The Ultimate Packing List for a Road Trip

UPDATED ON THE 24th OF DECEMBER 2019 BY LAURA

A car driving through Grand Teton National Park
A car driving through Grand Teton National Park

I have completed my fair share of road trips while on my travels, from driving the Italian Alps, travelling from the east to the west coast of America, taking on Europe by train or simply exploring my own back yard, Ireland. Just before setting off on a road trip adventure, I get a horrible feeling that I have forgotten something. That is why over the years I have jotted down all the things to bring on a road trip, I have put all those items in one big blog post for you guys to enjoy.

So, if you are in the process of packing for your next big road trip adventure and have no idea where to start. Look no further, because I have put together the ultimate road trip packing list for you to use.

The packing list will be divided into 8 sub sections, so feel free to skip a head to the areas that interest you.

  1. Luggage & Bag Essentials
  2. Road Trip Clothing List
  3. Technologies and Gadgets
  4. Accessories and Toiletries
  5. Car Essentials for any road trip
  6. Camping Gear
  7. Day Trip Packing Guide
  8. Road Trip Tips & Advice
things to bring on a road trip rucksack or suitcase?
Purchased Stock Photo from YAYImages

The big road trip question? A RUCKSACK OR A SUITCASE?

Before I go on any long road trip, I always have one big question. Rucksack or suitcase? I am always torn and can never decide. At the end of the day, it all comes down the type of road trip I am planning.

A suitcase is ideal for easy access, the ability to take things in and out of, without making a big mess. However, there is a downside, suitcases are not the most portable of baggage choices. Yes, they work well in airports and city escapes type trips. BUT… when it comes to camping… let’s just say a suitcase would involve a lot of heavy lifting.

A rucksack is ideal for more spontaneous adventures. Like road trips that involve a lot of walking and moving around. They are easy to transport over uneven terrain and are most definitely the better choice for outdoor and trekking trips. Besides, they are a lot easier to squish into the truck of a car.

If you are lucky enough to own/rent a camper van or an RV, packing cubes are the ideal storage solution for clothing and road trip accessories.

Wait… Should I bring any other bags on my road trip?

I ALWAYS bring a day bag on my road trips. After all, You never know when you may decide to go on a spontaneous day trip. Day bag’s are ideal for storing water, money, minor first aid equipment and some snacks for the road.

The Deuter Speed Lite is my go to day bag, I have used it on varies road trips, ski trips and trekking adventures. It is sturdy, light and I swear it has some sort of Mary Poppins magic going on. For such a small bag, it fit’s a hella lot of things.

An alternative day bag option would be an anti theft backpack. They are ideal for keeping your valuables safe at all times and help avoid splashes and stains from the great outdoors.

Sometimes I also like to pack a small casual bag for city stops, restaurant’s and the odd night on the town. I’d advise you to avoid packing bulky handbags that are difficult to store.

what to wear on a road trip
Purchased Stock Photo from Depositphotos

Deciding what to wear on a road trip….Can be hard work…

Another aspect that I struggle with when packing for a road trip is outfit choice. I can never decide what to bring. And more times than none, I end up over packing. Ultimately, leaving myself spoiled for choice…

Yet… Somehow… I still end up wearing the same exact pieces of clothing over and over again…

Honestly, I am trying to learn from my mistakes…but realistically…I will once again pack that tank top I bought five years that should really be put straight in the bin

Anywho, the point of this story is to hopefully inspire you to pack light but sensible for your next road trip.

First, let’s talk clothing basics…

When on a road trip, it is important to only pack the essentials (if only I could take my own advice). The last thing you want is to drag around unnecessary weight.

I’d advise packing light weight trousers like gym leggings or tracksuit bottoms, a handful of t-shirts and one or two sweaters.

I ALWAYS pack a water proof jacket, no matter what time of year it is. It’s always good to be prepared for all kinds of weather conditions.

For the summer months…

I’d recommend packing some shorts and tank tops for those hotter days and a light weight jacket to keep warm in the evening time.

If you plan on going for a dip in the ocean or relaxing by a lake, then it may be a good idea to pack some swimwear.

