This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on February, 11th 2021.
The fun, carefree energy of a road trip can change like that... (you’ll need to imagine the finger snap).
Nothing kills a vibe like having a dead car battery with no jumper cables or getting a flat tire with no spare or entering a hangry state in the middle of nowhere. We’ve all been there. Especially the hangry state.
When deciding what things to bring on a road trip, everyone's process is different. Some are okay with being completely unprepared, others like to pull out their hardside luggage sets and pack for a zombie apocalypse. Because, you know, just in case.
For everyone else, there's this road trip checklist to make sure all travel needs are met.
If you don’t know what to pack for a road trip, this packing list can help. We want you to spend less time on your packing and more time on planning and organizing all your road trip ideas. This guide will outline the essentials to pack for any trip and the 5 types of long road trip essentials you should always have with you. That way, you’ll be prepared for a day trip in the woods, a weekend getaway in the desert, or an epic, 3-week, cross-country road trip.
What Are the Best Travel Essentials?
Traveling is a wonderful way to gain a new perspective on the world. Not only does it broaden your horizons, but it also allows you to learn about and understand different cultures. Whether traveling by plane, train, or automobile, you should never leave for a trip without your travel essentials.
Place these somewhere safe for your long drive, like in zippered compartments of a weekender or black backpack:
- Everyday essentials – Keep your wallet, sunglasses, phone charger, portable battery pack, and headphones in a convenient place like an outer zippered pocket of a backpack. This is mostly for convenience. Essential convenience.
- Shay-inspired “staying alive bag” – Fill a compact pouch with daily vitamins, supplements, medications, and your favorite tea bags. Just because you’re on a long road trip, doesn’t mean you’re slipping on that well-being train.
- Germ and stain protection – Add disinfecting wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a face mask, so you can keep germs at bay. Add an on-the-go stain remover stick if you’re prone to red wine, green juice, and melted chocolate spills. You don’t want stains to set and who knows when you’ll do laundry next! Keep clean and germ-free while road tripping by bringing lots of hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and stain remover sticks for the whole car to use.
- Toiletries – Put your deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, skincare products, and any other bottles, tubes, jars, and sprays in a spill-proof toiletry bag such as a dopp kit. If you are going on a long road trip by car, it might also be wise to throw in a roll of toilet paper just in case.
- Makeup and brushes – With a multi-compartment, spill-proof, cosmetic bag you can easily access your makeup and brushes on-the-go, no matter where you are.
That's it, right? Ready to hit the open road?
What to Pack for a Road Trip?
Road trip travel essentials build off of the 5 regular travel necessities and form a separate road trip checklist of 5 additional must-haves, made specifically for going out on the open road.
Nearly 7 out of 10 Americans1 say they plan on taking a road trip in the near future—if you’re one of them, here are 5 must haves for a long successful road trip.
#1 Car Safety Equipment
Hitting the road means you have to prepare for the worst when it comes to your car—you probably won’t get pulled over or have some big car problem, but just in case, you’ll want to be prepared.
Make sure you have the following with you at all times:
- License and registration (obviously)
- A copy of your auto insurance policy
- Your car’s user manual
- Spare tire
- Roadside emergency kit
Also, it will help if you know a thing or two about how to use that spare tire and emergency kit. Before you head out on that epic road trip, check in with your local mechanic, car shop, knowledgeable friend, or trusty Google, and get a quick refresher on automobile 101.
#2 In-Car Comfort
Whether you’re camping or staying in a hotel, being comfortable on the journey there is crucial—both as a driver and a passenger. Imagine spending 12 hours on the road because there’s a magical once-in-a-thousand-years meteor shower over the Grand Canyon. For that, and for all the other times spent in the car, some in-car comfort will smooth any bumpy road.
