Road Trip Packing List Essentials

We love the freedom of the open road, and we travel all over the world. Our longest road trip lasted 8 months. We drove from Alaska to Florida, over 26,000 miles. We camped and hiked in the most beautiful places in the USA and Canada. Now we share our road trip experience. What to pack for a road trip? How to pack for a road trip? What are Road Trip Essentials? Finally, how to safely take a road trip during Coronavirus? Whether you plan a week-long or a cross-country road trip, our tips help prepare you for an adventure. So, check our Road Trip Packing List Essentials. Furthermore, you can also download a Free PDF Road Trip Checklist.

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Road Trip Packing List: stunning gravel road and mountain view in Canada.

Our Road Trip Experience

Why Trust Us? Packing for a road trip might be challenging. But we are experienced and share road trip essentials. My partner Chris and I have been on a fair amount of road trips. From a camper van in Europe, as traveling through Norway, Scotland, or Iceland. And by regular car with a tent in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and more.

Our longest road trip was from Alaska to Florida, and it took as over 9 months. We also traveled at different times of the year, facing the heat of a desert and penetrating cold. Moreover, we love the freedom of traveling by car. We spend several months of each year on a road trip. Since we can work remotely, we have plenty of time to travel.

We make road trips with all safety rules. You can check how to plan a road trip in our separate article.

Plan a Road Trip and Looking for some inspiration?

If you plan a road trip, you can check some of our ready-to-go itineraries:

Dalton Highway Alaska - road trip packing list

How To Use Road Trip Packing List?

So, in this Ultimate Road Trip Packing List, we share everything we’ve learned from the last few years of taking road trips worldwide. Only Road Trip Essentials and checked road trip gear, which we always pack into the car. Our must-haves.

This essential Road Trip Packing List will help you prepare for a safe, comfortable, and fun adventure. If you are correctly equipped, you can hit the road every time of the year. Whether you stay overnight in a hotel, tent, RV, or car doesn’t matter. We always pack these things in the car for each road trip.

If you are interested in camping in a tent, check the second part of our Road Trip Planning Guide, the Car Camping Checklist, where we focus on the campsite.

Our Road Trip Packing List Essentials is divided into several parts: Documents, Safety Driving, Navigation Devices, Health & Hygiene, Drinks & Snacks, and Entertainment.

Our Tip: Check our II part of the Road Trip Guide – the Car Camping Checklist– for details on how to pack to have a comfy campsite!

Agnes Stabinska, the author and co-founder of The Van Escape blog, is oon the campsite, nezt to campfire with the tent and mountains in the backdrop.

Road Trip Packing List – Documents

Car Documents

  • Car Registration.
  • A Copy of Car Insurance.
  • Car Owner’s Manual.
  • Relevant Contact Numbers to the insurer and roadside assistance.

Personal Documents

  • Driving License.
  • ID / Passport / Visas.
  • Credit & Debit Cards. We always have at least two different cards in case one is not honored or does not work.
  • Cash & Coins. We always take some cash for tolls or parking meters and places that don’t accept credit cards. You can only pay cash at smaller gas stations, small groceries, or some campsites and state park entrance fees.
  • Travel/Health Insurance. Even for short road trips, we buy additional insurance.
  • Pen & Paper. They are useful, for example, for filling out forms at campgrounds or state parks.
Chris Labanowski sitting during sunset next to our camper truck on the green camping chair and camping table.

