Packing for a Road Trip – Essentials you Need to Bring!

Planning a road trip and wondering what to you need to bring?  When you are packing for a road trip, there are some things to bring which you may not have thought of, so with this road trip packing list I’ve also included a printable road trip checklist so you won’t miss a thing!  Road trips are super fun, and whether you are heading cross-country on your own or with a travel buddy or two, these road trip essentials will help you enjoy a stress-free road trip. 

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Road Trip Planning

Whether it’s a short day trip or an epic multi-day adventure these road trip travel tips will help you to plan and prepare for your journey.   

The first step is to plan your route, and then decide how long you want to spend on the road.  When you are planning your road trip, remember to schedule regular breaks for food, petrol and rest stops – as well as cool places to see along the way.  

Sometimes the road trip itself is the most important part of the journey, for example if you’re visiting several National Parks and driving within the parks then you want to make sure you see everything.

Make a list of the attractions you want to see along your route. This will help you to plan your stops and make sure you don’t miss anything important. 

If it is a multi-day epic road trip, where will you stay?  Make a reservation to guarantee you have a place to sleep for the night.  In cases where reservation isn’t possible, you might need to arrive earlier to get a spot, and have a back-up plan for nearby hotels and motels where you can stay.  

White Car Parked Next to a Camping Pod - A Road Trip Stopover at a Campsite
A Road Trip Stopover at a Campsite – Planning for a Road Trip

Don’t try to fit too much in one day – use the time estimates in Google Maps but add a good chunk of time on that figure for traffic delays and other things that might slow your journey.  The last thing you want to do is to risk driving for too long when you’re tired.

Take some time to plan out the best route to take and use Google Maps to find suitable places to stop and/or sleep.  I don’t like to drive for more than an hour and a half in one go, especially when I’m on a solo road trip, as I need to stretch my legs and give my eyes and brain a rest – even for a few minutes.

If you’re driving for long distances where there aren’t many towns, remember to fill up with petrol/gas whenever you need to.  As a rule of thumb, I keep at least half a tank at all times so I don’t get caught short. 

Try to avoid driving at night if you can.  There is a greater risk of accidents from tiredness, and from animals that might stray onto the road in the dark.  Dawn and dusk can be equally dangerous, especially if you’re driving in places like Australia where kangaroos and other wildlife are most active during these times.

Check the weather forecast before you leave.  If heavy rain or snow is forecast then consider changing your timings or postponing your trip to avoid driving in hazardous conditions.

Packing for a Road Trip

Some of what you pack for your road trip may vary depending on where you are going.  That needs to be part of your road trip planning process to decide where and when you are hitting the road.

Sometimes you’ll be able to pack in advance, but some things (like food and drink) can only be packed on the day of your trip, so leave plenty of time to get everything in the car or van before you need to leave.

If you take road trips regularly, have a ready-made bag or box of gear so everything is there waiting for you the next time.

What to Pack for a Road Trip

Get Your Printable Road Trip Checklist

I highly recommend reading the whole article to give you some background on what some of the items are and why you’ll need them for road-tripping.  However, for quick reference and to make your life even easier, I’ve created a printable road trip checklist which you can download and print off.  


Road Trip Essentials You Can’t Leave Home Without


Sunglasses are possibly the most important thing to take on a road trip to make sure you can see the road safely.  If you wear prescription glasses make sure your sunglasses are prescription as well, or bring some contacts to wear with them.

Lighter Phone Charger & Cables

When you’re driving long distances, another road trip essential is to be able to charge up your phone as you’re going along.  If you’re playing music or using it as a GPS the battery can drain very quickly so having a USB charger which fits into the cigarette lighter socket means you can charge up as you go.

A solar-powered charger is also a great option if you’re out in the sun, or a portable power bank can do the job if you don’t have a charger that fits into the car.

Don’t forget to bring the correct charging cables for anything you need to plug in!

Toilet Paper, Hand Soap & Towel

When you’re using rest stops and service stations to go to the bathroom you never know what kind of state they are in and if there are facilities to wash your hands. 

My driving packing list essentials always include toilet paper with me (or at least a packet of tissues), and some soap and a towel are good ideas too.  Hand sanitiser is also a must for bush loos or if there is no water available.

