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Leave no stone unturned before you hit the open road with our road trip packing list that you can download and print off today. Use it to help you plan a memorable road trip.
Road Trip Packing List
Want all our essentials and suggestions in one, handy, downloadable checklist you can print off, tick off, and fill in at home? Scroll to the end of this article to get to the download link, and plan your next road trip with confidence.
1. Phone and Charger
If you’re using your phone as your sat nav or you and your friends or kids plan to use your phones in the car, batteries can quickly drain.
Consider a car charger adapter with multiple USB ports and a portable power bank for when you’re not in the car or as a backup if you have multiple phones to charge and not enough car chargers.
2. Driver’s License/ID and Registration Details
Naturally, this goes without saying, but it can be easy to forget if you have it on you. Double-check before you leave.
3. Cash and Cards
In addition to your credit and debit cards, be sure to have cash on hand. If you’re going somewhere a little more rural or off-beat, it may be harder to find cash machines or stores that take cards.
4. Roadside Assistance Membership and Details
If you don’t have one already, roadside assistance memberships, such as AAA roadside assistance, are there for you in those moments you can’t get the car going and need help. Be sure to have your membership card and details on hand, including a contact phone number.
5. First-Aid Kit
You can get smaller, all-in-one travel-sized first-aid kits, such as this kit from First Aid Only, which fit comfortably into the glove compartment. Particularly if you plan to hike or do some outdoor activities, it’s also good to have one on hand.
6. Pain Relief, Allergy, and Prescribed Medication
If you take any prescription medication, be sure to pack enough for the day with instructions on how to take it, if necessary. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, or any allergy medication, is also a good idea to pack.
7. Bottled Water
Load up a large multi-pack of bottled water into the trunk. You can use this water for drinking, washing hands, or topping up your windscreen wiper fluid levels.
Car Maintenance and Emergency
8. All-in-One Roadside Emergency Kit
If you’re not sure of what you need to cover all bases, a roadside emergency kit will give you warning lights, jump leads, and other vital tools, that are packed into one, convenient handled container that can be stowed in the trunk.
9. Spare Tire
If you don’t have one, visit your local garage and get one to be stowed in the trunk. Flat tires are more common than many people think.
If you do get a flat, the first thing you’ll need to do is elevate your car using a jack, so that you can remove the tire.
11. Lug Wrench
Once elevated, make sure you have a lug wrench so that you can remove the lug nuts on the wheels, and thus tighten them back on once the tire has been changed.
12. Jump Leads and/or Portable Battery Charger
If you have a flat battery, even if someone stops to help, if they themselves don’t have jump leads or cables, you’re out of luck. If you are going rural, though a little more expensive and heavy, you may want to consider having your own portable battery charger, packed in the trunk, that you can use the jump leads with.
13. Spare Engine Fluids
Consider packing spare engine oil, water, and brake fluid, just in case you need to top up or a warning light comes in. However, never pop the hood and attempt to add any liquids when the engine is hot.
14. Emergency Lights
Especially if you break down at night, emergency lights make you visible to other road users and can be used as a sign for help. Often, they’ll be included in the all-in-one roadside emergency kits, so double-check if you already have them.
15. Tape and Zip Ties
If you don’t have specialized equipment, having duct tape and zip ties handy can be used to patch things up and keep things connected until you reach a garage or get help further down the road.
It may be a little old-school, but GPS sat navs don’t need an internet connection. If you are going off-beat or very rural, this may be a better setup than using a phone that needs a 4G or 5G connection.
17. Maps App with Offline Mode
With Google Maps and apps like Maps.me, you can download maps beforehand to be used offline. It’s better to have this in place as a failsafe, in case your phone loses internet connection and starts struggling to update your map.
18. Road Atlas of Area
Ordering an up-to-date road map or atlas of a certain area usually includes all the lanes and smaller roads, which some apps and map reading technology misunderstand or fail to pick up. It’s good to have a road atlas for backup.
