Ultimate Road Trip Packing List
"The road is there. It will always be there. You just have to decide when to take it." - Chris Humphrey
Road trips are the best way to see what the world has to offer. So, congratulations on deciding to embark on a road trip to whatever destination you have your heart set on.
Traveling along at your own pace and seeing the wonders of nature or mankind can be very therapeutic for some. Others can get stress with not knowing what to pack or where to start.
My wife and I have taken many road trips together and separate in our lifetime. It just happens to be my parents growing up were big on road trips, which is why I can proudly say that I have visited 44 out of the 50 states in the U.S.A. This has included National Parks, Ghost Towns, Camping, and more. Almost have all 50 and it will be done soon!
We have decided to put together the ultimate road trip packing list, for you from our own successes to our errors over the years. Our hope is for you to create the perfect itinerary and have everything you need packed up for any occasion.
Car Essentials For Your Road Trip
Have a Extra Set of Keys
If you accidentally lock your only set of keys in your car or loose them on a road trip, then be prepared. You will have to pay money to get them out or for a new set, which could take a few days.
In fact, some of the newer cars like the Mini Cooper can make it very difficult for a locksmith to open without breaking a window. As a former Airbnb host, we have seen guest and locksmith stand on cars trying to find that right angle to get that door unlocked after 2 hours of determination.
Also, if it is a rental then be prepared to pay $200 or more per lost key. Additionally, if your car rental has both key sets together, ask if you or they can separate them. No point in having two sets tied together.
Emergency Roadside Car Kit
What should be included:
- Jumping Cables
- Spare water for the radiator.
- Triangle Reflectors or Flares
- 1 Quart or more of the specific motor oil you use on the vehicle.
- A Gallon of Coolant
- Pepper Spray
- Toolkit with adjustable wrench, screwdrivers, pliers, clamps, and electrical tape.
- Duct Tape (this can be your friend if you have a cracked hose or missing clamp).
- Rags and extra blanket to lay on if need be.
- Flashlight or Headlamp
- A great idea for a flashlight is a emergency radio flashlight that can be hand cranked to charge.
- Fire Extinguisher (smart to have if your in a car fire, trust me on this one and my moms poor Jaguar S Coup).
- Gas can in case you run out and need to go hike back to that last exit.
- Pair of heavy duty Gloves to work in.
The spare tire should be checked beforehand to make sure it is in proper working order and is filled correctly. In fact, your spare tire should be the same size and make of the other tires.
It can be dangerous driving more than 50 miles on a small doughnut spare. Make sure you have a tire that will work correctly for the long haul.
Additionally, you need to check and make sure you have the appropriate tools to change a tire if in need. My father taught me when I was young and it has helped me out many times when I had no wifi to call road side service. Don’t know how to change a tire? Here’s a great guide on the steps to take.
Another tip, is to have a few wooden blocks in your truck. Wondering why this is? They can be handy if you need to raise the jack up higher or to wedge one under a tire if on a hill. Always stay safe.
Traveling during winter conditions, then you will want to make sure you have everything needed to drive safely. Below is a list of what should be included in your snow kit.
- Snow Shovel
- Brush or Windshield Scraper
- Tire Chains
- Traction Mats
- Blanket and Gloves
First Aid Kit
In my opinion, this is an important one to have when you are on a road trip. If you are going to explore at all or do any adventurous activities, then be prepared for in case you get hurt.
Here is the First Aid Kit that we have in our Toyota 4Runner and Tacoma, since we do like road trips. Unfortunately, I am very accident prone and have had to use this kit a few times, so it’s worth having one, even if you make it yourself.
The United States has a good portion of our population located on the mid to east coast. That means there is a lot of land between east and west you can drive that doesn’t have much for car services or people. Do not get stuck out in the middle of nowhere, hurt and without any supplies.
A car manual is a must when you are doing a road trip. Even if you know nothing about cars, as long as you can read and follow instructions, then you can actively fix things broken with a manual.
