85 Road Trip Essentials To Pack in Your Car

a girl drinking a pink water bottle while standing in front of trees and colorful flowers

Road trips can be such a thrilling adventure—the open road, lots of laughs with your companions, singalongs, spontaneous “let’s stop here” moments and so much more. We’re excited just thinking about it. If you’re looking to have the ultimate 2024 vacation (via car), your gear is absolutely crucial. The right items can make all the difference between a smooth ride and unexpected challenges along the way. But where do you even start to plan a road trip? From safety equipment to creature comforts, this detailed guide takes the work out of planning for you, with 85 road trip essentials you should pack for an unforgettable travel experience.

Essential Road Trip Planning Tips

Before embarking on your adventure, consider these essential road trip planning tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey. From route planning to budgeting and accommodations, a well-thought-out plan can make all the difference in your experience.

  • Plan Your Route: Before you hit the gas, make sure you map out your epic adventure. We’re talking must see-destinations, scenic routes, and those Insta-famous spots you’ve seen on your feed. Whether prefer GPS or old-school maps, taking into account factors like distance, road conditions, pit stops, and estimated travel time ahead will make your journey that much more enjoyable.

  • Make a Budget: Keep your wallet happy by planning any expenses you plan to make. Set an overall trip budget that includes costs for fuel, accommodations, meals, activities, and those spontaneous or unexpected expenses. Keep track of your spending along the way to make sure you stay within your budget.

  • Where to Sleep: Where you rest could make or break the road trip vibe. Your options are unlimited—a simple campsite under starry skies, a modern boutique hotel with crisp sheets, or a cozy Airbnb with unique charm. Other options include RV parks, rest areas, or overnight parking spots for more budget-friendly or spontaneous stays.

  • What To Eat: Keep the energy high by staying energized during your road trip. Pack a cooler with snacks and beverages for on-the-go fuel, and plan meals that are easy to prepare and enjoy while traveling. Some great choices include sandwiches, wraps, salads, and healthy snacks to keep hunger at bay while you ride off into the sunset.

  • How and Where to Shower on a Road Trip: Maintaining personal hygiene is essential for staying comfortable and refreshed during your road trip. Research shower facilities along your route, such as campgrounds, truck stops, gyms, or public restrooms, where you can freshen up along the way. Or you could also look into portable shower options to make sure you stay fresh and clean throughout your travels.

1. Vehicle Essentials

Knowing what to bring on a road trip, especially when it comes to emergencies, is so important. Whether you're cruising along scenic highways or navigating through bustling city streets, having the right vehicle essentials prepares you for any unexpected bumps in the road. 

  • Spare tire and jack: A spare tire and jack are major lifesavers if you get a flat tire. With just a quick pit stop, you can quickly and safely change the tire and get back on the road.

  • 12v tire pump: Want your trip to be as smooth as possible? This pump inflates tires on the go, helping you maintain proper tire pressure and avoid potential blowouts.

  • Jumper cables: This superhero item will save the day by jump-starting a dead battery—whether it's your own vehicle or you’re helping out a fellow traveler in need. 

  • Tire pressure gauge: This little gadget keeps your tires in peak condition by monitoring pressure with a gauge. Added bonus: Increases vehicle performance, fuel efficiency, and safe handling.

  • Basic tool kit: Like a first aid kit for your car. It has essential tools for minor repairs and adjustments, giving you peace of mind and saving time and money on roadside assistance.

  • Emergency flares or reflective triangles: Safety first! Light up your location when you have a roadside emergency or breakdown. These items help increase visibility and let other motorists know you’re there, reducing the risk of accidents.

  • Vehicle manual: All the need-to-know info in one place. Keep this handy so you can quickly find answers about your vehicle's operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

  • Tire patch kit: Gives your car a quick fix for minor tire punctures, letting you continue on until you can get permanent repairs. Call it a band-aid solution. 

  • Flashlight or headlamp: Because emergencies can happen at any time, these tools are absolutely invaluable for roadside safety and visibility.

  • Tow strap: Safely tow a vehicle or be towed by another vehicle. Comes in handy when you run into mechanical issues or get stuck off-road.

2. Navigation and Communication

In today's digital age, navigation and communication tools are indispensable for any road trip. You’ll want to add these to your road trip checklist… stat.

  • GPS or navigation app: A reliable GPS is invaluable, giving you real-time directions and updates  so you can reach your destination safely and never miss a turn again. Bonus: You’ll never have to ask someone for directions. 

