There’s something so exciting about an up-and-coming road trip!
Experiencing the scenery and taking to the long open highway is an absolutely amazing experience – but there are certain things you need to make sure comes along for the journey, and some useful tips and tricks for you to get the very best out of your experience.
There are so many amazing places to go on a road trip, and there are so many things you should have on your list.
But here’s the thing: you can’t have everything. So, I’ve decided to break down the most essential things you need to take with you on your road trip.
Here is the ultimate road trip essentials checklist:
- Check Tires and Brakes
- The ‘Half Tank’ Fill Up Trick
- Snacks and Drinks
- Wallet or Purse
- Driver’s license
- Power Bank
- Sun Cream
- Download Your Route on Google Maps
- Printed Road Maps
- Vehicle Recovery Details
- First Aid Kit
- Headache tablets
- Mosquito Spray
- Book or Kindle
- Extra set of car keys
- Card Games
- Sleeping Bag
- Toilet Paper
- Hand Sanitizer
- Ear Plugs
- Travel Kettle
- Eye Mask
Although this looks a really long list, this could have been much longer.
The issue is you could really take over a hundred items on a road trip, but a 100-long list would scare most people away.
Top Tip: The more essential items you take the heavier your car becomes, and as a result the more gas you will need to buy – and a more expensive road trip!
We spent time shrinking down the list to the most important, critical, essential, and comforting.
Without just giving a road trip essential list, and leaving you to it, I want to explain just a little bit about each, why they made the final list, and why we think so important!
#1 – Check Tires and Brakes
An obvious no-brainer but you would be totally shocked the number of road trippers that don’t check their tires or brakes before they set off.
It is really important. Oh, and while you are checking your car, have a look at the water, oil and brake lights too!
#2 – The ‘Half Tank Fill Up’ Trick: How to Save on Gas
Most people do not realize that the heavier your vehicle is, the more gas your vehicle will use.
Of course, the more gas, the more expensive your road trip becomes.
Top Tip: The trick here is to just fill up your gas tank half-way. Fuel is heavy and ironically the more you carry, the heavier your vehicle is, and the more gas your vehicle will use.
It will mean more fill ups of course, but it can reduce your gas spend over a number of days.
Be careful though because as we know there are a limited number of gas stations on some popular routes, so if you do use this trick make sure you plan out your route to include plenty of gas stops.
#3 – Snacks and Drinks: Top up on your road trip
Stay alert and topped up with some food or snacks, as well as water and other beverages, on your road trip.
No-one likes a ‘hangry’ driver!
Take a cooler, but also take food that will last for a few days. Just in case you need to make an emergency stop off.
#4 – Remember Your Wallet or Purse
Check and double check you have your wallet, purse, credit cards, money etc.… before you leave your home.
Having to turn back after 4 hours of driving because you have no money is one frustrating way to start an adventure!
#5 – Take sunglasses for a more comfortable road trip
Whether you are the driver or passenger, you will benefit from having a pair of sunglasses to hand.
Car visors are great and handy, but as your vehicle turns the sunlight hits from different angles.
A pair of good sunglasses will make the driving a lot more comfortable, especially if driving into direct sunlight.
#6 – Blanket for chilling out, and keeping warm
There are so many reasons to take a blanket on a camping trip.
Finding a great forest or park for a picnic for example, or just chilling and taking a well-earned rest from driving.
#7 – Driver’s License
Make sure you pop it into your wallet, purse (see number 4) or glove box.
You should carry your driver’s license with you, so make sure you tick this one off your list!
#8 – Power Bank
It seems crazy to me that I only bought my first power bank last year.
Crazy because I feel I am quite a ‘plan-ahead’ organized person and cannot believe I drove out for so many years without realising how necessary these are.
Our cell phones are becoming entwined with our daily lives. From calls, messages, data, Google Maps, emergency help, entertainment etc… all accessed through our cell phone or tablet.
With music and maps open on your cell phone whilst you drive will drain the battery fast!
Many vehicles come with a USB power socket. These are great and will help keep your device powered, but what if your vehicle breaks down, you lose power, and your device has 3% battery left.
A Power Bank, when fully charged, can hold enough power to fully charge your cell phone 4x over.
I purchased my power bank last year for around $30. They are relatively inexpensive but can be so essential in an emergency.
