Road Trip Essentials: 53 Items for Your Next Adventure

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If you’re anything like me, you’re either on a road trip, or you’re dreaming up your next four-wheeled adventure. After all, nothing beats the freedom of being out on the open road.

But how do you know what to bring with you? What road trip supplies will you need for your next trip?

To help, I’ve pulled together over fifty road trip essentials to consider packing before you head out. From food and safety items to beach and camping gear, it’s all right here.

How to Pack for a Road Trip 

To make the list easier to navigate, I’ve divided the road trip items into the following categories:

  • Road Trip Essentials for Adults
  • Road Trip Essentials for Kids
  • Long Road Trip Essentials
  • Beach Road Trip Essentials
  • Camping Road Trip Essentials

Now, I realize that you won’t need everything on this list. I’ve come up with every road trip must-have I can think of, but feel free to tailor the list for the type of trip you’re planning to take and who will be traveling with you. Are you ready? Here we go!

Road Trip Essentials for Adults 

Let’s kick things off with a list of road trip necessities for adults. We’ve packed a lot into this list, from small, easy-to-forget items to the bigger stuff you don’t want to leave behind. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

Polarized Driving Sunglasses 

When you’re on the road, sunglasses are more than just a fashion statement. They also help reduce the strain on your eyes when driving during daylight hours, which can cause fatigue and tiredness. You don’t have to spend big bucks, but a decent set of polarized sunglasses are a road trip must-have. I own a pair very similar to these Kaliyadi Unisex Polarized Driving Sunglasses, both stylish and affordable.

Car Power Inverter

These days, most vehicles come equipped with enough USB ports to charge at least a couple of mobile devices. But how do you keep larger electronic items, like your laptop, juiced up while you travel? Your best bet is to pick up a power inverter that converts your vehicle’s 12V DC to AC 120V household power. This will ensure you stay plugged in no matter how long the drive!

Collapsible Water Bottle

This one’s high on the list of cool things to take on a road trip. A reusable water bottle helps you avoid using plastic water bottles that cost money and are terrible for the environment. But a collapsible water bottle also breaks down to save space when not in use. That’s important when you’re trying to pack light.

Laptop Backpack

If you’re taking your laptop with you on a road trip, you need a backpack that will keep it safe. A great laptop backpack or bag also helps you stay organized, and it’s comfortable to carry. To help you in your search, here’s a review of the best laptop backpacks and bags for 2021.

Noise-Cancelling Headphones

I recommend packing one set of headphones for every person traveling. Earbuds are perfect because they’re so compact. It also helps if they are noise-canceling. If you’re short a set or two, you can purchase a good-quality pair of earbuds online without breaking the bank. Just make sure the jack is compatible with the mobile device you’re using.

Chapstick

I’m not one for using chapstick, but when I asked my wife for help putting this list together, it was one of the first items she mentioned. It makes sense, as the air in your car can get pretty dry on a long drive. My wife swears by the Burts Bees brand of chapstick, but you may have your own favorite.

Headache Meds

Headaches are never fun to deal with, especially when you’re driving and need to stay focused on the road. Before you head out on any road trip, make sure you pack headache medication. The last thing you want is to be miles from the nearest store when a headache hits.

Hand Sanitizer

These days, no one leaves home without hand sanitizer. But it isn’t just a COVID thing. Hand sanitizer is always a good idea when you’re out on the open road, and unable to wash your hands as frequently. This 6-pack of travel-sized Wish hand sanitizer bottles can easily fit in your pocket or purse.

Reusable Tote Bag

When our family hits the road, we always pack a couple of reusable tote bags in our Toyota Sienna. They come in handy when you need to stop to pick up a few groceries, or if you’re out shopping on your trip. Totes can be easily stored in your vehicle’s front door compartment or glove box for quick access.

eReader

I’m one of those crazy few who still prefers reading an old-fashioned book over an eReader, but even I have to admit that trying to take a bag full of books on a long road trip doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you’re an avid reader, don’t forget to bring your eReader with you on your next road trip vacation. If you don’t already own one, I highly recommend the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s affordable, has tons of storage, and unlike an iPad or Samsung tablet, the Paperwhite is glare-free.

Podcast / Audio Books

Perhaps you’d rather listen to content than read it. If so, don’t forget to download your favorite podcasts or audiobooks to your mobile device before setting out on your trip. This makes for a great way to pass the time between destinations.

