Road Trip Packing List

15 Road Trip Packing List Essentials

This is the summer of road trips. International travel isn’t an option right now. People can explore the US safely. But, a road trip does require a little planning. These fifteen items are a must-have on your road trip packing list.

1. Hand-Held Paper Map

The first reason this is on the packing list is cell phone service can be spotty, especially in National Parks. An old fashion map can save the day.

The second reason for me is that I am a visual learner. You can explain to me all day where we are going, but until I see it, you could be talking a foreign language. Plus, a perfect keepsake, is stitching the route into the map when you get back.

I recommend a waterproof map, so you don’t worry about spilling your coffee.

2. Car Organizer

A road trip means living out of the car for days. Between electronics, snacks, and guidebooks, things can get messy quickly. Stay organized and add this to your road trip packing list.

3. Compact Tent and Sleeping Bag

Hotels can get expensive quickly. There are beautiful places to camp in the US. You don’t have to pack tons of camping gear. Keep a small tent and sleeping bag in the car. You never know when you find the perfect beach camping spot.

4. Cooler

Eating out also adds up quickly. Get a soft-sided cooler (easier to squeeze into an already full car). Keep snacks, lunch meat, beer, and wine (passengers only) handy. A picnic lunch is a perfect way to cut down on expenses. Don’t forget the wine opener.

I found a very cheap cooler at Walmart that shockingly does not leak. This cooler on amazon has great reviews if you don’t want to battle the Walmart crowd.

5. Wine Tote

Do you need it? No. Do you want it? Yes. I got my wine tote as a free gift when I joined a wine club. This one on Amazon is similar.

If you do decide to join the wine club, make sure you check to see if there are any bonus offers with your travel credit card. If you don’t have a travel reward credit card, I recommend the Chase Saphire Reserve or the American Express Platinum Card.

6. Blanket

When I first got my license, my cousin bought me a car blanket. A blanket that I was to leave in the car. It came in handy on more than one occasion.

I hate the AC blowing on me. I also hate fighting over the controls. Stop arguments over the temperature of the car and use the blanket to stay warm. It can also double as a picnic blanket.

7. PopSocket Phone Mount

Yes, I know. Don’t use your phone while driving. But I am also realistic. We are going to use our phone for music and directions. A PopSocket phone mount is a great way to keep your Google maps at eye level. And, in case you don’t want want to keep the mount on the dash or are driving a rental car, use a piece of floss to remove it safely. I don’t recommend the mount that goes in the vent. It isn’t strong enough to support a phone.

8. Spare Change

I never have spare change with me. Let’s face it. We are a cashless society. A road trip is an exception. Even though most tolls are cashless, you never know. Cash can come in handy for tolls, national park entrance fees, parking meters, the occasional win a stuffed animal game.

Unicorn Claw Machine, Berjaya Times Square
Cliff attempts and fails to win me a unicorn in Kuala Lumpur.

9. Trashbag

Wrappers, drink containers, gum wrappers, etc. Trash builds up fast during a road trip. I usually use a grocery bag from the gas station, but if you want to go fancy, check out this contraption.

10. Multi-Port Car Charger

We all have electronics, a cellphone, Ipad, smartwatch, etc. Times that by two or more people and let the arguments begin. Get a multi-port car charger. One that has a cord will stop backseat passengers from bothering you every 5 minutes.

Just remember to remove it when the car is off. There is nothing like a dead battery in the middle of nowhere.

11. Gas-X

We all have that friend, or maybe you are that friend. Road trip food is rarely healthy. Be safe. Put Gas-X or nose plugs on your road trip packing list.

12. The Perfect Offline Playlist

Don’t forget to download your road trip playlist. We have all felt the dreaded moment when the radio goes to static. Spotify, iTunes, and Sound Cloud all have an option to download music. Check out Wandering Bird for great playlist ideas.

13. Reading Light

The item you didn’t know you needed until you saw it. I don’t have this, but I am adding it to my road trip packing list. I always feel guilty, turning on the overhead light in the dark just to read a guide book or a map.

14. Toilet Paper

I have no shame. I grew up on a farm and have no problem squatting on the side of the road. Yes, you can use the shake method, but that never completely works (I don’t know how dogs do it). Therefore, a roll of toilet paper is a road trip essential. Plus, it can be used to clean up the soda you just spilled.

15. Wet Wipes

I hope you brought the toilet paper, but wet wipes are an even better way to clean up spills and sticky hands.

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Are you looking for road trip ideas? Then, check out my Guide to Route 66.