If you’re planning to hit the road this year, now is the perfect time to start thinking about your road trip packing list. Whether you’re driving cross country or just heading on a weekend away, it’s important to know what to pack for a road trip.
You want to be sure to consider your safety when hitting the road. But comfort is also a big deal too. There are obvious things you’ll need (like your driver’s license and proof of insurance). However, taking the time to think about the extras you may want will be invaluable when you’re far from home and craving easy travel.
Plus, planning ahead means that you’ll be able to focus on the fun once you hit the road. This guide covers all the things that should be on your road trip packing list, from an emergency car kit to little luxuries that will make the journey more comfortable.
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Table of Contents
What to Pack for Your 2023 Road Trip
Never Leave Home Without These Travel Essentials
When you’re heading out on a road trip, there are a few things that are true non-negotiables, including your:
- Driver’s license
- Proof of insurance
- Car registration
- Manual for the car you’re driving
- Emergency cash
If you’re anything like me, it doesn’t take much for your glovebox to quickly turn into a disorganized wasteland, especially on a road trip. Put important documents like your car registration and insurance card in one spot so you don’t have to dig if you need them.
This larger billfold option has plenty of extra space for items like a AAA card or list of emergency contacts. But you can also get super simple options that won’t take up too much glovebox real estate.
Car Emergency Kit Essentials
A road trip is a great time to make sure all of your car’s emergency essentials are in order. While these items are must-haves on any road trip packing list, these are also great things to leave in your car year-round if you have the space.
Jumper Cables or Battery Jump Kit
Getting caught with a dead battery will put a damper on any road trip. Jumper cables have long been a must-have. But now there’s an even more self-sufficient option. Battery jumping kits like this one from NOCO are super easy to use, and you don’t have to rely on another vehicle’s help to get you going again.
A blanket is an essential part of any car emergency kit, especially during Midwest winters. But it’s also a just plain handy thing to keep in your trunk. Having an impromptu picnic? Trying to take a quick car nap? With a dedicated car blanket, all of your adventures will have a bit of added comfort.
There’s no “right” blanket to keep in your car. But I especially love camping-friendly options like this Rumpl puffy blanket, which compress down into a tiny bag.
Flashlight with Extra Batteries
In a pinch, you don’t want to rely on your cellphone light alone. Stashing a tiny flashlight (along with some backup batteries) in your glovebox can be handy in a variety of situations.
First Aid Kit
Your car first-aid kit doesn’t need to be anything fancy. It’s easy to make your own with things you know that you use frequently or already have around the house. But if you don’t want to have to worry about rounding up lots of different items, there are tons of pre-made kits perfect for stashing before your next road trip.
Atlas & Printed Maps
Sure, GPS has changed how we road trip. But that doesn’t mean you should be completely reliant on your cellphone or Internet connection to know where you’re going when on the road. A classic road atlas or printed maps of the area you’ll be exploring are great back-ups to have if technology fails.
At the very least, remember to download offline maps for the area you’ll be traveling so that you’ll be able to navigate using Google Maps even if your connection drops.
Ice Scraper & Shovel
If you’re planning a road trip throughout much of the U.S. during the winter, you don’t want to leave home without an ice scraper. Truly there’s nothing worse than being caught without one and having to chisel ice off your windshield with an old gift card.
Depending on the car you drive, a shovel and even a bag of sand or kitty litter might be a good addition to your winter emergency kit as well.
Water Bottles & Snacks
No road trip is complete without some quality snacks. But it’s important when traveling to keep your car stocked in case of an emergency. If you happen to get stranded somewhere, extra food and water are a must.
I always travel with my Hydro Flask and a fairly hearty stock of snacks. But for road trips, I’m always sure to toss a few extra water bottles into the car along with some non-perishable snacks to make sure I’m covered if I end up on the road longer than planned. If you’re headed to the shore, be sure to think about convenient, cooler-friendly beach snacks as well.
Personal Care Items to Pack on a Road Trip
Since you’ll be spending lots of time in the car, you’ll want to put some of your favorite items on your road trip packing list. Stay comfortable with layers like the perfect travel hoodie, and bring little luxuries along for the ride. Whether it’s an extra pack of your favorite gum, miniature sewing kit or portable lint roller, these personal care items are sure to make your trip more pleasant.
