Road Trip Essentials
Planning the ultimate road trip can be so exciting! Making those amazing memories with your kids, while visiting some bucket list destinations, is often what many families look forward to each summer. Yet, deciding what to bring on a road trip, those road trip essentials, can sometimes make or break your experience.
That’s why we are sharing our list of 25 road trip essentials that will help you decide what things to pack for a road trip!
We’ll also dive into how to pack for a road trip including a family road trip packing list and road trip checklist.
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Basic things to bring on a road trip:
Now, being a full time traveling family, we often bring our ENTIRE house with us on our ultimate family road trip, (that just keeps on going).
If you’ve never been to our website before, then you may not know that we were a full time RV living family of 6 who traveled North America from May of 2017 until September of 2019.
One might say we have road tripped full time!
Does that mean if you’re taking a week-long road trip and don’t do this RV thing, this information doesn’t pertain to you? No, not at all.
I will be sharing with you what we’ve found to be the most helpful road trip tips with all of our experience traveling to over 43 states in our first 2 years on the road in our RV and minivan. So we have compiled a list of cross country road trip essentials.
I’m also sharing our list of what to pack when going on a road trip that we learned were super helpful when we most recently took a road trip from Idaho to Minnesota in only our minivan….in the winter!
So, whether you are taking the ultimate Utah road trip, a week long Florida road trip, or maybe a Key West road trip, these items are sure to help you be prepared along with the tips for making your road trip a success.
Here are what I believe are must have road trip items that I think everyone should consider when planning out a road trip. Let’s dive into our top family road trip essentials.
1. Emergency Roadside Kit
It’s always a great idea to have an emergency roadside kit in your vehicle before you leave for a road trip. In this kit, be sure to have jumper cables in case your battery dies. This is something to include in your family road trip checklist.
2. Tire Repair Kit
Roadside assistance is a must have, but carrying a tire repair kit doesn’t hurt either.
As an RVing family, we also carry around this slightly more expensive item, so that we aren’t stranded at the top of a mountain with a flat spare tire needing to pump it up with our manual bike pump again (true story).
3. A Spare Tire (check to make sure you have one!)
Speaking of a tire repair kit…..whatever you do, be sure to check that you have a spare tire that is INFLATED with you on your road trip. These are one of those ROAD TRIP MUST HAVES.
You never know what might happen.
4. Baby Wipes
Unscented baby wipes can be used for so many things. If you DO have kids, they can help clean up sticky fingers or spills in the car. I’ve often used mine after filling the van with gas or checking our tire pressure at a gas station.
Have you ever found yourself driving down the interstate without a rest stop in sight….and you need to go to the bathroom? Adults and children alike can spring a ‘side of the road’ potty break. Have some tissues on hand (with a small plastic bag for garbage) to use as your TP.
6. Hand Sanitizer
Now when you take those quick potty breaks, you’ll want some hand sanitizer to use afterwards. Pack a few in your car and another in your purse or suitcase. This is a simple ‘what to pack for a car trip’ items that everyone should have.
7. Travel Pillow
If you find that your passengers (kids or adults) like to nap on travel days, then bring a travel pillow along. Pillows are great road trip gear for anyone.
Our kids often just lean over and pass out, but their poor necks really need one of these if we remember to use them. I also like that you can use them as a real pillow if you are going camping.
8. Water Bottles
Water bottles are MUST HAVES for a road trip in our family. We love these water bottles.
They keep your cold drinks cold and stay sealed without any leaks! Oh, and they wash easily….unlike so many other water bottles we’ve used before. As the old water bottles break or get lost, we replace them with Takyas.
9. First Aid Kit
Another one of those things to pack on a road trip is a simple first aid kit. Keep it in your vehicle, you never know when you might need one. We keep one buried in the back of our minivan at all times and use it every few months. Now, we do keep a large first aid kit in our motorhome that we use more frequently.
10. Old Fashioned Maps
Some people swear by having an old fashion atlas or map in the vehicle with them. If that’s you, then be sure to get one before you leave.
When we first started taking frequent family road trips, we would bring a map. Now, we’re good with using GPS.
As I’m typing this, however, I’m remembering that just last week, our friends who have been RVing full-time for 5 years pulled out their trucker’s atlas to look at their upcoming route. So, if that’s you, grab one.
11. Phone Holder
This cell phone holder (or car phone mount) is exactly what we use every day in our minivan.
I love how it stays put and lets me be handsfree on road trip days. It’s pretty inexpensive and so far it’s lasted for over 1 year in our hot van.
What to pack on a road trip the morning of?