Furthermore, it is a great way to diagnose what is going on or if something is serious before you stop at that auto shop. The basics about your vehicle will be located in the manual and can be useful.
Most auto part stores in the United States will have most make and model car manuals for sale. Wifi is not always present to google things, so prepare in case.
Paper Maps or Printed Out Directions
Having the option to get directions from your phone within seconds is a wonderful invention. Unfortunately, that google maps or other GPS directional apps can be incorrect sometimes.
We have had directions try to take us to the middle of the ocean in Costa Rica once and have noticed problems with distinguishing alleys from streets.
Prevent getting lost or making that wrong turn by having a paper map. Triple AAA offers a wide selection of maps for each state for a small fee or free for members. Remember, not all areas will have wifi signal to acquire those directions you need, but that paper map will always be there for you.
Extra Coins and Money
Let’s be honest, you can not always plan ahead for every outcome, so sometimes having that change or extra money can help you. If you are planning on driving toll roads or certain bridges then be prepared to pay.
Undoubtedly, some cities and beaches will have meter parking. Many of the newer will usually take some form of card, but there are still those older ones out there that are coin base. You will also find some smaller businesses that only take cash and finding an ATM machine can be a hassle or cost a high fee.
Road Side Assistance Service
There are many organizations that can offer whatever type of road side service that you require. It can be simple with tire changing, jumping a battery, locksmith or gas refill. Others can be more detailed with towing included for the vehicle for a certain distance.
Ask your car rental company beforehand what is included or what can be added on. You do not know what that car has gone through before or what weather conditions you will hit, so it is better to be safe and get some.
Always carry the documents you would need in your vehicle in case you are ever in an accident or pulled over. Obviously, do not forget your driver’s license or passport, car registration, and proof of insurance. Along with those documents, you should have a medical card, travel insurance information, any child guardian documents and car rental or hotel reservations printed out.
Last, but not least for those that have disabilities, make sure to take all of your necessary forms or paperwork that has documentation for you. Personally, I carry a Tourette’s Syndrome Card that tells my name, what it is, why I might be ticcing, and how I am protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Others might have cards like this and they can be great tools to use with police, TSA agents, or other people who are trying to understand. Personally, I can vouch for that. Lastly, if you have a handicap plaque, then do not forget it.
Here is a list of what is good to have on the road:
- Tissue Paper and Toilet Paper
- Hairbrush or Comb
- Bug and Mosquito Spray
- Moist Face Wipes (great to use if you want to freshen up)
- Chapstick or Lip Balm
- Any of your regular pills.
- Benadryl pills for any allergic reaction.
- Over the counter painkillers.
- Extra set of glasses or Contact lenses with solution.
Food and Drink
- Have a good ice chest/cooler to keep drinks and food fresh.
- Extra water
- Gatorade or Vitamin Water
- 100% Fruit or Vegetable Juice
- Beef Jerky
- Trail Mix
- Carrot, Celery, Cucumbers, or Broccoli cut up.
- String Cheese
- Cheese and Crackers
- Protein Bars
- Dried fruit like apple, apricots, or banana.
- Grapes or cut up fruit cut up.
- Protein Packs
- Hummus cups
- Plastic or Paper Bags for trash that you can throw out along the way.
Road trips can keep you in the car for long stretches sometimes, so it is wise to be as comfortable as you can be. From what cloths you should wear to what other essentials should be in the car, you do not want to forget anything. Here is a list of the essentials you should pack.
- Sweatshirt or Sweater
- Extra pair of Socks or Compression Socks
- Sweats or Yoga Pants
- Extra Blanket/Pillow/Towel
- Hiking Boots
- Athletic Shoes
- Flip Flops (Sandels)
- Rain Jacket or Poncho
- Hat, Beanie, or a Buff
- A Day Pack
Electronics and Gadgets
Most will want to bring some type of electronic devices on their trip. Whether it be a phone, tablet, laptop, or gaming device, you will want to make sure you have everything needed to keep them working. Make sure to pack the electronics you want and any gadgets to use them safely.
