainly fast food. With a supply of your own snacks, you’ll have easy access to cheaper and healthier options. This cooler is perfect for multi-day trips.

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5) Water bottle and Coffee To-Go Mug – Staying hydrated is always very important while traveling. With a reusable water bottle you can refill at gas stations and restaurants for free and save yourself some money. This bottle is my road-trip favorite since it has a removable splash-guard that makes it easy to fill, easy to drink from, and easy to clean!

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6) Apps for finding places to stay – If you’re like me, you might leave planning till the last minute. This means that you might be on the road without an exact place to stay booked for the night. Apps like airbnb, hipcamp, hostelworld, booking.com will solve that problem. While stopping for gas, whip out your phone, fire up one of these apps, and easily book a hotel, b&b or campsite for the night of.

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7) Trash receptacle – Trash can build up quickly on the road, and soon you won’t know where to put your empty snack containers, receipts, and complimentary park maps. These trash bags are leak-proof, and have a handy tear off strip so you can stick the bag wherever you want in your car.

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8) Trunk organizer – Keep your car and yourself organized on your drive by using a trunk organizer. This one clips in with bungee cords, and has heavy duty compartments. Perfect for organizing your toiletries, clothes, shoes, and anything else you need to bring along with you.

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9) Car mattress – You may want to save money by sleeping in your car (in legal, designates areas) instead of booking a hotel or Airbnb. This mattress is made for your backseat, and is perfect to use when car camping.

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10) Anti-wrinkle spray – Your clothes will definitely get wrinkled in your duffel bag or laundry basket (my personal favorite way to pack for the road). Bring some Downy Wrinkle Releaser to keep your clothes wrinkle-free and smelling like you haven’t been living out of your car for a week.

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11) Change of clothes – This one is self-explanatory. Stash some extra clothes in your duffel or trunk so that you can change later. Remember to bring pajamas, an emergency swimsuit, and extra underwear so that you don’t have to worry about doing laundry on the road.

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12) First aid kit – Make sure you keep a supply of all your daily vitamins, dayquil/ nyquil, melatonin, benadryl, allergy medicine and bandages. When you find yourself having a sneeze attack twenty miles from the nearest gas station, you’ll thank yourself! Keep this one in your car all the time.

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13) Water gallons – You should bring water gallons with you to refill your water bottle on the road, and in case of emergency breakdowns. Throw this one in your trunk for peace of mind – it’s refillable and collapsible when empty!

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14) An awesome driving playlist – Spotify has some great driving playlists. I also like to spend a few minutes the night before a road trip searching through the New Release section, downloading any albums that seem up my alley, then listen along the way. Podcasts are great too!

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15) Sunglasses – Sunglasses are super important during a roadtrip. You’re likely to be driving facing the sun at some point on your trip and even when you’re not, the sun can be bright anyway. Keep your eyes protected from UVA/UVB rays and from light fatigue with a great pair of rockin’ sunglasses.

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16) Cash – Always keep cash on you during a roadtrip. You never know when you’re going to run into some tolls or have to pay for street parking. Keep you cash and other valuables (Passport, ID, etc.) in this handy pouch and keep it in your center console.

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17) Emergency Car Kit – You should never take any long drive without a car emergency kit. You never know what can happen on the road, and things like jumper cables and an emergency hammer can really save you some trouble or even save your life if it comes down to it!

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Other packing list items for roadtrips:

Comfort is key on a long road trip. Sweatpants, leggings, tee shirts and sweatshirts are all good ideas – make sure you dress in layers so you can add or remove clothing as necessary to keep comfy. There’s always that one person who likes it a different temperature than everyone else, so layers will help you adjust accordingly. Make sure to bring sunglasses as well!

What NOT to take on a roadtrip:

1) Drugs (No brainer) – Needless to say, don’t bring anything illegal on a roadtrip. Lots of cops are roaming the highways!

2) Imported fruit – This one is weird, but if you bring bananas from Ecuador, for example, they’ll definitely get taken when crossing state lines or at checkpoints.

3) Snacks that need to be cut, cooked or prepared – Bring simple, easy-to-eat snacks like cheese sticks, granola bars and apple slices.

4) Carbonated beverages – They’ll get shaken up during the drive, and if you go up in altitude, they might burst.

5) Nice clothes or jewelry – No need to dress to impress on a road trip, so leave the nice clothes at home, unless they’re packed in your luggage, of course.

6) Bulky luggage – It’s easier to pack your clothing and toiletries in a trunk organizer or laundry basket, rather than hauling out a suitcase every time you need to swap clothes.

FAQs about packing for a roadtrip:

Almost any car can work for a road trip, as long as you get it checked out first! There are a few things to consider when choosing a car or deciding if the one you already own will work.

2) Where can I sleep?

Obviously, you can book a hotel or Airbnb pretty last minute, but if you are looking to save money on accommodation, you have a few free options: Rest stops, truck stops, and casinos. You can also park inside national forests and camp for free (as long as you camp at least 300 feet away from paved roads and waterways). You can also check out the Bureau of Land Management website and find out where you can camp almost anywhere for free. Surprisingly enough, you can even park at most Walmarts overnight.

3) How do I decide my destinations?

If you truly have no idea where you’d like to go, use websites like Roadtrippers to build your perfect trip starting in your hometown.

4) What do you eat?

Bring road snacks that are convenient and healthy. I like to bring along a lot of nuts, dried fruit, granola bars and apples, along with a cooler full of yogurt, salami, cheese and other easy foods! One nice thing about road tripping is that you can stop in at grocery stores frequently so you don’t have to stock up on anything.

5) How do you shower?

You can shower at hotels or B&Bs that you stay at, find a clean stream or river to wade in, or (worst case scenario) keep a stash of wet wipes ready!

6) How do you get internet?

Invest in a solid data plan (unlimited is obviously best) so that you can use your phone without wifi. Almost all cafes, hotels and even some gas stations have free wifi these days if you’re in a pinch.

7) How much does a road trip cost?

It obviously depends on the length of your trip and where you are going, but websites like Google Maps can look at the prices of gas in areas you’re passing through and calculate the estimated amount of money you’ll have to spend on gas. Add that number to your budget for nightly accommodation and food, and you’ll get a ballpark estimate of what you’re going to be spending.

8) Why take a road trip instead of fly?

Getting there is half the fun. If you’re traveling with a companion, you’ll get to know your copilot in a new way with all of the long on-the-road conversations, and bonding over new sights. If you’re traveling solo, you’ll likely learn a lot about yourself. At any rate, you’ll see areas and hidden gems of the country that you would never see through a plane window.

9) What’s the best time to take a road trip?

Obviously it’ll depend mostly on the destination and your starting point, but there are some things to think about regardless. Variables like seasons and weather will be entirely geographically determined, but other factors like things you want to see along the way, availability of campsites, cost of gas and food, and how much gear you’ll have to bring may fluctuate based on time of year. Be sure to check seasons and weather, and plan your route accordingly.

This weekend I had a great time celebrating my former college housemate’s wedding and catching up with college friends. The food, drinks, and camaraderie were refreshing.

You see I had no complaints at all once we arrived in Missouri. I loved it!

But I didn’t love the long road trip there and back. So during the 9-hour drive from Ohio to Missouri on Friday and then the 9 hours back on Sunday, I thought about everything I wish I had brought in the car.

And since you will likely take a few road trips this summer, I decided to turn my reflection into an article about things to bring on a road trip.

Because the problem is no one thinks about what to bring until it’s too late, including you and me. Let’s change that by learning from my mistakes this weekend so you’re prepared for your next road trip.

Below are the 33 things you must bring to do a lengthy car ride the right way.

1. Relaxed clothing

Being cramped up in a car with no room to stretch is bad enough on its own, so don’t make it worse by wearing stiff clothes. Instead, let your body breathe in some relaxed clothing that gives you room to move and adjust as you do. Think exercise apparel from Lululemon, Nike, or Under Armour. And if you plan on napping, a helpful sleep tip is to wear a hoodie that can cover your eyes.

2. Comfy shoes

Even if you’re taking a road trip straight to the wedding, do yourself a favor and don’t wear dress shoes in the car. Once you arrive at the wedding or formal event, then you can change into your formal shoes in a minute or less. Give your feet a break in some sandals (Rainbow Sandals are my favorite) or slip-ons that don’t squeeze your feet—gym shoes are often a culprit of this although they’re comfier than dress shoes. Or take your shoes completely off in the car (as long as your feet or socks don’t stink).

3. Glasses and or contacts (plus contact solution)

Bringing glasses or contacts applies to the driver, co-pilot, and backseat passengers. The driver clearly needs to see where he or she is going, and this need is magnified on road trips that consist of winding roads in the mountains or driving at night. When the driver asks the co-pilot for insight, they need to have vision to decide if this is the right exit to get off of. And the backseat passengers will want their vision if they’re reading or need to relieve the driver. Be safe and bring eyewear.

4. Sunglasses

Remembering sunglasses so the driver’s vision isn’t impaired on a sunny day is critical. Depending on where you are and are traveling to, the sun can be blinding for long stretches on the highway. If you’re wondering, I have a pair of Ray-Ban Sunglasses and love them for their quality plus appearance.

5. Pillow

Excluding the driver, having a pillow to put against the window or your headrest can be the single difference between a solid nap or the frustration that comes with struggling to nap. Cars aren’t designed for people to sleep, but bring a pillow and you can at least get your head comfortable—it’s the most important part. This travel pillow is brilliant for sleeping in the car.

6. Blanket

Like peanut butter and jelly, a warm blanket is the perfect match with a pillow when you’re trying to nap or get comfortable in the car. Besides being a sleep aid, the blanket protects you from the nutjob in the car who blasts the air conditioning. And it’s nice to have a blanket in the chance of an emergency where you’re stuck outside over the night.

7. USB phone charger

All that time spent on GPS, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook is going to take a toll on your phone battery. That’s why it’s a no-brainer to bring a car charger on any trip that’s more than an hour out. Maxboost’s car charger is a #1 best seller and pretty cheap for two USB outlets.