For the winter months…

I’d advise packing a heavy jacket for those winter spells, water proof trouser just incase it rains and a hat, scarf and gloves to keep warm.

For some city stops…

Generally speaking, when road trippin’, I usually wear comfy casual clothes… but from time to time I like to dress up. For example, when I stop off in a city or decide to eat out. For occasions like this, I like to pack a pair of jeans and a nice top.

The clothing extra’s…

Wait… let’s not forget the likes of nightwear, underwear and socks. If you have the tendency to hike, but sure to pack a thick pair of socks too.

And… Last but not least… Footwear…

As far as footwear goes, I’d advise bringing a comfortable pair of sneakers, a pair of hiking boots or waterproof shoes and flip flops for use in the shower and by the water.

Things to bring on a road trip: Taking a Selfie at Mount Rushmore
Taking a Selfie at Mount Rushmore

Technologies, gadgets and devices you need to pack for a road trip…

There is no denying it… We have become obsessed with technology and the online world. And it is very unlikely, that we would venture out on a road trip without our favourite gadgets and devices. The only problem is… it can be hard to keep these devices running while on the road. And that is why I have put together a list of devices and electronic accessories needed for a road trip.

First things first… Let’s keep our phones alive and kicking.

When on a road trip it can be hard to keep our phone from running out of battery. Especially when on a camping trip. That is why it is important to always pack a USB car outlet to keep the charge while on the road. I also always pack a portable charger to keep my devices alive when I am on day trips.

I am embarrassed to admit, that I once forgot the most needed thing in order to keep devices from dying, and that is… a USB cable. Always…Always…Always remember to pack your chargers.

What do I need to pack for road trip photography?

That’s a good question, I go a little overboard when it come to my photography equipment. I like to pack my Lumix bridge camera for some more advanced shots, my GoPro for action footage of my trip and my polaroid for some instant pictures.

I also have a selection of camera equipment I like to bring along with me. In particular, my gorilla tripod for still shots, my clicker for my solo adventures and my GoPro accessories.

I really wish I had a drone on that list but at the moment I am still saving up all my money for that investment.

Let meeeee entertain you….

Staying entertained on the road can be hard, but at least there are some Fun Road Trip Essentials that help eliminate the boredom.

First start by making a kick ass playlist that you and all your friends can enjoy. If your car does not have a bluetooth speaker (like mine). It might be a good idea to purchase a AUX cord or a FM transmitter to play some tuuuunnnes through the car radio. I’d also advise bring a set of headphones, so not everyone has to listen to music at the same time.

If you are a bit of a book worm, it can be a good idea to bring a kindle along for the ride. Alternatively, take a look at some awesome road trip podcasts.

Other useful road trip gadgets….

For those planning on jumping on a plane over seas before starting their road trip it is a good idea to purchase a universal travel adapter. These work in all power outlets around the world.

I’d also advise packing a external Hard Drive to store pictures and videos. Or, purchasing some extra online storage like iCloud.

things to bring on a road trip
Purchased Stock Photo from YAYImages

What to bring on a Road Trip: Accessories, Toiletries & Self care…

It can be hard to remember too pack all the small accessories and self care items needed when going on a road trip. I like to break it down into categories like… Shower items, things needed to freshen up, makeup/self care items and random thingamabobs.

First, let’s start with road trip shower accessories…

I like to pack light weight travel towels when going on a road trip. They fold up nicely and dry extra quick. I also tend to purchase travel sized shampoo bottles to keep my gels and soaps. I also ALWAYS bring a spray deodorant or two from home. I found it ridiculously difficult to find these in the US.

Next is…Hair, Make Up & Self Care…

Ok, so I tend to stray away from the likes of makeup when going on a road trip. However, it is nice to bring the basic’s just incase. I also like to pack a few bobby pins and hair ties for the road.

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty…

Sorry for the Little Mermaid reference…You’ve got one big Disney nerd over here.

Anyways, let’s get on with the thingamabobs section of this Road trip essential list. This is basically the bits and pieces you may need to bring on a road trip that don’t quite fit in anywhere.

