45+ Road Trip Essentials You Need to Pack Before You Hit the Road

by | June 2020 | 12 comments

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Are warm weather and the freedom of the open road calling you for a road trip? Before you head out, make sure you have all the road trip essentials you’ll need for the best road trip possible.

After full-time RVing for over a year and driving over 50,000 miles across the USA, I’ve compiled a list of the top road trip essentials you’ll want to have with you on your next road trip. 

These items will help you cruise in comfort while keeping you safe and preparing you for the unexpected. Load up your car with these road trip essentials, and you’ll be ready to hit the road!

Road Trip Essentials

If you like to be as prepared as possible like I do, this handy list of road trip essentials will help you get packed up for a road trip whether you’re going on a weekend getaway or cross-country excursion.

I’m going to break down this extensive list of road trip essentials by organizing them into categories. Go through the items in each category. Or you can go directly to the individual categories by clicking on them below.

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Car Items

First and foremost, you need to make sure your car is in order and has everything it needs. Check the air pressure for your tires, make sure your windshield wiper blades are in good condition, top off all the fluids, fill up on gas, and be sure to bring the following items.

1. License, Registration & Insurance

These might seem like a no-brainer, but you still want to make sure you have them. Also, check to make sure your registration and insurance are up-to-date and not expired. And if you’re going to be venturing into Canada or Mexico, bring your passport too!

2. Car Manual

Just in case you run into any issues with your car while you’re on the road, keep your car’s owner’s manual in the glovebox to reference if needed.

3. Spare Tire

You never know when you’re going to get a flat tire (knock on wood!) and need a spare. So make sure you have a spare tire in your car. And while you’re at it, make sure it’s in good condition.

4. Roadside Emergency Car Kit

In case you run into any car trouble on the road, be sure to have a roadside emergency car kit with jumper cables and other helpful items to get you back on the road.

5. Gas Can

Sometimes gas stations can be few and far between, especially on backroads and in rural areas. Bring a gas can just in case you run out of gas and have to hoof it to the next gas station. You may even want to bring a gas can already full of gas.

6. Sunshades

Use a windshield sunshade to keep your car cool while you’re parked. I also like using side window shades when driving. They can make a huge difference!

7. Snow Chains for Tires

If you’re going to be driving in cold weather or over any mountain passes, you’ll want to have snow chains for your tires to be on the safe side. Be sure to get the appropriate ones for the vehicle you’ll be traveling in.

8. Snow Brush with Ice Scraper

It’s always a good idea to be prepared and carry a snow brush with ice scraper in case you encounter snow or freezing rain.

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Navigation Items

Unless you want to just drive wherever the road takes you, you’re going to want some navigation tools for your road trip to get you where you want to go.

9. GPS

Don’t rely on your cell phone for directions because many areas won’t have reception. If your car isn’t equipped with a GPS, get a standalone GPS to help you navigate.

10. Road Atlas

Have a back-up road atlas just in case there are any issues with the GPS. It could also help you find interesting places to check out on your route or off the beaten path.

11. RoadTrippers App

Use the RoadTrippers app or website to find other worthwhile stops along the way with the Trip Planner. For $5 OFF the Pro Version, use this coupon code: BTR5QTP!

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Tool Items

Some basic tools will help you be prepared for things that could come up when you’re on the road.

12. Tool Kit

We always carry a basic tool kit with us. You never know when you’ll need tools on the road.

13. Pocket Knife Multi-Tool

A pocket knife multi-tool can also be helpful. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve used the scissors on mine!

14. Waterproof Flashlight

A waterproof flashlight is always good to have on hand when you’re on the road. It can also be helpful to have a headlamp to act as a hands-free flashlight. That will really come in handy if you have to change a tire at night.

15. Lighter

If you end up needing to build a fire, you’ll be glad you have a lighter with you.

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Medical Items

Medical supplies is a must on a road trip! If someone gets injured, sick, or is in pain, you want to be prepared to help them feel better.

16. First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is one of the most important road trip essentials to have. You never know when someone could get injured, and you want to be able to address their wounds if possible. We’ve used bandages from our first aid kit numerous times and are always glad we have it.

