30 travel-tested road trip essentials

Last updated:
By David Em
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If you’re creating a packing list for your road trip, make sure you have the following road trip essentials for a smooth drive.

Letters that spell road trip on a map.

1. License and car documents

Before you get into your car and leave, make sure you have all of your important documents. Bring your driver’s license, and if you’re traveling internationally, your passport.

Related: The best sites to book a rental car

In your car, double-check that the valid registration and manual are there. Triple check if you have to because these documents are road trip essentials.

If you want to keep your documents safe and organized, get a file folder that’s fireproof and waterproof. The ENGPOW Fireproof File Folder from Amazon works well, is highly rated, and has more than 4,600 reviews. It’s also less than $20.

2. Insurance

Hopefully, you won’t need it. However, having your insurance card and contact information is crucial in the event of an accident.

Keep it safe and together is a card case. Clifton Heritage offers a stylish RFID-blocking Front Pocket Leather Card Holder Wallet on Amazon for $7.64.

Bring both car and health insurance cards. Also, make sure everything is up-to-date and in good standing. Since you’re going on a road trip, you may also want to look into travel insurance.

3. Roadside assistance

Roadside assistance is important because it gives you peace of mind. You can go on a road trip knowing that if your car breaks down or has issues, you can call for help. Make sure you have the contact information readily available.

Insurance companies offer roadside assistance coverage. A popular one is a membership for AAA Roadside Assistance. They offer 24/7 tow truck and roadside assistance services.

4. Car essentials

Depending on the type of car you have, make sure you bring backup items for your car. If you drive a gas-powered car, it’s important to have oil, an extra container of gas, and antifreeze. Jumper cables are also great to have. You can get Energizer Jumper Cables from Amazon for $16.99.

If you have an electric car, make sure you have your charging cable and know where you’re going to charge it before you head out. Also, a spare tire and jack are important regardless of the type of car you have.

Before you take off, get your car checked by a professional to make sure everything is running properly. Places such as Les Schwab Tire Center offer pre-trip safety checks for free.

5. Storage bin

A multi-purpose storage bin needs to be a part of your road trip essentials list. The IRIS USA TB Pearl Plastic Storage Bin from Amazon allows you to keep miscellaneous items or pots and pans in while you’re on the road.

The use of a storage bin will ensure things aren’t rolling around in your trunk. Everything will stay contained and organized.

6. First aid kit

Whether you’re going on a day trip or a weeklong road trip, a first aid kit is a must-have. You can build your own or buy one.

The First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Emergency Kit from Amazon has 299 first aid supplies that treat a variety of injuries. This will ensure that an injury can be treated and won’t ruin your trip.

7. Flashlight and multi-tool

A flashlight and a multi-tool are two things that you may not think you need. However, they’re important to have because they’ll be handy in unexpected situations.

Flashlights can also be substituted for a headlamp. The GearLight LED Headlamp from Amazon is excellent for adults and kids. If you’re camping or in an area with less light than you’re used to, a flashlight or headlamp will be useful.

A multi-tool will help you in different situations. From minor repairs to using the scissors, it’ll ensure you’re able to overcome unforeseen obstacles. Gerber Gear’s Multitool from Amazon offers 19 different uses.

8. Snacks

On a long car ride, snacks are crucial. Packing your own snacks is great because you won’t have to stop for food. Plus, you can choose what you eat, instead of eating what’s nearby. This can lead to healthier and tastier choices.

9. Plenty of water

It can be difficult to stay hydrated on a road trip. That’s why you must bring reusable water bottles to ensure you stay hydrated. It’s great to have more water than you think you’ll need because a surplus is better than a shortage.

An insulated water bottle will keep your water cold for hours. This is important for summer road trips because you’ll stay cool and hydrated.

The S’well Stainless Steel Water Bottle from Amazon is a great pick. It can keep your drinks cold for 36 hours.

10. Back-up navigation or map

In most cases, the maps app on your phone will work. However, you may enter areas without cell phone service.

A few ways to ensure you don’t get lost are to have a physical map, download the directions, or use a navigation system or software with offline capabilities. Maps.me is an excellent app that provides offline maps.

11. Portable phone charger and extra batteries

Keep your phone charged while you’re on the road with a portable phone charger. If you have other battery-powered items, bring extra batteries with you.

For $20, you can get the 2-Pack Miady 10000mAh Dual USB Portable Charger from Amazon. Power banks are great to have if you can’t find an outlet or if you don’t have USB ports in your car.

12. Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a must-have anytime you step outside. It blocks UV rays, which protect your skin and reduces the chances of you getting a burn.

Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 from Supergoop is incredible because it’s protective, lightweight, and you can’t see it. You no longer have to worry about white sunscreen not rubbing in.