8. Music playlist

You can make do with the radio for about an hour, but then the stations get fuzzy and start to change. And then you’re stuck listening to country music all afternoon if you’re driving through the midwest or south. Old-school CDS also get old because they only carry 15 to 18 songs on them. Instead, listen to the music you want to by updating your iTunes, downloading Pandora, or buying Spotify. The time you spend making a road trip playlist will be well worth it when you’re cruising with the music up and the windows down.

9. Books

I love books! If you’re not a regular reader of Take Your Success, I consistently write about the benefits of reading: 15 Best Books For College Students, Book Reading Challenge, and Are You Reading Enough Books To Be Successful? On this past car ride to Missouri, I read How To Make Millions With Your Ideas and The Girl On The Train. Shop on Amazon or stop by the local library to grab at least two books for your next road trip. I can’t think of a better way to get out of the trapped in a car feeling than to escape in a book.

10. Audiobooks

So you’re not a big reader or you’re one of those people who immediately get a headache when trying to read in the car? Don’t worry, there’s another solution: audiobooks. If you’ve never listened to an audiobook in the car, then you’re missing out. Music gets boring as the same songs play over and over. But listening to a narrator go chapter by chapter in an audiobook can be a thrill! In case you wondered, my two books The Golden Resume and Freedom Mindset are available to download as an audiobook.

11. Laptop

I forgot many things on this list, but I did bring my laptop to write a blog post this weekend. If you have a blog and aren’t driving, utilize the road trip to write a blog post. Get this out of the way and you’ll feel great once you arrive at your destination. (If you’re trying to write in the car, use Google Docs offline mode or Microsoft Word and save it until you regain wifi connection.) A laptop is also great for playing games, making Sticky note reminders, and watching movies.

12. Playing cards

Best used by backseat riders, a deck of playing cards is perfect to get the competitive juices flowing with blackjack, poker, spades, or war. These cards will also come in handy when you reach the hotel for continued card games or drinking games. Sometimes the most classic games make for the most fun!

13. Air freshener

Spending long hours in the car with people who haven’t showered in a while, smelly food, or the occasional roadside skunk makes having an air freshener critical. An air freshener is also versatile because you can take it out of the car to improve the smell of your funky hotel room or cabin. Get the classic air freshener that hangs on the rearview mirror or try a Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag.

14. Muscle roller stick

It’s not good and doesn’t feel good for your body to sit still for extensive hours on the road. Your muscles and joints will ache and there’s nothing you can do about it. That is unless you get a muscle roller stick. I’ve used this baby before and felt less stiff after it. Order one to see what you’re missing when traveling.

15. Phone/GPS mount

It’s hard enough for the driver to navigate new highways and roads they’ve never driven before. But the task is more difficult when they’re holding their phone in their hands looking back and forth between the road and the directions. A simple fix is to order a car mount for your phone that attaches to the windshield. And this one attaches to the dashboard for the iPhone 6s/6 and Galaxy S7/S6.

16. Screenshots of your directions

To protect yourself from the nightmare of losing wifi connection and your turn-by-turn directions during the trip, take screenshots of the directions while you have wifi. It’s not common, but you don’t want to risk losing connection in a tunnel, country road, or in the mountains and not know where you’re going until it’s too late. A successful road trip means avoiding problems; and screenshots of directions go a long way in that regard.

17. Water and healthy drinks

Stay hydrated by bringing water bottles and other healthy drinks not named soda. First, soda is going to make you more thirsty so you have to drink more and thus go to the bathroom constantly during the trip. Avoid it all together by drinking water and keeping your bathroom visits to a minimum. Second, this will help you save money instead of splurging at the gas station on drinks.

18. Healthy snacks

Trust me, you don’t want to put the wrong food (Chinese or Mexican) in your system during a car ride. By consuming healthy snacks, you’ll feel lighter and better about yourself. Specifically look for foods like yogurt, fruits, dark chocolate, and almonds. And avoid the messy snacks that could spill when going over a bump. Eating for energy applies in the car, too.

19. Travel size cooler

To keep your drinks and snacks cold, bring a travel size cooler. This cooler allows you to cut travel time and save money by not having to stop for fast food. And you don’t have to eat the refrigerated food right away when you bring a cooler, like you would if you didn’t have one.

20. Big garbage bag

It’s a pain to clean out the car during the trip and after when you finally arrive at your destination if you don’t have a garbage bag. Wrappers are on the floor, tucked in door handle, and in between the seats. Keep your area clean with a cheap garbage bag that everyone in the car can use to dispose their drink and snacks. The car owner will be grateful.

21. Dollar bills and quarters

Small bills and change are essential for bribing your way out of speeding sticks, just kidding. In reality, bring one dollar bills and quarters to avoid any issues at tolls or city parking meters. It’s always good to keep cash and change with you in the car, and this fact is more true on a road trip.

22. Tissues

Tissues are another simple yet underrated travel item. With them, you’ll be able to blow your nose so you can stop sniffling just like that. Without them, you’ll be the most annoying person in the car if you sniffle all day. Being trapped in a car with someone who sniffles constantly is never ideal.

23. Headphones

To liberate yourself from listening to another passenger’s below-average playlist, take a pair of headphones with you. These headphones come in handy as earplugs when you’re trying to nap, too. And they send the message that you don’t want to be talked to, which could be an amazing relief depending on the people around you.

24. Ibuprofen/motion sickness medicine

A bumpy road, a hilly valley, or a bad driver could give you a relentless headache that feels like it will never go away. Have an outlet to relieve the pain by bringing Ibuprofen or motion sickness medicine like Dramamine. When you’re prepared, you can handle a lot of things in your way.

25. Dry shampoo

I’m sure the girl readers know about or already use dry shampoo. For the guys or those who don’t know about it, dry shampoo absorbs the dirt and oil in your hair to make it look fresh and clean—like you got out of the shower, not out of bed. When you don’t have time to shower because of any early wake-up call or a demanding travel schedule, use dry shampoo to get rid of bed head. This Dove Dry Shampoo does the job well without leaving any white residue in your hair, which is the goal.

26. Gum or Listerine strips

Just because you can’t brush your teeth in the car doesn’t give you an excuse to have stinky breath for the other passengers to get a whiff of. Stay cool and buy a pack of gum or Listerine strips so you’re not “that guy/girl.” Then pick up friend points by passing your gum or strips along.

27. Car emergency kit

You won’t have to use it 99% of the time, maybe never, but a car emergency kit can potentially save your life if it comes down to it. The one I linked to contains one 8 gauge heavy-duty booster cable, an emergency poncho, a safety vest, duct tape, a screw driver, a flashlight with batteries, 4 cable ties, first aid supplies, and more. God forbid you ever need it though.

28. Spare keys

How does it sound to be 12 hours from home and lose your only car key? It sounds like an awful nightmare, for sure. But it happens. A smart travel hack to ensure this disaster never spoils your trip is to pack a spare set of keys. That’s another thing to bring on your expedition that will save the day if things go wrong.

29. Flashlight with fresh batteries

There are countless scenarios where a flashlight would be helpful and you’d be far worse off without one. For example, maybe you need to change a tire at night or you get in a car wreck on an off road and need to find a main road. Just stick a flashlight with fresh batteries in your glove box or trunk, because you never know when you’ll need it—hopefully you don’t.

30. Baseball hat

I always bring a baseball hat for the road. You can use it to cover your bed head, as a replacement for dry shampoo. And if you want to nap, put the cap over your eyes to block out the light and sleep in the dark. Not to mention you can wear it when you arrive to your location, so it has use inside and outside the car.

31. Deodorant and perfume/cologne

In the chaos of last-minute packing, some people will ridiculously pack a fifth pair of swim trunks and forget to bring deodorant! Please don’t force the other people in the car to have to smell your body odor the whole ride because you forgot it. Perfume or cologne is also something to bring to smell good.

32. Toilet paper

You might laugh at this item being included on the list, but weird things can happen on a road trip that require toilet paper. And in an emergency, it might be a lifesaver compared to a leaf, or the poison ivy leaf. Plus, it takes up little to no space, so that’s not a concern.

33. Gas card

Maximize the most out of all the gas you’re going to buy on the trip with a gas card. These offer cashback, reduced gas prices, and other options if you do your homework in advance to get one. You can sign up to get the rewards through your credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, etc.) or a specific gas station company (BP, Sunoco, Speedway, etc.).

Final Words

How you feel during a road trip largely depends on what you bring and fail to bring. So the key to a successful road trip is thinking ahead to pack what you need, and might need.

I hope this list helps you remember to bring the essentials when you hit the road. If you prepare in advance, you can be comfortable, be productive, have a good time, and make the trip go faster than you realize.

Related: Why You Must Travel While You’re Young

Not sure what to bring on a road trip? This road trip packing list covers essential tips and the best things to pack on your next road trip!

Table of Contents

Road Trip Packing List: What to Bring on a Road Trip

Best Bags for a Road Trip

Use duffle bags for most of your luggage — it’s easier to stack and squeeze soft bags into any car arrangement that you need. If you’re stopping overnight, pack one bag with sleep essentials and next-day clothes so it’s compact and ready to go.

You can use a soft, wheeled suitcase for this if you have a lot of people. Finally, each person can keep a small bag — like a tote or backpack — next to their own seats for easily-accessible snacks and activities.

  • We use this duffle bag on our road trips–it’s compact, has several pockets for easy organization, and it’s even slash-proof. This duffle bag is great for longer trips or two people who like to keep it simple and share one bag.
  • This insulated tote bag doubles as an ice chest and it folds up nicely when not in use.
  • Daypacks are a must if you want to get out and hike during your journey. We use this small daypack which has an internal padded sleeve for a 3L hydration bladder.

What Clothing to Bring on a Road Trip

Wear clothes that are loose and breathable, and that you’re comfortable being seen in at stops. Dark colors hide dirt, stains, and wrinkles better. Even for long trips, you only need two bottoms and a few tops, especially if you can do laundry at hotels or your destination.

  • A drawstring laundry bag works if you do need to store dirty garments.
  • This portable laundry system wash bag is perfect for doing laundry on the road!
  • Make sure to take weather into account—if it’s often rainy, keep some waterproof items — like travel umbrellas and backpack rain covers — in easy reach, and light layers if it might get cold. (In Norway, be prepared for anything–even snow in the summer!!)