Note pad or Journal

Whether it’s to jot down some directions quickly, or you plan to write your memoirs during your road trip, don’t forget to bring along a notepad or a journal.

Batteries

Before leaving on your road trip, figure out what kinds of batteries you need, and make sure you have an extra set of each type. Flashlight batteries are of particular importance as they can drain very quickly.

Puzzle Books

When you’re in the car for long periods, it helps to have several activities to pass the time. One idea which is both cheap and fun, is packing a puzzle book or two. Puzzles offer a nice break from being on a mobile device, and they’re great for all ages.

Slide Sandals

One of the best items for a road trip in the summer has got to be slide sandals. Wearing running shoes with socks can get pretty uncomfortable after a few hours, which is why I always bring a pair of slide-on sandals with me. If you’re not behind the wheel, you can go barefoot in the car and slide your sandals on when you stop to use the restroom or fill up the tank.

Umbrella

It’s never a bad idea to pack a travel umbrella in your vehicle in case you get caught in a downpour. This happened to us on a trip last summer when we had to make a quick pit stop outside of Madison, Wisconsin. We didn’t have an umbrella and got absolutely soaked. We won’t make that mistake again! This RUMBRELLA Mini-Umbrella is perfect as it dries fast and comes in 8 different colors.

Road Trip Essentials for Kids 

Packing for a road trip with kids requires some extra planning. Depending on the age of your children, you need to account for everything from snacks and fun activities to items that will make their ride more comfortable. Not all kids do well on long car rides, so the more prepared you are, the better it will be for everyone. Here are some family road trip essentials to add to your list.

Kids Weighted Blanket

When our kids were younger, we would often drive through the night on road trips to reach our destination. But they wouldn’t always sleep all that soundly. After all, sleeping in a car is no replacement for being in your own bed. We solved this problem by purchasing a kid-sized weighted blanket, which provides the feeling of being completely wrapped up while you sleep, like a nice hug. This one is an Amazon best-seller and comes in a few different colors.

Kids Travel Neck Pillow

Another road trip must-have when traveling with kids is a pillow that can properly support their head and neck when sleeping in a car. You could bring a pillow from home, but those don’t work all that well when sitting up in a car seat. The best travel pillow for kids is one that prevents their heads from falling forward while they’re asleep in the car. This BCOZZY Kids Travel Pillow will allow your little ones to sleep on the go.

Travel Wipes

When traveling with young children, food spills and other messes are common. That’s why you should always have a few packs of disposable travel wipes on hand. Not only are they easy to store, but they make for quick cleanup. Baby wipes work well, or any type of disinfectant wipe.

No-Spill Cups

Just because you remembered to pack travel wipes doesn’t mean you’re okay with your kids spilling their drinks all over the seats and floor of the minivan. The easiest solution? No-spill cups. Here’s a set of stainless steel cups with silicone lids that are super durable and easy to wash.

Snacks

Every parent knows that you don’t set out on a long drive without snacks for the kids. Avoid treats with high sugar content, like pop or chocolate bars. Granola bars work well because they’re individually wrapped and don’t make a mess. Don’t forget about healthy snacks like apples or carrot sticks.

Travel Games

It can be tough to keep kids occupied on a long road trip. Yes, they have their mobile devices, but it’s nice to have some more creative options. Here’s an idea – Road Trip Bingo! I haven’t tried it myself, but it looks like a lot of fun for the whole family.

Long Road Trip Essentials 

Nothing beats getting out of town on a multi-day road trip adventure. But long-distance road trips require careful planning and a list of supplies that will keep you both comfortable and safe.

Plug-In Cooler

On a long multi-day road trip, having to stop for meals can be expensive, time-consuming, and let’s face it, not all that healthy. That’s why a plug-in cooler should be at the top of your list of road trip essentials. They are a bit pricey, but you’ll save money in the long run by packing your own food. Fruits and veggies, sandwiches or healthy muffins, yogurt – it can all stay fresh in a plug-in cooler. By the way, if you’re stopping at a hotel for the night, you can keep the cooler plugged in, in your hotel room.

Tire Pressure Gauge

Long drives can be hard on a vehicle’s tires. By maintaining the proper tire pressure, you can reduce wear and extend the life of your tires, while improving fuel efficiency. This digital tire pressure gauge provides an accurate reading with a display that can be easily seen day or night.

Compact First Aid Kit

On a long road trip, you can find yourself in some pretty remote areas, away from medical help. That’s why you should always pack a first aid kit, in case of emergency.

