Going on a road trip is a fun — period. However, it can easily go from completely unforgettable to utterly regrettable if you fail to pack the right things.
Especially if you’re residing in the heart of a very busy city and your everyday life is extremely stressful, you could use a road trip from time to time.
Unfortunately, failure to prepare for that grand day can quickly head south. For a road trip to become a success as well as extraordinary, the entire experience needs to go as smooth-sailing as possible.
One way to ensure this is by checking that you will have anything and everything you will need while on the road.
Itinerary — check! Companions — check! Checklist of things to bring — we’ve got you covered! Below is a comprehensive list of everything that you should have with you on your road trip. They are divided into 6 different categories to make packing for a journey on wheels trouble-free!
If all you need is a PDF checklist, then you can skip all of the content below and click on What to Pack for a Road Trip Checklist PDF.
Pack Car Must-Haves
Having a vehicle that’s right for the job is a must. Needless to say, before you leave home, you should check everything about it that’s necessary to make your trip go as hassle-free and safely as possible — oil, water, brakes, tire pressure. Oh, and don’t forget to ensure that the spare tire is in tip-top shape.
And if the car that you are about to use is rented, take a snapshot of every gouge, dent, and damage that you can spot — trust us, nothing can ruin a perfect road trip more than returning the car and being charged for problems you never caused!
Don’t forget to carefully inspect the interiors when you return the car. You surely wouldn’t want to get judgmental stares from the owner when he or she uncovers a used personal hygiene stuff or small container filled with a suspicious-looking white powder inside the vehicle that you swear on your great grandmother’s grave isn’t yours!
Just because the automobile is A-OK doesn’t mean right away that you’re good to go. There are things that you have to stash in the vehicle to keep unnecessary problems at bay, or just to make sure that you can bounce back from one as soon as possible, and thus allowing you to go on with your road trip.
Check that you have the following things in your car:
License and registration
No matter if you are going to a state park hundreds of miles from home or a convenient store just several blocks away, you should always have with you your license and car registration.
Along the way, it is very much likely for law enforcement to ask you to hand your license and car registration for no reason. And sometimes flipping your hair in a flirty manner won’t be able to save you from the repercussions of not having them around!
Car owner’s manual
Just because you believe that you know your vehicle like the back of your hand doesn’t mean that you could throw your car owner’s manual in a dumpster.
A single car has about 30,000 parts, and there’s always a possibility for a problem regarding one of them to show up, including something that you have never encountered in the past.
Unless you are a car mechanic with years of experience in the industry, you should never be without your car owner’s manual on your road trip.
Roadside emergency kit
In some instances, having a car owner’s manual is useless if you don’t have a roadside emergency kit with you. It is something that should never be stashed in the trunk of your car.
And also, check that it contains all the essentials, from a warning triangle to a window breaker.
If you don’t have a kit already, consider this inexpensive one from Always Prepared on Amazon. It contains 125 items, including rain ponchos, jumper cables, a reflective triangle if you need to stop in the middle of the road and even window breaker and seatbelt cutter!
Photocopy of car insurance
Refrain from assuming that accidents won’t happen just because you are the most cautious driver on the face of the planet.
Always bear in mind that an accident is like Argentinian dance, for it takes two to tango — the mishap could be caused by a reckless motorist, animal, or act of nature.
That is why you should remember to bring with you a copy of your car’s insurance policy and also the number of people to contact just in case.
An empty gas can
Perhaps you have already watched tons of slasher films in which the protagonists ran out of gasoline in the middle of nowhere. This is when the importance of having an empty gas can become very clear — no, it won’t save you from a masked psychopath, but it can let you get some gas from the nearest gas station.
Health is Wealth
One of the reasons why people go on a road trip is to get away for a while from all the things that leave them feeling stressed — according to health experts, having too much stress can cause some serious health complications such as heart disease and autoimmune diseases.
However, instead of escaping the health dangers of chronic stress, you may, in fact, wind up facing some health issues if you take a trip by car without the necessities around.
Some of those that you should take with you have something to do with making sure that you can stay in the pink of health.
Even as simple as having anti-diarrheal drugs with you can spell a world of difference — you certainly wouldn’t want to ruin the road trip of a lifetime of another motorist by ruining the picturesque scene with an image of you crouched on the side of the road pooping!