19. GPS Transmitter
A failsafe for rural adventures, a GPS transmitter will send out a distress call to a pre-determined contact number. If you’re really going out into the wilderness, this is a good device to have, just in case.
20. Travel Pillow
If you’re going to be on the road for more than a few hours, consider packing one or more travel pillows for everyone to use.
If you’re driving, you can still pull over and use it to get some shut-eye if you’re feeling tired. Take a look at our travel pillows rundown to help you choose with confidence, such as the Cabeau Evolution S3, which can be strapped to a headrest behind you.
21. Blankets and Towels
Even if it’s hot outside, with air-con in the car, things can get a little chilly. Pack a versatile, comfy travel blanket from one of our picks, and use it to help you sleep or relax in the car.
22. Thermal or Comfy Socks
It’s nice to take your shoes off (if you’re not driving) and let your feet breathe, but be sure to wear some thermal or comfy socks to help with circulation and keep your feet warm.
23. Sun Shield
Use a sun shield or sunshade to keep the sun from getting in your eyes when driving.
24. Prepared Phone Playlist
Have a road trip playlist prepared beforehand on your phone in the likes of Spotify, so that you can connect to your car stereo via Bluetooth and keep the car happy with some great tunes.
25. Bluetooth Speaker
Great for in the car and outdoor destinations, such as green parks or the beach, connect your phone up to a wireless Bluetooth speaker and enjoy a higher quality of sound than your car stereo can provide.
26. Bluetooth FM Transmitter
If you’re driving an older car that doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth, you can use an FM transmitter which can be slotted into the cigarette lighter.
Connect it to an open radio frequency, then connect your phone via Bluetooth and play your favorite songs through the transmitter.
27. Coloring Books and Pens/Pencils
Coloring books are for kids and grown-ups alike, and you’d be amazed at how quickly you can lose yourself in intricate patterns and beautiful drawings.
28. Collection of Word/Vocal-Based Games
Need some inspiration? Check out our list of road trip games, note down the rules, and have a list of them handy for when you’re in the car.
29. Card Games
As long as there’s no board and the dealer is willing to reach over to each person, card games can generally be played with just the cards in your hand. This makes many card games ideal for playing in the car.
30. Journal and Pen
Take the time on the road for self-reflection, doodling, writing, poetry, or other outlets of thought and creativity. Pack a journal and colored pens, and enjoy some personal time in the car.
31. Ipad or Tablet with Downloaded Movies
You will very quickly burn through data when streaming, so instead, take advantage of the offline download modes most major streaming services now have. Be sure to pack a portable charger for your tablets too.
If you want to get everyone excited about going on a trip, you could even pick a movie from our list of travel-inspired movies to stoke the sense of adventure in the car.
The last thing you want is everyone in the car watching different things on their phones or tablets, and loud noise coming from each device.
33. Kindle Paperwhite
If you’re the passenger, get lost in a good book for hours on end. With a Kindle Paperwhite, you can have hundreds of titles downloaded to one device, ready to read.
34. Portable Charger
If you have lots of devices running in the car, a portable charger can help you keep everyone’s phones and tablets topped up on power. Be sure to have the correct cables on hand, and make sure your charger has been fully charged the night before your road trip.
35. Extra Layers
Whether you’re hiking in the heat or spending time by water, it’s always good to have extra layers and spare clothes.
36. Coat or Jacket
You never know when the weather may turn cold, so have a coat or jacket on-hand in case you need to keep warm.
It’s important to keep the sun out of your eyes, especially when driving.
38. Hiking Boots
Even if you’re not hiking, if you’re going off-road or outdoors, sturdy boots, sneakers, or hiking shoes are always better to have packed in the car.
39. Spare Socks and Underwear
Especially if you do some outdoor activities, it’s good to have a change of underwear on-hand.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ended up at a beach or lake on a road trip and not have my swimwear on hand to go in the water. If you are planning a beach day or visiting a waterfall or lake, always pack your swimwear in case.