Road Trip Packing List – Safety Driving


  • Extra Set of Car Keys in case you get locked out.
  • Roadside Emergency Kit. An Emergency Roadside Assistance Kit is a must for safe travel. We like this Roadside Emergency Car Kit. It has 99-piece safety assistance with first aid, jumper cables, tow strap ropes, reflective safety warning triangle & vest, tools, glass breaker hammer, and much more.
  • Jumper Cables, Flashlight, All-Weather Duct Tape, Scissors, Pocket Knife, or seat belt Cutting Tool. Pack them if they are not part of your roadside emergency kit.
  • Spare Tire & Spare Tire Tool Kit. We have had our tires replaced several times in a remote area. Sometimes a small but sharp stone or gravel road is enough to damage a tire, so you always have to be prepared for it. The spare Tire and Spare Tire Tool Kit is a must for us.
  • Extra Gas in a Can. Extra full Fuel Can is a must for a long road trip, just if you run out of gas. It may happen that the gas station will be closed. There are also stations open only seasonally. So, we always take extra gas cans for long road trips. And we always fill up the tank.
  • Additional bottle of Washer Fluid and Oil. When driving on a long gravel road in Alaska or the Dempster Highway, we often ran out of windshield washer fluid, especially in bad weather conditions. Fortunately, we always packed a supply, which allowed us to drive safely.


  • Snow Chains, Ice Scraper, and Snow Shovel if traveling somewhere cold or in the winter. However, snow can surprise you even in summer. In northern Canada, we were already driving through the snow in August. Snow surprised us in November over the Grand Canyon South Rim. On Thanksgiving Day in Sedona, we woke up in our RV, half-covered with snow. In June, there is still a lot of snow over Crater Lake National Park. Therefore always carefully analyze the snowfall risk, check the forecast, and be prepared for it, especially if you plan a long cross-country road trip or through the mountains.
  • UV Window Shades. Auto Sunshade for Blocking UV Ray is perfect for a long road trip. Especially if you travel through deserted and hot areas like Monument Valley or New Mexico. Furthermore is must-have protection if you are traveling with kids or pets.
  • Sunglasses. Long driving is exhausting for the eyes, so be sure to pack good Sunglasses with UV Protection, which will help when strong sun and snow white. Furthermore, this Sunglasses Leather Holder will be a great gadget for a long road trip. Thanks to it, you will always have glasses at hand, and you will not have to look for them.

Organizer and resting on the road

  • Trunk Organizer or Packing Cubes. Trunk Organizer is essential on every road trip. They facilitate the efficient packing of all necessary things. They prevent items from moving, which also affects the safety of driving. It’s easier to find everything you need.
  • Blanket. It is a must-have even if you plan to stay in hotels. We always pack a Warm Blanket in case the car breaks down. So, it’s necessary to keep you warm if you must spend the night in the middle of nowhere, waiting for roadside assistance. It is also useful when we feel tired and want to take a short nap. Resting is very important during long driving.
  • Neck-pillow. Travel Pillow provides perfect support for your neck, prevents the head from falling forward, and relieves neck pain during travel. It’s great if you need a nap during a road trip.

Road Trip Packing List – Navigation Devices

  • Smartphone with road trip Apps. Before you go on a road trip, download all the necessary applications to your phone, such as maps (Google Maps), applications with camping sites (iOverlander), and hotels (Booking.com). If you plan hiking, download applications with maps and trails like AllTrails. It is worth considering the PRO versions, which allow you to use the application offline. It’s crucial, especially if you plan a longer journey through more difficult-to-reach areas.
  • Handsfree Phone Mount. Necessary for safe driving. We like this Phone Holder with the Easy One-Touch mechanism, allowing quick one-hand open and close operation.
  • Cell Phone Car Charger. We don’t move without a Car Charger with SmartUSB Port.
  • Paper Map. We always have a Road Atlas if GPS or phone dies and we can’t access navigation apps.
  • GPS. On long, especially cross-country road trips, we always take the GPS Navigator System with Lifetime Maps.
our rented car during Alaska road trip on the Arctic Circle.

Health & Hygiene – Road Trip Packing List

First Aid Kit and Disinfection

  • First Aid Kit. We always pack the First Aid Kit. For every road trip, for every hike. Ensure it has all the necessary items, such as plasters, bandages, and disinfectant swabs.
  • The Medications you always take, Painkillers, and Prescriptions if you are planning a longer trip.
  • Disposable Gloves. It will be useful at a gas station or in a store.
  • Hand Sanitizer. Coronavirus has forced increased hygiene and care for cleanliness. Even after the pandemic, hand sanitizer is a must for us. You can clean and sanitize your hands anywhere, anytime, without running water or towels. This product is 80% agave-based alcohol and is the perfect solution for road trips.