Best Snacks for a Road Trip

It’s cheaper to bring snacks from home than buying them at a gas station, and you have healthier options. Freeze-dried fruit and veggies are nicely crunchy and lightweight, while nuts and seeds can satisfy you with salts and protein.

Mix your items together in ziplock bags to create your own trail mix if you want (add a handful of chocolate chips for something sweet), and keep personal portions on-hand with bulk bags in the trunk so you can refill at stops. Less individually-wrapped items cut down on trash, but if you have favorite snack bars, bring a few anyway.

  • Stock up on nature bars for a quick snack on the road or throw in your daypack for hiking.
  • Bulk bags of trail mix will save time with less trash to pick up, plus it’s better for the environment.
  • Wet wipes make for convenient cleanup. These wipes are even biodegradable!
  • If you have food items that you absolutely need to keep cool and you don’t want to deal with melting ice, this iceless cooler plugs into your cigarette lighter!
  • These stainless steel tupperware containers are awesome for road trips because they are completely leak proof — plus they are non-toxic and eco-friendly!

Best Road Trip Games

Handheld devices are nice diversions, but it can also be fun to get everyone in the car in on a game. Consider bringing creative games like Mad Libs to keep things lively. Mad Libs prompts you to make up funny stories together, and they even have a road trip themed book. Plus, non-electronic games are great backup if your gadgets run out of juice.

Music

A playlist with catchy, upbeat tunes that the whole car can sing to keeps things fun (and keeps you awake!), while a separate playlist for mellower songs gives your brain and body a breather. Just don’t pick anything too soft and repetitive so the driver doesn’t get sleepy.

Navigation

This is definitely the most important thing to bring on a road trip. Investing in a GPS unit will help you navigate in unfamiliar territory. Don’t count on Google Maps or Waze on your phone because you might not always have service. Get one that plugs into your cigarette lighter and make sure it works with your device beforehand. Some of these chargers even come with multiple USB ports if you’re bringing more electronics.

  • The Garmin Nuvi is affordable and has all the features you’ll need on a road trip including Smartphone Link, Bluetooth, and lifetime maps.
  • Since electronics can fail, though, bring some directions printed out ahead of time, and even get as “old-fashioned” as a thorough road map (this one is perfect for USA road trips).

Road Trip Safety Tips

Bring a first aid kit and an emergency road assistance kit–and have a portable charger on hand in case you need to make an emergency call on low batteries.

  • This emergency road assistance kit by AAA is only $25 and it comes with a compact storage bag with handles.
  • This portable charger doubles as a lantern and a portable charger for all of your devices that connect with a USB. We’ve been using this on all of our camping and road trip adventures and it’s held up extremely well!

What do I Need to Know Before Going on a Road Trip?

A General Route

There’s something to be said for taking a spontaneous road-trip without a set itinerary, but in the name of self-preservation and avoiding a later headache, it’s best to at least plan out a bit of your route. If you’re not a steadfast planner, then look up a few hotel options that will be in your vicinity and if you’ll be encountering any cell-service dead zones.

That Your Car Is Road-Ready

Renting a car generally ensures that your car will be in tip-top condition for the road, but if you’re bringing a personal car then the onus is on you. If you think your car is in pretty good condition, then at least do some quick tire-pressure and oil checks before you go.

Also, make sure that the spare tire in your car is properly inflated, and that you have a jack on hand.

Locate Important Documents

On the day-to-day, we generally just assume our license and registration documents are in our cars or wallets without a second thought. However, going on a road-trip means you definitely do not want to leave them at home, so do a quick check to make sure they’re with you.

Where the Tolls Are Located

Many major cities have highways with toll-booths on them to help with the highway upkeep. To prepare for this, either make sure you are carrying cash with you, or do some research to find an alternate route.

Don’t forget to bookmark this road trip packing list to make sure your next road adventure is a breeze.

This article has links to products and services we love, which we may make commission from.

The following road trip packing list essentials will ensure that your next road adventure is safe, manageable and fun. You just can’t beat the hitting the open road with friends and family to explore the outdoors and towns and cities along the way. Although the most popular time to do so, planning a road trip doesn’t have to be confined to the summer months if you are correctly equipped!

Whether you are heading abroad, crossing States or taking a staycation this ultimate road trip packing guide will have your cruising covered in comfort. Continue reading for tips on clothing items to handy electronics, games to keep entertained and easy road trip hacks. Don’t miss our free road trip checking list below and tips on the popular topic of what to bring on a winter road trip too.

Why Trust Us?

We (Gemma and Craig) love to road trip. We love the independence that it brings. The ability to pack the car without worrying about cabin sized baggage or pre-booking activities or accommodation months in advance (although some popular destinations do require this). We like that you can travel slower during a road trip and get off the beaten track too.

We’ve recently taken a five-day road trip to Iceland. We spent most of the week in the south of the island, avoiding the tour buses on the Golden Circle. In Scotland, we drove the most popular road, the North Coast 500. This road trip is deemed the UK’s answer to Route 66! Next up? We’re hitting Texas in a campervan. I can’t wait to see the dark spots around Big Bend National Park and get away from the city after two weeks at the festival, South By Southwest in Austin. Enough about us. Here’s the road trip packing guide.

Car road-tripping in Iceland

Road Trip Packing List

Our wee campervan in Texas

Road Trip Packing List – Details

Car Documents

Remember to carry your driving licence and store the car documents like the manual, break down details and insurance coverage in the car. Do you need any special cross border cards? Ensure your research and apply for it before you leave.

Road Trip Tips – Car Audit

Road trip necessities definitely include being proactive and not reactive. Before taking a road trip, remember to do an overall audit of the car. Check the oil and water levels, the tire/tyre pressure, functioning spare wheels and brake action.

If you are hiring a car, take photos of the previous damage to avoid being stung when you return the car (trust me, I used to be a car check-in chick!)

Don’t drive past a petrol/gas station without filling up in remote areas. If you see the empty button flash, hit zero on the mileage and do not go above 63 km/40 miles.

Be sure to have breakdown cover and know how to access it (note down the number in case your phone battery dies and/or you have no phone coverage). Hot destinations will require you to book accommodation or camp/RV spots ahead. If booking hotels, ensure that they have parking.

We road tripped to Big Bend National Park in March and there was zero space at the official campsites. We managed to grab a spot an unofficial overspill campsite just outside of the park lines.

Phone Holder

Over the past decade, laws on phone use while driving have increased and penalties have become harsher (and rightfully so).

This has pushed the importance of hands-free phone kits. I like this phone holder US / UK as all you need to do is clip the base to your air vent, pop a magnet in between your phone and case and ta-da, the phone sticks to the base! Ideal for car hire as you can remove the clip without damaging the car.

Handy for using maps (quick tip – hit ‘go’ in WiFi/4G and the directions should work when out of signal) and playing tunes, two essential road trip items.

Electronic Battery Pack

I love these small Anker battery charger US / UK.

Charge before you leave your accommodation and use it to recharge your phone once it’s drained by maps and music. You can even use it to charge your portable music speaker and action camera.

Anker lipstick, we now use the bigger, flatter pack

First Aid Kit

Boring but essential. If road-tripping around somewhere with mediocre health care records be sure to choose a first aid kit with needles and 100% buy travel insurance before you leave.

I had to use ours with True Traveller in Vancouver. They paid back my GP fees plus my two trips to the physio speedily so come recommended by us.

Windscreen Covers

This is a new addition after road tripping in Texas but we really could have done with window screen covers to keep the car cool.

It also offers another layer of privacy to keep the nosey RV people away from your business!

Your items will bake through the glass, so make sure that you keep your electronics away from the window and stored in dark, cool areas of the car/van.

Neck Sleep Scarf

Not for the driver! If you are lucky enough to be the passenger and are prone to the nodding dog, wrap this scarf around your neck for better sleep.

This is a great travel gift as well.

Hand Sanitizer

Because you never know where you have to go to the loo. Baby wipes too, great for cleaning hands and spills. I also suggest packing a few plastic bags for dirty shoes and food rubbish

Versatile Road Trip Clothing: Poncho/Cape

This is the first year that I’ve road tripped with a poncho or a cape and it won’t be my last. This garment is bigger than a scarf so great for covering up during the air-con tug of war (I like it down, Craig wants it up).

It also doubles up as a picnic blanket for romantic lunches. Avoid looking like a backpacker in Peru, check out this attractive wool poncho/cape US / UK.

Aberdeenshire, Scotland – throws are very versatile

Swimwear

You just never know when you might see a spot for a hike and a drip!

I recommend packing a bag to keep wet swimwear separate from other items.

Not so Secret Lagoon, Iceland road trip

Stove, Gas, Lighter and Cookset Pack

I was a little terrified of the camping stove and gas the first time we used it but there was nothing to worry about. Just ensure that you disconnect the gas before packing away. See the range here US / UK.

We’ve had experiences where the ignitor didn’t work, pack a lighter just in case.

You will need a cook set packing kit which includes all your portable kitchen essentials. See below for tips on what food to take on your road trip.

Cool Bag and Ice in Bags

If you plan to travel with perishable foods and/or want to keep drinks cold you will need to invest in a cool box or bag US / UK.

We found that we replenished our ice bags every day to the second day. The ice eventually turns to water which needs to be disposed of.

I would much prefer to use our re-ice packs but there is rarely anywhere on the road that you have access to a freezer for a period of time.

Ice is easily bought at gas stations for a buck or two in the USA. In Europe, some petrol stations may sell ice in bags but your best option is to use a shopping market like Aldi or Lidl (cheap).

Water Container

A large water container is recommended so you can refill water bottles, use of boiling and also for cleaning after meals.

We never really consider this but you need somewhere to fill up the container! Hence the need to stay at a campsite/RV park some nights (I’d recommend every second) to restock and reload.

