Road Trip Essentials

Road Trip Essentials

Our list of road trip essentials that we’ve put together from months of being on the road. Includes tips and a printable road trip packing list.


Road Trip Essentials

Earlier this year, we went on a massive cross country road trip. We left Florida and traveled slowly for four months, making our way as far west as Colorado and as far north as Quebec City, Canada.


Road trip essentials helped us cover almost 8,000 miles around the US

Our cross country road trip route


By the time we’d gotten back to Miami we’d put close to 8,000 miles on Tami, our Toyota. We loved every minute of our trip and in between belting out Mariah Carey songs, we started coming up with a road trip essentials list so that we could share what we’ve learned about road tripping with you guys.


As we used certain things, or realized we’d forgotten certain things, we wrote them down. Those notes have now become this post. We hope you find our road trip packing tips helpful and that they get you ready to hit the road!


Tami the Toyota in Kansas

Tami the Toyota in Kansas


Road Trip Car Essentials

Before your road trip you should ask yourself, “Is my car ready for a road trip?” Conduct a pre-trip car inspection and take a look at your tires. Make sure they have the right amount of air and have good tread on them. The last thing you want is to be sliding all over the road if it rains. Make sure to check your spare tire for the same.


We always try to keep up to date with our oil changes and regular maintenance too. It’s better to fix little things before they become big things. We also change out our windshield wipers regularly. Being from Florida, we’re super conscious of car safety when it rains.


Pro Tip: If you’re nervous about the condition of your car, consider renting a car for a road trip.


Besides getting your actual car road trip ready, we also recommend a couple of road trip accessories for you to keep in your car’s trunk. Just in case. You never know if/when you’ll need them. And make sure you open them before putting them in your car; you don’t want to be in a critical moment and struggling to open a plastic wrapper.


Road Trip Car Essentials


Also, make sure you have your vehicle registration, car insurance, and roadside assistance information in your glove compartment. Having trip insurance is a good idea too. We’ve used in the past.


Road Trip Checklist

So you’re wondering what to pack for a road trip? We think the most important things are items that will keep you comfortable and entertained during long drives. Dress comfortably in loose fitting clothes and wear sunglasses that are polarized so they reduce glare. We personally love our Maui Jim sunglasses and never travel without them.


To reduce boredom, make sure you have music or audio books ready. Consider that you may find yourself without signal during parts of your road trip, so music services like Spotify are great because you can download music and still listen to it even if you’re offline. It’s also a good idea to have a car charger with two outlets so you can charge more than one device at a time.


Road trip snacks are a must!! But definitely get them before your trip and not at a gas station; it’ll help save you some money. You can portion out the snacks in Ziploc bags so that you don’t eat them all in one sitting. I’ve never done this. I swear. Remember to stay hydrated as well so bring plenty of water or a reusable water bottle.


Road trip games are also important. The more everyone is engaged and entertained, the faster the trip will go and there will be less chances of the driver falling asleep. We found two pretty good lists of road trip games: this one has road trip games for adults and this one has road trip games for kids. If you’re on a solo road trip, well, that’s what your music and audio books are for.


Make sure to also have cash/change in your car for tolls. If taking a different route to avoid tolls doesn’t add on too much time, you might want to consider that as an option. We’ve had toll bills mailed to us (the tolls that take a picture of your license plate) and because we weren’t home in time to pay them, we were charged a hefty late fee. Google maps has an “Avoid Tolls” option.


Road Trip Safety

Safety first!! Pay attention and observe all rules of the road (wear your seat belt and don’t text and drive!). We recommend getting a car phone mount to keep you from fumbling with your phone.


If you feel yourself falling asleep, pull over. Driving while sleepy can be just as, if not more, dangerous than driving drunk. Pack a pillow, blanket, earplugs, and eye mask so you can take a nap as needed. For safety reasons, try to find a well lit rest area and make sure your doors are locked.


Also, as we said before, since you might not always have signal you should consider downloading certain areas on Google maps so you can still use it when you’re offline. This link explains how to do easily download a Google map. You can always take along a paper map as well.


We have personally never carried a weapon on a road trip, but we know plenty of people that have. Just make sure you have all proper documentation and know how to you use your weapon. We have been looking into pepper spray and small personal alarms so that might be an option for you as well.


You also don’t want to make your car a target, so try to not have it look like you’re on a road trip. We realize that isn’t always possible, especially if you’re traveling in a big group. But try to keep all luggage, bags, and valuables out of sight.


We use packing cubes to help us squeeze more into our luggage so we’re able to travel with less bags overall. Packing cubes also help you stay organized if you need to find something quickly during your road trip. Oh, and having a small separate toiletry bag is also good for freshening up during bathroom breaks.


Pro Tip: Learn more about our Carry-On Essentials.


