Hey road trippers!
It’s lovely to have spontaneous road trip plans with friends, family, or even by yourself, but being physically ready, is something you must do. Whether you’re a beginner or a travel junkie who’s seeking that familiar adrenaline when road tripping in another country, here’s a must-have road trip packing list prepared just for you.
Road Trip Essentials: Road Trip Checklist
When you’re either excited or nervous, have you noticed how you seem to forget a lot of essential stuff? Well, that’s why we prepared this road trip essentials checklist for you. Having a checklist, in general, will serve as a guide for you to monitor which of the things you needed to bring have already been packed, and which of them haven’t.
The best road trips are often spontaneous, but you have to be prepared to avoid ruining that experience for you. Even backpackers, who spontaneously travel to different places, make it a habit to prepare all the time. It’s just that, although good things to random travels, being prepared for these road trips, save you from impending trouble.
So what are the essential items that you need to pack up before you road trip? Well, there are many of them which you can find in your local stores, but the problem is, you never know if they’re still available. You can also find dozens of options through Amazon and just have them delivered to your residence instead. That way, you don’t need to go through the effort of scanning for them, only to find out that they’re unavailable.
Road Trip Essentials List: Travel Accessories
The essence of learning more about the world and who you are is by traveling to different places. However, you will lose that essence once you are placed in situations that ruin the whole experience for you. As mentioned previously, preparation is the best solution to having the best road trip of your life. Now, what are the road trip essentials you need to prepare for?
Paper Map (Physical Map)
Driving can be exhausting, whether you’re driving an automatic or manual transmission. That’s why if you’re planning on taking breaks at rest stops, getting a map on hand is smart to avoid getting stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat.
However, you can’t always rely on mobile phone applications when you go offline such as maps.me app as there are locations that might be off-grid. In simple terms, these are locations where there is no cell service, therefore, there is no WiFi signal.
So prepare a paper map as a backup, in case this happens. This should be an updated map that you can buy at local tourist shops or even convenience stores where you’re traveling. Remember to always make this as part of your priority to avoid getting lost on the road, or worse, making a “wrong turn.”
Prepare Google Maps
Although paper maps can show you the way, Google maps can show you your nearest gas stations, convenience stores, national parks, and other tourist attractions in just a few clicks. No more manually tracing which part of the road you’re currently in, it will automatically tell where you’re currently at and show you the exact directions to get to your destination.
In addition to that, it will also help you navigate you through streets where there’s less traffic, so you can save on gas and time, so you get to enjoy touring around the country.
If you’re either renting a car or drive a car that has a Google map feature, then you’re in luck. But if not, at least get a phone mount to getting your hands full as you are holding your phone on one hand and steering the wheel on the other. Moreover, if authorities spot you getting distracted while driving, you could get in trouble or caught and considered as “driving while distracted.”
Bluetooth Hands Free Kit
Driving on the road for a long time can make one exhausted, bored, and worse, sleepy. Although they said getting distracted is not recommended while you’re driving, this is mostly just applicable to the usage of handheld devices or maps.
Out of 9.5% of road crashes are often caused by drowsy drivers. Mostly, these are caused because nothing or no one was distracting the driver from drowsiness. Although it is highly suggested to always make rest stops to avoid falling asleep while driving on the road, exhaustion can overcome you anytime. So having a Bluetooth hands-free kit to play music straight on your phone would be a great kind of distraction.
Traveling can be quite exciting, and you would want to always document your trip through photos, videos, and even stay connected online to post these on your social media profiles. However, everyone knows how data, WiFi, or even using your devices in general will drain your battery a lot. And it’s frustrating because you might be arriving at your next trip soon and yet your device just died. So where’s the fun in that?
When you’re doing a nonstop road trip, you can’t always find a nearby 24-hour convenience store to stop by and charge your devices. It also wastes your time when you wait for hour for charging to finish. That’s why, if you’re renting a vehicle in a particular country, always look for a car with a section for a car USB phone charger. If not, then always carry a portable charger with you, such as a regular or wireless powerbank.
Cash and Credit Cards
Yes, you don’t need to spend a lot of money when you’re simply backpacking, but this myth is not true. Even backpackers spend money on transportation or when they feel hungry during their trip or walk.
And even as you drive a car, you are not exempted to this. You will always need to have some cash or your credit card, to pay for the extra costs which is inclusive of tolls, gas stations, food, and other essential things you will need during your road trip. Sometimes, you may even have to sleep at an inn, if you are extremely exhausted. And if a credit card is not present, cash will be your best option.