17. Pain Killers

Aches and pains can really put a damper on your road trip. Be prepared with some pain killers to help with headaches, back pain, strains, and more.

18. Pepto-Bismol

Questionable roadside food on a road trip can upset your stomach. If that happens, you’ll be glad you have some Pepto-Bismol (and so will your car companions!). We like the chewable tablets. They’re convenient and easy to carry.

19. Benadryl

In case anyone ends up having an allergic reaction, it’s good to have Benadryl on hand. Just don’t take Benadryl before driving as it may cause drowsiness.

20. Emergen-C

Coming down with a cold in the middle of your road trip could ruin the entire experience for you. Have some Emergen-C on hand in case you start to feel like you could be getting sick. Or take it anyway as a preventative measure.

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Weather-Related Items

You never know when the weather could take a turn for the worst. Be prepared for wet weather with these weather-related items.

21. Windproof Travel Umbrella

Bring a compact windproof travel umbrella so you don’t get caught out in the rain.

22. Rain Coat or Poncho

A rain coat or poncho will be a lifesaver if you’re outside when it’s raining and need a waterproof cover.

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Electronic Items

Keep your electronics charged and ready to go with these electronic road trip essentials.

23. USB Car Charger

Make sure your phone never runs out of battery power with a USB car charger.

24. Portable Power Bank

Charge your electronic devices on the go with a portable power bank.

Camera Items

You’re going to want to document your amazing road trip adventure, so be sure to bring a camera along as well as the following camera accessories.

25. Travel Camera

I love using this camera for traveling and hiking! It’s small and lightweight but produces high-quality images, perfect for road trips.

26. Lightweight Tripod

Use a small, lightweight tripod that’s easy to pack and carry so you can get photos of yourself without having to take selfies.

27. Camera Remote

Use a camera remote in conjunction with a tripod to snap photos during your road trip adventures.

28. Spare Camera Batteries & Charger

Bring extra camera batteries with a charger to keep your camera photo-ready. You don’t want your camera to die during any picture-worthy moments on your road trip.

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Self-Care Items

Take care of yourself and travel in comfort with these self care road trip essential items.

29. Seat Cushion

If you get lower back pain, a seat cushion will help immensely during long car rides.

30. Back Cushion

Lumbar support with a back cushion is also helpful for extended drives, especially if you suffer from back pain.

31. Packable Blanket

Have a packable blanket on hand in case you get cold, want to snuggle up during the drive, or want to have a picnic somewhere.

32. Travel Towels

Microfiber travel towels are quick-drying and lightweight yet absorbent, perfect if you’re planning on visiting a beach, lake, or river and want to take a dip!

39. Portable Wash Bag

Hand-wash your laundry on the go with a portable wash bag combined with travel laundry detergent and a travel clothesline. That way you can pack light by bringing less clothes.

34. Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is my BFF for everyday life but even more so when I’m traveling! Freshen your hair in-between washes with these travel-size dry shampoo sprays.

35. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a must anytime you travel but especially on a road trip when the sun will be blasting you through your car windows as you’re driving.

36. Hand Sanitizer

You never know what you’re touching on a road trip when you stop at gas stations, rest areas, restaurants, etc. Keep your hands clean with some hand sanitizer.

37. Insect Repellant

Depending on where you’ll be traveling, you might want to carry some easy-to-apply insect repellant wipes with you to avoid bug bites.

38. Tide To Go

These Tide To Go instant stain remover pens sure do come in handy! I always have one in the car and in my purse. You’ll be glad you have one if you happen to make a mess when you’re drinking or eating in your car.

39. Tissues

Tissues always come in handy. Be sure to keep a box in your car.

40. Toilet Paper

You never know when nature will call. Be prepared with a roll or two of toilet paper in case you come across a restroom that’s out of toilet paper. You’ll also be thrilled to have T.P. if you have to go on the side of the road or in the woods.

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Pet Items

One of the best things about a road trip is being able to bring your fur-babies with you! Bring these items to take care of them on the road.

41. Pet Travel Bag

Pack everything for your pet with a handy pet travel bag. Multiple compartments can hold food, treats, toys, a blanket, a leash, a harness, waste bags, and more. Plus, it comes with collapsible food and water bowls perfect for traveling.

