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The Essential Road Trip Packing List: Best Things to Pack for an Epic Road Trip

Road Trip Packing List

A thoughtful road trip packing list is absolutely essential for any trip that you’re taking by car. I love taking road trips and I’ve traveled by car all over the world. Once you have your car and your safety necessities in check, you’ll be able to plan what to pack for a road trip based on the weather, the activities you’ll be doing, and more. Some of my top picks for road trip supplies: delicious food and drink, an epic road trip music playlist, downloadable maps, and sunglasses, of course! Here are all of the things to consider when considering the things to pack for a road trip.

If You Need to Rent a Car

Renting a car in Iceland

If you’re keeping this road trip close to home, perhaps you have your own car and won’t need to rent one. But, you might not own a car or maybe you’re traveling overseas and will need to rent one. When I need to rent a car, I head over to the Discover Cars website to compare prices between companies to find the best deal. It’s easy to search by city and pick-up location, as well as any other requirements for your individual needs (size of car, trunk space, whether it’s an automatic or manual transmission, etc).

Road Trip Packing List Essentials

Renting a car in Austria

This section of “how to pack for a road trip” isn’t exactly the most glamorous part, but you shouldn’t hit the road without any of these road trip essentials. It might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to forget some of these road trip necessities when you’re traveling overseas. Here are a few basics for your road trip checklist:

  • Driver’s license and registration
  • Insurance policy papers
  • A spare tire
  • A roadside emergency kit
  • Your car’s manual
  • AAA Membership (or CAA for Canadians!): I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bailed out by CAA with a tow, a jump start, or unlocking my car when I locked the keys in it.

Car Essentials for Road Trip

Car Essentials for Road Trip

Now, you’ll want to bring a number of car essentials for your road trip. These are things you’ll want to keep on hand in the car at all times for your own personal comfort and in case you have any troubles on your trip. These are the best road trip supplies for safety and comfort that you don’t want to leave home without.

While many car rental companies have their own separate insurance on the car, you don’t want to leave home without travel insurance for emergencies. You can choose from an affordable range of plans that will cover you for various activities on your road trip adventures.

Things to Pack for a Road Trip

New Zealand by car

Here’s what to pack for a road trip to make your overall trip effortless and more enjoyable. You’ll want to make sure that you have the proper maps for your journey, a full battery on your phone, a portable Wi-Fi connection, and other ways to increase your comfort levels.

Map Directions and Your Phone

I think that most of us tend to use Google Maps to get from point A to point B. I recommend that you download offline versions of your maps ahead of time. When we were drove around Iceland and more remote areas of Scotland, we completely lost our cell signal and data. With offline maps, you will have directions on your phone regardless of phone signal strength.

You’ll also want to keep your phone charged in order to use it. Make sure that you have a USB charger that works with your car. If your rental car doesn’t have a USB plug, there are some adapters that you can get that plug into the car’s cigarette lighter. I always bring one of these in my bag just in case! This adapter has two USB plugs so both you and your road trip buddy can keep your phones charged.

It’s also a good idea to buy something to clip your phone to the dashboard so you can see it unobstructed at all times. I am a fan of the phone clips that attach to the car’s vent and uses a magnet to attach your phone to the clip.

Justin and I always make sure that we have a portable Wi-Fi device for any of our travels, whether it’s a road trip or another overseas adventure. TravelWifi has the best pocket Wi-Fi device that provides lightning fast Internet when you’re abroad, no matter where you go. Rent their portable Wi-Fi device today!

More Road Trip Must Haves

It can get uncomfortable sitting in the car for hours at a time. I suggest wearing comfortable clothing, dressing in layers, and bringing a neck pillow if you plan to take a little nap.

You’ll want to make sure that you have some spare change in the proper currency. This comes in handy if you need coins to park at any parking meters or parking lots in towns and cities. Also, you might come across some toll roads where having the correct change will make your trip a breeze.

Having excellent music makes all the difference, so you’ll want to develop your own road trip playlist ahead of time. I remember back in the day making my own mix tape CDs for long car rides. Nowadays, it’s a little bit easier to create your own playlist on Spotify or Apple Music.

Last but not least, sunglasses are an absolute must for a road trip packing list. I never leave home without my shades! In fact, I suggest packing at least two pairs of sunglasses. I’ve ruined sunglasses by sitting on them, we’ve left them behind and lost them, and both Justin and I managed to lose our sunglasses in the ocean on the same day once (big waves!).

Road Trip Packing List: Food and Drink

Wondering how to pack for a road trip? Well, delicious food and drink is at the top of my road trip checklist. If you’re going to be driving around for hours at a time, you’re going to get hungry and thirsty. Plus, having snacks and yummy refreshments on hand will make your road trip even better.

My Favorite Road Trip Snack: Abe’s Muffins

Road trip packing list: Abe's vegan muffins

I fell in love with Abe’s Muffins when I was taking a road trip through the northeastern United States, from my home in Toronto and through New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. They’re the perfect bite sized snack on the road, they’re portable, and super yummy. Oh, and they’re vegan, too! I recently found out that they’re extremely popular in the USA as they’re the best selling vegan bakery items there, taking both the #1 and #2 spot (for their chocolate chip muffins and wild blueberry muffins, respectively).