When you’re traveling, of course, you’d want to take pictures of the place you’ve visited. You want to either post them or keep them as souvenirs in the future that you can look back to. So cameras are a must-have on your road trip packing list. You need them to snap photos of picturesque landscapes, the people, or whatever subject you can think of in the country.
You can find these quality cameras being sold on Amazon or in stores near you in the digital area. If you have forgotten to pack one, you can always check Google Maps for your nearest store that has them!
It’s not all the time that you’ll find a nearby inn or lodge to spend the rest of the night to just get off the drowsiness you feel from driving. Therefore, a travel pillow also known as a neck pillow, would be an essential item in case you’re driving for a long time, so you can rest in the car any time. That way, you won’t be experiencing a stiff neck, caused by muscle strain after leaning onto one side of your head. It’s also useful for your companions if they want to slip in some naps while you’re driving.
Flashlight or Headlamp
Unexpected circumstances are bound to happen and there’s no way you can prevent them from happening. So if your rented vehicle or personal car broke down while you’re driving on a highway at night, whether it has dim lights or you can’t really see clearly because it’s nighttime, it’s always best to have a flashlight or headlamp with you. This is in case there is no available roadside assistance that can be contacted as you are out of the coverage area.
So, how can a flashlight help you?
A flashlight can help you whenever you change your oil, take out some items from the trunk, or simply check out what’s going on outside and why you’re hearing something peculiar. Since you only need one hand to do these things.
As for a headlight, you can just wear this like a cap. The light itself is attached on the band, and you have both your hands free to take care of problems such as a flat tire, changing oils, car breakdown, etc.
When you’re on a long travel during your visit, can you carry all of your essentials using just your hand? No, right? It will be a “hand full” to carry all of them, get it?
With a long road trip around the country or city, you will need a handful of clothes and a place to put all your necessities such as toiletries, water bottle, clothes, a sleeping bag, etc. Other than that, you will need a bag to carry the most important items aside from the other essentials like a wallet, your devices, and a camera.
That way, you won’t have your hands full by carrying all your items, and you can engage in other activities in the area to make your experience more memorable.
First off what is a tote bag and why a tote bag when you can carry a branded bag to take the best photos of yourself with?
Well, that's the point!
Carrying a tote bag is so universal that if you’re in a place where it’s unsafe to carry a branded bag like Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Chanel, etc that tells everyone that you’re a walking bank to rob, then using a Universal Tote bag is just fine. It’s a durable bag where you can place your devices, wallets, baby wipes (wet tissue), bug spray, and other items used for your personal care.
Did you know that a tote bag can also be used as a reusable shopping bag? It’s definitely an eco-friendly item!
Packing List Related to Your Car and Road Safety
Any machine, will eventually wear out when used for a prolonged period or when it hasn’t been used for a long period. Any vehicle, when used for long road trips, also bring these outcomes.
As it was discussed above, when you’re on a road trip, “always expect the unexpected.” This is applicable whenever you’re traveling in general. It is essential to always have the specific equipment ready to solve any issues that may arise during your travel. If you want to know which items belong to these packing list to ensure your car and road safety, they are the following:
Roadside Emergency Kit
Road issues are bound to happen whenever and wherever you are. And not all the time roadside assistance are ready to assist you, especially when you’re located in a remote location where there is no cell signal. You’ll end up doing things by yourself, but how can you do this? That’s when the Roadside Emergency kit becomes useful.
First off, what is a Roadside Emergency Kit?
A Roadside Emergency Kit is a type of kit prepared by motorists in case their vehicles encounter issues like a breakdown, flat tires, or even when accidents happen. At most, it is composed of the following materials:
- Jumper Cables
- Fire extinguisher
- Triangle sign
- Air compressor
- Spare Tire
- Tow Rope
- First Aid Kit
- Tire Pressure Gauge, and others
Commonly, these are the checklist of roadside emergency kit which you will need during your long road trip throughout a country or area. The following list are the specific items that belong to that list.
First Aid Kit
Of course, whenever you’re traveling, it’s a given that you sometimes get so careless because you’re so excited. And when you’re careless, you could either damage property in the location (hopefully not) or end up scraping your knees, or wounding yourself. A first aid kit is a collection of items related to applying first aid to minor or major physical injuries to avoid infection or provide primary alleviation of the pain. This item is a must-have to pack in your emergency kit and this is why we mentioned it first.