Regardless of how careful you are, your loved ones back home will worry. Make sure you check in often and that someone knows your full itinerary. You can also share your location with certain people using Google Maps. We’ve set it up so our best friends can see where we are on our road trips. You can click here to read how to set it up.


One last road trip safety suggestion: Have emergency contact numbers written down and in your glove compartment. We realize that nowadays hardly anyone has any phone numbers memorized so if you end up without your phone or internet, this could be a problem.


Road Trip Essentials


Road Trip Essentials List

Now that we’ve gone over what to pack for a road trip, here is our handy dandy road trip packing list. Feel free to right click and “Save As” so you can print it whenever you head out on your next road trip.


Road Trip Packing List

Road Trip Checklist


Final Thoughts On Road Trip Essentials

We’ve tried really hard to be thorough and are pretty sure we’ve covered all the things you need for a road trip. We’d like to think that after doing so much road tripping lately that we’re pretty good at it. 😉 Of course, everyone has their own way so if you think of other road trip essentials we missed, feel free to add them in the comments below for others to see.


Happy road tripping! 🙂


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Our list of road trip essentials that we've put together from months of being on the road. Includes tips and a printable road trip packing list.


  • Laura W says:

    Fantastic tips especially those about car maintenence!

  • Linda says:

    I must admit that I am a list maker. So I love that you provided a printable chart! Twice we have been on road trips and had to get the car to a dealership. Not sure either issue would have been found in advance. But it did reinforce the need to have a car checkup before travelling. I loved your tip about portioning out snacks. Not having cash for tolls had happened before so that is always something we have at hand when we travel by car. We actually carry our pillows when we travel by car. Only way to ensure we get a great sleep every night.

    • Buddy says:

      Oh that sucks about the car issues. That happened to me once before and my car completely died on the side of the highway. And I’m so glad you liked the list Linda!

  • Jen Joslin says:

    This is an awesome post! So much useful advice and I love that you wrote down your ideas along the way. A road trip across the US is on my adventure list for sure! The routes you took look great. You made it to so many states! Definitely pinning this post to reference when I plan my trip!

  • Danik says:

    I love road tripping and I think I done it so much in North AMerica and Europe over the years that if I forget something, I only blame myself. Great guide here for newbies. 🙂

  • What a great checklist! We took a pretty epic road trip from Oregon to Florida and back a couple years ago so I know what you mean about realizing how important something is or what you might have forgotten and writing it down.

    We were actually carrying a full size spare tire and a rechargeable portable battery starter for emergencies but we were camping back on some pretty remote areas in the Southwestern US.

    Handy to have an actual checklist you can print out for when it comes time to hit the road!

  • Lisa says:

    Loving the little checklist so that I can remember all the important stuff, love my lists! These are all really great tips, Vicky! I love that you included road trip games! 🙂

  • This is a perfect post AND it contain all the important essentials which one must carry while taking a road trip. Just a quick question – Can we download this checklist anyway.

  • Road trips are the best way to experiences places and are always an enjoyable and thrilling experience. But road trips can go awry if not enough preparation is done. Your checklist is an excellent ready reckoner before embarking on a road trip.

  • Alli says:

    Love the checklist! Interesting to read about the weapon/pepper spray! Not something I would generally travel with, but why not??

  • Nisha says:

    8000 miles is a lot of distance! I agree that the very thing one needs to ask is if the car will endure the road trip. For me renting a new car for the purpose makes more sense, even though it means more expense. If proper budgeted then nothing like it , especially if you have everything covered by insurance.

  • I love checklist when traveling, it’s giving me the assurance that I have everything in. This is an informative post knowing that you’ve listed all that is really important when traveling. The emergency kit is a must and is a number 1 on my list every time I travel or on the road trip. The insurance is totally an important thing as well, in the Philippines, not all are having that so there’s some issues when it comes to having a road trip without insurance.

  • Aye, I gotta agree with everyone else. It’s a good list.

    I also have a portable car battery jump starter. It’s very handy because I never hear the beeping noise if I forgot to turn off the light resulting in a dead battery, especially when there’s no one around to help. You can charge one up and put it away in your trunk for a good while without having to worry about the battery drain (even after 1 year).

    Sadly, my trusty Honda is nearing the end of it’s run at 125K miles with several awesome road trip under its’ fan belt. One final run to the Florida Keys then it’s going into retirement.

    One thing I do encourage checklist-wise is based on the weather. Especially cold weather. Pack at least one if not two blankets in the trunk. If for some reason you get stuck in the cold, and have to turn off the car to conserve gas, at least you have a blanket or two to keep you warm. Not too many people do cold-weather trips but they can be awesome too.

    Look forward to your next trip.

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Hi! I'm Vicky, a South Florida-based blogger traveling around the world with my stuffed monkey Buddy. Tired of the 9-5, we recently sold all of our stuff and started traveling full time. Click on the photo to learn more!

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