Mini Beauty Products
There’s nothing worse than searching for your chapstick in vain or not having a hair tie when you need one. That’s why I keep a small pouch of some of my most-used personal care items in the center console of my car.
I also always keep a mini version of my go-to deodorant, mascara and more with me when I’m on the road. That way if I’m feeling like I need a refresh, there’s no digging through my suitcase to find what I need. To make things even easier, I stash everything together in a little pouch like one of these from BAGGU so it’s easy to grab and go.
Collapsible Lint Roller
There’s nothing worse than realizing you’re covered in pet hair or lint from the laundry after you’ve already left the house. Whether you’re headed across town or on a cross-country road trip, keeping a collapsible lint roller in your car is a game changer.
Things to Make Your Road Trip Easier
Spending days on end in your car can make you long for the comforts of home. So why not bring some of them with you? Whether you’re trying to keep things better organized or just want to remove some of the every day annoyances from car travel, you’ll be glad you added these must-bring items to your road trip packing list.
Car Trunk Organizer
Especially if you plan to keep these essentials in your car so you’re always ready for adventure, a car trunk organizer is a must. Not only are these collapsible carriers easy to store. But their spacious storage compartments also ensure you’ll always be able to find what you’re looking for.
There are tons of different versions of these organizers on the market. I especially like this K Knodel option that has sturdy handles as well as exterior pockets and a lid to keep any valuables out of sight.
Bamboo Utensil Set
When on a road trip, it’s important to be ready for any and all food you may encounter. But things happen and sometimes you don’t have the utensils you need. So I keep a set of these handy, reusable bamboo utensils (complete with straw and chopsticks) in my glovebox at all times.
If you don’t want to tote around a reusable silverware set, I’ve got another easy hack for you. We’ve started keeping a bag full of the single-use utensils and straws we get from take out orders. While it takes a bit, they add up over time and are an easy, disposable solution when you want to travel lighter on a road trip.
If you’re planning a short trip, a cooler bag or disposable cooler might meet your needs. But if you’re going camping or planning a longer trip, a quality cooler is a must.
While this cooler from Yeti is a bit pricey, it’s a great option for longer trips. Not only can it keep ice for days but it’s also tall enough to hold a bottle of wine upright. Plus, it’s bear-resistant.
Messes happen. On a road trip it’s better to be safe than sorry. So we always make sure to have a roll of paper tolls on hand when we hit the road.
Or, if you’re in the market for a more sustainable car solution, I love these Marley’s Monsters UNpaper towels. They’re super absorbent and easy to toss in the wash once we’re back home.
Notebook & Pen
You never know when you might need a piece of paper or something to write with. I always keep a small notebook and a pen or two in my car’s center console so I don’t have to rely on finding one in my bag.
My go-to road trip notebook will forever be Field Notes — small, flexible and come in a three-pack!
Cleaning Spray & Microfiber Cloth
There’s nothing worse than having hundreds of miles left to drive with a giant smudge on your car window. This Invisible Glass spray is truly a godsend. Plus, the handy tool that comes with it helps you reach even the trickiest corners of your windshield.
Car Accessories You Didn’t Know You Needed
Sometimes you need a little something extra. While these items aren’t necessary for a good road trip, they can definitely add some extra enjoyment to your time spent in the car.
Car Trash Can
Sure, you could use an old take-out bag for your trash. But if you want to level up your road trip packing, add a car trash can into the mix. This one is even 100% waterproof and comes with a lid so you don’t have to worry about cleaning up any residual messes.
Portable Car Fridge
I had no idea this even existed until earlier this year, but there truly is something for everyone. If you want to level up your car cooler game, this portable car fridge is for you. This easily moveable unit runs off your car battery and has both hot and cold settings to keep food the temperature you need it while on the road.
For my fellow road trippers who love to eat in their car, I give you the Saucemoto dip clip. This handy gadget clips to your car’s air vent for easy dipping and driving.
Share Your Thoughts
I would love to hear from you! What essentials are on your road trip packing list? Which items are on your must-pack travel checklist?