Here’s what you should pack for in-car comfort and convenience:
- Throw blanket
- Travel pillow
- Road trip snacks
- Car charger
- Paper towels
- Small bags for garbage
- Reusable shopping bags
#3 Extra Toiletries
Chances are, you’ll need to pack extra personal care items for yourself and others. It’s impossible to be prepared for everything, but since you’ll most likely be spending more time in the outdoors, you’ll want to bring the following:
- Baby wipes
- Bug spray
- Over the counter painkillers
- Antibiotic cream
#4 Weather Preparedness
Even if you're taking a summer road trip and the forecast says clear skies, you should take advantage of the fact you won't have to pay for extra luggage or overweight baggage fees and cover all your bases for the long drive.
If snow and ice seems completely ridiculous, just bring a warm coat, a rain jacket, and an umbrella. But if you’re going into a colder location, you may want to bring a mini snow shovel and ice scraper to keep in the car.
If you’re wondering, What are fun things to take on a road trip? you’re in luck, because fun is an essential part of every road trip. Traveling by car gives you a chance to connect with friends, family, and strangers, and take some time to yourself to relax and be introspective.
Here are some ways to stay entertained during the drive:
- Books (for reading and journaling)
- Games or a deck of cards
- Crafts like cross-stitching
- Crossword or Sudoku books
- Digital camera (with charger)
- Disposable camera
Finally, 4 Personal Road Trip Must Haves
Every experienced traveler knows that there’s an entire category of “essential items” that aren’t really essential. Just try going on a weeklong road trip—even a weekend trip without these:
#1 A Playlist That’s At Least 4 Hours
In the past, there were mix tapes and CDs. Now, there are online playlists. Either way, music is a road trip essential… well, a road trip not-quite-essential essential.
Add thirty minutes to your preparation time and build a playlist with all of your favorites from your past and present lives. Remind yourself of the angsty albums you used to listen to when you were in high school, alone in your room. Dance (safely) to the greatest hits of your senior year.
Relive your memories while creating new ones. That’s the beauty of a road trip.
#2 Reusable Water Bottle
Trust us on this one, a reusable water bottle is one of the most essential road trip must haves.
When on a long stretch of road, a nature hike, and just about anywhere else, you'll want to stay hydrated. And constantly grabbing a tall Smart Water from the convenience store at the gas station will quickly feel like a waste. Skip the guilt and say yes to hydration with a reusable bottle.
#3 Small Keepsake of Home
Whatever home means to you—you’ll be thinking about it after a few long days on the road. To avoid feeling homesick and wanting to make a U-turn, bring a small keepsake and stow it away for those desperate times.
Keep it on the dashboard of your car or stuff it in your pillow for safe keeping. It doesn’t have to be anything big, it just has to mean something big.
#4 Eye Mask and Ear Plugs
When on the road, you never know where you’re going to sleep. Maybe you’ve seen pictures of the hotel room or saw the campgrounds on Google Maps, but when it comes to your precious shut-eye, you want to make sure you’re prepared for everything.
If there’s a light on outside your window that is glaring right in your eyes or if there’s a party going on at the next campsite—with an eye mask and set of ear plugs, you’ll be wandering off to dreamland without a care in the world.
How Should I Pack for a 2-Week Road Trip?
Have a long summer road trip ahead of you? Don’t worry, we’ve also got packing tips for an extra long car ride. Packing for 2 or 3 weeks on the road may seem overwhelming, but there’s one foolproof solution to packing for long trips: packing cubes.
What Are Packing Cubes?
If you aren’t familiar with packing cubes, your whole life is about to change for the better. All you have to do is pick out a size of packing cube for all your shirts, another for all your pants, and so on. Then, you roll (yes, roll—don’t fold!) each type of clothing and store it in its very own packing cube, saving you space, keeping you organized, and leaving your clothes wrinkle-free.
Road Trip Necessities
Whether you're going on a , or a with friends, having travel gear from BÈIS, can help you be practical and stylish at the same time. Having luggage, bags, and packing travel accessories that don't make you sacrifice form or function makes packing a breeze. Focus on what really matters to have a successful road trip—where you’re going and who you’re with.
- Skift. 41 Percent of Americans Say First Trip Will Be by Car Within 100 Miles: Skift Research Travel Tracker. https://skift.com/2020/05/01/41-percent-of-americans-say-first-trip-will-be-by-car-within-100-miles-skift-research-travel-tracker/