Wipes and Garbage

Chris Labanowski, co-founder of the Van Escape blog is eating beef jerky during our road trip.
  • Body Wipes. During long drives, we also use Body Wipes, full of refreshing essential oils. They are great when we need to relax, as a shower wipe during a camping trip, or even as makeup remover wipes before bed.
  • Antibacterial Wipes. We also use these Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizing Wipes. They contain Vitamin E and Aloe Vera to replenish and moisturize the skin.
  • Car Trash Can with Lid & Garbage Bags. We travel consciously and with respect for the natural environment. We never leave garbage. That’s why we use a Small Car Trash Can and Garbage Bags. We follow the rules Leave No Trace, Only Footprints.
black malibu car with the mountain view during our Alaska road trip.

Hygiene and Toiletries

  • Biodegradable Toilet Paper. It will always come in handy on a long journey. It happens that the toilet will be many miles away, but you have to stop. So, pack Biodegradable Toilet Paper.
  • Camping Shovel. According to the Leave No Trace rule, Camping Shovel is a must for any road trip when the toilet is far away.
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss.
  • Sunscreen. It is worth packing Sunscreen for a car trip, especially since it is easy to catch the sun during each stop and possibly while driving when you do not have protection on the windows.
  • Bug Spray. It depends on where and at what time of the year you are traveling. But Insect Repellent it’s useful in most places.
  • Quick-drying Towel. We always have a Quick-Drying Towel at hand. It comes in handy on every trip.
  • Toiletries. Also, pack any other cosmetics you use, such as bath gel and shampoo.
our camper truck in the mountains in Canada on Dempster Highway during our 9 months road trip.

Road Trip Packing List – Drink & Snacks

  • Water Container. Portable Water Container is a must for a long road trip. You never know when you need it. So, always pack more water.
  • Insulated Water Bottle. The water bottle should always be close to the driver. We use Insulated Water Bottle, which keeps your drink cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12 hours.
  • Travel Mug with a Lid. We love coffee, and I can’t imagine a trip without a cup of hot coffee.
  • Food and Snacks. Everything you like. Pack sandwiches and healthy snacks. Bananas or apples. On the way, we like to eat peanuts and bars with high protein content. We often eat beef jerky.
  • Energy Drink or Electrolytes. Pack some energy drinks or electrolytes for a long journey, especially if you plan to drive late or at night.
  • Coffee Maker. Espresso Maker has been accompanying us on every road trip for years. We love the smell of fresh coffee. We like to stop in some charming places and make a coffee with the view.
  • Camping Gas Stove. To make coffee, we always pack Small Gas Camping Stove.
  • Cooler. It’s a perfect item for longer summer trips. It’s a great idea to take Cooler, especially if you are going camping.
Coffee Maker: Espresso Maker for a road trip.
MSR Camping Gas Stove.

Road Trip Packing List – Entertainment 

  • Music Playlist. The journey is much more enjoyable if you listen to or sing your favorite music. So, we have our playlists on Spotify.
  • Books, AudioBooks, or Kindles. Whatever you like, it’s worth picking something to read for the evening or rest during the day. AudioBooks are great while driving.
  • Travel Journal & Pen. It is worth saving memories, especially during a long journey. So, we always pack Travel Jurnal, describing interesting places, events, or people we meet.

  • Daypack. If you are going hiking, don’t forget to pack a small backpack. Which daypack do we recommend? What do we always pack for a one-day hike? Check our Day Hiking Packing List.
  • Camera. We love photography, so we pack our cameras and lenses for every trip and keep magic places in photos. Furthermore, we also use a DJI Osmo pocket camera, which is fantastic. We didn’t make movies till we tried DJI Osmo. We love it. Here you can check our review.
  • Camping Games. Pack playing cards, checkers, or board games. Our favorite game is lately Trekking The National Parks: The Award-Winning Family Board Game. It is also one of the best camping gift ideas for couples and families. Trekking the National Parks is a spirited family board game that lets players experience the U.S. National Parks in a fun and competitive way. Players compete for points by claiming Park Cards and collecting trail stones as they race across the country, experiencing the wonders of each of these magnificent landscapes.
Road Trip Packing List: Trekking The National Parks: The Award-Winning Family Board Game. 