  • Road atlas or maps: Traditional maps are not only nostalgic, but also double as valuable backups to digital navigation tools—just in case you run into no-service zones or your phone can’t connect. 

  • Offline maps: Another pro travel move. Downloading offline maps will also help you travel through remote areas or areas with poor cell reception.

  • Cell phone charger: Keeping your devices powered up is crucial—after all, it’s not only a lifeline to the outside world, but also can play your favorite tunes (or podcast). 

  • Portable phone mount: Because hands free is the way to be. A portable mount keeps that phone in place, giving you hands-free navigation or communication, as well as added safety.

  • Two-way radios or walkie-talkies: Need to keep communication lines open in areas with limited cell reception? Or just want to have some old-school fun with your group? Use these to stay connected. 

  • USB cords: The Swiss Army knife of chargers, keeping everything from phones to cameras charged and ready to capture every moment of your adventure.

  • Small inverter: Convert your car's DC power to AC power. Perfect for charging laptops, cameras, or other electronic devices while on the road.

  • Apps (link navigation apps): There’s an app for that has never been more true here. Before your trip, explore the wide selection of navigation apps out there to see which ones match your trip’s needs. 

3. Food and Drinks

Because eating on the open road just hits different. You’ll want to pack a variety of snacks, with everything from non-perishable snacks to healthy bites. Here are our favorite road trip snacks.

  • Owala® FreeSip Water Bottle: This is no ordinary water. The Owala FreeSip water bottle is completely unlike any other, with a two-way spout for sipping or swigging. Let’s just say staying hydrated has never been easier or more fun. 

  • Non-perishable snacks (nuts, granola bars, dried fruit): Nuts, granola bars, and dried fruit are perfect for satisfying hunger cravings when hunger hits and a great source of energy during long drives.

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: Freshen up your snack selection with some crisp fruits and veggies that also have essential vitamins and nutrients. Talk about a win.

  • Sandwiches or wraps: Skip the fast food drive thru and save money with sandwiches you can make ahead and then eat whenever you want.

  • Energy drinks or caffeinated beverages: Sometimes the road feels endless and your eyelids start to feel heavy. Get a quick boost of energy during those long stretches so you can stay focused and alert behind the wheel.

  • Reusable utensils and containers: Join the eco-friendly travel trend by bringing along reusable utensils and containers for enjoying meals and snacks on the road.

4. Entertainment

Are we there yet? Keep boredom at bay and make the journey as thrilling as the destination with entertainment options for the whole family.

  • Music playlists or streaming service subscription: It’s not a road trip without the perfect soundtrack. Whether you’re playing DJ and curating the best road trip songs or letting a streaming service create a mix, songs will boost the mood mile after mile.

  • Audiobooks or podcasts: Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment for a good reason. Audiobooks and podcasts offer a little something for everyone: lots of laughs, moments of learning, or gripping tales. If you need more inspiration, we know a few of the best road trip podcasts

  • Portable DVD player or tablet for movies: Keep the kids (or kids at heart) in the backseat occupied for hours with their favorite tv show or film.

  • Board, Card, and Road Trip Games

    : Build camaraderie and friendly competition among passengers of all ages with board games or card games.

    • Road Trip Games You Can Play:

      • 50 Road Trip Trivia Questions

      • 100 Road Trip Questions To Ask Your Family and Friends

      • 20 Road Trip Games for Fun Couples

  • Camera or smartphone for capturing memories: If you don’t post about it, did it really happen? Document your road trip memories with a camera or smartphone to show your friends and family how epic your trip really was. 

5. Safety and Emergency Gear

After all, safety should always be a top priority when hitting the open road. But knowing what to bring can be hard to guess ahead of time… that is, until you found this guide.

  • First aid kit: A critical part of any road trip for treating unexpected minor injuries and medical emergencies.

  • Fire extinguisher: A literal lifesaver. This small but mighty piece is essential to combat vehicle fires and other emergencies, so you can snuff out flames and save everyone from injury.

  • Emergency blanket: This lightweight blanket can keep you warm if you’re exposed to cold temperatures or need to comfort someone during roadside emergencies.

  • Multi-tool or Swiss Army knife: The most versatile tool of all. Built for tackling a variety of tasks on the road, from emergency situations to everyday needs.

  • Flashlight and extra batteries: A trusty flashlight can be a beacon at night while you perform repairs and signaling for help during nighttime emergencies or roadside breakdowns. 