#9 – Sun Cream
A must if it is a hot day and your car has an open top roof!
I remember the very first day I drove my first open top car. I woke the next morning with a very sunburned head and neck!
You will likely stop off many times on your road trip for exercise and chilling out – perhaps even the odd hike – stay safe in the sun and remember your sun cream.
#10 – Download Your Road Trip Route on Google Maps
Google Maps is almost an essential part of a road trip.
Helping you reach your destination and guiding you away from traffic.
When you plan your route, Google Maps will temporarily download the maps for your journey to your cell phone. The GPS receiver in your cell phone will help do the rest.
The issue with this, you may have noticed, is if for any reason Google Maps closed, or your phone switched off, your temporary maps disappear.
This is not a problem if you have data signal, but if this happens in an area where your data signal is poor or non-existent, Google Maps will be unable to re-plot the route, as it cannot temporarily download the maps to your cell phone again.
There is a solution!
Instead of simply searching for your destination in Google Maps, for a temporary download, you can ask Google to fully download the map to your cell phone.
This means if you needed to search for your route again, you can do so without the need for any data signal.
The maps will already be stored on your cell phone memory and the GPS receiver can work out where you are, and where you are headed, to plot your route!
#11 – Printed Route Maps
Technology is great, Google Maps is essential and in the last essential item, I explained how you can even get Google Maps without any data signal.
Technology though can, at times, work against us.
If for any reason you could not use your device, and could not load Google Maps, you may be completely lost.
It is worth the $10 or so cost to have a back-up in your vehicle by way of a printed route map.
#12 – Vehicle Recovery Details
Make a note of the policy number and emergency call out number for your vehicle recovery service.
Have these to hand just in case you need to use them.
So many people go scrambling through their email inbox using their cell phone trying to find their policy or cover details – which may not be possible if you are in an area with no data signal.
#13 – A First Aid Kit is Essential on a Road Trip
You do not need me to tell you how or why a first aid kit could be a very handy thing to have on a road trip.
Make sure any first aid kit you buy comes with all the essentials you may need on your trip.
#14 – Headache Tablets
No guesses as to why you may need these, but pain relief for a headache – or anywhere else for that matter – may be required.
#15 – Mosquito or Bug Spray, or bug net, for traveling
I am not a fan of bug sprays but in some counties, particular in the right type of temperature, can see bugs and mosquitos swarming around you like diners around a buffet!
If you are planning on sleeping in your vehicle during a road trip opening the windows at night for ventilation may be a must.
This can attract all sorts of unwelcome visitors to come flying in like they own the place!
Whether you choose bug spray – or even better – bug repellent or a bug and mosquito net to go across open windows, protecting yourself in the right climate is going to be essential.
#16 – Book or Kindle for a Road Trip
A book is a great way to absorb yourself for a while as you travel.
It can also be a good way to chill if you are the driver and stop to take a well-earned rest.
A Kindle is of course much more portable, allowing you to take literally thousands of books with you on your road trip.
Amazon are also offering a free 30 day trial to their Amazon Kindle Unlimited plan, which can fill your Kindle with lots of exciting reads.
If this is not your thing, and you prefer the feel of paper, then stop by a local or second-hand bookstore – or visit Amazon for some of the latest best-sellers, inspiration, and paperback deals.
#17 – Extra Set of Car Keys are a MUST on a Road Trip
Although modern technology has reduced the number of incidents of call-outs due to keys locked in the car, it does still happen.
Probably more times than you think.
Keep a second set of car keys with you in case the worst happens.
Also, and I can recommend this from personal experience, a second set of keys can get you out of a lot of trouble if the infrared device in your car ‘key’ lets you down.
Batteries can also run out in car keys, for those electronic key versions without an actual key to unlock the vehicle. Take some spare batteries with you in case your battery runs out when you least expect it or need it to!
#18 – Audible for a Long Road Trip
I have done many a road trip totally consumed by a great book.
Not consumed enough to distract me from the road of course, but its a great way to enjoy your journey.
Connecting your cell device or tablet through your vehicles Bluetooth or USB connection can have your audiobook playing through the car speakers for everyone to enjoy.
Amazon have a 30-day free trial for Audible, and any books you download in your trial are yours to keep whether you decide to continue your subscription or not.