Big Bend National Park, Texas road trip

Fun Things to Bring on a Road Trip

Driving for hours on end requires some kind of entertainment. Here’s a list of road trip games to keep you amused and the driver awake

  • Name a celebrity, next person names a celeb whose name starts with your celeb’s second name.
  • I’m going on a road trip and I have packed (must name all items mentioned previously).
  • Singing game – player one sings a lyric, player two takes last lyrics and starts new song etc.
  • Would you rather… be a cyclops or human spider? The weirder the better.
  • 21 questions – yes or no answers only, guess the object/person.
  • Never have I ever (drink water, stay hydrated).
  • A-Z of pop songs/artists/90s movies etc.
  • Currently loving the card game it for stationary game ideas.

For The Trip

I bit the bullet and bought myself a Kanken day bag and I adore it.

Not only is it super stylish but it is also really sturdy. There are grab handles at the top as well as shoulder straps. The bag unzips at the very front of the bag and extends so you can pack a lot in. There’s a secret section the size of the bag at the back as well as a small pocket at the front.

I played it safe and went for black but there are a variety of colours if you are feeling bolder than me! You can fit a laptop, camera, purse, water bottle and cardigan in the larger Kanken. Perfect for a day bag during your road trip.

Craig wears a hiking day bag by Osprey US / UK. It has an airy back structure which suits his sweaty body!

Me doing the Jamie Fraser post at an Outlander location

Waterproof Bag Cover

Keep your camera dry in potential downpours by covering up your day bag with this Osprey bag cover US / UK.

It unfolds out of the bag, pulls over the daypack, a drawstring then pulls the bag around the day pack and clips around the middle for additional security. There’s a neat pouch which attaches to your day bag for when it is not in use.

Osprey waterproof day bag cover saves electrics from water death

Eco Water Bottle + Picnic Gear

This year I am pledging to go single-use plastic-free where possible.

For Craig’s birthday, I researched extensively plastic-free bottles and two stood out.

I had a choice between the stylish Chilly’s Bottle (UK only), practical Tree Tribe US / UK. I went for the Tree Tribe which came with no plastic packaging.

A water bottle really is one of the things to take on a road trip to help do your bit for the environment – leave nothing but footsteps!

Consider a picnic bag or cool box. You will have to pick up ice on the way since you can’t re-freeze cooler ice packs.

If you don’t want to go full picnic basket, pack collapsible cups.

Handy for some fizz at the end of the day and lets you contribute to sustainable travel by avoiding plastic throw-away cups. So no to plastic cutlery, pick up the wooden kit instead and consider my trusty bamboo cutlery set US / UK.

You will also need dishwashing soap.

” ” Going plastic free? Here’s how we got on in July ” “

Waterproof Jacket – Road Trip Essentials

I have certainly won the cost per wear games. This Marmot waterproof jacket US / UK comes with me everywhere.

My trusty Marmot Precip and dog, Bowie

I love the slimline fit, the colour and the fact that it folds away into its own pocket! It also helps that it keeps me dry. Choosing a softshell like the Marmot is great because you can squash it down small and pack it away in your day bag. I can’t stress how important a high-quality rain jacket is for Europe – you can expect four seasons in one day if road tripping in the UK and you can’t always guarantee that your accommodation (or tent!) will have drying facilities.

For Iceland, I invested in the Mountain Equipment Rupal jacket US / UK which is thicker than the Marmot but more durable.

I bought Craig one for his birthday after a very wet road trip in Iceland! His coat, below, did not withstand the elements.

So wet at one of Iceland’s waterfalls

Hiking Boots/Shoes

There comes a time where even the most sloth-like amongst us have to stretch our legs and with the potential scenery a road trip takes you through you’d be mad not to hike the hills.

When shopping for hiking boots and shoes you want to test their water resistance, support, breathability, comfort, weight and of course, the look.

For the past two years, I’ve been hiking in Salomon Quest boots and I can’t speak highly enough about them. I like travel gear to look as good as it performs and this is a stylish boot. I’m comfortable wearing them on the hills and then in the pub for the post-hike pint! Check out the rage here: Salomon Quest boots US / UK.

Short hike during our Outer Hebrides road trip

I also like the lighter Salomon Ellipse trek shoes US / UK which I trekked with to Machu Picchu.

They are shoe-like so great if you don’t want anything touching your ankle like me back in 2015.

I injured my Achilles tendon during the West Highland Way – 96 miles from Mallaig to Fort William in Scotland.

I love how light they are for carrying in day bags and also how attractive they are. Their Contagrip® soles offer support as they do not bend when attempted to fold in half.

I use Leukotape US / UK on my ankles, this prevents blisters as this tape does not budge.

This technique was recommended to me by a serial trekking Canadian while hiking Maderas Volcano in Nicaragua.

Craig pretty much wore his Salomon every day for three years but now wears leather Scarpa boots.

Both come highly recommended depending on your need.

I’ll let you know how I get on. You might also like our lightweight trek boot review.

Mosquito/Midges Repellent

Those blasted wee menaces are out to ruin every trip. In warmer climates, mosquitos come out to play at dusk which is a PITA when you want to watch the sunset.

We have used DEET repellents like Off in the past but moved to repellents without DEET after a year of constant bites.

DEET melts plastic so keep it away from your laptops. In Scotland, we don’t suffer from mossies but we do have our own equivalent, midges. They don’t carry malaria but can leave nasty marks. Repellent is one of those road trip must-haves in our books.

If you don’t like the sound of DEET, try the alternatives Avon Skin So Soft US / UK.

High Factor Face Creams

I love the sun but I love my life more. Take skin cancer seriously, even in overcast weather the sun can have an impact. We go to factor 30 or above.

I’m also vain, invest in a factor 50/60 face cream to avoid wrinkles. If splashing out I go for La Roche-Posay US / UK.

Santa, you there?!

Headtorch

I know what you’re thinking, I have a phone but those choosing a tent as their home will know the importance of a separate light for midnight toilet stops (remember the tissues and flip-flops).

Flip-flops

If you are staying in accommodation/camping grounds with communal showers, take some flip-flops to avoid having to share the germy floors.

My Havaianas are still going strong, six years later.

These flops were made for walking.

Toiletry Bag (Hook)

Don’t just pack any toiletry bag, buy with a hook.

Why? Because many of the showers we’ve used while road tripping have very small storage spaces in them and a hook allows you to access your toiletries while it hangs from the shower pole. Neat eh?

Shop for toiletry bags with hooks US /UK.

Safe Bag

Keep your belongings safe in communal dorms or busy hotels while you are out sightseeing with this Pacsafe safety net US / UK.

We survived 17 months of travel with our belongings intact.

How to use the Pacsafe safety net

  1. Place your electronics, passports, and money in a bag
  2. Pull the Pacsafe net over the bag and close the net around it
  3. Secure the wire string around a non-moveable object like a bedpost or radiator
  4. Pop in the clip and close with a padlock ( is TSA approved) Throw a coat or scarf over the bag and you are locked and loaded

After 2.5 years of ‘the net,’ we upgraded to the more expensive Pacsafe backpack which has the net hidden beneath the fabric and the lock is subtle.

I still think the PacSafe net is the better option though and it keeps costs down.

Music Speaker

We love music. We actually chase gigs around the world, so no road trip is complete without a soundtrack.

This JBL Clip US / UK is economical, durable, loud and actually waterproof!

The clip allows you to hook it onto bars and bed posts.

Hydration Tablets

A new and welcomed addition to our road trip packing list, hydration tablets or sachets helps the head the next day.

A British doctor recommended this hangover remedy while we were travelling around Cuba (yes rum I am looking at you).

This is one of our most popular items bought by you via our Amazon recommendations. Shop for hydration tablets US / UK.

How To Pack For a Road Trip

We adopt the three bag policy – 1 large, 1 weekend and 1-day bag.

  • A larger rucksack or a cabin-sized case like our Cabin X One (I love this hybrid case!) which stays in the car packed full of your daily threads and toiletries.
  • A smaller weekend bag to move overnight and next day clothes into for one night stays which you don’t want to lug your big bag to. A canvas tote would even do. Easy to pack and hang for trips to the showers if camping/RVing.
  • A day bag for the camera, waterproofs and snacks.

This is a great technique for a cross-country road trip packing list since some stays will be one night only and rooms can be too small for big cases which is the case in the Highlands of Scotland.

What to Pack For a Road Trip Checklist

Download your free road trip checklist here. You can print it and check off the items during packing, never forget a packing list item. So when friends ask you what to take on a road trip you can point them to this checklist too!

What Food to Bring on a Road Trip?

This is a tough question because it depends on how long you are on the road for and at what temperatures.

For perishable foods, you will need a cool bag with ice. You will need to replenish the ice every day or two.

In the States, ice can be bought at gas stations. In Europe, you are best shopping at supermarkets for it.

Breakfast Road Trip Food

” Top tip: oats are a ‘mare to clean. Soak in hot water as soon as finished.

Lunch and Dinner Ideas

Road Trip Snacks

  • Cereal bars.
  • Rice cakes.
  • Crackers.
  • Nuts and dried fruit (trail mix).
  • Hard-boiled eggs (Craig bans this, I love ’em).
  • Potato chips.
  • Humous and carrot/celery.
  • Jelly sweets/candy.
  • Fruit with skin such as nectarines.
  • Caffeine drinks for the driver.

” Water is essential, remember to bring a durable bottle with you to reduce your plastic footprint.

Road Trip Apps

  • Google Maps.
  • Maps.me.
  • Weather.
  • Spotify with music downloaded.
  • Kindl.
  • Netflix (guilty) with shows downloaded.
  • Destination campsite app.
  • Preferred hotels apps.
  • OpenTable for restaurant bookings.
  • Photo edit apps like Lightroom.
  • Whatsapp to say in touch with family/friends.
  • Electronic car charge app if driving an electronic car.

Things to Pack For A Road Trip in Winter

Two very important things to consider here – firstly, is your (rental) car suitable for Winter road conditions and secondly, does it have Winter tires? Legally, you can’t drive in BC, Canada without switching to snow tires come October and this lasts through to April.

Check out Winter driving laws for the country you plan to drive in and abide them. We were checked frequently in BC when we drove from Vancouver to Whistler.

You should pack a shovel, de-icer, scraper, screenwash, torch with batteries, clean water for drinking and snacks for eating. A warm sleeping bag is also recommended. Just last Winter, drivers were stuck on Scottish roads overnight. This was all over the country, not just in the Highlands where you would expect snow.