13. Bug spray

To avoid getting bit by a bug while you’re out of the car, use bug spray. Bug Soother Spray from Amazon is a natural insect repellent that doesn’t have any harmful ingredients for your skin. It also does an excellent job of repelling bugs.

14. Personal care items

Lip balm, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, makeup, and moisturizer are all important items to have. Keep your personal care items in a toiletry bag for better organization. It also makes it more portable.

The Vorspack Toiletry Bag from Amazon is minimally designed and offers plenty of space for your items. It’s also water-resistant, which keeps your personal care items protected.

15. Sunglasses

Protect your eyes from the sun with a pair of sunglasses. If you’re able to, bring more than one pair because you may lose or break one. Sunglasses will also allow you to drive or enjoy the scene without squinting the entire time.

KALIYADI offers Polarized Sunglasses on Amazon that are less than $20. They look stylish, are functional, and budget-friendly.

16. Hand sanitizer

If you don’t have access to hand soap and water, hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Whether you like gels or sprays, it’ll keep your hands clean while you’re on the road.

17. Pillow and blanket

A pillow and blanket are two road trip essentials that’ll make the drive more comfortable. Pack the softest blanket and best pillow that you have. You’ll be able to rest in the car without neck pain when you wake up.

Related: Best neck pillows for travel

18. Cooler

Keep your snacks and drinks cool and covered by placing them in a cooler. When you bring it outside, coolers also protect your food and drinks from bugs and animals.

The Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Hardbody Cooler from Amazon is great for food or drinks. It has a zipper-less lid for quick access.

19. Garbage bags

Your car can get messy during road trips. Protein bar wrappers, snacks, bottles, and other things you may accumulate may all end up on the floor. Instead of keeping it on the floor, bring garbage bags to keep all of the trash contained. For a sustainable option, get Biodegradable Garbage Bags from Amazon.

20. Extra set of clothes and shoes

Road trips are all about adventures. With adventures comes spontaneous activities. Instead of being stuck with dirty clothes, bring an extra set of clothes and shoes to change into. If you don’t end up using them, it’s no big deal.

21. Umbrella

When you’re road tripping in the fall or winter, it’s important to be ready. During spring and summer, the sunshine can turn into rain unexpectedly.

An umbrella doesn’t take up much space, and it’s there in case it rains. If you need a new umbrella, the Totes Clear Bubble Umbrella from Amazon is compact and effective.

22. Travel cup

A travel mug or cup will make it easy to carry around drinks with less waste. Whether you’re drinking coffee, hot chocolate, or wine, bring a reusable travel cup. The Yeti Rambler 20 oz Tumbler is one of the most durable and best drinkware for travel.

23. Entertainment

Having things to do during the drive ensures that you don’t get bored. Depending on who you’re going with, bring games, movies, TV shows, download podcasts, and create playlists.

Make sure you have things that’ll keep you entertained if you lose cell service. Download music or podcasts for the ability to listen to them offline.

24. Backpacks or duffel bags

Backpacks and duffel bags are excellent for carrying clothes, shoes, and other items. They take up less space than a suitcase while offering plenty of space.

If hiking is a part of your road trip itinerary, backpacks are convenient and easy to carry. You can bring snacks, water, and a change of clothes.

25. Vitamins

Keep your immune system strong by bringing vitamins. Eating nutritious meals is difficult when you’re on a road trip. Vitamins will help you get nutrients and minerals to support your health. They’re also small, which makes them easy to travel with.

26. Reusable bag

Bring an empty reusable bag for food or other items that you get while you’re on the road. It’s great to have a spare bag that you can use for anything that comes up.

If you want a new reusable bag, Baggu makes stylish and durable reusable bags and totes. You can find Baggu bags on Amazon.

27. Cash and backup cards

On your road trip, you may encounter a restaurant or store that only accepts cash. That’s why it’s important to carry cash with you. You don’t need to bring a ton of cash, just enough to cover a meal or a small shopping trip.

It’s also essential to bring an extra debit or credit card. There’s a chance that your card may stop working, which is why a backup card is necessary.

28. Tent

If you’re staying in a hotel or Airbnb, you don’t need a tent. However, tents are a must-have for camping. If you’re staying outdoors, make sure you have a tent and sleeping bag that’s in good condition.

29. Cooking items

While you’re on the road, bring your own cooking supplies. It’ll help you limit how often you eat out, and you can eat healthier. The following are the best cooking items to bring on a road trip:

30. Toilet paper

Bring a roll or two of toilet paper. Even if you plan on going to a rest stop to use the restroom, it may be out of toilet paper. Having your own roll will ensure that you don’t run into an awkward situation. It’ll also come in handy if you’re camping.

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Featured image courtesy of Canva.

Portrait of David Em.

About David Em

David Em is the founder of Nola & Luna Travel, the destination for travel advice and inspiration. He launched Nola & Luna Travel to share expert advice, useful tips, unbiased reviews, and inspiration about destinations across the globe.