Some cars lose power along the road, especially for most rented cars as they operate on manual transmission. They will need another vehicle’s power to jumpstart the engine for it to start driving again to the nearest car shop or gas station. Jumper cables are insulated wires with alligator clips, used to connect your car’s battery to another vehicle’s to provide it power.
This is very useful in case your car still needs that extra power to drive to the nearest gas station. So, jumper cables are another must-have on this checklist.
Not all countries or cities are safe to travel to. We’re not discouraging you to travel, but there are really some places with poor road conditions where uneven roads, potholes, and some people with negative intentions to harm others may cause a flat tire. It may also be, in general, you were unable to spot the flat tire before you started driving and only found out about it midway.
So, always have a spare tire to change that flat tire. This is to avoid stopping your trip midway, or losing more time by being stalled because you have to wait for assistance.
Tire Pressure Gauge
Maneuvering through the roads for a long time is not an easy job. And it will be even more challenging if your tires don’t have enough air to make them run smoothly. This is where a Tire Pressure Gauge comes in. It checks the air in your tires and ensures that it has enough air in them to last and helps you experience a smooth ride to your destination.
Cars are built uniquely by their specific brand owners.
And although some cars have almost identical designs, they are not built with the same models and composition. It doesn’t even matter if they come from the same brand. That is why before you go ahead and tinker through the vehicle to repair it, a car manual would be highly necessary to avoid permanently damaging your personal vehicle or rented vehicle.
Road Trip Packing List: Important Documents
Of course, before you can get a kick-start on driving around the country, you will need to have the documents that will take you there, and allow you to drive the country. If you’re planning on driving in the country without one of these documents, then you probably may have to scratch off your to-do list of driving in the country.
A Passport is every traveler’s must-have. If you are planning on driving in another country, then you must have a passport to even be allowed to travel inside that country. No traveler is ever allowed to step foot outside their home country with an intention to travel to another country without their passport.
No one can even be issued a visa without their passport. That is why if you don’t have a passport yet, then it’s probably you start getting yours processed before you make that trip.
As mentioned repetitively, a lot of things can happen while you’re traveling. The smartest thing you can do to counter these unfortunate events, is by having your travel insurance ready. But then again, what is travel insurance and why do people always highlight how it’s one of the must-have insurances when you travel?
Well, whether it’s your trip getting canceled due to unfavorable weather, finances lost, or any risks related to your travel in the country, this insurance will cover all your expenses for you. Examples of these risks are as follows:
- missed flights
- delayed luggage
- lost luggage
- minor injuries and major illnesses
Just as a human has their own coverage to protect them from expenses from delayed luggage or any illnesses acquired during their travel, a car also has protection should it encounter wreckages or road accidents. Road accidents cost a lot of money if you want to pay for fixing it one go with just your on-hand cash. It will leave you broke.
Although car insurance can’t ensure protecting your life or anybody’s for that matter, it can surely pay off your medical bills and your repair bills without digging a hole in your pocket. There are different types of car insurance that you can choose from, but here are the common ones you’ll see:
- Liability Coverage
- Collision Insurance
- Comprehensive Coverage, etc.
Driver’s License and International Driving License
It is exhilarating to drive and explore a country, under your own terms. However, you can’t drive in the country if you don't even have a document that can certify that you are an experienced driver in your home country. Aside from being allowed to drive, you won’t be able to rent a car if that was the case.
To anyone who is planning on driving in another country, they need to have their driver’s license with them. Aside from a driver’s license, they must also have an International Driving Permit or IDP. This is also essential to translate your National Driver’s License, so local traffic authorities in the country or area you are traveling to, can understand the information that is written in your driver’s license. This helps you a lot during checkpoints, when you’re stopped for over speeding, or even as you are renting a car.
However, you must also know that some car rental companies may only allow drivers with a driving experience of a minimum of three years to rent a vehicle. Therefore, if you don’t pass both the minimum age to rent and the required years to drive, it’s best to check with the car rental company ahead of time.
Road Trip Packing List: Bring Food and Drink
A road trip is never complete without the food and drinks. These also give you that essential energy while you’re on a long trip while exploring a destination. It also keeps you awake as you are driving on the road due to the insulin it releases by converting the food into energy. Therefore, it will give you that extra pump of energy needed to avoid drowsiness while driving.
Water is the most essential substance in our body. It makes up to 70% of the total human body composition. Being an essential, you can find it buy it any convenience store you will find during your drive.
But if you advocate for the environment and would like to avoid using plastic bottles, you can always buy a reusable water bottle before your road trip or through Amazon to take with you during your travel. You can refill this at your nearest water refilling station or at a nearby spring when you’re traveling.