  1. Thank you for these tips. I’ve never gone on a long-distance road trip before, so this article is packed with new information for me, especially regarding things to bring. I would never have thought of some of those. I think I might also get the trunk organizer. Would be really handy.

  2. This is indeed one epic road trip packing list. We always used to do long road trips as a family, but it the frequency kinda reduced with the years. But then because of COVID 19, road trips have become the safest mode of travel, and we did take a few road trips recently, and i realised how important few basic things such as a hands free suction mount for mobile, disposable garbage bags for trash, and sanitiser spray, actually are. While one can do away with these, but having them makes life 10 times easier on the road.

  3. This is really a great list for road tripping. I never thought about the gas can though. I think it’s good to have like one time we must stopped for gas, almost midnight, and it’s not a safe area. To carry a paper map is also very important, especially for the times when GPS is not working right.  

  4. This is a helpful list. We usually forgot about car documents but I agree with you that it is very important that we have the contact number of the insurer as well as roadside assistance in case of emergency. Thank you for reminding me to bring an extra set of car keys too. Will definitely add that to my list. 

  5. As I read your useful article, I thought back about the big road trip we did in the USA – where we encountered stretches of road with completely no one around. I think back now about how lucky we were and how things could have gone wrong and we could have had a breakdown without the useful things you mentioned to pack! Now we are wiser and would bring a list of usefuls along. Thanks so much for this.

  6. I love road trips and nowadays I prefer road trips only after this pandemic thing. To carry lots of snacks, fresh fruits and water is my first thing to pack during road trip. Car documents are very essential and I mostly keep them a week before when I plan for travel, so that they never get left out. I never carried extra set of key but it looks wise option and will now carry that too. 

  7. Oh my God this list will be so useful for me as I am planning a roadtrip for Christmas and would love to make sure that I carry everything I need. I will be using this list to ensure all the things are packed and taken. There are so many things that are so important and one tends to forget them like the important numbers (roadside assistance). My friend had that problem once, he did not have the emergency number and he couldnt get hold of the internet to search, so it was a big struggle for few hours.

  8. Packing right is so essential to getting the best out of a trip like these. I love the minutest details that you have thought of and arranged them. Very useful. Saving for future reference.

  9. Road Trips are in this year (and probably next year too) so this is a fantasticly helpful list! A lot of these are absolutely critical (like car keys) and the type of thing I don’t think through when packing the vehicle. The blanket is also one of my favourite things to ensure I have packed, it comes in handy on the drive, at the hotels, or even in a field!

  10. I’ve been meaning to do the stereotypical USA road trip one of these days, so the practical nature of this post is really useful! Especially with the clear formatting.

  11. Love these tips just as much as I love road tripping! And perfect time as I’m renovating my van to hopefully (fingers-crossed) begin van life!

  12. We certainly had to update our road trip pack this year as we took to the road for short local trips.  While we were generally not away from civilization, we did not want to have to shop for basic supplies while we were out.  We certainly upped our supplies for picnicking along the way.  

  13. I believe that it’s crucial having the right documents on you and some emergency stuff when you’re in the outback. However, I tend to buy stuff I need while travelling – especially in the US with their über-offer of….basically everything 😀

  14. I loved some of these suggestions, even though I am not currently doing van life, I found some new practical items. The ice scraper with a brush  would be super handy! It’s my first winter in snow right now and we are using like a rubber ice scraper and it doesn’t do the job 100%. he gas stove is also a must. Here is Switzerland, we used it last week to make fondue in the mountains! 

  15. Some great considerations here for road trips. I can’t believe you did a trip from Alaska to Florida. I’d love to read about that trip, i’ve seen some of your posts on Alaska but I’m just intrigued. What a mammoth task, you must have needed to prepare for every eventuality. 

  16. Thanks for the detailed packing list. Although we have done plenty of long distance road trips, the truth is, we suck at packing! I like how you’ve added little details to creating this checklist… 

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