- Charger for Phone
- Mount for Phone
- Portable Charger
- Smart Charger with Smart USB Port
- Dash Cam (this can protect you from others causing accident and you can allows get a dual for front and rear recording)
- Nintendo Switch
- DSLR Camera, GoPro, or Drone
Try These Podcast
- My Favorite Murder – A funny true crime podcast.
- Stuff You Missed in History Class – History can be fun and entertaining with this version that teaches you what the books and that boring U.S History teacher missed.
- Joe Rogan – This show will have a little bit of everything with interviews from people in the social entertainment field, science field, conspiracies theorists, comedy, sports, and more. Joe Rogan is a comedian, TV host, and UFC commentator.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
- Malorie: A Bird Box Novel by Josh Malerman
- Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
- What If? Serious Scientific Answers To Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
- Ishmal: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn
Don't Take These Things
Certain fruit or vegetables that have been imported in one state may not be allowed to travel across state lines. Okay, I can see you are scratching your head trying to figure out why, if they are already in the United States, right? The reason for this is some food can carry diseases or organisms that might be harmful only to certain ecological systems.
For example, Florida and California prevent certain fruits from crossing the border in hopes no diseases or insects spread to the states agricultural industry. Citrus fruits are known to be very temperamental with diseases, so the industry must stay protected.
Wearing expensive jewelry on any road trip should be a no. It can only take a moment for that expensive watch to break against that rock or for weather to ruin it. Besides, you do not want to show off expensive things for someone to try to pickpocket or rob you later.
The same can be said for expensive sunglasses or luggage. Only one drop on the ground and you could find yourselves with scratched lenses or a scuffle on that Coach bag.
Websites For Places To Stay
Apps To Download
- Roadtrippers – Since you are hear due to a current or future road trip, then you need to download this one. You can create your route, find things along the way, directions and more. Free but subscription is $29.99.
- Campendium – We use this app quite a bit to find camping sites in certain locations. They have sites and info from other travelers that upload photos and reviews. Want to boondock, then this site has a great selection, with detail information for each location. Free
- GasBuddy – You can compare and find the best gas prices as you travel the roads in the United States. Free
- Waze – A great traffic app that goes off of other users observations. So as you drive, you will see when traffic comes up, construction zones, or police cruisers stationed along the road. Free
- Maps or Google Maps – Always an easy choice to use the GPS and get directions, but be careful of when that GPS signal ends up in a dead zone. Free
- GoSkyWatch – A planetarium app that is easy to use when you are out in the middle of a dark night. Everybody has a little nerd in them. Cost $3.99
- Roadside America – By using the GPS from your phone, this app will show you the weird or cool attractions, museums, and other things, as you drive across the United States. Cost $1.99 and up
Other Things To Consider
- Travel Insurance – If you are spending a lot of money then it won’t hurt to get some travel insurance to protect you from accidents, car rental issues (like a damaged tire rim), health issues, and other weather disasters.
- Gym Membership – Have a gym membership at places that are found in a few states, then do not forget you can use their showers to freshen up.
- Road Laws – If you are from out of the country, then it would be wise to look up some common laws. Some examples are most states have hands free laws for phones, you can turn right on a red light if not posted not to, and the left lane is for passing only, not to drive in for the whole trip.
- Car Prep – This should be done before you leave. All fluids, tires, and break or headlights should be checked that they are in working order.
- Scams – Okay so this one is something I have seen happen many times to either someone I know or myself. If someone approaches you to ask for money for gas or tires, say no. Almost always it’s a scam, where they just want money and will move on to a new target.
Don't Forget To Pin For Later
Have you taken a road trip and have any other things that should be on the list? Please comment below. Did you enjoy yourself and is there anything you would recommend? Have any other activities or places we should see, let us know in the comments section. From Phoenix? Hi neighbored! Thanks for taking a look at our site and don’t forget to subscribe for future articles and tips.
The information on this website has come from research and by experiencing it ourselves. Opening hours, closures, prices, etc. are always subject to change. We try to keep up to date on any new information, or tips to help make your adventure more enjoyable.