It goes without saying you should be wearing (or have packed) boots with a solid grip and a warm coat. It is also recommended to pack a high visibility coat and a warning triangle.

Don’t leave for the day of driving without a fully charged phone, battery pack or in-car plug and a manual map (old school but necessary).

Tell someone your route too. The RAC asks you to check your FORCES – fuel, oil, rubber tires, coolant, electrics and screenwash.

Road Trips Around the World

Looking for some road tripspiration?

  • North Coast 500 – Scotland’s Route 66
  • Ireland’s Ancient East – perfect for foodies
  • How much does an Iceland road trip cost?

What to Bring on a Road Trip Conclusion

There’s no better feeling than independence and that’s what a road trip holiday brings! This packing guide has been curated by a seasoned road tripper and details truly useful items to make your tour comfortable.

Pin to your planning board

Packing Lists You May Also Like
” Hiking packing list
” Ladies packing List
” Best men’s travel pants
” Ski packing list
” Best carry on backpacks

” ” Read next: our travel essentials list

What have we missed out on this
things to pack for a road trip list?

Gemma I Two Scots Abroad

Gemma and Craig are full-time workers with a life-long travel habit. Flirting with 30 and let loose on the world! Gemma writes, Craig looks good in the photos.

100 things that you should pack for a summer roadtrip

“Damn it, I forgot my sunglasses ”
“And I left my pillow”
“Do you really think we can manage 6 weeks without a camping cooker?”
“Maybe we should have bought one?”
“Maybe we should have.”

Last summer a friend and I felt spontaneous and decided to hit the road on a whim. That’s so fun and romantic isn’t it? Yes. It’s also the best way to forget about a million little things you won’t notice you need until you do need them. It was a good way of learning this: best make a list of things to bring. Listening to my own advice I thought this is a good time to do a write up for all the essentials needed on a summer road trip, not last to prepare my own road trip coming up in a few weeks time. Ready? Ok, let’s go.

100 things to pack for a summer road trip

Basics

1. Tent

2. Camping mat

3. Pillow

4. Sleeping Bag

5. Backpack

6. Flashlight

7. Rope (to dry your clothes)

8. Blanket

9. Journal /Notebooks and pens

10. Maps

Documents and Money

11. ID / Passport

12. Credit cards and money (and keep them in different places / divide the money in case you get robbed)

13. Driver’s Licence

14. Car documents (and extra copies)

15. Travel insurance documents

16. A copy of your bank TAN-numbers

Car

17. Oil for the car

18. Sheet/Sarong (great for sleeping in your car to a) keep out the the sun/sleep longer and b) keep out nosy looks from bystanders)

19. HandiRack – After some research I came across this wonderful invention. The Handirack is an inflatible rack for your car, which can be attached to basically any car, also cabrio roofs. And if it is not in use, you can just fold it and store it somewhere in your car.

Hygiene & Toilet Bag

20. Toothbrush and toothpaste

21. Sunscreen

22. Lip balm

23. Eco-Shampoo and shower soap, which you can use in a lake or outdoor shower

24. Hair Brush

25. Tissues

26. Toilet Paper

27. Disinfectant Spray

28. Towels

29. Nail Clippers

30. Small mirror

31. Make-Up and Make-Up Remover Pads

32. Deodorant

33. Mooncup

34. Razor

35. Ear Plugs

36. Eye Mask

Pharmacy

37. Paracetamol

38. Mosquito Spray

39. Band-Aid

40. First Aid Kit

41. Aspirine

42. Ibuprofen

43. Hand Sanitizer

44. Prescription information in case you need refills along the way

Food

45. Camping cooker

46. (Electronic) Cooling Box

47. Pocket Knife

48. Camping cook gear

49. Spoons, forks, knives

50. Plastic Cups

51. Plastic plates and bowls

52. Lighter

53. Bottled Water (lots!)

54. Wine or/and other spirits

55. Canned Food

56. Cereals

57. Cereal Bars

58. Crackers

59. Fruits and vegetable

60. Pasta and Rice

61. Spices (salt, pepper, herbs)

62. (Olive) Oil

63. Tea bags

64. Zipbloc Bags

65. Plastic Bags

66. Dish Towels

67. Kettle grill – this one only costs 14,99Euro (only online available)

Also check out how to cook food on your car engine and how to bake cookies on your car dashboard!

Clothes & Stuff

68. Warm and weather resistant sweater

69. Fleece Sweater

70. Rain Jacket

71. Jacket

72. T-Shirts

73. Pants (long and short)

74. Underwear

75. Swimwear

76. Scarf

77. Socks

78. Pair of Pyjamas

79. Sports wear

80. Dresses

81. Hats

82. Sunglasses

83. Shoes: Sandals, High Heels, Flip Flops, workout shoes – check out our previous article on travel shoes

84. GPS

85. MP3 Player + cigarette adapter for charging (for cool music check out our roadtrip songs)

86. Mobile Phone + Charger

87. Camera + Charger + extra SD Cards

88. Maybe a travel notebook + charger and movies

89. USB stick

90. Adapter

Other

91. Small sewing kit

92. Locks (for tent)

93. Playing Cards

94. Emergency Phone Numbers

95. Address Book

96. Duct Tape

97. Beach Bag

98. Shopping Bag

99. A pocket dictionary

100. Books – for inspiration check out our list: 25 travel inspired books to read on the road

Extras

101. A bowl to wash dishes in

102. Table and Camping Seats

103. A waterproof bag for your electronics

104. Wetsuit

105. Surfboard(s), surfing wax and fin keys

106. Skimboard

107. Longbaords

108. Bike

109. Frisbee and balls

110. GoPro + Waterhousing

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You’re planning to hit the road and need a complete road trip packing list with all the travel-tested road trip essentials for a successful trip. Well, you’re in the right place!

We all know the main reason most people love a road trip, flexibility and being in control of the journey. But, the next biggest reason is getting to pack whatever and however much we want.

Vacation without bag fees or having to throw away oversized toiletries. Amen to that!

The good news is I’ve driven across the country multiple times, to all 48 continental states, and across Canada. (This doesn’t include road tripping internationally, either.)

And, along the way, I’ve made more road trip mistakes than I can count. But, I’ve also learned A LOT, too, and I’ve put it all together in this mega guide about what to pack for a road trip.

You can fill your car with whatever and however much you want, but if don’t have the road trip supplies you need for a successful trip, things can go south quickly.

Plan to Rent a Car for Your Road Trip?

I always search rental car costs on a site like Kayak because it compares prices from multiple sites all at once. It’s quick and I can easily see the best deals for my dates and pick-up location.

Travel-Tested Road Trip Packing List Essentials:
Your Complete Guide

Road Trip Essentials for Your Car

When planning a road trip, there are road trip necessities for both you and your car. Let’s start with the car. After all, it doesn’t matter how comfortable you are if there are car troubles, right?

First and foremost, whether you’re driving your car or a rental, don’t leave without having these road trip car essentials.

  • Driver’s License
  • Car Registration and Insurance Information
  • Car Manual
  • Extra Car Key…not on the same key ring
  • AAA Membership and/or Phone Number(s) for Roadside Assistance
  • Spare Tire…with a tire jack and tools to change a flat
  • Water Resistant Flashlight…coincidental that car trouble always happens at night, in the rain??

No one wants to break down and certainly many road-trippers have fun, incident-free adventures. But, it still pays to be prepared. Don’t leave home without a roadside emergency kit.

Even though you may have some of these items at home, like an air compressor or materials to repair a tire, I like having a complete kit. Not only is it convenient. it likely includes things you didn’t think of and is expertly packed to save space.

If you’re driving in remote areas, like driving in Utah where there are long stretches without gas stations, you may also want to have these supplies.

  • Quart of Oil
  • Jug of Coolant or Water
  • Wiper Fluid
  • Portable Gas Container…great peace of mind when the next gas station isn’t for a long time!

A winter road trip packing list should also include things to keep you safe from snow and ice.

  • Ice Scraper…not fun doing this by hand!
  • Shovel
  • Tire Chains

What to Bring on a Road Trip: Basic Must-Haves

Before getting into a list of must-have road trip items, there are 2 that deserve a special call-out.

First, every successful road trip includes a paper map like this. Smartphone apps like Google Maps and Maps.me are great, but when you lose service in remote places, the ability to get step-by-step directions disappears, too. Absolutely use the apps, but have a paper map, too.

Get a map with roads, landmarks, and information for an entire region instead of just 1 area. It’s perfect for those spontaneous whims along the way!

Second, it’s important to bring a First Aid Kit. Obvious, I know. But, not having what you need for an injury can, at the very least, ruin an entire day of your trip.

Besides these road trip basics and whether your trip is long or short, solo or as a family, you’ll want to also have these things in the car.

  • Car Phone Charger…works with a USB cord
  • Power Inverter…with AC outlets and USB ports
  • Hands-Free Phone Mount…saftey + easy to see Google Maps for navigation = WIN!
  • Portable Charger…when there are more devices in the car than charging ports or you’re on the go outside of the car
  • Garbage Bag…or a car garbage bin that doesn’t just collect trash
  • Roll of Toilet Paper…not all rest stops are created equal
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Napkins
  • Body/Baby Wipes
  • Umbrella
  • Bug Spray…nothing worse than getting bit while out of the car stretching your legs
  • Paper Money and Coins…for parking meters, air pump at gas stations, tolls, broken ATMs, laundromats, etc.
  • Gas, Dining, and Travel Rewards Credit Card(s)…Whether you earn cash back, miles, or points, make sure the money you spend on this trip is helping you earn for the next one.
  • Electronic Toll Pass…if applicable where you’re driving

Let’s switch gears (couldn’t help myself!) away from the car and think about you and the other people on this road trip. These next sections are broken up into road trip necessities lists that cover being comfortable in the car, entertainment, personal items, and food.

Things to Bring on a Road Trip to Keep Everyone Feeling Cozy

Keeping everyone in the car happy and relaxed is so important! Snacks, entertainment, and interesting sights won’t be of much help if you’re not comfortable. So, be sure to stock the car with these things you need for a road trip.

