Whether you are taking a road trip in your own country or traveling to another and exploring different areas, it is important to ensure that you have everything you need to make your journey as enjoyable as possible. I’ve done the homework for you and compiled a list of road trip essentials that I have found to be vital throughout my travels. Before packing, make sure that you check it out.
For Your Vehicle
If you are planning a road trip, it is important to equip your vehicle with the essentials that you need to make your journey as comfortable as possible.
Driver’s License, Registration & Insurance Card
Nothing is more important when planning a road trip than ensuring that you have all the correct documentation for your vehicle. Make sure that you have your license and registration on you in case you are stopped by law enforcement or you are required to show some identification. Your insurance card is helpful if you are in an accident so that you can swap details and contact your insurers quickly.
Your phone is now the primary way of navigating while on your road trip, with apps such as Google Maps and Apple maps telling us the quickest way to your destinations, alerting us of traffic issues, and helping us find gas stations and food stops. It is, therefore, important to have a functioning charger in your car, as apps like this can quickly run down your battery. Check out the car charger below if you don’t already have one.
Emergency Toolkit with Spare Tire and Jack
Breaking down while on a road trip is never ideal, but it does happen, so it is important to be prepared. Taking an emergency toolkit, along with a spare tire, will allow you to attempt to fix your vehicle, get it back on the road, or at least to the nearest mechanic without having to wait for breakdown assistance, which can take hours. Some repairs will be easy to fix with the right tools, meaning you will be back on the road in no time.
Spare Car Keys
Everyone sometimes makes mistakes and misplaces important objects, but the worst thing you could lose when you are in the middle of nowhere is your car keys. Consider taking your spare set as a backup – you will thank me if this worst-case scenario does happen.
Another ‘in case of emergency item’ that is vital is the humble flashlight. This will come in handy if you break down at night or need to stop for a toilet break after dark.
Travel Pillows and Throws
While most road trips start with high levels of organization, things sometimes do not go to plan. You may stop off at an unplanned destination or get stuck in traffic which leads you to sleep in your vehicle or take turns driving while the passenger rest. Travel pillows and throws make this all the more comfortable, increasing your chances of getting a night of good quality sleep, so you are ready to experience more adventure!
Car Garbage Bin
It is important to ensure everyone on the road trip is comfortable throughout the journey, and keeping your car or vehicle tidy is paramount. When you are traveling for a long time or over long distances, it is easy for trash or food waste to build up, so having a small pop-up garbage bin makes it easy to store this without it becoming overwhelming.
Staying hydrated is important throughout your travels, but it is vital to have some water in your car while on a road trip, especially if traveling through new areas. You may not know when the next stop is to grab some refreshments. Water is equally important during a breakdown as you do not know how long you will have to wait until roadside assistance appears and your car is repaired.
Empty Gas Can
An empty gas can is a good road trip travel essential to store in your trunk. If you run out of fuel unexpectedly, you will be able to take this and walk or hitch a ride to the nearest gas station with this so that you can fill up and get back to your travels as soon as possible.
Satnav Paper Map
While we rely on technology, it is important to recognize that sometimes this fails, so a backup may be needed. Keeping a paper map in the glove box means you can refer to this if your phone or sat nav device runs out of signal or charge. While you may not need this often, you will be grateful if you lose connection in the middle of nowhere.
If you are planning to travel in very hot or very cold climates, then windscreen covers are a great idea. You can get covers that protect your windshield from ice and snow in poor weather conditions or covers that keep your car cooler in intense heat. An added bonus of this is that you get more privacy, as no nosy travelers can take a look inside your car at your belongings.
As well as packing in-car road trip essentials, it is important to pack some essentials for your trip, regardless of whether you are traveling by car, bus, or jetting off to another country by plane and then going on a road trip.
As well as packing your driver’s license, some other form of identification may be useful. A passport is required if traveling to another country and may also be needed when checking into accommodation. You also want to ensure that you have tickets to sporting events or theme parks like Disney World if they are on the itinerary.
List of Important Numbers (in case something happens to your phone)
Your mobile may include any contact numbers you need, but consider taking a list of numbers you can keep in your wallet if your phone is lost, damaged, or stolen. Important numbers could include your family, your holiday or car insurance, car rental company, car accident lawyer, health insurance, or accommodation contact details.