Jumper Cables

If you can make room for a set of jumper cables, this is a must-have for long road trips. Our battery died in downtown Chicago while on a road trip a few years ago. Fortunately, we had a set of jumper cables and found a good samaritan close by.

Roadside Emergency Assistance Kit

Another important road trip item is an emergency roadside assistance kit. This one comes complete with jumper cables and a first aid kit, eliminating the need to purchase them separately.

Garbage Bags

Always pack a few small garbage bags (or repurpose plastic grocery bags). They’re perfect for storing trash between gas station stops. You can also use them as a place to put your laundry to separate it from your clean clothes.

Vitamin Supplements  

It can be tough to achieve a well-balanced diet while you’re out on the road. This is why it’s crucial to bring along the proper vitamin supplements to promote health and boost immunity.

Gum or Sunflower Seeds

Chewing gum and sunflower seeds are snacks that help you concentrate on the road ahead while preventing driver fatigue. I used to snack on sugary items to stay alert, like pop or licorice, but before long I found myself crashing from the sugar high.

Rooftop Cargo Carrier

If you’re traveling a long distance with kids, you can run out of storage quickly, even in a larger vehicle. One solution is to buy a rooftop cargo carrier. This will free up space inside your vehicle, giving your family more room to spread out. You can choose between a soft or hard shell carrier. Both types can be easily secured to your vehicle’s roof rack.

Hanging Travel Toiletry Bag

These hanging toiletry bags are perfect for your next road trip. They’re waterproof, have multiple storage compartments, and can be hung inside your vehicle or from the shower rod in your hotel bathroom, for easy access. Here are two popular choices for men and women.

Related Post: The Best Women’s Hanging Toiletry Bags for 2021

Passport Holder

Okay, so no one’s doing much cross-border travel while COVID-19 is still a thing. But if you are planning a road trip outside of the country when all of this is over, you’ll need your passport. That’s where this waterproof, RFID blocking Family Passport Holder will come in handy.

Beach Road Trip Essentials

There’s nothing like a day trip to the beach! But if you forget to bring one or two essentials, it can make for a less than stellar experience. You don’t want to forget that bottle of sunblock or leave home without enough towels for everyone. The following ten items should be on every beach road trip packing list.

Oversized Beach Towels

No matter where you’re headed on your road trip, if there’s a chance you’ll end up at a beach along the way, make sure you have a supply of oversized beach towels. These aren’t your ordinary bath towels. Beach towels are larger in size for optimal coverage, and super absorbent. The best part is that they’re very affordable. For example, this set of 2 Cabana Stripe Beach Towels is less than $25!

Beach Umbrella

This is the one item on the list that I don’t bring with me to the beach, and I always regret it when I get there and see so many people staying cool on the sand. What I like about the Sport-Brella design as opposed to a traditional beach umbrella is its low profile, which is perfect for blocking out the sun’s rays. It’s equipped with zippered windows which allow the air to pass through and prevent the umbrella from blowing away. The oversized auger on the handle anchors the umbrella securely in the sand.

Sand Toys

If you’re heading to the beach with kids in tow, don’t forget to bring along a few sand toys. All it takes is a plastic pail and a couple of shovels and they’ll be occupied for hours!

Sand Beach Cup Holders

Now here’s a clever item to bring to the beach. Keep your cold beverage upright and close by at all times with these sand beach cup holders. Imagine, no more spills!

Related Post: 8 Best Sand Cup Holders for Your Next Trip to the Beach

Beach Chair 

These low-profile KingCamp Beach Chairs are perfect for the sand. You can position them easily beneath your beach umbrella, and they even come with a mesh cup holder.

Sunblock 

This one may seem obvious, but if you forget to bring sunblock on your beach road trip, you may be experiencing some pain and discomfort the following day. There are no shortage of brands to choose from, but make sure you’re getting Broad Spectrum UVA and UVB Protection, and the higher the SPF rating, the better!

UV Window Shade

Do you know that feeling of getting into a hot car that’s been baking in the beach parking lot for the day? Yeah, it’s not fun. This Big Hippo Front Windshield Car Sunshade will not only keep your vehicle cool throughout the day, but it’ll also protect your vehicle’s interior from harmful UV rays.

Soft Pack Cooler

You may have to hike quite a distance to find the ideal spot on the beach. If so, you’ll be glad you have your leakproof soft pack cooler. Not only can it keep up to 36 canned beverages ice-cold, but you can also sling it over your shoulder for easy transportation.