41. Beach Towel or Large Foldable Towel
Ideal for picnics, beach days, or just giving everyone in the car somewhere to sit on the floor when there’s no seating around.
42. Portable Laundry Bag
Clothes can get dirty, wet, or sweaty, so have a spare bag, or portable laundry bag, to keep any clothes you change out of away from food, blankets, and clean clothes.
If you are planning a camping trip, naturally, you will need a far more extensive list than this. You can head over to our camping gear rundown to get ideas for everything you need. If you are planning an overnight stay and driving back in the morning, pack the following.
43. Toiletries Bag
Include your essentials, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, and specific shampoo. As it is only one night, you may not need to pack items such as a razor for shaving, and so on.
If you have trouble sleeping in beds other than your own, you should have enough room in the car to bring your pillow, which you can even use to help you sleep on the car seat.
45. Daypack or Overnight Bag
Keep your change or clothes and toiletries in a daypack or overnight bag, separate from your other items.
46. One Full Set of Spare Clothes
Make sure you pack one full set of clothes to change into in the morning.
Food and Drink
What summer adventure or beach trip is complete with a trusted cooler to keep all your drinks, snacks, and packed food in?
48. Collapsable Water Bottle
Great for when you find water fountains and fresh drinking water, collapsable water bottles will also help save space when you’re not using them.
Related: 8 Water Filters and Water Purifiers for Travel
49. Vacuum Flask
Keep your hot tea and coffee or ice-cold drinks in a vacuum flask, and look for one with a handle to make it easier to pour. Be sure to bring cups, too, if you’re not drinking from the flask.
50. Sealable Ziploc Bags
Any preprepared food, such as sandwiches, fruit, vegetables, or opened food, you can store in Ziploc bags, to keep them fresh and keep the car clean from messes.
51. Plates and Cutlery
Decide how you’re going to eat more substantial meals. You could pack the food in Tupperware with forks, or you could pack plates, either disposable or non-disposable. Make sure you have somewhere, or a free bag, to store the dirty plates.
52. Wet Wipes
It’s always handy to have wipes on you, to clean yourself, spillages, or sanitize your hands before eating food.
53. Trail Mix
Some would argue the king of road trip snacks, trail mix is simple to pack and, if the bag is big enough, keep hunger at bay for everyone in the car in-between meals.
54. Granola or Protein Bars
Great for quick, filling snacks, easy to carry, and minimal mess.
55. Sliced or Packaged Fruit
Get some more vitamins and minerals in with some sliced or pre-prepared fruit, and seal them in Ziploc bags to keep the fruit from spoiling.
56. Portable Coffee Maker and Ground Beans
As long as you have access to hot water (see below), devices like AeroPress, or portable coffee makers that run on batteries or USB charge mean you can still enjoy your favorite ground coffee, no matter what time of day it is.
57. Travel Kettle
If you are packing a coffee maker, get yourself a portable travel kettle, so that you can boil some of the water you packed.
Feel free to download and print off our road trip packing list here, and use it to make sure you leave no stone unturned before your next adventure on the road.
Road trips can sometimes be deceiving, because if you’re only planning to be gone for an afternoon, full day, or at most one night, it often feels like you can leave many things to chance.
Especially with a motor vehicle, it’s always good to plan ahead. Often, if you go to rural places, it can be difficult to get help, and thus you’ll need to get things up and running yourself.
Spend the time necessary to cover all your bases, so that you can focus your energy on having a great day on the road. From keeping everyone fed to making sure you have the tools to get the car back on the road, a little planning can go a long way.
You Might Also Like to Read
- The Ultimate Weekend Packing List Perfect for Quick Getaways
- 30 Best Car Gadgets and Accessories for Road Trips
- 50+ Solo Road Trip Essentials and Items You Should Pack
Save and Pin for Later
Plan your next road trip with confidence by saving this article to one of your boards, and having the checklist ready to download a few days before your journey.
Author: Dale Johnson is a content writer and strategist, who has traveled to over 30 countries, and has road tripped extensively around the UK and Europe.