Ultimate Road Trip Packing List: All the Essentials You’ll Need (+ Free Checklist!)

May 29, 2022

There’s nothing quite as freeing as hitting the open road! I started doing a lot more road trips myself last year after my solo trip through the Southwest, and since then it has definitely become one of my favorite ways to travel. Over the past few trips I’ve been able to put together a complete road trip packing list with all the essentials you’ll need for your own adventures. Bonus: Scroll down to the bottom of this page for a free PDF version of this road trip checklist!

Whether you plan on driving across the country, up the California coast, or even just want to take a quick weekend road trip nearby, it’s important to bring all the essentials with you. Planning ahead for your road trip and packing all the necessities on this list will help you make the most of your time, save you money, and ensure you have the best possible experience on the road (and an epic adventure)!

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Hi there! Please be sure to follow all local travel guidelines and check for any travel restrictions or requirements for your destination during these times. I’m here to inspire your adventures when you feel safe to do so. Also note: This post contains affiliate links which may provide this website with a small commission when purchases are made through these links, at no extra cost to you. These commissions go towards helping to keep this site up and running and allows me to continue bringing free and valuable content your way. All product suggestions, reviews and opinions shared are my own.

Ready to hit the road? Here is my ultimate road trip essentials packing list with everything you’ll need for your next adventure:

Road Trip Packing List: Car Essentials 

It’s important to always be prepared for any travel mishaps, especially when you’re on a road trip (because let’s face it – flat tires can happen anywhere).

Keep in mind that depending on where you’re going, you may need to pack some additional essentials. For example, if you’re taking a winter road trip, you may need to prepare for driving in the snow! Always check for weather reports, the topography, and the road conditions of your route before you start your road trip.

What to pack for the car:

  • car manual
  • license & vehicle registration
  • spare car key
  • spare tire
  • roadside emergency kit – this kit contains everything you need for both the car and personal safety essentials
    • jumper cables
    • tow rope
    • tire gauge
    • reflective vest
    • reflective warning triangle
    • emergency hammer / seatbelt cutter
    • flashlight / headlight & extra batteries
  • gasoline canister
  • tire sealant
  • window repair kit
  • windshield sun shade
  • duct tape
  • offline map / paper map for navigation

Additional seasonal car essentials:

  • snow chains
  • snow shovel
  • ice scraper
  • umbrella 

Important documents to keep in the car:

Wherever I travel, I like to be prepared for anything and have multiple backup plans ready. For important documents, such as insurance policies and roadside assistance service memberships, it’s a good idea to keep spare copies in your car in case the originals go missing, or if you’re unable to pull the information up on your phone in areas with bad cell reception. 

It’s also a good idea to download and keep copies of these on your phone, that way all of these things are saved in 3 separate places: 1. paper copies in the glove compartment, 2. digital copies on your phone, and 3. the originals in your wallet. Never hurts to be prepared!

  • copy of your roadside assistance service contact info (I have a AAA membership)
  • copy of your car insurance policy & contact info
  • copy of your travel insurance policy & contact info
  • copy of your driver’s license
  • copies of your credit cards / debit card

Road Trip Packing List: Safety Essentials

On any road trip, safety should always be the #1 priority. Depending on where you are headed and what you plan on doing may determine what additional safety essentials to bring. But here are all the safety basics that I keep in my car with me while I’m on the road:

  • first aid kit
    • bandaids
    • gauze
    • ointment
    • tweezers
    • pain reliever
    • motion sickness medicine
    • cold medicine
    • stomach medicine
  • survival preparedness tools (a lot of these can also be found in your roadside emergency kit)
    • emergency blanket
    • rain poncho
    • distress whistle
  • Garmin InReach Mini satellite communicator – For extra peace of mind, this SOS & GPS enabled satellite communicator works where your cell phone service doesn’t!
  • pepper spray – For this, be sure to store pepper spray in places with moderate temperatures. (I keep mine on a keychain with my car keys.) You can learn more about carrying and using pepper spray here.

You can find a free PDF version of this road trip checklist at the bottom of this page!

Road Trip Packing List: Organization Essentials

Aside from your usual luggage and travel bags, you may want to try out some of these car organizational tools to keep everything tidy on the road. I’ve learned that car organization is key to minimizing road trip stress, and being able to find exactly what you’re looking for when you need it is crucial.

Here’s a list of a few things I use to help keep my car tidy and organized for a road trip:

Road Trip Packing List: Food & Water Essentials

Bringing your own food with you on any road trip will save you money and time spent looking for places to eat during your drive. It’s a good idea to keep some food on hand anyway, especially for those long parts of the drive where you’re out in the middle of nowhere and there’s nothing around.

The best road trip food options will be anything non-perishable, and will also not melt in the heat of the sun. If you’re bringing a cooler with perishable items, keep in mind how long your specific cooler will keep things cold for and plan accordingly.