  • Emergency whistle: A tiny, powerful tool for attracting attention and signaling for help in remote areas or during emergencies. 

6. Comfort and Convenience

Because road trips don’t have to be uncomfortable. Make everyone feel right at home with these helpful additions.

  • Comfortable pillows and blankets: Long drives and overnight stops call for these cozy additions. Turn any rest stop into a snug haven and catch some z’s in between driving.  

  • Owala Stainless Steel Tumbler: Your cup holder’s new favorite friend. Bring your Owala tumbler to stay hydrated on the road and keep your beverages at the perfect temperature throughout the journey. Whether you want the 40 oz tumbler or 24 oz tumbler, you can’t go wrong.

  • Travel mug or thermos: Keep your favorite beverages nice and toasty—even after miles on the road.

  • Cooler for snacks and drinks: Stocking these up will save you time and money during pit stops and eliminate the need to take unnecessary detours.

  • Trash bags: Mess? No thanks. Keep your car tidy by throwing waste in trash bags. You can even get a little car trash can if you want.

  • Wet wipes or hand sanitizer: From sticky treats to public surfaces, keep your hands clean and sanitary with these two handy cleaners. 

  • Sunglasses: Shield your eyes from the sun (especially during sunrise and sunset). Sunglasses reduce glare, protect your eyes from UV rays, and enhance visibility for a safer trip.

7. Clothing and Personal Items

Weather can make or break a trip if you’re not prepared for it, so pack wisely to make sure your trip is easy and breezy. 

  • Weather-appropriate clothing layers: Master the art of layering for seamless transitions to different weather conditions. That way you’ll be comfortable and protected against the elements. 

  • Sunscreen and lip balm with SPF: Basking in the sun is amazing. Ruining your skin… not so much. Protect yourself from harmful UV rays with sunscreen and lip balm that both have SPF to prevent sunburns and keep that skin looking young and healthy.

  • Sunglasses: Don’t use your hand to shield your eyes from bright sunlight and glare. Throw on a pair of sunglasses and you’ll not only see better, but also look instantly stylish.

  • Hat or cap: If you’re going to be in the sun a lot, wear a hat or cap to shade your face and head from direct sunlight. Because nobody wants sunburn or heatstroke. 

  • Insect repellent: While you can’t stop bugs from being in nature (wouldn’t that be nice), you can ward them off with insect repellent so you don’t get bites or stings.

  • Toiletries and personal hygiene items: Your key to staying fresh and clean on the road. You’ll want to for sure grab toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and deodorant.

  • Cleaning Supplies: Keep your living space tidy and hygienic with cleaning supplies, including wipes, disinfectant spray, and trash bags for quick clean-ups and maintenance during your journey.

  • Luggage: Organize your belongings in luggage for easy access and efficient packing, ensuring that your clothing, toiletries, and personal items are neatly stored and readily available throughout your road trip.

8. Organization & Storage

Stay organized and clutter-free with smart storage solutions for everything you need—from trash bins to laundry bags.

  • Trash bag or bin: A clean ride is a happy ride. Keep your car tidy with trash bags or bins to keep waste organized and easy to toss at your next stop.

  • Over-the-seat organizer: Ever tried to grab an item from the back of the car, but you don’t know where it is? Enter the organizer. It maximizes space and conveniently stores essential items within arm's reach while on the road.

  • Packing cubes: These are game changers. To maximize space, packing cubes keep clothing and belongings neatly organized and compact—whether they’re in your suitcase or the trunk of the car.

  • Duffel Bag: Pack larger items and gear in a duffel bag for easy transport and storage. Especially great for holding bulky or irregularly shaped items.

  • Storage bins: Ideal for longer trips when traveling with a group. Storage bins can hold a variety of items, from cooking supplies to personal items.

  • Roof cargo box: If your car’s getting a little cramped and trying to make everything fit is harder than Tetris, consider using a roof cargo box. You’ll instantly have more room for bulky gear and luggage so you can still stretch out in the car.

  • Day pack: For those daily adventures or scenic hikes, a day pack keeps your road trip essentials— snacks, water, camera, sunscreen—all safe while you explore destinations off the beaten path.

  • Laundry bag: Because mixing clean and dirty clothes just isn’t it. With separate bags for the two, you no longer have to do the sniff test to see what’s clean. 