So without further ado, let’s check out some health-related essentials that you should pack:
First aid kit
You can think of a first aid kit as a roadside emergency kit for human beings. You can make a first aid kit from scratch — you simply need to grab a small bag, preferably waterproof, and fill it with all the things necessary for dealing with minor accidents and injuries.
Some of the stuff that you should place in your first aid kit includes antiseptic wipes, antibiotic creams, adhesive bandages, gauze pads, scissors, and tweezers.
Aside from coming up with your own first aid kit, you may also just step foot inside the local pharmacy and buy one that is ready to use.
Do you have a medical condition, and are you taking prescription drugs for it? Then you should never begin your road trip without those drugs within your easy reach.
And just to be safe, it is a good idea for you to first inform your primary health care provider about your plan on having a road escapade — if he or she gives you the go signal, then you can rest assured that you’re fit to embark on the trip of your wildest dreams.
Make sure that you take with you some over-the-counter or OTC drugs to make your journey go with as little hiccups as possible.
When thinking of which OTC drugs that you should pack, keep in mind health-related issues that you and your family members or friends are prone to.
Stomachache, diarrhea, hives, runny nose, joint pain — there are OTC drugs available for these common problems.
Hand Sanitizer Travel Size
Did you know that some illnesses and diseases can spread from one person to the other by means of contaminated hands?
It is for this reason exactly why a small bottle of hand sanitizer has to be taken with you — handing one to your every companion is a great idea!
Before eating and after touching anything interesting along the way, using a hand sanitizer can keep at bay problems that could wreak havoc on your road trip.
Road Trip Personal Care Essentials
Just because you are leaving the city behind doesn’t mean that it is perfectly fine for you to look and smell like a caveman!
When taking a road trip, you should never leave personal grooming at home — it’s something that you should maintain most, especially because the wind, dust, high temperatures, and others encountered while going from point A to point B can easily leave you sweaty, dingy and stinky.
Time and again, all of us have heard about stories of people who are having the trip of their lives but are tripping out everybody else around them.
For instance, we personally know of someone who threw personal grooming outside the window the minute he hopped into his car to have a road trip, and each time he walked to and fro his vehicle to grab something at a convenience store everyone locked their car doors the moment they spotted him!
It’s for this reason why before you begin your adventure you should see to it that you have everything you will need to remain looking pleasant, smelling nice and feeling clean. Some of the things you need to have are:
Travel Toiletry bag
At every stop, you should never be without your toiletry bag. It is something that contains an assortment of necessities.
Before you bid everyone goodbye, make sure that there’s a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, soap, deodorant, shaving cream razor, tampons, nail clippers, tweezers, a small pair of scissors and some cotton swabs handy.
With a decent toiletry bag, you will find it so much easier to remain looking and smelling presentable — all it takes is a quick stop at a gasoline station to use the bathroom.
Brush or comb
Feeling the wind through your hair is always nice. However, it can easily make your mane looking like a bird’s nest. This is why a brush or comb has to be with you.
You will thank yourself for bringing one, especially when it is time for you to take a selfie and post it on social media.
Aside from your tresses, there is something else that the wind can ruin: your pair of kissers. Keep at bay dry and cracked lips that not only look horrid but also feel horrible with the help of a lip balm.
During a road trip, the best lip balm for the job is something that guarantees to shield your lips from the harmful UV rays of the sun.
Your lips are not the only ones that should be shielded from those UV rays that could cause wrinkles and skin cancer, but also exposed body parts of yours.
Definitely, you should stash in your bag a sunscreen.
According to beauty and health experts, when shopping for sunscreen, opt for one with a sun protection factor or SPF of 30 or greater for best results.
Body wipes and cologne
A road trip allows you to bask in sights that you cannot enjoy in the city, but it could also leave you giving off all kinds of smells, most of which are unpleasant.
Because you may not have access to a shower whenever the need for you to use one arrives, consider packing body wipes. A splash of cologne after using them is good for your image and self-confidence, as well as the noses of people around you.
Besides, it is not just your companions that you may offend if you fail to keep yourself neat and clean, but also just about everyone else you will encounter while enjoying the great outdoors.