As always, please be sure to abide by the Leave No Trace principles and dispose of trash appropriately!

The best food & snacks for road trips:

  • granola
  • trail mix
  • protein & energy bars
  • dried fruit
  • nuts & seeds
  • crackers
  • pretzels
  • popcorn
  • breads / bagels / muffins
  • peanut butter
  • tuna (the kind that doesn’t need to be refrigerated)
  • gum

And if you’re bringing a cooler:

  • fresh fruits: bananas, apples, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, oranges, avocados
  • fresh veggies: celery, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers
  • hummus
  • deli sandwiches & wraps (either pre-made or made at home)
  • salads (either pre-made or made at home)
  • energy drinks / sports drinks
  • coconut water

Road Trip Packing List: Hygiene & Wellness Essentials

Packing the right toiletries and wellness essentials is crucial for staying comfortable on any road trip. Regardless of whether you plan on camping or are just road tripping in between accommodations, having a few things (like baby wipes and hand sanitizer) readily available to help freshen up will make all the difference.

Personal hygiene essentials:

  • toothbrush & toothpaste
  • floss
  • deodorant
  • baby wipes
  • towel
  • shampoo & conditioner
  • bar soap
  • razor
  • lotion
  • face wash / skincare routine
  • makeup & makeup remover wipes
  • hairbrush & hair ties
  • nail clippers & nail file
  • lip balm
  • eye drops
  • feminine hygiene products
  • toilet paper
  • tissues / towelettes
  • cotton swabs
  • hand sanitizer

Wellness essentials:

  • prescriptions
  • vitamins & supplements
  • glasses / contacts & contact solution
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray

Cleaning essentials:

  • antibacterial wipes
  • microfiber cloths

You can find a free PDF version of this road trip checklist at the bottom of this page!

Road Trip Packing List: Clothing Essentials for Women

For any road trip, you want to make sure the clothes you pack are going to be comfortable enough to sit in for hours on end. For me, that means a lot of leggings, layers and sandals. Anything else that I don’t want to wear while I’m driving but still might need later on during my trip (like my hiking clothes, for example), are stored into my packing cubes for later. 

Clothes to pack for the road:

  • tank tops
  • cotton shirts 
  • long-sleeve tops
  • workout tops
  • leggings
  • cotton pants
  • jeans
  • shorts
  • jackets / sweaters
  • dresses
  • sleepwear
  • bras / bralettes
  • sports bras
  • underwear
  • swimsuits
  • sandals
  • athletic shoes
  • boots
  • casual shoes
  • socks
  • hats
  • sunglasses

Road Trip Packing List: Entertainment Essentials

It’s so important to have some entertainment options available during any road trip! There may be parts of the drive where cell service is nonexistent, which means your entertainment options may be limited. Be sure to download what you need for offline use before you hit the road so you can enjoy all your favorites, regardless of where you are.

Here are a few entertainment ideas to have ready before you hit the road:

For drivers:

  • audio books / podcasts
  • music playlists – anything fun and upbeat will also help keep you awake while driving!

For passengers:

  • movies / tv shows
  • books
  • e-reader / kindle
  • playing cards
  • bluetooth speaker

Road Trip Packing List: Tech Essentials

It’s important to be able to stay connected, even when on the road. If you’re a digital nomad like me, or need to be able to work remotely while traveling, then these items are especially crucial. Here are the basic tech essentials I bring with me on any road trip:

  • cell phone
  • cell phone dashboard / window mount (keep in mind: if you plan on using a rental car, most do not come with this!)
  • USB charging cables & car charger adapter
  • laptop / tablet & chargers
  • personal hotspot
  • headphones (and if they’re noise-cancelling headphones, even better!)
  • portable charger

Road Trip Packing List: Miscellaneous Essentials

  • wallet
    • driver’s license 
    • cash & change for tolls / parking meters / etc
    • credit cards / debit card
    • emergency contact info
    • travel insurance contact info
    • auto insurance card & contact info
    • health insurance card & contact info, medical history, & list of prescriptions (if any)
    • roadside assistance service membership card
    • travel membership cards (ie: National Parks pass)
  • itineraries
  • travel confirmations
  • travel guides
  • house keys
  • journal / notebook & pen
  • camera – (you can find a complete list of what’s in my camera bag here!) & charger
  • yoga mat, if you’re into that sort of thing

You can find a free PDF version of all these road trip necessities in the checklist below!

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Are there any road trip essentials I missed? Please share your favorite road trip items with me in the comments below!

Free Road Trip Checklist

Get your road trip checklist PDF freebie here!


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About the Author

Hi I'm Rylie - Welcome to my corner of the internet!

I'm a solo traveler & photographer based in Southern California, on a mission to explore the world and inspire you to do the same.


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