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Road trip essentials for your next vacation

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Road trips are a fun way to spend time with loved ones while appreciating scenic landscapes and the wonderful outdoors. Here is a comprehensive packing list of road trip essentials that will have you ready for any surprises the road may hold.

When thinking about the ultimate packing list, it can be easier to group your necessities into different categories. We have outlined a thorough checklist of vehicle, comfort, entertainment, and miscellaneous essentials to help you comfortably plan your next road trip.

Vehicle Essentials

Depending on where you’re traveling, you’ll probably be spending a good chunk of time in a car. From operational necessities like license and registration, to extra cash for those potential road tolls, these are some must-haves to keep in your car.

  • Operational essentials – Your license, registration, and car insurance are important documents to have in your car in case you get pulled over.
  • Roadside emergency kit – It’s a great idea to be prepared for when things may go wrong. A roadside emergency kit with jumper cables, tow rope, and a basic first aid kit (at least) will be your best bet for unfortunate scenarios. A spare tire is also a good thing to have in case you end up waiting for roadside assistance to help you.
  • GPS backup – Keep paper maps or other forms of GPS backup such as Maps.me at your disposal for urgent situations. Maps.me is a mobile maps service app that can be used offline and without cell service.
  • Spare change – Have access to some cash and coins for emergencies, road tolls, parking meters, or for when you’re in a pinch.

Comfort Essentials

Sometimes, the littlest things can make a huge difference in improving the comfort of your road trip. Just because you’ll be on the road for a few hours doesn’t mean you should dread the ride and be uncomfortable.

  • Sunglasses – Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by bringing along your favorite pair of sunglasses for the road.
  • Blanket and pillow – If you’re thinking of taking a nap in the car or want to feel extra cozy, a soft blanket and small pillow can make a world of difference.
  • Basic toiletries – Lip balm, hair ties, wet wipes, deodorant, and tissues are five must-haves that all contribute to freshening up during your trip. You can even throw in a toothbrush and toothpaste into your bag if you like.
  • Medications – Don’t forget to bring any prescription and/or over-the-counter medications you think you might need. If you’re unsure, some Ibuprofen and Dramamine can be good to have on hand. Ibuprofen will help you clear up headaches or cramps, while Dramamine can help prevent or subside motion sickness and nausea.
  • Water and Snacks – Along with some bottles of water, pack your favorite non-perishable foods for the ride. Some options include energy bars, trail mix, beef jerky, dried fruit, and chips.

Entertainment Essentials

Whether it’s two or three magazines or a downloaded movie to keep you busy for a few hours, having a couple of entertainment options for your road trip can help you forget about the time being spent in a car.

  • Chargers – A charged cell phone is super important for any trip. A portable phone charger and USB cord are both good to keep on hand for when you need to revive your device’s battery life.
  • Mobile entertainment – Downloaded shows and movies, music, and mobile game apps like solitaire, casino games, and online puzzles can keep you entertained on the road.
  • Playing cards – While it may be hard to play solitaire in the car, consider packing a deck of cards for those cozy nights on vacation.
  • Books and magazines – If you don’t get nauseous reading in the car, then packing a book with you can be a nice pastime. Magazines can be better options for those who are more prone to getting carsick.
  • Portable WiFi – For some, portable WiFi may not be the ultimate necessity. For others, access to the Internet can be a great way to optimize one’s time spent in a car. Getting ahead on work, research, or other personal duties can make you feel productive even when you’re traveling.

Miscellaneous Essentials

There are a few road trip essentials that don’t particularly fall into a category. That’s not to say that they aren’t important and should be overlooked. From a cozy sweater or parka to bug spray and a flashlight, preparation is key.

  • Adequate clothing – The clothing you decide to pack for your trip will depend on where you are going and what kind of climate you’ll be experiencing. In general, packing a cozy sweater or parka is highly important for unexpected chilly weather – that of which you definitely want to be prepared for.
  • Bug spray – Even if you don’t think you’ll get attacked by mosquitoes or other bugs, packing a can of bug repellent or balm can be your best friend when you’re simply relaxing outside and natural elements of the outdoors arrive uninvited.
  • Umbrella and/or snow shovel – Check the climate of your destination to see if you’ll need to pack an umbrella or even a snow shovel. This will depend on which season you are vacationing, but being equipped is never a bad idea.
  • Flashlight – If your cell phone’s battery runs out and you no longer have access to a digital flashlight, the real deal will be your savior. Consider looking into a waterproof flashlight too, just to be safe.