This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.
Road trip essentials you won’t want to leave home without
Make sure you pack these road trip essentials before hitting the road on your next adventure. Grab your free road trip packing list.
Road trips have become increasingly popular in recent years. Many families are opting to hit the road instead of dealing with the stress and headache of planning a vacation abroad.
And for good reason, road trips are typically less expensive than flying, they’re more leisurely since you are in control of your schedule.
Road trips are also a great way to spend more quality time with your family while relaxing and just enjoying the views and discovering places you never would have seen.
And whether you’re driving across the country, taking a family road trip to see grandma 4 states away, or visiting landmarks within your own state such as our beautiful National Parks.
One way to make it more enjoyable is to make sure you bring road trip essentials that you’re going to need and want while hitting the open road and to keep your car organized so you can actually find what you need.
Bringing these travel essentials along will also help to save money on your family road trip since you won’t have to buy them as needed which can get quite expensive.
Road Trip Packing List
Car Maintenance Road Trip Essentials
Road trips can be a fun adventure for the entire family, but if you can’t make it to your destination, it’ll definitely lead to disappointment, overwhelm, and frustration.
This is why you’ll want to make sure your vehicle is serviced in good working condition before you hit the road. Have it checked out by a professional, make sure all fluids are topped off and your tires are properly inflated.
This is a good place to start but just because your car is well maintained before heading out onto the open road, doesn’t mean that something won’t go wrong while on your trip.
Here are some road trip essentials that’ll come in handy if you’re stranded on the side of the road.
Whether you’re taking a road trip or just driving around town running errands, having important documents such as driver’s license, vehicle registration, car insurance cards, car manual, and vehicle warranty information in a document holder in your glove compartment is a must.
This will allow you to easily deal with a few bumps in the road that might occur while on your trip such as getting pulled over for a traffic violation, getting car problems resolved should something arise, and dealing with mishaps such as fender benders or worse
Even if you have your tires checked and properly inflated before heading out on your road trip, doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way so it’s best to keep a tire gauge in your glove compartment.
Make it a habit to eyeball your tires every time you walk around your vehicle and check your tire pressure regularly.
You can do this every time you fuel your car up because it’ll be easy to take care of any low air issues since most gas stations also have an air hose you can use for free if needed.
Spare Tire and Car Jack
You’ll also want to make sure you have a good spare tire in case you get a flat along the way. Most vehicles come with a spare tire but it’s a dummy tire, meaning it’s smaller than your normal tires.
These are ok if you get a flat closer to home or where you can easily get to a service station but not so much if you’re on a road trip in remote areas or get a flat during the night when repair shops aren’t open.
Then, of course, you’ll need a good car jack to be able to easily change the tire if needed.
Keeping a good multi-functional flashlight in your car is a must whether on a road trip or not is good practice since you never know when you’re going to need it.
With that being said, having one is a must when taking a road trip in case you have car trouble at night. And if your tenting at campgrounds along the way, you’ll definitely want to keep one close by to stay safe, find your way around at night, or look for things in your vehicle in the dark.
Hopefully, you already have a set of jumper cables in your car, but if not, you’ll want to invest in a set of jumper cables to keep in your vehicle. They’re inexpensive and can help get you out of a bind quickly if needed.
Swiss army knife
A swiss army knife is definitely one of those road trip items that you’ll be so happy to have when you need it. We don’t think about all the tools we have available to us at home that we use on a daily basis.
But when you’re on the road and away from home, you are bound to need some of these handy tools at one time or another while traveling.
Whether you’re taking the ultimate road trip or you’re taking a short trip, getting some sort of roadside emergency service like AAA should definitely be a high priority before leaving on your trip because no matter how well prepared we are, you never know what can happen.
Besides, if your car has major issues that might take a few days to fix, you’ll get a discount if you need a rental car or need to stay in a hotel while waiting for the repairs to be made.
It’s also a good idea to keep car fluids on hand to top them off if they start getting low along the way.
Many of these can be purchased at a service station but having a few of the most important ones like a spare quart of oil, windshield washer, and Prestone is a good idea.
Having a toolbox with some of the most commonly used tools is yet another one of those things to bring on a road trip that you’ll be glad you have if needed.
It’ll definitely come in handy if you need to do some sort of car repair on the go but also help to make repairs to camping equipment and many other things.
Must-Have Road Trip Essentials
In addition to having your vehicle serviced and in good working condition, and making sure you are prepared for any car issues or breakdowns.
There are some other road trip must-haves that you’ll want to take with you to make the trip more enjoyable and comfortable.
So you’ll want to make sure you add these road trip necessities to your list of things to bring on a road trip
You’ll also want to consider getting travel insurance to help ease the financial burden should something major happen as you’re driving cross country.
Disinfecting Wet Wipes
Disinfecting wet wipes come in really handy when on the road, you’ll need them to clean up messes in your car, disinfect surfaces at rest stops you stop at, and even wash your hands while traveling.
There is no doubt that you’ll stop at many service stations along the way where you can pick up some snacks, but convenience store food is typically they are overpriced and unhealthy.