Ice Packs

No matter what kind of drink cooler you bring to the beach, ice packs can be a great way to keep things cold. They are reusable, which will save you money over the long run not always having to buy bags of ice.

Flip-Flops

If you’re road tripping in the summer, always bring along a pair of flip-flops. They’re easy to slide on and off in the vehicle and perfect if you’re heading to the beach and are going to have to trek through the sand. I usually buy cheap flip-flops at Old Navy, or you can buy a better quality pair online. It’s entirely up to you.

Camping Road Trip Essentials

If you’re heading out on a camping road trip, here is a list of items you can easily pack in your car and are indispensable when camping.

Wood-Splitting Axe

This Fiskars X7 Hatchet is the exact one I use at the campsite. It’s high quality and is perfect for splitting kindling and small to medium logs. It comes with a protective cover and a lifetime warranty.

Multi-Tool Pliers

A good set of multi-tool pliers is a camping road trip must-have. It can easily be stored in your vehicle’s glove box and can assist with a range of outdoor activities. This compact Bibury multi-tool comes equipped with 18 different tools!

Canvas Tarp

Anytime I go camping, I bring along a canvas tarp to spread across the floor of my minivan. This way, I can easily pack firewood or a couple of bikes without having to worry about a mess of woodchips or mud when I get home. The tarp can also come in handy at the campsite, especially when it rains.

Matches

Don’t forget to bring matches with you when you go camping, for obvious reasons!

AeroPress Coffee Maker

Coffee lovers know that there is nothing like the flavor of coffee made with a French Press. But most French presses are made of glass, which isn’t ideal for taking on the road. They can also be hard to clean. Enter the AeroPress! This portable coffee and espresso maker is perfect for camping. It delivers the same great flavor as a traditional french press, is incredibly easy to clean, and comes with a handy zipper pouch for easy storage. If you love coffee, don’t leave home without it!

Lined Flannel Jacket

A lined flannel jacket is perfect for camping road trips. Leave your nice jacket at home, and let this one get dirty. Also, it will keep you warm during those cool nights by the fire.

Flashlight or Headlamp

A good quality flashlight is a must have on any road trip, and it also comes in handy at the campsite. My advice is not to go cheap.You want a durable flashlight that packs plenty of lumens. Another option is to buy an LED headlamp, for hands free illumination.

Bug Spray

Depending on what part of the country you live in, you may have to deal with mosquitos when camping. If that’s the case, don’t leave home without packing a can of mosquito repellent. If you forget it, you may spend your entire trip inside your car or tent.

Travel Hammock

When you’re out on a camping road trip, a travel hammock will come in handy. It’s portable and comes complete with tree straps, so you can easily grab a nap off-the-ground, without having to set up a tent.

Bicycle Car Rack

When you’re headed on a camping road trip, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to get out and explore the outdoors on your bike. There are plenty of options when it comes to bike racks for your car, SUV, or minivan, but one thing is clear. It’s a lot easier to travel with your bike attached to the outside of your vehicle.

Road Trip FAQs

What Should I Pack On a Road Trip By Myself?

If you’re heading out on a solo road trip, your packing list will look similar to the one above. One thing you won’t need to worry about is having multiples of the same item. You also won’t need to pack as much food. However, I would place a higher priority on safety items, like a flashlight, first aid kit, or a roadside emergency kit.

What Can You Do In the Car When You’re Bored?

Kids can get restless after spending hours in the car. As parents, your best bet is to have a variety of activities for them to do. Believe it or not, they will get tired of staring at their mobile devices, eventually.

Encourage them to take a book to read, and pack some activity books or travel games. Also, have some treats hidden that you can surprise them with at the right time. Lastly, don’t be in too much of a rush to reach your destination. Build in enough breaks to allow everyone to get out and stretch their legs.

How Much Does a 2 Week Road Trip Cost?

As with any other vacation, you should create a budget for your road trip. The beauty of a road trip is that there are so many options for planning that you can do it on just about any budget. While I found one family of five that pulls off 2 week road trips for less than $1000, that wouldn’t be considered typical. However, it is proof that you can do it.

Final Thoughts on Road Trip Essentials

There you have it, 53 Road Trip Essentials for your next adventure! I’d love to know what supplies you would add to this list? Is there anything on your road trip list that we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments below.

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