Water & Snacks
Travel can be thirsty work, and you may find yourself quite peckish while on your road trip or exploring a new city. Ensuring that you have snacks and water will mean that you can consume these when you cannot get to a shop or café. It may be a good idea to keep these in a cooler in the car when traveling, as this keeps them fresher for longer.
Hanging Toiletry Bag
A great accessory for any road trip is a hanging toiletry bag that can easily carry all your essentials, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant. A hanging toilet bag means that it can attach to any door or hook, meaning that it doesn’t touch the ground and stays sanitary. These are great for travel and can be rolled up, so they can squeeze into small luggage spaces.
Depending on your destination, you may want to take a strong insect repellent to protect you from itchy and uncomfortable bug bites. Check online before going on your trip to see what insects are common in the areas you are traveling. Repellent with a high DEET concentration is perfect for keeping mosquitos at bay and usually comes in a spray that can be applied easily.
First Aid Kit – medication and sickness tablets
A first aid kit is a boring but essential addition to any road trip. Ensure that the kit includes any medication you or any passengers are taking, plus typical painkillers. It would also be great to include sickness tablets that may help tackle any travel sickness on windy roads. A first aid kit can help with scratches and cuts; however, anything more serious may need travel insurance, so it is important to sign up for this before you embark on your journey.
Next up on the road trip essentials list are some rolls of toilet paper. While not the most glamorous of items, toilet paper could help if you are caught short in the middle of your drive. It is also pretty versatile and can be used to clean up spillages, wipe eyes and noses if you suffer from hay fever, or use to clean up after eating a picnic.
When on a road trip, you will never know when you might have to nip to the toilet or where. Therefore, keeping some hand sanitizer and baby wipes handy will help keep you clean and germ-free. This is especially important at the moment due to the increased threat of the coronavirus. If traveling during this time, you must be extra vigilant, sanitizing your hands as much as possible to avoid catching a virus.
A Great Camera
A road trip is a perfect way to create new and exciting memories with the ones you love, but make sure you pack a good camera to document these memories and look back on them in the years to come. Some phones are now equipped with excellent cameras with great features such as super zooms and panoramic settings. You may want to invest in a proper photography camera, however if you are visiting somewhere known for its natural beauty or interesting wildlife. While these cameras are expensive, the memories that can be captured are worth the investment.
A portable charger means that your devices can stay functioning wherever you are. You can charge these in the wall sockets at your accommodation and pop them into your bag. Portable chargers can be light and small, meaning they do not take up much space. One brand of charger with a great reputation is Anker, which offers a variety of options that can hold multiple charges.
Offline Music Playlist
Staying entertained is important, but most of our entertainment now requires an internet signal. Some platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Music, allow you to create offline music playlists that can be accessed in airplane mode and when you are left with no signal.
A tablet or a laptop is a great idea to watch movies while traveling or while staying in your accommodation. The larger screen makes it easier to watch long videos than a phone, and devices like this are now small and slender enough to fit into your luggage and not take up too much space.
Maps.me – offline maps
Maps.me is a great app that you can download to your phone, giving you access to offline maps. It has maps available across the globe and includes entertainment venues, tourist attractions, restaurants, and transport links. You can plan your journey in advance and download the map to use it, even with no internet signal. This app is ranked number 1 in offline maps and highly recommended.
While most of our transactions are done with cards and contactless, it is important to still keep some cash on you – both coins and notes. Some smaller shops, especially in rural locations, may not have the technology to accept cards, and other facilities, such as toll bridges and parking meters, may only take coins. Keeping some spare cash in your wallet will be handy for these situations, meaning you don’t need to search for a cash machine.
Road trips are one of the best and most exciting ways to see a country. The feeling of adventure and independence is second to none, and you can change your plans easily at the last minute if something you discover inspires you. Hopefully, this road trip essentials list will help you prepare for your exciting journey as much as possible.
Jason Butler is the owner of My Money Chronicles, a website where he discusses personal finance, side hustles, travel, and more. Jason is from Atlanta, Georgia. He graduated from Savannah State University with his BA in Marketing. Jason has been featured in Forbes, Discover, and Investopedia.