It’s the era of the road trip as many of us are choosing to travel closer to home in the wake of a global pandemic.
But while we may think that this is easier than a trip overseas, road trips still come with a lot of planning.
Will it be a multi-day trip? Where will you stay along the way? Will you camp or stay in motels and guesthouses? And what do you need to bring?
After travelling New Zealand in a camper car for over a year, I’d like to think I’m a bit of an expert when it comes to road trips!
So, fear not, here’s a ready-made list of road trip essentials so that you can cross packing worries off your list. It’s the ultimate road trip packing guide!
Road trip essentials: packing list
1: Documents. License and registration details, car insurance and breakdown cover details. Check if your breakdown service has an app and download it before you leave.
2: Emergency equipment. Jump leads, spare tyre, tyre iron and jack. If you’ve never changed a tyre or jump started a car before, it could be handy to watch a couple of YouTube videos before you set off, just in case you end up stuck in an area of no signal. A car starter battery pack is a good idea too if you’re heading into a low population area.
3: Safety gear. Hi-vis vest and warning triangle so that you and your car can easily be seen if you break down. If you break down on a busy road or in a dangerous spot, make sure you put your hazard lights on and stand away from the vehicle for your safety.
4: Oil. Check all your levels before you leave and bring some extra oil with you.
5: Spare key. If you have two keys for your car, bring the spare but keep it separate to your other keys.
6: Blanket. Keep a blanket in your car to keep you warm if you get stuck somewhere overnight. It can also be a nice comfort item for the passenger if you’re travelling with a companion!
7: Torch/flashlight. A head torch is most useful, but a hand-held torch is great, too. Don’t just rely on your phone’s flashlight!
8: Hands-free phone accessories. You’ll likely be using a map on your phone, so make sure you have a holder that will keep it in your view without you having to use your hands. A USB charging cable and adaptor are also essential, and an aux cable is handy for music, too.
Bonus: If you’re travelling in an area where it’s likely to snow, pack a shovel and check if you might need snow chains.
9: Non-perishable meal options. Whether or not you plan to eat at restaurants along the way, make sure you bring some food that will fill you up. Eating out becomes expensive very quickly, and you may find yourself somewhere with no dining options. Uncooked pasta, noodles, rice and tinned foods keep well and will satisfy your hunger.
10: Camping stove, pot and pan. You can’t really cook pasta in the middle of nowhere without a stove, and you can pick up a small folding one pretty cheaply in an outdoors shop. You may not be planning to use it, but if you end up stuck somewhere overnight you’ll be very happy that you brought it!
11: Water. We bought a 10 litre water container and kept it in our car for drinking, cooking and washing up. Don’t make the mistake of only bringing a couple of water bottles and running out halfway through the first day.
12: Snacks. What’s a road trip without snacks?! Just don’t use them to replace your regular meals.
13: Warm layers. Even if the weather’s due to be fine, take some warmer layers just in case.
14: Comfortable clothes. Remember, you’re going to be sat in one spot for a good number of hours, so dress for comfort.
15: Additional items. Ever driven over an unexpected bump while taking a sip of coffee? Allow for spills when packing your clothes.
16: Sensible driving shoes. Basically, not flip flops or high heels (of course you can bring these, just don’t drive in them). If you’re planning on stopping for a hike or a trip to the beach, don’t forget to bring the appropriate footwear.
17: Rain jacket. For keeping warm in the cold and dry in the rain.
Bonus: Swimwear and towel. Visiting a lovely beach, lake or river? Don’t forget your swimsuit!
Other road trip essentials
18: Contact lenses/glasses (if required). This is, of course, very important if you’re going to be driving.
19: Sunglasses. Reduce glare and drive safely!
20: Pillow. Stay comfortable while taking a break, or have a nap if you’re the passenger.
21: Sleep mask. Whether you’re camping, staying in accommodation or just having a rest in between drives, this will help you catch up on some sleep.
22: Deodorant and dry shampoo. You may be going a few days without a shower, but don’t sacrifice your hygiene. Keep looking and feeling (and smelling) great!
23: Wet wipes. These come in handy in so many situations!
24: Hand sanitiser. Great for keeping your hands clean when you don’t have a sink handy, or after using a not-so-clean public bathroom.
25: Tissues. Again, useful in many situations.
26: Rubbish bags. Those food wrappers, used tissues and wet wipes have to go somewhere, and that place is not out the window! Keep a rubbish bag handy to keep the car tidy until you reach a rubbish bin.
27: First aid kit. Hopefully you won’t need it, but you never know! Better to be safe than sorry.
28: Cash. It’s a good idea to have some cash handy for parking spots, roadside stalls and any other occasion that may arise.
29: Power bank. Using electricity from your car when you’re driving is a good idea, but if you break down or stop to camp for the night, you don’t want to drain your battery! Bring a fully charged power bank to keep your electricals topped up.
30: Downloaded maps. You may be using paper maps, but it’s more than likely that you’ll be using your phone. Download maps of the areas you’re visiting so that you don’t get lost if you lose signal.
31: An awesome playlist. Nobody wants a silent road trip! Create or download a playlist of your favourite tunes or podcasts to keep you entertained for those long hours on the road.
Camping? In addition to the above you’ll need: tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and possibly another blanket.
Staying in fully serviced accommodation? You can probably add your usual shower toiletries to the list.
Crossing country borders? Don’t forget your passport! Plus any visas you may need. Make sure your driving license will be accepted in each country or get an international driving license.
Road trips are always a lot of fun as you can go at your own pace and see places along the way that you probably never even knew existed!
It’s important to be prepared for any eventuality, and then you can relax and enjoy the ride, knowing that everything is taken care of.
My favourite thing about road trips is the sense of freedom that comes with taking your time and going your own route, while allowing for side trips to discover new hidden gems.
This list of road trip essentials has been compiled from my own experiences and I hope that it is of good use to you as you head off on your own adventure!
What do you think of these road trip essentials? Is there anything you’d add, or anything you hadn’t thought of before? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- 17 important things to do before your trip
- 6 useful tips for scooter rental in Asia
- Travel safety guide: 12 tips that could save your life
All images in this post are the property of lastminutewanders.com
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Gotta love a good road trip! What a great list! Many of these items I wouldn’t of think of. The spare key has got to be the most important one! haha
Yes! When we road tripped New Zealand we only had one key for our car, and of course I managed to lock it inside the car one time. Whoops!
Michelle Segrest says
This is the most comprehensive and detailed road trip packing list I have ever seen! Thanks so much for such a useful tool for all of us road trippers! I especially love how you point out that road trips can take you to places you never expected and sometimes that’s even better than the originally planned destination!
Thank you so much Michelle! I’m glad it’s so useful to you 🙂 and yeah totally, it’s all about the journey!
Such a great list! I especially loved your road trip camping setup
Thanks! Yeah we loved it too, it was our way of life for over a year! 🙂
Meghan Emcee says
This is such a great list! A lot of things I hadn’t ever thought of, like bringing a blanket – so simple and it can go a long way (my boyfriend is always hot so blasts the AC, this way I can cuddle up 🙂 )
Thanks Meghan! Exactly, there’s no point in you staying cold 😉 plus you never know when it might come in useful.