Going on a Road Trip? Having a track of everything you need for your exciting trip can be very tedious. Have you forgotten a tiny thing which turned out the most important stuff you needed? We have and that is why we prepared an ultimate Road trip packing checklist based upon our own experience to help you travel at ease. We always prefer to take road trips in our own vehicle rather than flying or using local transportation. It could be just a weekend trip or even a month long trip. Its all about the journey and not the destination to us.
Well! that being said, packing for such a trip is truly a daunting and calculative process. Even though we have taken lots of road trip, there is always something that we miss to carry or find new needs. Here, we have pulled together a Road Trip packing checklist to save your time.
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CATEGORY – 1 : TRIP NEEDS
Everything needed for your Road trip to be hassle free and memorable.
1. Personal identification and vehicle documents:
This is the first and foremost important thing. You should always carry some form of required personal identification and your vehicle documents. If you are a tourist on a foreign land, make sure to carry your passport with you at all time. This one time after visiting Big Bend state park, we came across a checkpoint in Texas (close to mexico). Since we were travelling within the country of our residence, we did not carry our passports during that trip. And we din’t cross the country’s border either. We had pretty hard time explaining to the officials there (even though we had our Driver’s License). Finally, they let us go!. So, lesson learnt. Usually, you will be asked for your vehicle documents when you cross between countries or if you are pulled over for any violations.
Packing light would be the best idea. You need space for your travel buddies and other road trip essentials. Packing cubes might help you pack in an organized way.
3. Food & Snacks:
I remember during our very first road-trip adventures, we used to buy this big multi-pack from Walmart which had variety of chips, Cheetos, funyuns etc. It is an easy option and it does satisfy the hunger temporarily, but not healthy at all. If you are on a long road trip, you need good snack for keeping yourself and your family healthy during your trip. So, we started to explore healthy alternatives. We have posted a separate blog on “Best Healthy Road trip snacks”
4. Cash & coins:
Not all places accept cards. Specially when you are travelling off to remote and rural areas. Also, you might need coins/cash for tolls. In US & Canada, some national campgrounds, park entry gates wont be manned. You may need to fill out a form and put your cash in a cover that is placed at the entrance.
Carry lots of drinking water. Its never enough. Its a huge favor to yourself. You don’t want to get sick while travelling or run out of water in the middle of nowhere. To avoid plastic disposable bottle wastes, we usually carry a 5 gal can and personal water bottles for each of us. If its a long trip, plan for refill stops. Tap is an useful app to find fresh water refill stations easily around you!
Stock up your favorite drink and enjoy it while you are on the road. We love using our 12v cooler/warmer. Its compact, durable and doesn’t take much space. This cooler also has an optional AC adapter. If you are staying in hotels, you can plug in your room for continuous cooling. No need to find ice machine every time for refills.
7. Photography and video gear
This goes without saying. Dont forget all the extra batteries, tripod, SD cards, lens, filters, charging cables and adapters.
8. Offline maps & Apps:
- Download offline google maps for the place you are visiting beforehand.
- Pick up physical maps at any visitor centers or hotel wherever you can.
- Gas App : We use Gasbuddy app to find gas stations on our way. It even shows price, gas station ratings and facilities.
- Camping App – Free Roam, RV Parky, Park Advisor
- RestArea App – Rest Stop
- Truck Stops (If you have large RV) – Big Truck Stops
- Traffic App – Waze
- Drone Regulation Maps – Airmap
Note: Above mentioned apps works well in the US and few in Canada. Haven’t tried in other places.
CATEGORY – 2 : PERSONAL COMFORT KIT
List of items to make you comfy, maintain personal hygiene and stay at ease during Road trip.
1. Pillows & Blankets:
Long road trips can often take a toll on your back. Carry a pillow to cushion your back. If you are a car campers like us, then pillows and blankets are a must have items on the list. During winter months, we would carry at least two blankets and a comforter to keep ourselves warm during car camping. If you are interested, here is the “List of car camping essentials”
2. Versatile clothing:
Research before hand about the places you are going to visit and plan your clothing accordingly.
If it is a long drive day, I personally like to wear casual loose shorts or leggings. If we are going to visit some places for the day, we would dress up accordingly. But hey! Its all about what are you comfortable with. Specially during cross country trips, the weather can be different in some places. This one time, we visited Sequoia national park right after visiting Death Valley NP. They are just 100 miles apart (not considering the route through road which is over 250 miles). Death valley was very hot and dry. So the shorts and T-shirt were enough. But as we climbed the elevation of sequoia, we were surrounded by snow. Good thing that we also had warmer clothes and jackets in our car. So quickly changed inside the car before heading out. Still, we were not completely prepared for the cold as we did not have gloves, scarfs or heavy shoes. So, we weren’t able to withstand the cold for long.