Couple Enjoying a Picnic by the River Sitting in the Back of their Car - What to Pack for a Road Trip
Picnics Are Great Road Trip Meals – What to Pack for a Road Trip

Food & Drink

You’ll want to bring plenty of snacks and drinks for your road trip, as they can help to keep you energized and hydrated during the journey. Top road trip foods are non-perishable snacks like granola bars and nuts which are ideal as they won’t spoil in the heat.  Fresh fruit like apples also works well, as long as you dispose of the core/skins properly.

Buying snacks at service stations can be expensive and you’re limited with the options they have, which are often unhealthy fast food, so bring enough to keep you satisfied while you’re on the road.

A scenic spot en route could be a great place to have a picnic for lunch or take a look at your planned road trip route to see what restaurants and roadside cafes are open around mealtimes. 

There might be some cool places that are famous for their speciality dish or roadside attractions where you can stop to eat and take some photos of whatever is there.  

If you plan on bringing food to last you for several days then bring a cooler with ice packs to keep things cold, there are also electric coolers which plug into the car lighter socket.  Prepare the meals in advance and pack them together in order of when they’ll get eaten, so the first meal is at the top and easy to get to.  

You could also bring a camping stove so you can cook anywhere, although then you will need more equipment with crockery, cutlery and cleaning supplies.  In that case, one-pot meals work best so you can cook everything on the one hob.

As for drinks, water is always the best choice, but you may also want to pack some juice boxes or sports drinks for longer trips where you want something with more flavour. 

Don’t forget to bring a trash bag to keep your rubbish and dispose of it responsibly when you stop.

Filter Water Bottle

Ideally, you’ll bring enough water to last your journey, but if you have a water bottle with a built-in filter you can fill it up at any fresh water source and have safe water to drink.   

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A Hand Filling Up a Water Bottle from a Stream
Filling Up a Filter Water Bottle from a Stream – A Road Trip Essential!

Some Cash

Even when almost everywhere takes cards, having some cash on hand for tolls and other expenses that may come up during your journey is essential. Consider bringing both small bills and coins in case you need them.

Also, be sure to bring enough cash to pay for gas as well as any other unexpected costs that might come up.  Whenever I’m travelling anywhere I have two different credit cards in case one doesn’t work, or a credit and a debit card as well as cash to cover all bases.

A Camera

You’ll want to bring a camera on your road trip so you can take pictures of the sights you see along the way. If you have a smartphone, it likely has a good camera that will suffice. Otherwise, consider bringing a camera with you on your travels.

A Notebook and Pen

A notebook and pen can be useful for jotting down directions, taking notes on attractions, and writing down memories of your trip. You can also use them to play games or pass the time if you get bored on the road – assuming you have road trip buddies!

Motion Sickness Medication

I suffer quite badly from motion sickness, especially if I sit in the back of the car.  When I’m driving it doesn’t affect me as I can see where the road is going, but on windy roads where I can’t see the twists and turns cause me a big problem. 

If you or your passengers get motion sickness, ideally sit them in the front so they can see the road ahead.  If you have medication then take it at least an hour before setting off, or sometimes taking them the night before an early start is a good idea.

Other non-chemical solutions like acupressure bands and ginger sweets can also help, as well as opening the window for some fresh air.  I have also recently discovered that putting in one earplug or using one noise-cancelling earbud helps as well – something to do with the inner-ear imbalance that somehow prevents motion sickness.

In severe cases, you might want to bring a bucket or tub as a sick bowl, as well as a towel and wet wipes.  A change of clothes is also very useful in case of spillages!  In cases where sickness is a risk, these really are road trip necessities!

Winding Mountain Road
Winding Mountain Roads can be an Issue for Motion Sickness, So Pack Supplies!


Whether you’re getting bored on long stretches of road or just want to keep yourself awake, having something to keep you awake and your mind occupied is vital.

Music Playlist

I love listening to music when I’m driving.  If you’re alone then download some kick-ass road trip playlists to suit the mood of the drive.  Something upbeat that will have you singing along is the best way to stay awake on the road.

If there are several of you in the car you could play road trip games like Name That Tune as you listen!

Entertaining audiobooks or podcasts can help break up the monotony of a long drive, but I personally find listening to the same voice for a long time will send me to sleep – choose something funny that will have you laughing instead of dropping off!

