One of my favorite parts about road trips is the ability to pack a lot more than I can when I fly. Yet, I still manage to forget things when I’m traveling in my own car. I want to be fully transparent, so this is my actual list that I use when I take road trips. Hopefully, you can get just as much use from it as I can.
*If you don’t feel like reading, here’s the checklist. Otherwise, read on for why I pack everything that I do:
- License, registration, and car insurance
- Car manual, spare tire, and emergency road side kit, flashlight
- Jumper cables, UV window shades, battery charger
- Paper maps in case you lose service
- Cash for cash-only tolls and hole-in-the-wall places
- Pen & paper
- Bug spray, sun screen, chapstick, and hair ties
- Spare toilet paper
- Ice scraper and compact shovel
- First aid kit
- Hand sanitizer/wipes
- Prescriptions and pain/motion sickness medications
- Car-ready phone chargers and aux cord if necessary
- CDs or a rockin’ playlist
- Books and games (mad libs, anyone?)
- Sunglasses and prescription glasses, if you have one
- Reusable water bottles
- Travel pillows and blankets
- An easily accessible sweatshirt
- Quick change of clothes and shoes (other than what’s in your suitcase)
- Flip flops and towels
- Garbage bags
For the Car
These are items that you should always keep in your car regardless of whether or not you’re taking a road trip. Your license should always be in your wallet, and your car registration and insurance card should always be in the glovebox (or wherever you keep those things). Your car manual should always be just as easily accessible as your registration and insurance information in case of emergency. No matter how well you THINK you know your car, sometimes lights go on and you’re not sure what they mean – it happens, so be prepared.
You should always always always have a spare tire, jumper cables, and an emergency battery charger in the back of your car. Again, no matter how amazing you think your car’s condition is, things happen, and you should always be extra prepared.
You should also keep paper maps in your car. I’m aware that it sounds archaic, but if you’re taking a long road trip, there is a good chance that you will lose cell service at least once. Keeping paper maps around is an extra precautionary step that can save you from taking one wrong turn that sets you hours behind. On that note, you should also keep cash on you in case you do find yourself in those types of archaic mom-and-pop places that only accept cash – OR – for tolls.
Finally, be sure to have an emergency road side kit, first aid kit, and flashlight in case of breakdown or injury. I like this kit from Amazon – it has jumper cables included, plus a tool kit, a tire repair kit, and even some first aid items built in.
Additionally, depending on where you’re traveling to, it may be a good idea to keep an ice scraper and a compact shovel in your trunk.
These are the items that are a bit less necessary, but definitely nice to have. They’re items that keep you clean, warm, and comfortable throughout your travels! First and foremost, I recommend sticking travel-sized items like hand sanitizer, sanitation wipes, hand lotion, and tissues in the glove box. You can also buy travel-sized Advil packs for headache emergencies (while you’re at it, don’t forget your prescriptions and motion-sickness medication).
Then, make sure you have your sunglasses in their holder and a reusable water bottle in the cup holder. Also, consider keeping a garbage bag by the passenger seat so you don’t end up either littering (please don’t) or throwing your wrappers on the floor until you hit your next rest stop. You can even buy a reusable, washable bag intended for the back of your seat (only $6).
Finally, there are a few essentials I recommend keeping in your trunk. Find an umbrella (compact if possible), travel-sized pillows and blankets, and sweatshirts for everyone in the car. Then, here’s a weird one… grab an extra roll of toilet paper from home. You never know when you’re gonna have to go at a port-o-potty or an empty rest area! On that note…throw in some Febreeze ;).
For starters, you never know where you’re going to end up on a road trip. If there’s room, consider packing a “quick change bag” with a change of clothes, a bathing suit, a towel, and flip flops. Add in bug spray, sun screen, chapstick, and hair ties (some of those can go right in the glovebox). You never know where you may decide to stop along the way, and it’s much easier than digging through your suitcase!
Bring a cooler full of soft drinks and cold water, and a bag full of snacks. Keep the road on the mind when you select your snacks. Go for less crumbly and messy foods, like apples and bite-sized pretzels. Also, throw a pack of gum or mints in the glovebox!
Then, chances are, you’re going to get bored on the road. The easiest thing you can do is bring a notepad and a pen. You can take notes, write poems, or play road games like “the license plate game.” You can also jump on Amazon and buy actual road trip game books or Mad Libs.
Plus, of course, you HAVE to prepare a road trip playlist or throw in some of your favorite CD’s. What’s a good road trip without music? Don’t forget an aux cord if you need one.