Would you believe that the toilet paper is regarded as one of the most useful inventions of all time? That’s because no other man-made creation can surpass or let alone rival the sheer versatility of a toilet paper.
Aside from keeping you clean after doing your business, it can be used for a wide variety of other things, from wiping the dust off your car’s dashboard to keeping your pits dry during the hottest times of the day.
You may even use it for starting a fire once it’s time to camp out and enjoy some s’mores! It goes without saying that you should take with you at least a couple of rolls of toilet paper.
Utmost Comfort Checklist
Definitely, there is a world of difference between your car interior and a fancy hotel room. It can be extremely challenging to enjoy your road trip to the max if you do not feel comfortable inside your automobile.
Similarly, lack of amenities can keep you from enjoying some Z’s whenever you have the opportunity to do so.
However, don’t let some minor setbacks keep you from taking a voyage on four wheels — there are certain things that you may do to enjoy a ride that as comfy as possible.
It begins with making sure that you have some of the must-haves for fending off anything that can put your unforgettable road trip experience in peril.
Besides, nothing can make you look awful on those selfies or group pictures than having bloodshot eyes and puffy peepers due to lack of sleep, bluish skin resulting from really low temperatures, and a downturned mouth because of an achy neck and lower back.
Unless there are nice hotels along the way and you can afford to stop at each of them, make sure that your checklist of things to pack for a road trip includes the following:
Packing a full-sized pillow is a terrible idea because it can take up lots of precious space in the car, leaving very little to you.
If you want to feel comfortable, especially when you feel like you could take a quick trip to dreamland, check that you have a travel pillow with you. Something that’s inflatable is a great space-saving option!
Cervical or lower back pillow
Do you often end up having an achy neck or lower back?
Don’t forget to bring with you a cervical pillow for your neck or lower back pillow for the bottom end of your spine — you can count on it to fend off unnecessary body aches that usually show up after sitting for long periods of time.
Especially when taking a road trip during the coldest months of the year, it’s definitely a wonderful idea for you to pack a blanket.
You should also do so when going on an adventure during summertime as temperatures can quickly drop as soon as the sunsets. Are you a fashion-conscious person?
Then feel free to bring with you a massive sarong as it can double as a blanket. As a matter of fact, it can double as many things for a road trip, ranging from a picnic rug, shopping bag, beach towel, bed sheet to curtain!
It’s always a smart move for anyone who is going on a road trip to pack an extra pair of cotton socks. They can come in handy when it gets cold, and of course, they can be worn when the other pair is soiled.
Wearing shoes for a really long time can leave your feet feeling sore and achy. And when this happens, it can be really difficult to feel nice.
That is why you should have a pair of flip flops that you can wear from time to time in order to give your feet some much-needed break.
Whether you are a passenger or the designated driver, squinting is not an option. Glare can keep you from enjoying the view and also winding up with a nasty headache.
Especially if you are prone to having a migraine attack, make sure that you pack a nice pair of sunglasses, preferably one with protection from the UV rays of the sun.
Last but not least, it is also recommended for you to throw some window shades into the car before you leave — you will thank yourself for doing so later on when direct sunlight is getting inside your window, or you would simply like to reduce light to enjoy some shut-eye.
Entertainment Value for Fun Travel
Stopping by one tourist spot after the other can definitely make your adventure by car more exciting and rewarding.
However, the trip in between some interesting sites can certainly become boring. It’s a good thing that there is never a shortage of things that you may pack before you leave that can help save you from being bored to death inside the car or while spending the night in a hotel room.
Definitely, different people have different preferences when it comes to keeping themselves entertained while on a road trip. It goes without saying that you should bring with you those that can keep your mind preoccupied very well as you wait to reach the next destination.
This task can get easily complicated if you are traveling with the entire family, and each member has different ideas in terms of keeping boredom at bay.
This is most especially true if there are kids in the car — I’d say this is the most important part of What to pack for a road trip checklist!
We have a friend who has a friend who took a road trip with the whole family in order to reduce stress, but wound up going home with even more stress because she failed to pack some essentials that would have kept her toddlers from acting up!
That should serve a lesson to all those who will be traveling with children: keeping them happy is essential to having a road trip that’s filled with nothing but happy memories.
Never start the trip without making sure that these entertainment must-haves are around:
Especially if you and your loved ones tend to spend a lot of time gawking at smartphones and tablets, there should be enough chargers available for all.