  • Extra Layer of Clothing…I always keep one of these fleece’s handy. They’re perfect for hiking, temperature changes, and when someone blasts the AC.
  • Blanket or Sleeping Bag…versatility (think picnic blanket) versus a rolled-up space-saver
  • Travel Pillow…here’s my favorite.
  • Eye Mask
  • UV Window Shades
  • Sunglasses…can’t drive without mine
  • Travel Cup…coffee to-go, a must!
  • Reusable Water Bottle…like these bestsellers
  • Water…in bulk with a spout to avoid spills
  • Pain Killer…headache, body ache, etc.
  • Chapstick
  • Hand Lotion
  • Towel(s)…sudden rainstorm, someone actually jumps in a lake, etc.
  • Mints and/or Gum

Road Trip Essentials List – Entertainment to Keep Everyone Smiling 🙂

From iSpy to the License Plate game to high tech gear and gadgets, take your road trip entertainment as seriously as things to pack for a road trip! It can be an all-out sanity saver, especially for families with kids.

Of course, recording and capturing the journey is half the fun. In addition to a smartphone camera, I always have my favorite travel camera. When I travel with my nieces and nephews, they love to bring this instant camera! If your road trip is packed with action-packed adventure, you may also want to bring along an action camera like I do.

Unless you have satellite radio, you can almost bet you’ll lose a clear radio signal at least once on your drive. What’s more, you’re likely to go through stretches where only a couple of stations come through and the chances of them playing all your favorite songs are slim to forget about it.

This means it’s all about playlists! You’ll want to make sure there’s a variety of music that’ll keep the whole car happy.

Amazon Music and Spotify give you access to millions of songs that can be grouped into playlists and downloaded onto your device so you can listen without an internet connection and/or save data from the road. Plus, both offer free trials, free plans, and even super cheap promotions for premium so you can test them out before your trip.

Similarly, subscribe to some podcasts through your device’s Podcast app. Be sure to download the episodes before you leave home or from a wifi so you can listen to them with streaming data. My favorite road trip podcast is Radiolab!

If you’d prefer longer in-depth stories, Audible and Audiobooks.com have huge libraries, also with free books as part of a free trial. Download books for hours of any time listening!

Don’t want to bother the whole car with whatever you’re listening to? Bring headphones and a splitter to share your music, podcast, or audiobook with only those who want it. And, no matter what you’re listening to take it with you with one of these portable speakers

And, whether you want to read in the car, around the campfire, or in your hotel room, save space in the car with a Kindle or download the Kindle App to any device. You can purchase a few books or try Kindle Unlimited free.

Of course, road trip must-haves aren’t all electronic. Non-electronic options are great for all-important laughs, memories, and bonding, not to mention how relaxing it can be to disconnect for a while! Consider these group and family activities to make the time on those long stretches of road fly!

  • Loaded Questions…for family, friends, and smart pets 😉
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Mad Libs
  • Map Games…a bestseller!
  • Travel Journals and Coloring

Road Trip Clothing and Personal Item Tips

How to pack for a road trip is not like packing for other trips. To start, you need clothes that’ll be comfortable to wear in the car for a long distance and clothes for wherever you’re going.

I like to wear my leggings and flip flops in the car, but I have hiking pants and hiking boots for outdoor adventures.

Second, you may or may not want to store your clothes and personal items in a traditional suitcase. Here are a few road trip packing tips.

  • Duffel Bags and backpacks hold as much as a suitcase but can be squished into smaller places in the car.
  • If you’re planning to make multiple short (1-2 night) stops, pack a daypack with just the things you need for an overnight stay. It’ll also come in handy for day hikes or day trips.
  • Think out of the suitcase box for clothing storage. It could end up being more convenient and save space. Use packing cubes to organize clothes and just grab the cubes you need from the car. Similarly, use drawers to pack and then just pull the drawer you need instead of lugging all your things from the car.
  • For campground, rest stop, and even hotel bathrooms, a hanging toiletry tote bag can help keep your items organized and away from less than sparkling sinks and toilets.

As for the specifics of what to take on a road trip, pack clothes with you to match your destination, the activities you want to do, and the weather. Heading to the beach? Going to a National Park to hike? Roadtripping in winter or fall and need warmer layers?

Clothes should feel good to wear, have multi-purposes, and be worn a few times. I never pack a shirt if I can only wear it once. Packing wisely also might mean going with a specific color palette. It’ll be easier to mix and match pieces and make different outfits with fewer pieces of clothing.

Aside from what to wear on a road trip, your road trip list should include these personal items as well.

  • Sunscreen…if you have highly sun-sensitive skin like me, this is my SPF go-to.
  • Toiletries
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Rain Coat
  • Scarf…I take one on every trip because they’re so versatile.
  • Prescriptions
  • Glasses
  • Flip Flops…camping out + late night bathroom break = Happy to have slip-on shoes
  • Laundry Bag
  • Tide To-Go Pen
  • Hairbrush and Hair ties
  • Hat…baseball, sun, hiking, they all do the job of giving some shade

Road Trip Food List and Eating Accessories

Is driving on an empty stomach agony for you, too? It’s as if every hunger pang is multiplied by 100. Neither is it fun or practical to have to search for food every time someone in the car needs some grub. If you’re road tripping in Arizona, for example, you could be searching for a rest stop with snacks for quite some time in the more remote corners of the state!

Have a plan for your road trip food strategy.

  • Do you plan to mostly eat out in your destinations and just need snacks for the ride? Then, a cooler bag that is easy to carry and stuffs away when not in use makes the most sense.
  • Do you need more food storage for meals, camping, or a more budget-friendly road trip? Consider a larger cooler you can refill with food and ice at local grocery stores. Or perhaps skip the hassle of ice and go with an iceless cooler powered by a charge from your car.
  • If you want to be completely self-sufficient preparing your own meals from the road, this portable grill is the perfect set-up.

You’ll also need some basic food storage and eating items.

  • Zippered Plastic Baggies
  • Food Storage Containers…different sizes and stackable
  • Toothpicks…great for grabbing small bites of food
  • Utensils
  • Corkscrew
  • Can Opener
  • Thermos
  • Reusable Shopping Bag…all-purpose, really, but good for groceries

The food to pack for a road trip doesn’t have to be unhealthy snack packs like you’d find in a rest stop gas station. Here’s a list of road trip snacks that are delicious, satisfying, and (mostly) nutritious.

  • Granola Bars
  • Cereal
  • Pretzels/Popcorn/Chips
  • Protein/Energy Bars
  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Cheese Sticks
  • Chocolate
  • Fresh Fruit & Veggies…things that don’t need to be cut like grapes, oranges, blueberries, apples, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, etc.
  • Drink Packets & Tea Bags…easy to mix with water.
  • Hummus
  • Canned Tuna…with an easy-open can
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Sliced Meat
  • Jarred Vegetables….marinated or pickled
  • Sliced Bread
  • Crackers
  • Peanut/Almond/Sunflower Butter
  • Jam
  • Juice Boxes

You’ll notice this list doesn’t include bottles of water. It’s cheaper (and not to mention less plastic waste) to buy larger gallons and jugs of water to refill your reusable water bottle.

Miscellaneous Things to Take on a Road Trip

Finally, these last road trip supplies to consider for those unexpected jams, when you need to make the most of your space, and whether or not you’re camping out.

  • Duct Tape…seriously can fix almost anything at least temporarily
  • Swiss Army Knife…tools for many situations
  • Trunk Organizer
  • Rooftop Cargo
  • Tent…only necessary if you’ll be camping. (I also always bring my sleeping pad camping, too.)

Your road trip list of things to bring is the key to a successful trip. Being prepared means being able to handle any number of situations without them getting in the way of your road trip travel plans.

What’s on your road trip packing checklist?

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30 Necessary Road Trip Essentials You Must Be Packing

So, you want the freedom of the open road, with nowhere to go but onward.

But what the heck do you need to pack?

Berty and I always find ourselves on the road (our Instagram pretty much consists of road trip pictures!), so we created a list of road trip essentials to minimize stops, keep us entertained and save us money along the way.

We’ve used this road trip packing list for countless trips – from Alaska to Utah, the California Coast to the Olympics in Washington.

If you are in the beginning stages (or dreaming up your next destination!) this post provides a great list to get you started, along with other road trip tips along the way!

Planning A Trip?
Make Sure To Read These Posts For More Road Trip Essentials:

Car Camping 101: The Guide To Sleeping In Your Car (For Free!)

20 Brilliant Car Camping Hacks For Your Next Road Trip

What We Learned Living In A Van For 10 Days

The Ultimate Pacific Coast Road Trip

101 Fun And Random Road Trip Questions To Ask Your Friends

Questions You Need To Ask Before Planning a Road Trip

Note: This post contains affiliate links of seriously cool items we love. Any purchase of things we recommend here will help us fund our next epic road trip to share with you all!

1. Snacks

This is essential if you want to save money while you travel. Make sure to bring a good mix of healthy foods like baby carrots, apples, nuts, and crackers.

Bring a mix of sweet and salty things, but also indulge in some junk food as well. Need meal tips? Read our post full of easy camping meals.

2. Garbage Bags

Useful for regular trash and surprise cleanups too. Pack more than a few! Bonus if they smell nice!

3. Kleenex

If you are under the weather, this can save your other car mates from getting sick too.

4. Emergen-C

Speaking of sickness, in addition to packing lots of vitamin C rich foods, Emergen-C or an electrolyte drink mix/tablets can be a good substitute for getting enough energy!

5. Chapstick

Sometimes air conditioners can dry out the inside of the car. Bring chapstick to help alleviate that!

6. Car games/cards for delays or waits

If you are waiting, say, for a ferry or a traffic issue to clear, it’s always nice to fall back on classic card games (just not the driver!) or classic road trip questions to keep spirits up and your mind off the delays!

7. Advil

Sitting in the car for long periods of time can take a toll. Pack extra for some headache relief.

8. Sunglasses

Driving into the sunset can seem romantic, but not when you’re staring straight into the bright lights for hours on end. Save your vision and protect your eyes with these road trip must haves!

9. Car Chargers

Berty and I have loads of tech we use on a regular basis. To make sure our batteries are charged we have a car adapter

to use when we’re driving from place to place.

