Road Trip Essentials You Don't Want to Leave Behind

Road trips are a great way to explore new places, bond with friends or family, and create lasting memories. Whether planning a long-distance road trip with the family, a weekend getaway with a close friend, or relocating to a new city for work, it's important to be prepared and pack wisely.

Having the right essentials on your family road trip packing list can make all the difference in ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable trip. This article will explore some of the most important road trip essentials you don't want to leave behind.

From snacks and entertainment to safety gear and emergency supplies, we'll cover everything you need to know to make the most of your next road trip.

How To Pack for a Road Trip?

Do you have your road trip checklist ready? Knowing your destination is just the beginning; here’s everything else you need to think about to pack what you need on the open road:

What Are Your Destinations?

Knowing where you’re going to stop along the way of a road trip is crucial to packing effectively; the climate and terrain of each destination will determine what types of clothing and gear you'll need to bring. For example, if you're heading to the beach, you must pack swimsuits, sunscreen and bug spray, and beach towels.

If you're heading to a national park, pack warm clothing and gear for outdoor activities like hiking or skiing. You may encounter different weather patterns if you're visiting different regions, so you should pack accordingly.

It's also important to research the amenities and services available at your destinations and know where each rest stop will be. If you're staying in a remote area considered a food desert, you'll need to pack more food and supplies to sustain you. And if there aren’t reliable bathrooms, hand sanitizer is never a bad idea.

How Far Are You Going?

Knowing how far your road trip will be will affect how you pack for it in a few ways. First, if you're driving long distances, ensure you have enough clothing and supplies to last the entire trip. This includes extra clothing, toiletries, and entertainment options, and you can’t forget to pack snacks and drinks to avoid frequent stops and minimize expenses on the road.

Secondly, the distance of the road trip may determine the size and type of vehicle you use, which will impact how much luggage and gear you can bring. If traveling in a smaller vehicle, you must pack strategically and prioritize essential items. On the other hand, if you're traveling in a larger vehicle, you may have more space to bring additional items or larger gear, such as camping equipment or sporting gear.

How Many People Are Going?

How many people are going on your road trip is important to consider when packing because the number of people on the trip will impact the amount of luggage and personal items you can bring, not to mention it can put some complications into making the perfect playlist for your party.

If you're traveling with a larger group, you may need to pack more efficiently to ensure there is enough space for everyone's belongings. This means limiting the number of bags or opting for smaller, more compact items. Alternatively, if you're traveling with fewer people, you may have more space to bring additional items or larger gear.

Additionally, the number of people on the trip may affect the type of accommodations you use. For example, if you're staying in a hotel or rental property, you may need to book multiple rooms or larger accommodations to accommodate everyone.

What’s Your Budget

Your budget is a major consideration when assembling your road trip packing list. It can directly determine the type of accommodations, transportation, and activities you can afford, impacting what you need to pack.

If you're on a tight budget, you may need to pack more food, snacks, and drinks to avoid expensive restaurants or fast food stops. You should prioritize essential items and avoid overpacking to save on baggage fees or space in a smaller vehicle.

On the other hand, if you have a larger budget, you may have more flexibility to bring more road trip necessities and splurge on experiences like upscale dining or adventurous activities (bring the flip flops!) Planning and researching costs associated with your road trip, including gas and activities, is extremely helpful to ensure you stay within your budget and avoid overspending.

By considering your budget when packing for your road trip, you can pack smartly and maximize your resources for the ultimate travel experience.

Eight Road Trip Essential Checklist

There are a few absolute necessities you need to bring along to make your road trip fun, memorable, and safe:

1. First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is an essential item to have on any road trip. It should contain basic supplies like bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze, and medical tape. You should also include medications for common ailments like pain relievers, allergy medicine, and antacids.

A well-stocked first aid kit can help you quickly treat minor injuries or illnesses and avoid a trip to the emergency room. Keeping vehicle-specific tools is also critical — keep a flashlight, chains, and jumper cables ready for emergency situations.

2. Electronics (Don’t Forget a Charger!)

Electronics are a must-have on any road trip, from cell phones and laptops to cameras and portable speakers, but without a laptop or phone charger, you’ll find yourself with a bunch of bricks. Bring all the necessary cords and cables to keep your devices powered up throughout the trip.

Consider bringing a portable power bank with USB ports in case you cannot access a power source for your gadgets while on the road. Especially if you plan on listening to audiobooks, podcasts, or audible Google Maps while on the road, you’ll need the extra juice!