3. Flip flops, Sunglasses, Hat & Umbrella:
Keep your feet aerated and comfortable during long drives. Be ready for any kind of weather or just pep up your travel pics with cool wears.
4. All time glovebox essentials:
Lip balm, Sanitizer, Sunscreen, Moisturizer, Comb, Face tissue, Pen, Chewing gum and some candy (for instant energy).
5. Toiletry Essentials:
Carry a car kit with face wash, flushable wet wipes and water bottle. Apart from this, carry a toiletry kit that holds tooth brushes and travel size bathing needs. This bag comes handy while camping as well as during hotel stay.
6. Seat belt sponge:
For long road trips, we like to have these seat belt sponges to avoid irritations due to seat belts.
CATEGORY – 3
Your personal safety is the no.1 priority. These items will come handy during emergencies
1. Medicine & First Aid kit:
Its essential to have a medicine & First aid kit handy in your dashboard. As a frequent traveler, we always have had the need of it. Some of the items that we find to be essential are cough drops, something for cold, headache, throat infection, fever, nausea and digestion.
In addition, we have one first aid kit in our vehicle all the time and another in our carry on bag or camera bag. Its just a basic kit with band-aids, alcohol wipes and ointments. Also, its always good to carry one while hiking.
2. Flashlight, headlamp, whistle:
Its a must have item during your travel. Carry one in your car and another in your bag.
More than a flashlight, a head lamp is what has been easy to use most of the times. Its keeps your hand free while taking night photography.
3. Mosquito repellent:
Bugs and mosquitoes can ruin that perfect evening of yours. So, be prepared. Repellent creams, spray and bands are available in market. Make sure to carry them.
4. Bear spray for back country trips
CATEGORY – 4 : ENTERTAINMENT & ELECTRONICS
Where ever you go, stay connected and HAVE FUN!
We highly recommend this inverter if you want to charge your laptop, drone or camera batteries while travelling. DO NOT CHARGE THEM WHILE YOUR VEHICLE IS NOT RUNNING. We did that mistake once when we were on the Dalton highway. Our car batteries were completely drained as we were trying to charge the drone while our car was OFF. Then, we had to wait three hours until a kind family stopped and helped to jump start our car.
2. Phone holder & charging cables:
Most of us nowadays use phone for our navigation rather than a dedicated GPS device. A phone holder will avoid distraction while handling phones. We also have this small side pouch that sits snug between the seat and center console. Its good to hold our phones and wallets without any clutter.
3. Music, Audio books, games:
No trip is complete without some entertainment along the way. Bring your own playlists for the Roadtrip. Also, we like to listen to satellite radios (Sirius XM subscription) and Audio books. If you are going as a group or with kids, board games puzzle books, playing cards are good options.
CATEGORY – 5 : CARE CARE
As much as we seek our own comfort, your vehicle needs pampering and care too. It has a big part in keeping you safe on your adventure
1. Car safety & maintenance kit:
3. Disinfecting wipes tissues and paper towels:
You cant avoid accidental Food Spills or unexpected stains, while living out of your vehicle for few days. Having tissues in had will make your life easier in tidying up.
2. Extra Gas & spare tire:
Needed if you are going to travel to remote locations. Before traveling, do your research on the distance and frequency of gas station locations. Use Gasbuddy app to plan out your route. Calculate your need for gas accordingly. If you are taking OFF ROAD routes, definitely carry a full spare tire with you.
3. Trash bin and garbage bags:
We bought a car trash bin from amazon that can be hung behind the front seat. So, both of us can access it while driving easily without littering the inside of the car. It has been very useful to us, as it also has a place to hold a rectangular tissue box and pockets on either sides to hold garbage bags, plastic covers or any essentials. We would usually line this bin with small plastic covers that we get at grocery stores. But, always carry big garbage bags that we use at home as well. It will come handy for carrying your laundry clothes, things you buy during a trip or even a makeshift tarp to work under the car in the middle of the desert!
4. Duct tape, Swiss knife or any multi-tool:
Duct tape comes in handy for any small DIY fixes that you might have to do while on road. One time, accidentally I had cracked my phones’s screen. I had a clear duct tape on hand to hold the screen together temporarily.
5. Foil Sunshade
Keep your car interiors cool when parked. Shades have two purpose. One is for privacy and another for cold/hot weather. We bought a roll of reflectix double side foil insulation and cut it to size of our vehicle windows. Its been very helpful to keep us cozy and helps insulating while we sleep in our car below 0 deg.
We hope this Road trip packing checklist is helpful to you in some way. Have fun and travel safe!