However, you do need to note when there are signs in certain places, disallowing you from getting water from springs.
Care for a cup of hot chocolate or a nice warm coffee during your morning drive? Get a thermos to carry with you! A thermos or vacuum flask, which you can get in stores or Amazon, is a double-walled container which preserves the hot water’s temperature. It does this entrapping the heat in it, disallowing any air whether inside or outside, from escaping.
But when is a thermos or hot water useful?
Here are some examples on when you might hot water for:
- For a cup of chocolate
- A warm cup of coffee
- To alleviate motion sickness while driving
- When driving during a cold autumn or winter weather
- Aids your digestion to relieve your constipation
- To help you feel calmer while driving, and more.
There are actually many benefits to drinking hot water. That’s why you might want to get one before you drive cross-country or during a long road trip.
Who doesn’t want other drinks while driving or during a road trip? Soda, juices, milk, these are drinks you’d take daily everyday, and the kind which gives you additional energy.
If you’re on a road trip with your partner or friends, you can carry some beer or any alcoholic beverage with you for a more enjoyable bond. However, do note that many places worldwide disallow drunk-driving and has a specific Blood Alcohol Concentraction (BAC) limit for drivers.
As mentioned above, drowsiness can come to you when you’re not doing anything. Even some music can’t help fight it off alone. But with a few snacks that aren’t high on artificial sugar but high on protein like a trail mix, you’ll surely fight off the drowsiness until you reach your next destination.
A trail mix or scroggin, is a mix of granola, nuts, dried fruit, candy which you can take when on a hike or if you are traveling in general. You can buy a pre-mixed trail mix in stores. However, if you have time to do it yourself and you follow a strict diet, you’ll want a more personalized trail mix. By make it yourself, this ensures that it’s all healthy and according to the number of calories you want to consume for the day or meal.
Road Trip Packing List: Clothes and Hygiene
Most road trips usually have camping listed as a part of their trip. You won’t always find a nearby inn or lodge while traveling, so it’s best to camp outside, while watching the stars rather than stay in your car where it’s probably all cramped up. Now what do you need to bring to ensure your physical hygiene?
Well, here they are:
Bacteria floats around the environment, especially with the presence of pollution. Moreover, in the light of the pandemic, it is better to sanitize your hands which touched objects, walls, during your trip, before it reaches any part of your body especially your mouth, eyes, and nose.
It also prevents contamination of your food or drinks by avoiding any contact with any bacteria or viruses. A hand sanitizer, like alcohol, will help remove any trace of the virus off your hands or any bacteria before you eat or drink.
Sleeping on cold fresh Earth soil may be relaxing but technically not sanitary. Therefore, if you’re on campgrounds as part of your long road trip experience, a sleeping bag would be necessary to keep you warm during the cold night weather. And although this may not ensure keeping bugs away, at least it keeps you warm and cozy while sleeping outdoors.
Spontaneous road trips require going the extra mile with preparation. And by going the extra mile, we mean, packing extra clothes suitable for any destination in advance would be what we’re referring to!
You only need to pack a rain jacket in case it gets rainy outside. As for leggings, you can wear them along with a short summer dress in case you’re not yet confident about showing too much skin, and some flip flops to go with it. Leggings are also the most comfortable choice when going for a hike. They also keep you warm during the winter and can also cover you up to avoid mosquito bites.
Toiletries, Toothpaste and Toothbrush
Going on a road trip doesn’t mean you don’t need to shower. Of course, you need to have one, especially when you’re traveling to different spots. If you want to keep yourself hygienic, you would need your shampoo, soap, your toothpaste, and toothbrush. However, if you want this to be tidied up and inside your bag in one container, so you don’t have to dig through your luggage, getting a toiletry bag would be more efficient. Moreover, you can simply buy this at your nearest stores or on Amazon.
Urinating and defacating are two normal things which humans do. And if there’s no bathroom with a bidet nearby, a TP (toilet paper) will be the most useful. Therefore, never forget this one as it is a highly essential item to wipe off dirt.
The heat isn’t as safe as it used to. The only hours sun exposure is safest, is between 5 in the morning or sunrise, to nine in the morning. Anything beyond that could damage your skin cells and may even increase your chances of acquiring skin cancer.
Moreover, if you get sunburn due to the prolonged exposure to the sun, this will bother you throughout your entire trip. The discomfort it brings you, ruins your whole experience during this trip.