Be prepared for moments without cell service. Bring paper maps for directions and road trip games, so you don’t have to rely on phone service to have a good time.

3. Clothes

Packing the right clothes is important for any road trip. Check the weather forecast for your destinations and pack appropriate clothing. Consider bringing layers for temperature changes and comfortable clothes (like leggings and sweatpants) for long periods of sitting in the car.

Bonus points if you can fit a reasonable amount into a day pack if you decide to pull over for an adventure. Remember to pack comfortable shoes for walking and a rain jacket for any outdoor activities you may be doing.

4. Snacks and Food

Bringing your own road trip snacks and cold drinks can save you time and money on your road trip. Pack non-perishable items like granola bars, trail mix, and beef jerky for quick and easy snacks. You can also bring a cooler with perishable items like fruit, cheese, and sandwiches for longer stretches on the road instead of relying on a gas station to save the day.

Don't forget to pack reusable water bottles and drinks to stay hydrated. And keep it all easy access, so you don’t have to pull over to stay fed and hydrated.

5. Cleaning Supplies

Keeping your car clean and tidy can make your long drive more enjoyable. Pack paper towels, disinfectant wipes, and trash bags to keep your car clean and organized.

You may also want to bring a handheld vacuum or dustbuster to quickly clean up any spills or crumbs and a trash can to avoid your car becoming a mess. This can be a lifesaver on a long road trip.

6. Essential Documents

Bringing essential documents like your driver's license, registration, insurance information, and travel documents is crucial for any long drive. You can also bring a copy of your itinerary or hotel reservations for easy reference.

7. Toiletries

Packing toiletries like toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, wet wipes, and soap in your toiletry bag is important for any road trip. Consider bringing travel-sized items to save space and make packing easier. Consider bringing a small towel or washcloth for quick cleanups.

Pro tip: bring a neck pillow or other travel pillow for a comfier road-tripping experience.

8. Medications

If you take any prescription medications, be sure to pack enough for the duration of your trip. You should also bring over-the-counter medications for common ailments like headaches, allergies, and upset stomachs. Don't forget to pack medical devices like inhalers or EpiPens if needed.

Ship Your Car for Longer Road Trips

Taking a road trip can be an exciting and fun adventure, but sometimes you need a more efficient way of getting your belongings, and especially your car, a long distance without putting too many miles on them (or yourself.) There are several reasons why you might consider shipping your car instead of driving it for long road trips:

Save Yourself Some Time

Shipping your car can save you significant time, especially if you're traveling long distances. You won't have to spend several days or weeks on the road, which can be tiring and stressful. Instead, you can fly to your destination and have your car waiting for you when you arrive.

Keep Your Costs Down

Shipping your car can also save you money in the long run. You won't have to pay for gas, food, lodging, and other expenses associated with a long road trip. You may also save money on wear and tear on your car, maintenance, and repairs.

Avoid Additionally Wear and Tear

Driving long distances can put a lot of wear and tear on your car, especially if you're driving on rough terrain or in extreme weather conditions. Shipping your car can help you avoid this wear and tear and keep your car in better condition; plus, having travel insurance gives you additional protection on the long car ride.


Shipping your car can also be safer than driving it on long road trips. You won't have to worry about risks involved in long-distance driving, such as getting into an accident or encountering dangerous road conditions. Your car will be transported by professionals trained to handle and transport vehicles safely, so you can keep your roadside emergency kit at home.

Have a Smoother Experience

Shipping your car can also be more convenient than driving it for long distances. You won't have to worry about planning your route, dealing with motion sickness, or finding places to stop. You can arrange for your car to be shipped and focus on enjoying your trip.

The Bottom Line

A successful road trip requires proper planning and preparation. Bringing the right essentials can make all the difference between an enjoyable and comfortable trip or a stressful and uncomfortable one that can lead to road rage, which accounts for 56 percent of all fatal accidents on the road.

Remember to consider your destinations, the length of your trip, the number of people traveling with you, and your budget when deciding what to pack. Remember to include the essential items like a first aid kit with bandaids, electronics and a car charger, a water bottle, food, and everything else on your checklist.

With the right mindset and a well-packed car, you'll be on your way to a memorable road trip.

Characteristics and Influential Factors of Food Deserts | USDA
State Gas Price | AAA
Road Rage | AAA

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