How to Plan a Road Trip: 10 Road Trip Essentials


Person with a suitcase for a road trip and an Owala water bottle

Want to plan a road trip? Check out this travel-tested road trip checklist for your journey, whether you're driving near or far.

In a 2021 survey, over seventy percent of respondents said they planned to travel more than in previous years. To that we say, “Let’s go!”

Still, many people aren't comfortable with air travel. That's why plenty of travelers will take road trips for their upcoming adventures.

 When you plan a road trip, you want to be sure to prepare everything in advance to make it a success. Even if you want your road trip to appear spontaneous with a laidback, boho vibe, you’ll want to have it buttoned up behind the scenes.

That’s why we created this road trip checklist. These are the key road trip essentials you’ll need to get your gear in order and have safe, healthy, and fun travels on the road.


Road Trip Checklist

1. Owala® FreeSip bottle

It's essential to stay hydrated all the time, and especially on the road. Staying hydrated is just plain smart. It helps ease the adjustment between time zones when you travel. It’s critical to boosting your immune system and keeping you healthy on the go. And it simply makes you feel better, more refreshed, and more capable of doing more of the adventurous things you love.

The Owala® FreeSip bottle makes it easier than ever to drink water when you’re driving. The push-button lid lets you open the bottle with just one hand, and the built-in straw means you can drink all you want without taking your eyes off the road.

You can even add an Owala® sticker to personalize your bottle. That way you can tell it apart from your friends' and family members’ bottles and avoid swapping germs or having someone else down your favorite road trip drink.

Bottom line? Your Owala FreeSip bottle should be number one on your road trip checklist. We’ll gladly take the blame for the added rest stops you’ll need to make!

2. First Aid Kit

No matter how careful you are, injuries happen. That's why it's important to keep a fully-stocked first aid kit in your car. The basics for a first aid kit typically include:

  • Bandages
  • Ice packs
  • Sterile dressings
  • Safety pins
  • Different types of tweezers
  • Gloves
  • Superglue
  • A thermometer
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Cotton balls
  • A first aid manual

You can also customize your first aid kit based on what you plan to do on your road trip. For camping road trip essentials, add mosquito repellent and a salve to treat bug bites. Summer road trip essentials should include SPF sun protection and aloe gel in case you do get burned.  

3. Chargers and Electronics

There are lots of different electronics you’ll need to keep your road trip humming right along. Of course, chargers for your cell phone and any other personal electronic devices are top of the list.

A portable battery pack is also a great option if you don't have a charging port in your vehicle, or if you're worried about draining your car's battery. 

You may want other electronic devices, as well. Consider a digital camera (with a broader capability than the camera on your cell phone) as a nice way to document your trip. A portable fan can help cool down your car—especially for passengers in the backseat who may not get the full benefit of the car’s AC.

Finally, make sure you’re covered in case of emergency. Ensure that you have working jumper cables in your car, plus a flashlight in case you get stranded in the dark.

4. Directions

You probably have a GPS device built into your car. If not, there are apps on your phone to help you out. But there's always a chance that you'll end up in an area without cell service and need to resort to an old-fashioned map.

Be sure to pack physical maps that cover everywhere you plan to travel. Highlight your planned route and any landmarks on the maps in case you get turned around. Pack your maps, along with any other important documents, into a road trip planner so they don't get lost.

5. Daily Essentials

Just like in everyday life, there are things you'll want and need to stay comfortable. The great thing about packing for a road trip is that your luggage doesn’t need to be as compact as when you travel by plane. So while you don’t want to pile all your earthly belongings into the car, you have a bit more flexibility to bring what you want.

Road trip essentials include enough clean clothing to last the duration of your trip (or to get you through to the first laundry stop). You’ll also want to be sure and pack appropriate clothes for whatever types of activities you plan to do, like hiking, swimming, or dressing up for a night out. Don’t forget your pajamas and some comfy lounge clothes, too.

Be sure to pack a supply of personal hygiene items, supplements, and any medications you take.

6. Entertainment

Road trips are a ton of fun, but as the miles add up they can become boring. To stay entertained, subscribe to a music streaming service and make a road trip playlist. Or, try audio books or podcasts. There are also countless road trip games that can keep you and your fellow road trippers engaged for hours.

Just be sure that the entertainment you choose doesn't distract the driver. Depending on the circumstances, distracted driving can be just as dangerous as driving under the influence—so do your part to help your driver stay on track.

7. Snacks

You don't want anyone getting hangry while you're on the road, but you don't want to stop every five minutes, either. That's why you'll want to pack plenty of snacks for your road trip.

Ask everyone to list their favorite snacks in advance, and then put one person in charge of shopping. That way you’ll have all the right treats ready to go when you hit the road.

8. Comfort

Ensure that everyone is as comfortable as possible for hours on end in the car. Pack comfort items like throw blankets for keeping cozy and pillows for catching naps. Lumbar pillows are also helpful—especially for the driver—to prevent aching backs.

9. Luggage

Even though you’re not boarding a plane, you still need to pack your clothes and personal items in some type of luggage. Soft duffel bags work great for road trips, since they can conform to fit any empty space in your car.

Be sure not to overload any single bag—you’ll want to keep luggage light enough that you can comfortably carry it from the car to the hotel room, Airbnb apartment, or campsite as needed.

10. Cleaning Supplies

Things can get messy when you're on the road, so stock your car with adequate cleaning supplies. Wet wipes are one of the greatest inventions ever and can clean even the stickiest of hands. Toss in a roll of paper towels to use as napkins and to contain unexpected spills.

Pack a glass cleaner for your windshield, windows, and mirrors so that you'll always have good visibility.

You’ll also want a designated place for trash while you’re traveling. A garbage bag or bucket works great—and remember to keep a separate container for recyclables.

Now that you have a road trip checklist and know the road trip essentials you’ll need, you’re ready to plan a road trip that will be comfortable, safe, and most importantly, fun for you and everyone else who comes along for the ride.