Baby Wipes - Wet Wipes
When the sun is hot, you’ll want something wet or cold on your face. A Baby Wipes, or wet wipes can do this for you. Other than that, it is also useful for when you defecate or urinate, sanitize public toilets you’re about to use, or wipe the dust off your hands.
We’ve talked about how leggings can protect you from insect bites. However, a bug spray can protect your surroundings, decrease a hastened food contamination, you from mosquito bites especially at night. Therefore, a bug spray is one of the must-have items you should pack with you.
However, do note that some bug sprays may have a strong smell, and kids should not be exposed to such odor.
Road Trip Packing List: Entertainment
As mentioned, a long road trip packing list wouldn’t be complete, without any form of entertainment. These things will keep you up and energized to drive through the roads until you reach your next destination. It may also help you relax if you are simply choosing this road trip to unwind from the stresses of real life.
Now here are three forms of entertainment that are highly suggested for your road trip.
You can’t drive on the road while reading a novel at the same time. That is considered grounds for violating the road traffic rule about driving while distracted. However, authors have adapted to a new way of letting their books reach professionals who are always on the go and on the road to listen to their masterpieces. And these are what you call audiobooks.
Audiobooks are novels/books narrated by the author on another person. They can either be fiction or non-fiction whichever you prefer.
Prepare the perfect playlist for your long road trip
Do you ever think about how there’s always a suitable song for your every mood? Well, before you travel and lose any network signal to access Netflix, Youtube, or whatever streaming site you prefer, your much preferred playlist would be your best option. Therefore, download your playlist of choice on Spotify, if you have a premium account, Pandora, or even Apple Music.
Sometimes, when life gets us down, we just want to hear that “we’re not alone.”
And guess what? you are not alone indeed. Podcasts are a series of audio files by people coming from different walks of life yet experiencing the same ups and downs. Learn about other people’s stories based on specific subjects, while keeping yourself entertained during your entire road trip.
Additional checklist for Winter Travel
Traveling can become a bit challenging when you encounter different weather conditions brought by the season. So what do you do, if you do encounter winter or a rainy weather? You prepare for them by bringing in the following items.
An overnight snowy winter isn’t all enjoyable as you thought they would be. Creating snow angels while you’re traveling isn’t probably a good idea when your time is limited. And it would be bad if frost or ice is covering your automobile’s window because you certainly can’t use heat directly on that. That’s how you can start using an ice scraper.
Ice scrapers are used to scrape off the ice from your car windows, side mirrors, and wipers. They help you get rid of the frost without necessarily damaging your vehicle.
It’s no fun when rain suddenly hits an area you’re traveling to. This soaks your outfit and ruins your entire look. Not to mention the possibility of it damaging your digital cameras, phones, and other items that aren’t waterproof. That’s why you need to bring umbrellas with you.
Our Travel Tips for a Long Car Ride
Not all people want to travel. Some are simply brought by it due to their parents’ jobs or because they want to improve their studies internationally. So if you’re one of the world nomads, learn about the steps that will give you reassurance, that you are finally ready to travel.
Plan your trip accordingly
If you’ve been through one before and it wasn’t that appealing, well, make sure your next road trip won’t be on the same route by planning it. Along with the planning, you must also plan about different scenarios or situations that might possibly happen during that trip.
For example, you’re planning on a road trip to the beach, with a white dress and yet it start raining, to plan for that you bring an umbrella with you. So always plan your trips accordingly days or months before it happens.
Learn about the places you plan to visit
Ever wonder how some fellow travelers get the most experience in destinations they visit? It’s because they are well-studied about these places, even before visiting them. Therefore, if you want to be like them, study about the places you plan on visiting before you visit them, so you will feel fulfilled that you didn’t waste your itinerary or your trip.
Decide if you are travelling with your car or rental car
Do you have enough budget to bring your vehicle with you or would rather use a rental car during this trip? It should be included in your planning phase as well.
If you’re traveling with your car, you will need to carry some documents to allow your car to cross borders or places. As for a rental car, you will need documents such as an International Driver’s Permit with you for your National Driver’s License to be recognized in another country.
Pack your bags
When you find it hard to organize your things directly into your luggage, buying packing cubes might help you sort them out. These packing cubes can section all of your items and keep them from ever making a mess and becoming tightened in your bag.
Moreover, if you want to pack up some books to read yet save some space, you can always get the Kindle app in your phone and download the books you want to read during your trip. That way, it’s not an additional weight to carry in your luggage since you can easily access the books, through your phone.
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