Road Trip Games

Road trips can be dull, so having some games to play along the way can make the time pass a lot quicker.  Games are harder if there is just one person, but there are several games you can play on road trips, for example

  • Name That Tune with songs on the radio or from a playlist is one of my favourite road trip games, where you name the artist or song title, or any other trivia you like related to the song
  • The Alphabet Game where you find letters of the alphabet on road signs, license plates, billboards, or other objects outside the car. The first player to find all 26 letters in order wins, or for a shorter game try spelling out your own names.
  • Road Trip Bingo where each player gets a bingo card with different objects or landmarks that can be seen on a road trip, such as different animals, bridges, or rest stops. The first player to get five in a row wins.
  • Road Trip Trivia where you have a quiz master reading out questions to test everyone’s knowledge about the places you’re driving through, or any other topic of interest.

Road Trip Essentials for the Vehicle


Unless you’re the kind of person who likes to get lost and explore, a sat-nav is a very useful piece of kit, especially if you’re a solo traveller and don’t have a navigator beside you.  Some cars will have them installed but if yours doesn’t, Garmin and TomTom are two of the best-known brands.

If you don’t want to buy a new sat-nav, you might be able to pick up a second-hand one on Ebay, or download an app for your phone. 

There are several GPS apps which you could download – Waze is a good one which updates as users add information about the road ahead and Google Maps also works well as long as you have data and a phone signal. is very useful as you can download maps in advance and it will provide you with directions without having to have a phone signal or data so it’s especially handy for driving abroad. 

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If you’re just going to use your phone, make sure you have a phone holder that will give you a good view of the screen without taking your eyes off the road.  GPS systems will come with a holder that sticks to the windscreen, so you could get something similar for your phone, or a simple clip that attaches to an air vent can do the trick just as well.  This phone holder has both options included in the package.

Sat Nav GPS Set up on a Phone with a Clip for Road Trip Navigation
Sat Nav GPS Set up on a Phone with a Clip – Road Trip Essentials

Road Atlas/Map

Even if you have a sat-nav or phone app to direct you, should everything else fail, a decent road atlas or street map can be a very helpful thing to bring on a road trip.  At the very least, take a look at a map before you set off so you know vaguely where you are heading!

Emergency Kit

Hopefully you won’t have to use this but having an emergency kit prepared is essential to bring on any road trip.  This should include jumper cables, a flashlight/torch, flares or reflective triangles, and a high-vis jacket.

These items aren’t a legal requirement in the UK (unlike some countries in Europe), but they are very useful to have in case of emergencies, especially at night.  >>>>BUY ON AMAZON

It’s also important to have some basic tools and useful bits and bobs like gaffer tape, pliers, cable ties, bungee ropes, string, electrical duct tape and a pair of work gloves in case you need to make a quick fix.  You never know!

First Aid Kit

It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but having some basic first aid supplies is an essential road trip accessory.  Bandages, plasters (band-aids) and antiseptic wipes can all come in handy, as well as surgical gloves.  Since COVID, I also bring a couple of face masks and rapid COVID tests for trips. 


It’s getting dark and the car has broken down.  You need to find a phone that slipped underneath the car seat.  There are all sorts of reasons why you might need a torch, so make sure you have one, with some spare batteries.

I have a Maglite handheld torch which can also stand up and double as an electric candle, and a head torch so I can see what I’m doing while keeping both my hands free.  Most phones have built-in torches these days, but even a small torch attached to your keys is a good idea in an emergency.


For rest stops and even inside the car on a hot day you’ll need to apply sunscreen.  The sun can still burn you through windows, and if you’ve rolled the windows down for fresh air the sunshine will come streaming in.

Insect Repellent

If you’re likely to be making stops along the way to enjoy the outdoors, or camping as you go then, having something to deter biting insects really is a must.  I have insect repellent for my skin, and I also have some citronella candles for when I’m camping. 

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A penknife isn’t necessarily a road trip essential, but it’s one of my top road trip items to bring as you can get a whole lot of useful gadgets in one small knife.  I have a mini pen-knife which has a knife, scissors, tweezers, nail file and toothpick, but you can also get larger ones with things like bottle openers, tin openers, and everything that you might need on a road trip.

Essential Paperwork for Your Vehicle

Before you set out on your road trip, you need to get your paperwork sorted out.  Boring, yes, but definitely essential, even if you’re just taking day trips!  If you are hiring a car then some paperwork might not apply to you but check the details in your rental agreement and insurance.

Keep a paper copy of all of your important vehicle documents with you in the car, as well as an electronic copy saved on your emails and phone so you can access it from anywhere. 

Driving License and Copies

Don’t forget your driver’s license!  If you have other people with you who might be driving, they’ll also need their licenses and insurance to allow them to drive. 