10. Slippers

For me, I like to take off my shoes and get comfy on long road trips.

11. Pillow

For those times when it’s not your turn to drive. A pillow is also useful for those times where you need some quick shut-eye at those rest stops to regain your energy and stay alert on the road.

12. Headphones

For when you don’t want to talk to your car mates anymore. These noise-canceling ones are a little pricey, but worth every penny for peace and quiet.

13. Clothes/Shoes

Make sure to pack enough for each day you will be gone. On any given trip, we recommend no more than 3 pairs of shoes and always pack more socks and underwear than you need. Find our PNW Packing List here!

14. Hat

Stylish and functional, make sure you have something to cover your eyes and protect your skin on an extra sunny day.

15. Audio Choices

Music is one of the most important road trip necessities. Download playlists on Spotify and update them frequently. Download your favorite audiobooks too so that you can “read” while you drive or listen to podcasts from your favorite series. Make sure you have lots of options!

16. Little Bluetooth Speakers

Helpful in case you reach certain areas with poor reception, but still want to listen to music. We own this one!

17. Cozy Blanket

Whether it’s cold at your destination or the air conditioning is too much to handle, a blanket is an easy go-to comfort on a long drive. You can also use it as a privacy screen if you are sleeping in your car.


18. Candy

It’s okay to have your favorite indulgences in the car. That little burst of sugar will give you energy for the long drive ahead.

19. Gum

Studies show that chewing gum can help you concentrate on the task in front of you. So grab your favorite flavor and get driving!

20. Paper directions/screenshots on your phone

Berty and I constantly lose service when driving on remote roads. Make sure to screenshot the route on your phone, or track it on a map with a pencil in case you go out of cell range. Click our post on road trip apps to make your life easier.

21. Water Bottle

A hydrated driver is a happy driver! Easy, go-to water bottles here, here, and here.

22. Thermos

Ask at gas stations and convenience stores if you can fill your thermos with coffee instead of using their disposable cups. This reduces YOUR waste and probably does a better job of holding your hot beverage. I’ve got my eye on this Hydro Flask as my next purchase.

23. Empty Tote

Bringing an empty tote is an excellent road trip tip for its many uses. Pack a tote full of food and have a roadside picnic or bring it with you to a local farmer’s market to pick up goodies. Our favorite universal tote is this one, which has carried all sorts of things for us! You can also find our favorite adventure bag picks in this post.

24. Duct Tape

This seems to be the fix for everything.

25. Flashlight

It’s important to bring extra lighting for camping, night adventures, and emergencies alike! Our favorite outdoor lighting brand is UCO which make impressively bright headlamps and portable camping lights.

26. First Aid Kit

A simple one will do.

27. Batteries

Make a list of items that may need a battery change on your journey and have a few extras of those on hand.

28. Proof of Insurance/ID

A driver’s license is a no-brainer, but make sure you have a hard copy of your proof of insurance! In addition, make sure your tabs won’t expire during your trip and you’ve got the proper registration forms.

29. Jumper Cables

Having your own can save you from being stranded, but you can always help out a buddy who is stuck too! Here’s a video on how to do it properly.

30. Car Fluids

Things like oil and antifreeze are a must. Here’s a handy list of things to get your car ready for the road.

Need some USA Road Trip Ideas? Click on the map to discover where you should travel next!

READ ROAD TRIP ESSENTIAL TIPS

9 Ways To Keep Your Tech Safe While Traveling

8 Vital Reasons To Travel With Your Friends

How To Save Money For Your Next Adventure

8 Clever Ways To Travel On A Tight Budget

Do These Things Before You Leave For Vacation

How To Avoid Overpacking

*This post contains affiliate links, which means we may get a commission if you choose to purchase. But as always, we only recommend road trip essentials we already own or freaking love!

Follow our Road Trip Board on Pinterest for some inspiration for other road trip essentials!

Download The Road Trip Checklist!

Sign up for our newsletter and get a printable copy of this checklist to take on your next road trip!

Road trips are awesome; they create beautiful memories that last a lifetime. It might take a lot longer to reach your destination than a flight, but to many, it’s more peaceful and the only way to truly see the world. However, these wonderful experiences can also be ruined if you forget to bring the essentials.

7. GPS

Roughly 80% of American adults own a smartphone, making road tripping a lot easier and efficient. However, if you are going through a remote part of the country, mountains, tunnels or somewhere out of range of your service provider, you may lose signal. Because we are so dependent upon GPS, make sure you have multiple backup chargers just in case as constant screen time drains your battery. It’s best to keep an old school map in your glovebox for said emergencies.

6. Good Beats

It’s very important to keep the mood and morale high when you’re on the road for a long time. And what better way to do that than through a good music playlist! It’s best to prepare a playlist prior to your road trip and not count on the radio as your options will be minimal. Same applies for apps like Spotify or Pandora because cell service can equally be as spotty. Another option: books on tape! Swap out a tape depending upon your mood: comedy, autobiography, NY Times Best Seller or romance novel.

5. Snacks & Drinks

Traveling long stretches with limited access to food can be a nightmare. Don’t wait until the nearest rest stop or fast-food joint hundreds of miles away, pack snacks such as: fruits, nuts potato chips, granola bars or jerky. High protein foods will keep you fueled the longest. Water is best as it tastes fine at room temperature, whereas juices, energy drinks or pop do not. Pro tip: bring a bag to put all your wrappers in since there will be many!

4. Bathroom Essentials

Don’t forget to take necessary products with in case you need to make a pit stop and there’s no restroom available. Public restrooms and gas stations are not always on the horizon for long road trips, nor are they consistently stocked with what you need. So it is necessary to bring toilet paper, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer in case you get in a bind.

3. Comfortable Clothes

When going on a road trip, slip into your most comfortable cloths because you will be sitting in the same spot for hours! Flip flops or sandals are best, slip them off and put your feet on the dash or catch a breeze out the window!

2. Camera

Everything is a polaroid moment when on a road trip. Don’t only count on your phone to catch the best moments as you may need it for music, navigation or it might be charging. It’s always best to be extra prepared so you never miss a precious moment.

1. Complete Auto Maintenance

Before you leave for a road trip, make sure your vehicle is up to date on routine maintenance. Nothing is worse than a car breaking down but it takes it to another level when you are out of town, especially when you are extremely far away from a shop. Most important will be an oil change, tire rotation and wheel alignment, but it’s best to check with the manufacturer’s recommendations’ when you plan to put on so many miles.

WJ Tested: Long Road Supplies Travel Tent Review

Added by Viv on 02/09/2014
Saved under Gear and Gadgets, Gear and Gadgets, Travel Tips, WJ Reviews
Tags: bed bug tent, bug tent, Long Road Supplies, mosquito tent, travel tent review, WAVEJourney, WJ Tested

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WJ Tested: Long Road Supplies Travel Tent Review

WJ Tested: Long Road Supplies Travel Tent Review

Do you get creeped out by creepy crawlies? Are you a magnet for mosquitoes? Do fleas make you flip out? Do you want to avoid being bitten by bedbugs? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may want to consider adding a Long Road Travel Supplies Travel Tent to your packing list the next time you’re leaving home.

After spending a few sleepless nights at a deluxe jungle lodge (I do not like to share my bed with spiders or become a feast for mosquitoes in the middle of the night) in Belize last year, I knew there was no chance of me ever travelling anywhere tropical again without some sort of bug tent. So, the search started for the perfect bug travel tent companion to satisfy my need for a peaceful slumber regardless of where I decided to travel. After spending far too many hours scouring the internet and visiting outdoor gear supply stores in both Canada and the USA, I found the Long Road Travel Supplies website… and finally my search was over.

Long Road Supplies Travel Tent

Aside from my camera, my most used piece of travel gear on a recent 9-week adventure through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand was the one person (a double is also available) Travel Tent from Long Road Travel Supplies. If it hadn’t been for this product I likely would have had very little sleep, ended up with a few hundred mossie bites and come back with PTSD from the things that go crunch in the night.

The one night at a guesthouse where I was not able to sleep in the Travel Tent (the bed had its own mosquito netting) was when I awoke the next morning to find about 30 bites on my feet. Lesson learned! From that point onward I make sure I safely and securely slept in my trusty cocoon.

PROS:

Compact – Easily packs into its own travel sack and fits inside a carry-on luggage.

Lightweight – Weighs less than 2lbs.

Poles – There are either 2 fiberglass or 2 aluminum poles. The aluminum poles are lighter, more flexible and will last longer than the fiberglass.

Netting/Base – No-see-um netting stops even the smallest insects from entering, while the ripstop nylon base is solid and extends up the sides to prevent mosquitoes from biting.

Freestanding – The lightweight poles fold up easily and unlike mosquito nets there is no looking for a hook in a room from which to hang it.

Zippered Door – Strong zipper keeps the tent sealed from bugs.

Interior Pocket – Handy for keeping valuables close by.

Length Extension – Get another 7″ of length at the bottom of the tent for feet.

Size – Fits on a regular twin bed while providing ample room to sleep comfortably and sit up inside.

Quality – After 9 weeks of continual use, the Travel Tent was still working as well as it did the first time.

CONS:

Door – If there is a footboard at the base of the bed, it is difficult to enter/exit the Travel Tent’s zippered door (a side door would be my preference).

Set Up/Take Down – I did have a slight challenge with the poles when setting up and taking down the Travel Tent on my own. The poles are very long when opened up and flexing them over the tent was a bit of a lesson in contortion. Saying that, it only took a couple of minutes to either set up or take down. (P.S. much quicker with two people – approximately 30 seconds)

Long Road Travel Supplies – One Person Travel Tent on a Full-Size Bed

BOTTOM LINE:

Sleeping well and staying safe from disease-carrying bugs (malaria, Dengue, etc.) is important both at home and away. The Long Road Travel Supplies Travel Tent is an item that I will now take with me everywhere I travel… and when spider season comes along again, I’ll also be sleeping in the Travel Tent at home!

Note:
Products were provided free of charge for WAVEJourney to test and review. See our full disclosure statement to see that this has no effect on our opinions or reviews.