If your vehicle does not have Bluetooth capabilities, or a USB connector, then all is not lost!
You can purchase a Bluetooth wireless transmitter.
These really handy devices give you the ability to connect your cell phone to an older vehicle that does not ordinarily have the capability.
Simply plug the Bluetooth Wireless Connector into the lighter socket of your vehicle (for its power needs), connects to your cell phone using a Bluetooth connection – and the device transmits the audio from your cell phone to a radio signal via a specific frequency.
Then tune your vehicle’s radio to the same frequency – and you can listen to your audiobook or music, or any other audio output, now through your vehicle’s speakers!
#19 – Card Games for a Road Trip
Card games are not the most exciting past time for solo road trippers.
You can not exactly play while you are driving, and there are so many games of Solitaire you can play.
That said, if there are a couple of you then a card game can be a fun way to break up the journey, or during any overnight stays.
Aside from a normal pack of cards, I can really recommend Monopoly Deal. A compact version of Monopoly played through a deck of cards. It sounds strange but it is really addictive when you get the hang of it.
#20 – Sleeping Bag to keep you warm or in case of an emergency overnight stay
You never know when a sleeping bag may come in handy.
You may need a rest stop, and a short sleep, during your road trip in the back of your vehicle.
A hotel or motel may be colder than you would like it to be, even with the heater up to max.
You could be stranded after a vehicle breakdown and need to stay in your vehicle overnight with no power.
There are lots of reasons to take a sleeping bag along, and considering how light and compact they are, it is worth taking one along, just in case.
#21 – Emergency Toilet Roll
Who remembers the Covid shortage of toilet roll in 2020?
Panic buying saw toilet rolls as hot commodity. People selling toilet paper on eBay for crazy insane prices!
Hopefully, we will not see those times again.
Now that things have returned to normal, and toilet roll is back to being stacked and ready on grocery store shelves, it could come in useful if you were caught short on the road, or public restrooms had run out.
#22 – Hand Sanitizer
Although we should continue to wash those hands to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, hand sanitizer should always be part of your accessory kit when traveling around the outdoors.
Have a handy travel hand sanitizer with you in your glove box, or backpack ready to use when you need.
#23 – Take your own, or travel, pillow
Home comforts are nice to take with you when traveling.
It is amazing the affect a different pillow can have on your night sleep. If you are someone who feels their pillow is just right for them, you may want to take it along for the ride.
Sleep is vital on a long multi-day road trip. You need to stay active and alert, and so a good night sleep, the day before any drive is essential.
A travel pillow may help you catch some shut eye in your vehicle either when your road trip companion is at the wheel, or if you pull over for a mid-afternoon rest.
#24 – Ear Plugs
If you find it hard to sleep around noise you may find a pair of ear plugs super helpful.
Blocking out surrounding noise, especially those noises you are not normally familiar with at night, can help give you a good night sleep.
Just remember to set your alarm call extra loud, you do not want to miss out on an early start!
#25 – Travel Kettle
Not only useful for any place you may stay without a kettle, or a mouldy old rusty one in a motel complex, these can also come with a USB cable to plug straight into your vehicle.
You should never try and operate one of these whilst the vehicle is in motion of course, and be warned they can take up to 30 minutes to boil water using power from just a car battery, but if you NEED your morning coffee or cannot sleep without hot chocolate before bed, you will be glad you took one along for the ride.
#26 – Flashlight or Head Torch
You may stop off for a bit of stargazing or break down on a back country road with little illumination.
A flashlight is one of those really essential items to take on any road trip. Just remember to check the batteries before you pack, and packing spare batteries too is probably a good idea.
You can also purchase USB powered light lanterns, and also wind up lanterns that work without batteries – although I have tried these before and the effort required is high considering the small amount of light you are likely to get.
Wind up lanterns have their place, but I would not recommend these for a road trip. Get a powerful battery driven flashlight.
#27 – Eye Mask
These are great for shutting off the surroundings and immersing yourself into some much needed sleep, especially if local lights or hotel room door cracks let in more light than you would like.
Road Trip Essentials – Wrap Up
Here is a summary of everything we have covered:
- It is easy to list out over 100 things to take on a road trip, but these 27 essentials should help cover emergencies, comfort, and necessities whilst you travel