Packing List Essentials for Any Road Trip
This is your all-around packing list that will help no matter where you’re going on your road trip. Some things may not apply to you (prescriptions, for instance), and, of course, some things that are necessary to you that I can’t possibly know will not be on here.
Remember to scale all items to the length of your road trip. If possible, share larger size items. My husband always uses my shampoo when we travel. Here we go:
- Online map and directions for the route you’ve mapped out, road maps for the states you’ll be passing through, and printed hotel/campground reservation confirmations. You’ll also need any other reservation confirmation information and print-outs for attractions or restaurants you’ve booked. All of this should be in one bag that has a zipper (nothing falls out) and is preferably waterproof (rain and spill-proof). Place inconvenient spot in the car (not the trunk).
- First-aid kit for the car.
- Roadside emergency kit.
- Driver’s license – every driver must have one with them. Car registration, proof of insurance and any inspection materials in your glove compartment. Clean out the glove compartment if it is a mess (I admit mine gets sloppy from time to time). It should just have these items and the car manual so you can quickly locate what you need.
- Road trip games/materials and any music you’ve compiled for your trip.
- Every kind of battery charger you might need (cell phone, digital camera, MP3, etc.) Regular batteries if you need them for something you’re bringing.
- Flashlight with fresh batteries.
- EZ Pass or other electronic toll-collection systems for the region where you will be traveling. This will save you hours of waiting. If you’ve mapped your road trip primarily on secondary roads, you will not need this. Bring change for the occasional toll/bridge in that case.
- Spending money – bring a small amount and your ATM card to get more cash as you need it.
- Clothes for every day of your trip (less if you’re trip is over one week), extra socks and underwear, sleepwear, robe, and slippers. Roll your clothes to prevent wrinkles. Don’t forget three pairs of shoes that include a pair of excellent walking shoes/sneakers.
- Books and other reading material. Don’t go too crazy on this one! You only need enough for the length of your road trip. Keep your planned activities in mind as you won’t be reading at those times.
- Prescriptions – more than you actually need for the trip so if your trip runs over due to unforeseen circumstances, you’ll be fine.
- Grooming items like Clearasil, facial cleansing items, teeth cleaning items including toothbrush, paste and floss, hair-care items and styling tools, shaving tools and lotions, makeup, and perfume.
- Glasses, contact lenses, and other items for the eyes.
- Tweezers – I always end up using these for something and never leave home without this handy tool.
- Sunblock and hats to protect against sunburn, and aloe gel for those times you forget.
- Hand sanitizer and hand lotion (small bottles).
- Ice scraper for windows if your trip will be in the winter/cold location.
- Scissors, corkscrew/bottle opener, and a small knife. A compass if your car doesn’t have a built-in one or if you plan on doing any hiking.
- One large blanket – this is not only cozy when you are cold, but it’s wonderful for napping and doubles as a picnic blanket. Bring one or more pillows depending on how many nappers are in your group.
- One large towel – you will need this a great deal unless you live in a perfect world! It can be used to dry off if you get surprised by a rainstorm, to clean up a spill, to wrap around yourself if you’re cold and someone else is using the blanket, and to buffer a too-hot seat in the summer.
- Camera (if not using your phone).
- Snacks and beverages for the trip. Put anything that needs to be kept cold in a cooler with ice. You could also pack some tasty sandwiches or other delicious food for the road – check out my Road Trip Recipes for more information.
- Napkins (or use paper towels) and plastic utensils for any meals on the road/in rest areas. Also, bring a couple of garbage bags for collecting your trash.
- Bring a roll of paper towels and one to two rolls of toilet paper for emergencies.
- Umbrellas and rain gear – it’s a good idea to get lightweight ponchos with hoods that can be bunched up and don’t take up a lot of room.
- Small air-freshener for motels that smell a little moldy and other not-so-sweet smells.
- Bathing suits for swimming in hotel pools or wherever you’re going that may offer a chance to use them.
- Sunglasses – especially for the driver(s).
- Travel alarm clock with fresh batteries. You only need this if you must get up at a certain time on one or more days of your trip. I have learned from the school of hard knocks that the radio alarms in the hotel frequently don’t work and that the front desk forgets to perform wake-up calls a little too often.
- Extra jackets/sweaters for those times that it’s colder than expected. Coats, gloves, hats, boots, and scarves if it might be significantly cold.
With this basic list, you should be well on your way to pulling together everything you need for your road trip. Now, it’s time to tweak it to fit your specific kind of trip: see my other lists including Camping, Spring Break, Skiing and Snowboarding, Summer Beach, Romantic, and Family.