Now, you’ll want to find the last minute items you put off packing the morning of. Especially snacks and other simple road trip supplies such as your cell phone charger and a small cooler with a cold pack and drinks that I consider road trip must-haves.
These are things to pack for a long car trip, or even just a few hours road trip.
Make a list of any other items that you will use up until the day OF….such as your prescription medications or your favorite hair brush.
12. Cell Phone!
Do not forget to BRING YOUR CELL PHONE! It would be a rough trip if you didn’t have your cell phone with, so I had to add it to this list just to help remind you.
Side note here….there are some amazing apps for cell phones that can come in very handy when planning out your route. Read this to learn about the top 20 apps we recommend downloading.
If you’d rather use a GPS other than your cell phone, then check out this cool one. I’ve heard great things about it from friends of ours (we still use our cell phone and the apps I mentioned above).
I feel like sunglasses are one of the things to take on a road trip that sometimes gets overlooked. Especially if you aren’t traveling in your own car.
Whether you’re the driver or passenger, you might want to bring a pair of sunglasses.
15. Road Trip Snacks
I highly recommend packing easy to eat road trip snacks….or you might be spending a lot of money on overpriced gas station food. We often use our soft sided travel cooler to hold our day’s worth of snacks. It folds up and stores really easily when not in use too. Keep reading for our tips of which types of snacks to bring.
Save yourself time and money by packing cold drinks the morning of your road trip. If you need soda or iced coffee, this is a great way to save a few dollars and allow you to make less stops on your travel day.
17. Travel Mug
If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, having a travel mug with a lid can make your vacation start off right. I love this travel mug’s ability to keep my Americano hot for hours…while also keeping me from spilling all over my van.
If you have prescription medication, don’t forget to fill it before you leave and bring enough to last you the length of your trip.
Now, if you’re taking a long road trip and are concerned about refilling it on the road…I recommend switching to CVS or Walgreens as your pharmacy. That way, you can refill your prescriptions all across the USA like my husband Tony does for his insulin.
19. A Carseat For A Little One
If you’re planning a family road trip and have a baby or toddler, then you will need a carseat. A carseat is one of those road trip essentials for kids you can’t skip.
Now, you might already have one but you may want to consider finding a comfortable booster seat for long trips.
What do I need to know before going on a road trip?
Be flexible and prepared. Get your tires checked and oil changed so that you have a full check of all fluids and lights before hitting the road.
Preparing for a road trip can be fun for those of us that like to plan….if you aren’t much of a planner than hopefully this list will help take the work out of it for you!
Quick tip: plan your route using easy to use apps like these. Know where you plan to sleep each night ahead of time. Especially if you’re traveling during the summer vacation season when many campgrounds and hotels are booked.
Road Trip Packing List
Beyond the things I listed above that are SPECIFIC TO ROAD TRIPPING….be sure to pack the basics for a fun vacation too.
- Shirts and pants/shorts
- Socks and underwear
- Hiking shoes and sandals
- Swimsuits (if heading to the beach)
- Mosquito repellant
- Sun hats
- Toiletries (shampoo, toothbrush etc.)
- Towels (we love these quick dry ones)
- Camera (selfie stick or tripod)
- Cash and wallet
- Travel Bag (this is what we use on road trips or flights)
Road Trip Snacks
The best food to take on a road trip is of course the non-messy-type-snacks.
But, how do you bring snacks on a road trip really?
Well, my best advice to you is to keep it simple and use containers such as disposable ziplock bags or plastic containers with lids. A few examples of thing you can eat easily without making a mess are:
- Apples or pears
- Beef jerkey
- Some trail mixes
- Granola bars
- Fruit Snacks or Fruit leather
- Applesauce pouches
- Cheese sticks
Family Road Trip Necessities For Kids
If you’re traveling with kids, then you ABSOLUTELY need to find some fun things to pack for a road trip such as toys or things to do in the car with your kids.
Download some great podcasts for kids ahead of time for some family fun.
You could also plan to bring iPads, Kindles, books, and DVD players that might keep your kids happy and content for hours. We love downloading audiobooks to our kids’ iPads before big travel days…then we set them up with headphones, and they are good to go for a while. Or, grab the best iPad for drawing so that your kids can practice on the road.
As a full-time traveling family…I have to tell you that when the grandparents gifted each of our 4 children with their own iPad, we didn’t know how good we had it. They use them on EVERY travel day! Think educational games, Facetiming the grandparents and cousins, and listening to music or audiobooks.
But don’t forget to bring simple things like notebook and pencils, and maybe a road trip game or two.
What’s your favorite road trip item?