A better idea is to pack some healthy road trip food and snacks to bring with you such as fruit, nuts, and granola bars to save money and avoid eating junk food during your trip.
First Aid Kit
Just like at home, having an emergency kit should be on your list of things to bring on a road trip. This way you’ll be able to deal with minor cuts and scrapes that are inevitable if camping outdoors, or are bringing the kids on your adventure.
You’ll also want to keep a roll or two of paper towels handy on your road trip to clean up spills and mess, use as toilet paper if the rest areas are out, and use them as napkins when eating on the go.
Road trips are a great way to see the countryside but there will be times where you’re just too tired.
Especially if you are driving through the night to get to your destination faster so having a travel pillow will make sleeping in a vehicle much more comfortable.
In addition to a traveling pillow, you might want to consider using an eye mask to get some sleep if you’re the type of person who can’t sleep if it’s not dark outside.
If you or anyone taking the trip with you gets car sick, then you’ll really want to keep some Dramamine handy. This will definitely make the trip more enjoyable for everybody. Not to mention keeping your car or truck clean from vomit should it get to that point.
Just like at home, staying connected while traveling is super important in case there’s an emergency so having a car charging station for all your electronics is a must.
And if you are bringing the family along, you’ll definitely appreciate your kids staying occupied by surfing the net, watching videos and movies, and being able to talk to friends instead of constantly asking “are we there yet?”
Head Phones or Ear Buds
Headphones or earbuds are other items that’ll make a road trip much more enjoyable for everybody since everyone can do their own thing and listen to whatever they want without any arguments.
It’ll definitely help to keep the peace when together for long periods of time in close quarters!
GPS or app
Having GPS navigation will definitely make road tripping easier and less frustrating. Just plug your next destination into it and let it lead the way to wherever you are wanting to go no matter how remote or out of the way it is.
Of course, you want to use some judgment since they are not always as accurate as they should be sometimes.
In addition to a GPS, having a paper map will certainly come in really handy if you’re in a dead zone with no service for the GPS to work with.
They are also great for planning out your trip in advance since they allow you to visualize places you want to go and the best routes to get there.
If you leave home without a good pair of sunglasses, you’ll definitely end up having to stop to find a place to purchase some since the sun can really make driving hard.
It could even be dangerous if it’s beating right through your windshield so it’s best to add this to your road trip checklist so you don’t forget them.
Travel Sized Personal Care Items
I don’t think anyone would forget to pack personal care items when going on vacation but when on a road trip, you need a lot of stuff.
So saving space should definitely be top of mind when packing for a trip, which is why bringing travel-sized personal care items (or anything else for that matter) helps to minimize the room it takes so you stay organized.
Books or Magazines
The days can get quite long when driving for long periods of time so having some reading material helps to pass the time and keep you occupied.
If you’re on a USA road trip to visit national parks, this National Geographic book is the perfect reading material to take with you.
You’re definitely want to bring a refillable water bottle for the long days of driving to stay hydrated. And where you get your water may be questionable at times using a filtered water bottle to filter out impurities is probably a good idea.
If anyone going along on the road trip gets a bit car sick on long car drives, having gum available might help ease their belly a bit to make the ride more comfortable for everyone.
Since you’re going to be in close quarters for long periods of time, wearing comfortable clothing and footwear will definitely make the trip more enjoyable.
There is no doubt that you’re going to want to take photos of all the places, landmarks, and beautiful scenery you see while traveling.
This is why you won’t want to forget to bring a good camera to document the places you see and your favorite road trip memories.
Just like bringing a camera on your trip, having a notebook to document your adventure, memories made, places visited, and more is a good idea so you don’t forget details when putting together a scrapbook or photo album of the trip when you get home.
Unfortunately, the weather won’t always be ideal on your trip so it’s best to be prepared for some gloomy rainy days.
So having a few raincoats on hand will really help when you have to get out of the vehicle to go find things in your trunk, run into a store, or worse if you break down on the side of the road.
Being comfortable during long trips is a priority for me when I travel so having a comfy blanket that I can use to take a nap or keep me warm is always on my essential road trip list of things to bring along.
If you’re a coffee drinker, then you’ll want to bring some travel mugs along which are perfect for hitting the road early in the morning when you don’t have time to waste.
They’ll also come in really handy if you plan on driving through the night to get to your destination faster too!
Bringing extra plastic bags or trash bags comes in really handy when traveling. You’ll need them to put your trash in, store dirty clothes, and use for a multitude of other things.
Batteries always seem to die at the worst possible time. If you’re bringing any sort of electronics with you that isn’t rechargeable such as a camera, you’ll want to bring some extra batteries to avoid missing some photos of your trip.
You’ll also want to make sure you have extra batteries for flashlights and other equipment too.
Good To Have Road Trip Essentials
In addition to the must-have essentials listed above, there are many road trip essentials that aren’t exactly necessary but are definitely good to have to make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable.
You may not need everything on this list depending on your situation, but they are certainly worth considering adding to your road trip packing list.
Bringing a cooler along on your trip is a good idea. In addition to keeping your drinks cold and your food safe, having one will also save you so much money and time.
