Ready to take a road trip? This packing guide will help you prepare and double-check so you can hit the road with confidence.
Road Trip Essentials: What to Pack on a Road Trip
Use duffle bags for most of your luggage—it’s easier to stack and squeeze soft bags into any car arrangement that you need. If you’re stopping overnight, pack one bag with sleep essentials and next-day clothes so it’s compact and ready to go. You can use a soft, wheeled suitcase for this if you have a lot of people. Finally, each person can keep a small bag — like a tote or backpack — next to their own seats for easily-accessible snacks and activities.
- We use this duffle bag on our road trips–it’s compact, has several pockets for easy organization, and it’s even slash-proof. This slightly larger duffle bag is great for longer trips or two people who like to keep it simple and share one bag.
- This insulated tote bag doubles as an ice chest and it folds up nicely when not in use.
- Daypacks are a must if you want to get out and hike during your journey. We use this small daypack which has an internal padded sleeve for a 3L hydration bladder.
Wear clothes that are loose and breathable, and that you’re comfortable being seen in at stops. Dark colors hide dirt, stains, and wrinkles better. Even for long trips, you only need two bottoms and a few tops, especially if you can do laundry at hotels or your destination.
- A drawstring laundry bag works if you do need to store dirty garments.
- This portable laundry system wash bag is perfect for doing laundry on the road!
- Make sure to take weather into account—if it’s often rainy, keep some waterproof items — like travel umbrellas and backpack rain covers — in easy reach, and light layers if it might get cold. (In Norway, be prepared for anything–even snow in the summer!!)
It’s cheaper to bring snacks from home than buying them at a gas station, and you have healthier options. Freeze-dried fruit and veggies are nicely crunchy and lightweight, while nuts and seeds can satisfy you with salts and protein.
Mix your items together in ziplock bags to create your own trail mix if you want (add a handful of chocolate chips for something sweet), and keep personal portions on-hand with bulk bags in the trunk so you can refill at stops. Less individually-wrapped items cut down on trash, but if you have favorite snack bars, bring a few anyway.
- Stock up on nature bars for a quick snack on the road or throw in your daypack for hiking.
- Bulk bags of trail mix will save time with less trash to pick up, plus it’s better for the environment.
- Wet wipes make for convenient cleanup. These wipes are even biodegradable!
- If you have food items that you absolutely need to keep cool and you don’t want to deal with melting ice, this iceless cooler plugs into your cigarette lighter!
- These stainless steel tupperware containers are awesome for road trips because they are completely leak proof — plus they are non toxic and eco friendly!
Handheld devices are nice diversions, but it can also be fun to get everyone in the car in on a game. Consider bringing creative games like Mad Libs to keep things lively. Mad Libs prompts you to make up funny stories together, and they even have a road trip themed book. Plus, non-electronic games are great backup if your gadgets run out of juice.
A playlist with catchy, upbeat tunes that the whole car can sing to keeps things fun (and keeps you awake!), while a separate playlist for mellower songs gives your brain and body a breather. Just don’t pick anything too soft and repetitive so the driver doesn’t get sleepy.
Investing in a GPS unit will help you navigate in unfamiliar territory. Don’t count on Google Maps or Waze on your phone because you might not always have service. Get one that plugs into your cigarette lighter and make sure it works with your device beforehand. Some of these chargers even come with multiple USB ports if you’re bringing more electronics.
- The Garmin Nuvi is affordable and has all the features you’ll need on a road trip including Smartphone Link, Bluetooth, and lifetime maps.
- Since electronics can fail, though, bring some directions printed out ahead of time, and even get as “old-fashioned” as a thorough road map (this one is perfect for USA road trips).
Bring a first aid kit and an emergency road assistance kit–and have a portable charger on hand in case you need to make an emergency call on low batteries.
- This emergency road assistance kit by AAA is only $25 and it comes with a compact storage bag with handles.
- This portable charger doubles as a lantern and a portable charger for all of your devices that connect with a USB. We’ve been using this on all of our camping and road trip adventures and it’s held up extremely well!
Packing for a road trip doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Don’t forget to bookmark this checklist to make sure your next road adventure is a breeze.