Ownership/Rental Documents

If you’re driving your own vehicle make sure you have the ownership documents with you, or at least a copy of them (depending on the law of the country you’re driving in).

Insurance & Tax

Of course, you need to make sure you have tax and insurance to be legally covered while on the road.  If you plan to share the driving, make sure everyone who will be driving is insured to do so – either on their own insurance or to the specific vehicle you are using. 

If you’re renting a car for the road trip then see what coverage is included with your rental agreement.  I usually take out full coverage, either through Discover Cars or you could take out a yearly policy which would cover all rental cars (but they don’t usually apply to vans).

Breakdown Cover

This isn’t mandatory but for your own vehicle, I highly recommend getting some kind of breakdown cover so if you have any problems you can get someone out to fix it, or at least take you to the nearest garage.  This is particularly useful with older vehicles which might have more things go wrong, and can cover things like a flat tyre!

Country-Specific Requirements

If you are staying in one country then you will only need to check the requirements for that particular country, but if you plan on driving across borders to different countries, make sure you know what is required for each destination. 

Border crossings can be complicated, so make sure you have everything prepared and in order.

Check if you need a visa for your destination country/countries, and don’t overstay your visa if you need one. 

You may also need an international driving permit, so check if your destination(s) require(s) one for your nationality.

Extra items such as a country sticker for your vehicle, emergency triangle, high-vis jacket or breathalyser may be required depending on where you are heading, France for example has some strict rules on this.

Important Road Trip Safety Tips

Before you go anywhere you need to make sure your car is roadworthy and you’ve checked over everything to make sure it’s running smoothly.  Even with a rental car you should check the following:

Petrol / Gas

Before going anywhere on a road trip you need to make sure the vehicle has petrol, gas or diesel to get you where you need to go!  For long trips you will also need to fill up along the way.  If you’re going somewhere remote, make sure there are regular gas station stops, or make a note of where they are and be careful to keep the car topped up.

For rental cars, check you know which type of gas you need to refill it, either unleaded petrol or diesel, and which side of the car the fill cap is on.

Tyre Pressure

Check all four tyres for visible damage and make sure they are not worn down.  Make sure the tyre pressure is good, and that you have a spare tyre should you get a flat while you’re on the road.

Oil/Water/Windscreen Washer Fluid

A quick check under the bonnet before you set off can save you a lot of trouble further down the road.  The last hire car I got had absolutely no windscreen washer fluid left to clean the windscreen so I had to pull over and pour some water from my drinking bottle! 

Spare Tyre & Jack

If you’re going on a long road trip where you’re not likely to have any breakdown assistance then make sure you have a spare tyre, a jack, and that you know how to change a tyre should the need arise. 

Check for Damage

For rental cars, before you drive away make sure there is no damage to the car that wasn’t noted on your rental agreement.  I like to take photos of the car straight away so then you have time-stamped photographic proof of any dents and marks.

Close Up of Damage on a White Car
Road Trip Checklist – Take Photos of Any Damage on Rental Cars

What to Pack for a Road Trip in Winter

If you’re doing a winter road trip then there are extra things you’ll need to bring, like snow chains and a shovel in case you need to dig out of the snow.

Warm drinks in an insulated flask will help to keep you toasty, as will having hot food along the way, either at rest stops or you could bring soups in a flask too.

Bring blankets and pillows as well as extra food in case you get stuck and need to spend the night in the car.  These kinds of things could save your life – remember to check the weather forecast before you set out and avoid all non-essential travel if the weather looks especially bad.

What to Pack for Family Road Trips

Road trips with kids can be more challenging as they will need more planning and preparation. 

You will need to take more rest stops for people with small bladders, and if anyone suffers from motion sickness you’ll want to bring extras like a bucket or tub and cleansing wipes, as well as a change of clothes in case of accidents and spillages.

Keeping kids entertained on road trips is harder too, so prepare more road trip games and consider setting up tablets in the back seats so they can watch movies or play games on those to keep them occupied.

Making sure they’re comfortable is important too, so extra blankets and pillows for sleeping in the car is a good idea.

Get Ready for a Road Trip

I hope I’ve covered everything you need for a road trip here, and by following these tips for road trip essentials, you can create an unforgettable journey that is stress-free and enjoyable!  If I’ve missed any of your top road trip necessities then let me know in the comments and I’ll add it to the post. Don’t forget to download your free printable checklist below!

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