9. Camping Gear

If your road trip includes camping adventures, be sure to pack the necessary gear for a comfortable outdoor experience. A tent and stakes provide shelter from the elements, while sleeping bags and sleeping pads ensure a restful night's sleep. Don't forget camp chairs or portable seating for relaxing around the campfire, along with a lantern or headlamp for nighttime illumination. A camping stove and fuel are essential for cooking meals outdoors, accompanied by cooking utensils and cookware for preparing delicious campfire cuisine.

  • Tent and stakes: Set up your home away from home with a sturdy tent and stakes, providing shelter from the elements and a cozy retreat during your camping adventures.

  • Sleeping bags and sleeping pads: The key to a blissful night under the stars. With a cozy sleeping bag and cushioned sleeping pad, your sleep might just feel as great as being in your own bed.

  • Camp chairs or portable seating: Whether you’re gathered around a crackling fire or simply admiring the sunset, having a comfortable place to sit makes all the difference. Portable seating makes any gathering more comfortable so you can relax as long as you want.

  • Lantern or headlamp: As dusk turns to darkness, a reliable light source is pretty important. Illuminate your campsite while you cook, read, do shadow puppets, or go exploring after dark. Because who says fun has to end after the sun goes down?

  • Camping stove and fuel: Meals outside taste better. It’s just facts. So if you want to cook up hearty meals and hot beverages, bringing these along is non-negotiable.

  • Cooking utensils and cookware: Conquer campfire cooking with ease—as long as you have the right tools. Load your car up with tongs, spatulas, ladles, or whatever else you need to whip up tasty campfire cuisine under the open sky.

10. Outdoor and Adventure Gear

If you’re planning on adventure into the wild, don’t get caught without these road trip essentials… and a few bonus items, just for fun. 

  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes: If you’re planning to explore rugged terrain, sturdy hiking boots or shoes are a must for traction and support. Trust us, your ankles and soles will thank you.

  • Hiking or trekking poles: Loose rocks and steep trails can strain your joints. If you want to keep your balance and reduce strain on your joints, use hiking or trekking poles for extra stability and support.

  • Daypack or backpack: Carry must-haves for day trips and hikes with a daypack or backpack, providing ample storage space and comfort for outdoor adventures and exploration.

  • Binoculars: Bring distant vistas and wildlife into sharp focus with binoculars. With magnification and clarity, they’re your ticket for up-close encounters (at a safe distance) with animals and beautiful views.

  • Fishing gear: If calm waters are calling your name, don’t forget your fishing gear! Getting a catch is thrilling and the peace that comes from the rhythm of casting and waiting can’t be beat. 

  • Beach towels: Soak up the sun and relax on sandy shores after taking a dip. Perfect for beach days, lakeside picnics, or sunbathing on the riverbank. 

  • Kayaks or inflatable rafts: There’s nothing quite like gliding across glassy lakes or exploring the coastline in a kayak or inflatable raft. Whether you’re paddling or just floating along, it’s a fun and unique way to explore your new area while making memories together.

Basic Road Trip Packing List

  • Long-sleeve tops

  • Short-sleeve tops or tanks

  • Activewear

  • Pants, leggings, and shorts

  • Rain jacket

  • Warm jacket or sweater

  • Activity-specific items (water shoes, rashguard, etc)

  • Hat (warm beanie/sun hat)

  • Sleepwear

  • Swimsuit

  • Comfortable walking shoes

  • Hiking shoes

  • Lightweight jacket or windbreaker

  • Rain jacket

  • Underwear

  • Sweater or warm jacket

Camping Basics

If camping is part of your road trip plans, make sure you don’t forget these must haves. With their help, you'll be ready to enjoy the simplicity of the outdoors without any extra baggage.

  • Tent

  • Sleeping bags

  • Sleeping mats

  • Pillow

  • Camp chairs

  • Folding camp table (optional)

  • Cooler

  • Camp stove and fuel

  • Packable camp cookware set

  • Knife and cutting board

  • Camp coffee maker

  • Bin to store kitchen items in

  • Spatula / spoon

  • Plates, bowls, and utensils

  • Microfiber towel

  • Collapsible dishwashing bucket (optional, depending on campsite selection)

  • Sponge

Conclusion

A lot of planning and equipment goes into a successful road trip, but at the end of the day, it’ll make your entire trip more fun, safe, and easy—just the way vacations should be. So start gathering up your gear and making that road trip list. We can’t wait to see where you go!