Having high-capacity power banks and charging them to full capacity before leaving your home is a definite must. Doing so can also give you much-needed peace of mind that you can use your phone just in case there’s a need to call someone for help.
These days, there are many places on the planet where there’s no signal, which is something that can keep you from having access to the web.
This is why taking with you a pocket WiFi is highly suggested, especially if you or your road trip companions cannot spend more than 30 minutes without going online and keeping in touch with the world.
No road trip would be complete without the right music.
Needless to say, a few days before you leave, you should come up with a playlist consisting of tunes that are not only entertaining but can also make the adventure even more memorable.
Listening to music is a fantastic way to stay entertained, particularly if watching movies or reading a book while in a moving vehicle is giving you a headache and making you feel queasy.
Books or magazines
Some people end up with motion sickness when reading something in the car. If you’re not one of them, you can bring with you a book or magazine that you have been longing to read for some time now.
But this doesn’t mean that you can no longer read if you are suffering from motion sickness — just grab the reading material of your preference only while taking a break at a restaurant, hotel, or a picturesque spot.
Playing travel games with the whole family comes with an assortment of benefits, say experts. Nothing can encourage bonding and cooperating more than working together and having a blast while on the road.
Did you know that being hungry can leave you feeling irritable?
Needless to say, having mood swings when traveling with people can easily create tension that can quickly make the road trip go from exciting to horrifying!
This is the very reason why having a rumbling stomach should be avoided at all costs when traveling by car. And to make sure that no stomach will act up, see to it that you bring with you some essentials.
It’s not just relationships that could end up ruined because of hunger, but also wallets. We have enough experience with leaving everyone in the vehicle hungry and ending up with our pockets empty — as soon as we took a stop at a diner, everyone was ordering everything on the menu.
What’s more, we ended up with even more problems than just a budget in shambles as all those ravenous eating moments often led to issues such as stomachache, indigestion, heartburn, and acid reflux!
So in order for you to spare yourself from encountering the same nightmares while going on an escapade, trust us when we say that you should never be without snacks that everyone could grab and munch on.
Aside from snacks, here are some other items that you should put in your checklist:
Staying hydrated is a definite must no matter where you are — at home, in the office, or on the road. This is why you should remember to bring with you bottled water for all.
By the way, it’s not just hunger that can cause irritability but dehydration as well. What’s more, it’s something that can cause the driver to drive a lot less safely!
Unless you are 100% sure that there’s plenty of convenience stores along the way, always bring bottled water with you.
Travel vacuum flask
You can put so many things in a travel vacuum flask that can make your road trip go as hassle-free as possible. They include coffee for keeping you wide awake or chamomile tea for encouraging a good night’s sleep.
You may also fill your travel vacuum flask with ginger tea just in case a nasty case of heartburn decides to make its presence known.
There are a couple of reasons why having some hard candy accessible is highly recommended. For one, it can help to momentarily fend off hunger until such time that a diner is found. Hard candy is also good for keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
You will be more than thankful for packing some hard candy if you have a companion who may wind up with low levels of sugar in the bloodstream, such as someone who has type 2 diabetes or is on a diet in order to lose excess weight.
From time to time, it’s a great idea to step foot outside the car to get the muscles stretched and also the tummy happy — having a picnic can definitely add something nice to the entire experience.
Just Before You Take That Road Trip
It’s not enough that you know where you will go and which stops you may take — it’s also very important for you to pack wisely.
Having all the must-haves can help to make your road trip as fun and exciting as you’ve imagined it to be. And this is why having a checklist of all the things to pack is essential.
Above are the essentials — they’re divided into 6 different categories to make packing so much easier for you.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s a great idea to place the items mentioned in the various categories above together.
This allows you to easily get your hands on something that you are looking for just in case you need it — a pill for a headache is in the bag with all the health essentials, and the sunscreen is in the bag with various personal care items.
Needless to say, coming up with a checklist of items to bring for a road trip can help to eliminate clutter and at the same time, make sure you got everything you will need packed.
Can you think of some other important things to pack for a road trip? Feel free to mention some of them in the comments section below. And if you have some horror stories about traveling without packing properly, don’t be embarrassed to share them, too!