Road trip packing list: Abe's vegan muffins

Abe’s Muffins are also “school friendly” and good for those with allergies. They are free from dairy, eggs, sesame, soy, artificial flavors and preservatives. They’re also made in a peanut and sesame-free facility. You can find Abe’s Muffins in numerous retail stores throughout the USA and at Metro and Whole Foods stores in Canada.

Beverages for the Road Trip

I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle for your water and a reusable coffee tumbler for your hot beverages on the road. I will generally always have water and coffee when I’m driving and it’s a good idea to bring refillable and reusable containers. You’ll save a bit of money this way, and it’s much better for the environment.

Packing a Lunch on the Road

Here are more road trip must haves if you’re thinking about packing a lunch for the drive. You’ll want to pack a cooler bag with ice packs to keep everything at a cold temperature. This is perfect to keep your drinks cold, as well as any perishable foods like sandwiches, fruit, veggies and hummus. I also suggest bringing more reusable items for your picnic, like reusable bamboo cutlery, reusable dishware (these ones are made out of wheat!), and a metal straw. You might also want to pack a picnic blanket, too.

Travel Games on the Road

Road trip in New Zealand

Playing travel games on a road trip can be really fun…or really annoying! I remember going on road trips as a kid, and I’m sure that my road trip games were probably more annoying to my parents than anything. Here are a few suggestions for road trip games that are fun for adults, couples, and groups of friends.

  • Name that tune (put your Spotify on “shuffle” and you have to guess the song title and artist name)
  • Would you rather (compare two equally weird situations and make them choose!)
  • License plate game (if you’re in the USA or Canada, try to find every state or province on nearby cars)
  • Rock paper scissors (maybe not if you’re the one driving!)
  • Alphabet game (Go through the alphabet finding things that start with that letter in or around the car)
  • 21 Questions (Someone thinks of something and others must find out what it is within 21 questions)

Road Trip Must Haves: Stopping & Exploring

Depending on what you have planned to do during your travels, your road trip packing list might change. This also depends on the weather (which I’ve discussed in more detail in the next section). Assuming that you’re planning to embark on some outdoor adventures, here are some things to pack for a road trip:

Things to Bring on a Road Trip for Different Weather

Your road trip packing list is going to change depending on the time of year that you’re traveling and where you’re taking your road trip. For instance, renting a car in Iceland in the winter will be very different from renting a car in New Zealand in the spring and summer. As someone who lives in Canada and experiences all four seasons, I consider myself an expert in driving through all weather conditions.

Rainy Weather

Rainy weather in Ireland

If you’re planning a road trip around Scotland or Ireland, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It can rain without much notice there, so you’ll want to be prepared for some rainy weather. On a road trip to any place that receives rain, here are some road trip necessities: an umbrella (not a flimsy one that will blow inside out and break, which has happened to me!), a waterproof rain jacket, and a quick dry travel towel.

Snowy and Icy Weather

Winter road trip adventures

If you’re traveling during the winter months, you’ll want to plan accordingly as there are many additional things to pack for a road trip. Most of these relate to your safety while driving and to help get yourself out of snowy and icy situations. I recommend that you pack a warm winter coat, a snow brush/ice scraper, a small shovel (in case you get stuck or snowed in), mittens, and a scarf.

Looking for more packing lists or road trip guides? Check out these related articles:

How to Pack for a Road Trip: FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions for creating your own road trip packing list. This will help you decide what you need to bring for your adventures by car.

When should I take a road trip?

Road trips are fun all year long! If you decide to take a winter road trip, you’ll need to take care when driving in snowy and icy conditions. It’s also important to note that some countries have fewer hours of daylight in the winter (and more hours of daylight in the summer). My favorite times to take a road trip are generally in the spring, summer, and fall.

How much does a road trip cost?

There isn’t one answer to this question. You’ll need to factor in the costs for a car rental and the cost of gas. Then, you’ll need to calculate the rates for hotel stays, the cost of food, and any activity costs on the way.

Why take a road trip?

Road trips are an amazing way to see a country or a place! You’ll be able to explore at your own pace and drive wherever you need to go. I love the freedom of exploring the open road!

What kind of car should I drive?

If the road conditions are paved and not treacherous, I always opt for the most fuel efficient, smallest vehicle that will fit all passengers and their belongings. If you’re driving in more difficult conditions or on tougher roads (mountains, for instance), you might need to rent a 4WD vehicle that’s more rugged.

Where should I stay?

If you enjoy sleeping in the car (I do not!), you can sleep at some rest stops, some national forests (make sure it isn’t illegal ahead of time), and even some car parking lots (Walmart comes to mind). I highly suggest staying at hotels or Airbnb accommodations because you’ll be able to sleep in a proper bed, get a good night’s rest, and you’ll have access to a bathroom and shower.

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This post is brought to you by Abe’s Muffins.