You won’t have to stop every hour or so for cold drinks and you can buy them in bulk which is a cost-saving from buying them in a convenience store.
It’ll also allow you to shop for easy meals at grocery stores instead of stopping to eat at a diner or fast food joint which could really add up.
Back Seat Mattress
If your road trip involves driving through the night and taking turns behind the wheel with your spouse or companion, then you’ll both be glad you brought along a backseat mattress.
This will allow you to get a good night’s rest even while making progress to your destination. It’s also great if you’re camping along the way and it’s pouring rain. Two people can still sleep comfortably on this air matress.
If you have a smaller vehicle or you just have a lot of stuff on your road trip packing list, you might need a little extra storage space for your trip.
If so, then this overhead netting can help save space and keep your car organized during your trip.
It can be difficult to pack if you’re going to be living out of a suitcase for days or weeks. Your clothing will get wrinkled, leaving you looking a mess.
This is when having a clothes rack bar can help. It rests on the handles of the back seat so it’s easy to install and allows you to hang your clothes keeping them wrinkle-free and looking good.
Portable WiFi Hotspot
While on a road trip, many electronics will be used to guide you to your destination with GPG, entertain passengers during the ride, and look up fun facts of landmarks you visit along the way.
And unless your wireless plan comes with unlimited data, it’ll cost you a pretty penny on your next cell phone bill. One way to combat this is to bring along a portable WiFi hotspot on your trip.
Staying organized on a road trip is super important. Everyone on the adventure is living out of a vehicle, so finding what you need, when you need it will really help to ease some of the frustration of having to unpack everything.
So staying organized will definitely help. Try using a few of these trunk organizers to find a place for everything while being able to find them when needed.
Essential Oil Defuser
Living in a car for days or weeks can lead to your car smelling not so great. The odors of food, dirty clothes, and bare feet may linger a little longer than you’d like.
This is when you’ll be glad you decided to pack an essential oil diffuser for your car. It’s also a humidifier to help combat dry air in the vehicle making your trip a bit more comfortable.
A dashcam is not exactly an essential road trip item but they are really nice to have to document your journey or get shots that you might miss because they happened before you could pull out your phone or camera.
These are memories you’ll want to hang on to for a long time so it’s worth the investment.
Road Trip Essentials For Kids
There’s no doubt that kids get antsy on long road trips. And if they aren’t having fun doing something, it could really make the trip feel so much longer…
So if you want to save your sanity, you’re going to want to pack some fun road trip essentials to keep them occupied. Here are a few that I love that helped me get through long drives when my kids were younger.
Bringing travel games is one way to keep kids occupied and distracted when taking a long road trip.
These are super convenient since they are mini versions of popular games kids love and everything needed to play is condensed into a small package making them easy to store when not in use.
Back Seat Tablet (with headphones)
Watching their favorite shows always quiets down children and keeps them engaged. This is why having a backseat tablet and headphones is a must when traveling with children.
The kids can bing watch episodes of their favorite shows while Mom and Dad can get a break from hearing “are we there yet”.
Road Trip Activities
You’ll also want to consider bringing along other road trip activities such as coloring books, books to read, activity books, and Lego building blocks.
This is a small list of ideas, but consider what your child likes to do at home and take that on the road. Keep in mind the portability of the activity.
Kid Caddy Desk
Many road trip activities such as coloring require a hard surface and supplies. One easy way to make these activities more enjoyable for children is by bringing along a portable car desk/caddy to keep everything organized and easily accessible when needed.
Road Trip Essentials For Pets
Getting away for long periods of time, like when on a road trip, can be difficult if you have pets. Of course, you could have someone watch them and hope they are trustworthy enough to do what’s best for your pet.
You could also pay to have them boarded at a kennel while you’re gone but that can get quite expensive depending on how long your trip is.
If you’re going to let your pets sit on the seats of your vehicle, then your definitely going to want to get a good seat protector.
It’ll not only keep your seats clean from accidents, but also from shedding hair which can be really difficult to get off depending on the type of fabric your seats are made from.
The seat protector above also helps to keep pets contained in the back with netting to bridge the gap between seats. This way they don’t distract you from the road making the trip safer for everyone.
If you’re not keen on having your pets roam around your car, bringing a kennel along on your road trip might be a better idea when traveling with your pets.
I particularly love the one shown in the image above because it has expandable sides giving your furry friend more room to stretch.
Travel Food Bowl
Something many people forget to bring for their pets on a road trip is their food and water bowls and it won’t take you long before you have to stop at a store to get some.
These super inexpensive pet bowls are perfect since they are collapsible so they don’t take much space when not in use which is always a good thing when traveling.
Harness and Leash
Our pets are our best friends and we want to keep them safe which is why you won’t want to forget to bring a leash and harness even if your pet isn’t normally on a leash at home.
If let loose, your pets could wander off and not know how to get back to you, and losing your pet is the last thing you want to happen or need to worry about.
Road Trip Essentials Conclusion
I hope this list of road trip essentials helps to make your trip more enjoyable so you can focus on making memories that won’t be forgotten.
Do you have any travel tips for taking a road trip? Please leave a comment to share!