A list of road trip essentials put together from years of being on the road. Includes accessories, tips, and printable road trip packing list.

Road Trip Essentials

In 2018, 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. By the time we’d gotten back to Miami we’d put close to 8,000 miles on Tami, our Toyota.

Road trip essentials helped us cover almost 8,000 miles around the US
Our 2018 cross country road trip route

In 2019, we took off again. We traveled from Miami to Nashville, to Denver, to Phoenix, and finally back to Miami. Now, in the first few months of 2020 we drove from Florida to as far north as New Hampshire before heading west to Indiana and Colorado, and then back to Florida.

We loved every minute of our trips and in between belting out Mariah Carey songs, we came 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. Jumper cables or a portable car battery starter, a portable tire inflator, and a first aid kit.

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 WorldNomads.com 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, audio books, or podcasts 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 USB ports 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. We’ve never done this. We 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, audio books, and podcasts are for. Or you could call someone and chat while you drive.

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 to your trip, 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.

Vicky, Mark, and Buddy on their 2020 road trip
Vicky, Mark, and Buddy on their 2020 road trip

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 many road trips over the last few years 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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A list of road trip essentials put together from years of being on the road. Includes accessories, tips, and printable road trip packing list.