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The Best Packing List For An Epic Camping Road Trip In New Zealand

A road trip is definitely the best way of exploring New Zealand. With its incredible snow-capped mountains, lush forest and turquoise lakes, Aotearoa is surely one of the most beautiful countries to visit by car or campervan. Traveling the open road is a liberating feeling everyone should experience, and having reliable equipment and gear to support you through your journey can really make a difference. Your car becomes your home and your items become your sole belongings. So make the most out of your New Zealand road trip with my tips and road trip essentials list.

Note: Affiliate links may be used in this post. I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase through my affiliate link. Read my full disclosure policy here.

Tips to plan the perfect camping road trip in New Zealand

Planning a road trip can be difficult, especially if you’ve never done it before. Here a few tips to help you plan the road trip of your dreams.

Decide on your destination and choose a route

The first thing to do is to choose your destination. Once you know where you’re going you can choose your route. Most people choose to follow the scenic route, as it is obviously a lot more beautiful than driving on the highway. New Zealand’s roads are almost all scenic, to be honest, and they have two lanes.

I recommend using Google Maps to plan your road trip. You can easily calculate the driving time between destinations with this app, which will make it a lot easier to plan your stops and estimate the distances. You will also be able to see the main towns on your route, so you know where you can buy snacks and refuel.

Once I’m on the road, I use Maps.me. It’s an app that works offline, so you don’t need to have the internet to see where you are and where you’re going which is very useful when you get lost or take the wrong turn. If you plan on using this app, you will need to download the map of New Zealand before you leave. The map will be stored in the app, and then you can use it offline and see the roads, towns, and attractions.

Check your car before you leave

This is probably one of the most important things to do before you go, especially if you’re planning a long road trip of a few weeks/months. Take your car to the garage and have it checked. Make sure you have a spare tire, and jack, and have your oil changed if needed.

Book your campsites

If you’re traveling in high season, I recommend you book some of your campsites before you go. In New Zealand, most you’ll find campsites in the most beautiful regions of the country. They are managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC). You can also choose to stay in holiday parks. In summer, campsites can get full really quickly and it can be difficult to find a spot. If you don’t want to book, showing up early (before 5pm) will give you more chances to find a spot for the night especially if you’re planning to stay in a free camp. If you travel in low season, no need to book in advance, you can be more spontaneous. Robin and I did our New Zealand road trip in winter and didn’t book any camps in advance. We were basically alone every night and could enjoy beautiful and quiet nights under the stars. How romantic!

Make a road trip playlist

No road trip is complete without a great playlist! You can find made-up playlists on Youtube or Spotify but you can also make your own. Actually, it’s better to make more than one (especially if you’re going for weeks) or you will quickly get sick of listening to the same songs over and over again. Try to make at least 3 playlists in 3 different music styles. The perfect playlist should be a mix of new and old, with plenty of references to the open road of course.

Stop frequently

It’s very important to stop frequently on a road trip. Driving for a long time is really tiring, so try to stop every 2 or 3 hours. If you’re tired, stop on the side of the road and take a nap or ask another passenger to drive.

Be spontaneous

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, so keep an open mind and go with the flow. You also need to be open to detours. You will probably drive by interesting or scenic places, so allow some extra time in your schedule. When we visited New Zealand, we stopped a lot more than we expected simply because in some places the scenery was so stunning, you just want to stop and enjoy!

Now that you know how to plan the perfect road trip, let’s have a look at what you will need to take for your camping road trip to New Zealand.

The best packing list for an epic camping road trip in New Zealand

  • Spare tire, jack, and pump

Make sure you have a good spare tire, your jack, and pump.

  • Extra fluids

Refill before you go, and take extra fluids with you.

Camping Necessities

  • Tent with rain cover

We made the mistake of buying a tent that didn’t have a rain cover, and when it rained a lot, the water would just go through and make small puddles in the tent. It’s definitely not cool, so it’s better to have a rain cover for your tent even if you think it’s not going to rain.

  • Camping mat

Self-inflating camping mats are very comfortable, and they take little space. They can easily be folded back into their carrying bag after use. If you need even more comfort, you can buy an air mattress but they take more space.

  • Sleeping bags

Four season sleeping bags are pretty good. The most important is to have one that is lightweight and waterproof. Trust me, you don’t want your sleeping bag to get wet.

  • Camp pillows

Essential for a good night sleep in the great outdoors. Like the mats, camp pillows are inflatable and take little space.

  • Camping table

Some campings don’t have table and chairs, so I recommend carrying your own if you’ve got space in your car.

  • Camping chairs

Don’t you dream of drinking beer around a nice fire in your own camping chair? If you do, bring your own chairs!

  • Cooler box

They take very little space and are a must-have on any road trip. They are ideal to carry your snacks and water.

  • Torch lamp and headlamp

Another thing you can’t go camping without. You’ll definitely need a torch lamp to cook in the evening. You might be thinking you could use the flashlight of your phone, but you could also drop it in the pit toilet and never see it again.

  • Camping bin

You almost always have to take your rubbish with you especially when camping in national parks so don’t forget this one.

  • Water tank

We carried one in our car to have water to drink obviously, but also to do the dishes and sometimes wash when there were no showers around.

  • First aid kit

Because you never know what could happen, it’s better to always carry a first aid kit with you.

  • Backpack or suitcase

I prefer backpacks because they are smaller but a suitcase will do, you can just leave it in the car at all times.

  • Day backpack

There are all kinds of small backpacks out there. Look around the market and see what works best for you. For day hiking, I usually like to make sure the bag is about 20-30 liters, and that I can put my snacks and water in it and also all my valuables (phone, camera, wallet…).

  • Fast drying towel

I use a fast drying towel all the time when I travel, but it comes very handy when you camp.

  • Water bottle with filter

If you go on a long hike, take a water bottle with filter, this way even if you run out of water you’ll still be able to take some from a river and drink it. The LifeStraw is a good option if you want something lightweight and quick to filter water with.

  • Healthy snacks

Bring your own snacks with you, it’s cheaper than buying them at a gas station. Nuts, seeds and dried fruits are super healthy and make a fantastic snack.

  • All-purpose tool

An all-purpose tool might be useful. If you’re like my boyfriend and break everything, a Leatherman will save your life.

  • Sunscreen

You’re going to be spending a lot of time outside, so wear sunscreen even if it’s not super sunny.

  • Bug spray

You will have weird encounters with many different bugs during your camping trip. We had ants in our tent at some point, so the bug spray was very handy. Also, sandflies will probably be your worst enemy.

  • Sunglasses

Nobody likes to be blinded by the sun.

“READ: Top 10 New Zealand Campsites Under $15

Electronics

  • Camera

You don’t want to forget all the beautiful moments you’re going to live on this camping road trip, so take a good camera to create wonderful memories.

  • Chargers

Don’t forget your chargers for your phone and camera, you’ll be able to charge them with a power bank. Or you can charge them directly from the car if you have a USB car charger.

  • Power bank

Well, there won’t be any power sockets in the bush that’s for sure. Don’t forget to charge your power bank before you get on the road.

  • Kindle or Book

No wifi in the forest means no Facebook so take a book or kindle to keep yourself entertained in the evening.

Cooking Equipment

  • Plates, bowls, and cutlery

  • Cutting board

  • Tupperware

To keep your snacks or food when you go on a hike.

  • Vegetable peeler

  • Spatula

  • Can opener

  • Pots and pans

You’ll need a big pot to do the dishes in. One big pot and one pan are enough.

  • Strainer

  • Mugs

Hot tea in your own mug, how does that sound?

  • Portable mini burner and fuel

Very handy to cook a nice dinner in the evening. Make sure you buy enough fuel cans.

Other Camping Supplies

  • Laundry detergent

  • Dishwashing liquid

  • Sponge

  • Tea towels

  • Lighter or matches

  • Paper towel

Toiletries

  • Wipes

Use wipes for quick, on the move cleanups. Wipes are super useful and make ideal travel companions.

  • Biodegradable soap

New Zealand’s nature is precious. Try to use biodegradable soap instead of normal soap.

  • Flip flops

Because when you use public showers you don’t want to put your feet where everyone else did.

  • Hand sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is considered as effective at killing germs as washing your hands with soap and water. So grab one before you go.

  • Lip Balm

You don’t want to end up with cracked lips.

  • Toilet rolls

Because there is no such thing as toilet paper in the woods.

“READ: 5 Awesome Day Hikes On The South Island Of New Zealand

Clothes

  • Walking shoes

Everyday walking shoes are a must-have for whenever you’re not hiking. Make sure they are comfy.

  • Fleece

I was wearing my fleece almost every day on our New Zealand road trip. Wear a light long sleeve shirt underneath.

  • Beanie

To keep your head warm when it gets colder at night or on top of the mountain you’re going to climb.

  • Scarf

I actually put my scarf around my shoulders when it gets cooler at night.

  • Hiking boots

Make sure to wear good hiking boots for your trail. Ideally, they should be light, waterproof and comfortable.

  • Warm socks

It’s important to keep your feet warm at all times. So a few pairs of warm socks are essential for your camping trip.

  • Hiking pants

A nice lightweight, breathable pair of hiking pants is the best for a day hike.

  • Waterproof pants

We were always wearing waterproof pants when hiking in New Zealand, simply because if it starts raining a lot at least your legs will stay dry and the pants dry super quickly.

  • Rain jacket

If it looks like the weather is going to turn, bring a rain jacket or a poncho. They’re light to carry.

  • Swimsuit

I know you might be wondering why you’d bring a swimsuit on a road trip (especially if you’re road tripping in winter), but you actually might need one if you come across natural hot pools.

Road trips are the best way to see New Zealand and create wonderful long lasting memories. To make a great road trip even greater, make sure you have all these camping gear essentials. Are you planning a camping road trip to New Zealand? Let me know in the comments below!

Are you traveling soon? Don’t forget your travel insurance!

Travel insurance is the only thing I don’t go anywhere without. Your travel insurance covers you against travel risks such as lost or stolen luggage, trip cancellation, and most importantly, unexpected medical costs abroad. I like WorldNomads because they are backed by reputable insurers, have 24h assistance providers, and are affordable. Get a quote and read the policy details to ensure that it’s right for you. For more information, read my travel insurance page.