42. Pet Water Bottle

A pet water bottle makes it super easy for your pet to get a drink of water while you’re traveling.

43. Pet First Aid Kit

Be prepared for any medical needs your pet may have on the road with a pet first aid kit.

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Miscellaneous Items

Here are a few extra items to help out on your road trip.

44. Snacks

Bringing your own snacks will help cut down on travel costs for your road trip. It will also help keep you fed to avoid getting the “hanger” when you’re driving.

45. Cooler

Use a leakproof and collapsible cooler to pack your snacks and keep beverages cold.

46. Tote Bag

An empty tote bag that folds up for easy storage will be useful. Use it to carry your towels or other items you may need to take with you on outings during your road trip.

47. Cash / Coins

Bring some cash and coins for any toll roads and/or cash-only places you happen to come across. A roll of quarters can really come in handy for tolls.

Wrapping Up Road Trip Essentials

Whether you’re road-tripping on the highways or the backroads, there are certain items you’ll want to have with you for a safe, comfortable, and all-around enjoyable trip.

With this thorough list of road trip essentials, you’ll be ready to hit the road and have the time of your life on an amazing road trip! Are there any road trip items you like to travel with? Share them in the comments below!

And be sure to download your FREE Road Trip Packing Checklist!

Leave a question or comment HERE!

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45+ Road Trip Essentials to Pack Before Your Road Trip

45+ Road Trip Essentials You Need to Pack for a Road Trip + Free Road Trip Packing Checklist
45+ Road Trip Essentials to Pack for Your Next Road Trip with Free Road Trip Packing Checklist
Briana Nickas

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I’m Briana Nickas, a part-time RVer who loves RVing, hiking, visiting National Parks, and taking photos. My happiest days are spent on the road with my hubby and our fur-baby Saucy (a 7-lb maltipoo) exploring the country and meeting fellow adventurers along the way… READ MORE

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12 Comments

  1. Britt

    You’ve got some great recommendations here. Too often we don’t think about a lot of these items until something happens and we find ourselves in need. It’s better to learn from a list like this than to get out there and learn firsthand haha! Trust me…

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      I couldn’t agree more! It’s all about being prepared. Sounds like you get the gist of this list from personal experience. 😉 Thanks for your comment, Britt!

      Reply
  2. Autumn

    You’ve compiled a really great list and it’s all well laid out and organized. I’m definitely feeling inspired to get out on the road! Thanks

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Autumn! I love that this list of road trip essentials has you feeling inspired to hit the road. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Tracy

    This is a great list. Plan to hit the highway a lot this summer. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks, Tracy! I hope this list of road trip essentials helps you prepare to hit the road. Where are some places you plan on visiting this summer?

      Reply
  4. Josie D.

    Lol it’s like you read my mind this morning because I was thinking to myself that I need to go on a road trip but idk if ill have everything. Looking at this list, I’m like omg yes I need that and that and that haha. So helpful!! Im definitely pinning this for my next road trip!!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Haha! Great timing! 😄 I’m so glad you found some road trip essentials to get for your next road trip and are saving this post for reference. Thanks, Josie!

      Reply
  5. Mama Pinot

    This is such a great list.. I’ve saved some of these products on my wish list for the next road trip. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Yay! 🙂 Glad the list was helpful for you, Mama Pinot. Hope the road trip items come in handy for you on your next road trip!

      Reply
  6. Sandra Ans

    I love road trips and I am always ready to do them! 😀 But experience comes with time! After many years I have learned what to take and what isn’t necessary and at the moment when I feel I know everything, comes something new in my life – dog! Now I am learning a few new things and I need to say – that water bottle is really a must-have! Wow, I will take a look at it right now! Thanks!

    Reply
    • Briana Nickas

      Thanks for your comment, Sandra! There’s some trial and error involved with road trips. And you’ll figure out your must-haves as you go on more. Throwing a dog into the mix will definitely add some travel items to your packing list for a road trip. That water bottle is a lifesaver! We love it (and so does our pup)! Hope it helps you out with your fur-baby. 🙂

      Reply

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