Like a head torch for example, last thing you want is to wake fellow road trippers up in the middle of the night when you need to used the bathroom.

Or what about a eye mask, essential if you plan on sleeping in any hostel dorm rooms.

Or… Sunglasses and a baseball cap to keep the sun out of your eyes on those extra fabulous days.

Some other possible road trip packing items needed for self care while on the road:

  • Motoriser
  • Hand Cream
  • Makeup Wipes
  • Bug & Bear Spray
  • Hair Brush
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste & Mouth Wash
Road Trip Car Essentials
Purchased Stock Photo from YAYImages

Road Trip Car Essentials…Safety Should Always Come First…

It is megga important that you make sure you bring all the needed documents for a road trip. Like your car Licence, tax and insurance. It is also a good idea to bring a spare key, a spare tire and an emergency breakdown kit.

I also always travel with a mini first aid kit just in case, you never know when you may need one.

Now a days we always rely on the likes of a GPS or Google Maps to get us from A to B but…what if…we run out of service? What happens then? That is why it is a good idea to pack a good olde fashioned map just in case.

Ice, Ice Baby….

For those of you planning a winter road trip. It may be a good idea to pack some snow chains, Windshield De-Icer, an ice scraper and a fold up snow shovel.

Road Trip Packing List Camping Guide Devils Tower in the background with pitched tents
Devils Tower in the background with pitched tents

What to pack for a road trip when you plan on camping out…

Ok, so camping isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, it is however one easy way to save a lot of money on accommodation. The only problem is…if you do decide to camp…be prepared…because your road trip list just got a whole lot longer.

The first thing you need to think about is getting a good nights sleep…

What do I need to pack that will allow me to sleep peacefully throughout the night? Let’s start with the basic’s, a tent, a sleeping bag and a camping mat are all vital items needed for camping. I also tend to brings a light weight pillow and a camping blanket for extra comfort.

Now, you could add some additional extra’s to make camping a little more fun or a little more luxurious, like a hammock for example or a hot water bottle.

Next, we need to think about making food…

Realistically, if you plan on camping throughout the duration of your road trip. You are going to need to make some delish road trip food.

Consider purchasing a basic camp cooking set that includes a gas burner, pots/pans and cookery. You will also need a small gas cylinder (depending on road trip length) and a multi functional utensil unit.

Now, we need to think about food storage, I’d consider bringing a cooler and some food storage boxes for the road.

And last be not least a table a chair’s set.

Some additional items your may consider packing for a camping trip:

Day trip road trip packing guide
Glendalough, Wicklow National Park, Ireland

Packing List for a Road Trip: Day Trip Essentials…

Ok, so the likely hood of going on a day trip while on your roadtrippin’ adventure is very high. Luckily, most of the things needed on a day trip are already needed on a road trip. I will however provide you with a short list of things you may bring when hiking and exploring the surrounding areas.

  • A Map
  • Portable Charger
  • Phone
  • Camera
  • Cash & ID
  • Baseball Cap or Beanie
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun Screen

Road Trip Tips & Advice

Ok Everyone, this brings yous to the end of our Ultimate Road Trip Packing List. I hope it enjoyed reading it and it helped you determine the things to pack for a road trip.

But…before we go, I wanted to share with you my top road trip tips and advice.

1. Have Loads of Fun: The first bit of advice and the most important is have loads of fun. It can be easy to get stressed while travelling, however, it is important to not let that stress get in the way of the experience.

2. Drive Carefully: ALWAYS drive with care. Take into consideration other road users and reduce your speed when needed. It is better to arrive at a destination late than no arrive there at all.

3. Get Plenty of Sleep: This applies especially for the driver. It is important to make sure you are well rested. Pacifically on long drive days. If feeling tired when driving, pull in for a power nap and maybe buy a coffee before you start driving again.

4. Stay Hydrated and Bring Snacks for the Road: Make sure you drink plenty of water and bring some of your favourite snacks to eat while on your road trip.

5. Know the Rules of the Road: It is important to know the rules of the road when on a road trip. This specifically applies to those road trippin in a foreign country. They may have different rules to your country of residence.

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