While we can’t argue that it’s lovely spending a day in the sun and sea, there’s something special about driving down the highway on cruise control. But just because you’re on the road, doesn’t mean the trip is any easier. You’re going to need to pack some road trip essentials.

There are some things you just know you have to bring – snacks and beach towels. And there are other things you wouldn’t expect like face mist, headphones, and jumper cables. Here’s a list of the road trip essentials we always keep handy in the car.

Let’s Get This Out of the Way, Here Are the Boring Road Trip Essentials You Should Bring

road trip essentials

Hey, don’t try to skip this. You’ll need it. We’ll keep this section quick and painless. Make sure you have the following (boring but necessary) road trip essentials:

  • checkLicense and registration
  • checkCopy of your car insurance policy and relevant contact numbers
  • checkYour car's manual
  • checkA spare tire or two
  • checkA roadside emergency kit for your car
  • checkA first aid kit

There’s just a little bit more: paper maps (for when Siri decides to go rogue), painkiller, hand sanitizer, bug spray, mints, extra water bottles, a flashlight, a toilet roll, and extra cash. See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Here Are the Road Trip Essentials You Think You Don’t Need a Reminder for But Sometimes Forget Anyways

road trip essentials

So, you think you’ve gotten it all packed and now you’re three hours away from home, digging for your sunglasses. Your girlfriend isn’t going to let you borrow hers. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget the little things you think you’ve kept at the front of your brain. Lucky for you, we’ve made you a little road trip essentials list, so you won’t have to. Here you go.


Keep your eyes shaded from the road and all the glare. If you want to drive in style, Ray Bans offers some very cool styles on Amazon. Check them out and make sure you’re not that person who has to switch the mirror around every two seconds to block out the sun. We’ve all been there. Sunglasses should top the road trip essentials list at number one.

Guilt-Free (or Guilty) Snacks

It’s not a road trip if your food storage doesn’t look like a third grader was given $100 to buy snacks. Pick your poison. You don’t have to wait until you’re starving and pull into the first gas station you see. You can save yourself some money by planning ahead a little. Stock the coolers full of ice – one for drinks and the other for food. You can pack sandwich ingredients in separate ziplock bags and put them together later (no soggy sandwiches on our watch). Grab some non-perishable items like jerky, chips, candy, and cookies. Don’t forget to bring lots of extra water.

A Mini Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Dental Floss

Gotta keep those pearly whites clean, people. There's nothing more gross than arriving at your campsite and realizing you forgot to bring a toothbrush. Get look getting all that jerky out of your teeth.

Phone Chargers and USB Adaptors

Now, these are road trip essentials. Even when you’re not going on a road trip, it’s smart to keep these in your car. Who knows when you’ll need to ask Siri to find the nearest gas station or make a quick call?

Your Favorite Travel Camera

Travelers, this goes without saying. A good travel camera is one of the top road trip essentials. If you’re not taking a billion pictures on your road trip, did you really even go? Besides needing these for your growing travel blog, you can’t put a price on the memories they save. We say pics or it didn’t happen.

Some Good Books or A Kindle

Carsick passengers, this is not for you. Those with stomachs of steel, good books (or a Kindle) equates to road trip essentials. When you lose phone service in the middle of nowhere in Texas, you’ll be glad to have some entertainment besides that annoying friend singing “On the Road Again” as off-key as she can. Take it from us, it doesn’t take up much space and it’s definitely worth it.

Related Article: ​How to Find Awesome Free Campsites in the US (and Canada)​​​

Road Trip Essentials You Never Knew You Needed And Now Won't Be Able to Live Without

road trip

Let's be honest, there's always a few road trip essentials you forgot you needed.

NetGear 4G LTE Hotspot

You’re posting a new Instagram pic when all of a sudden, you lose service. Okay, that’s not the worst thing in the world but it can’t hurt to have a little data boost when you’re on the road. NetGear offers a speedy 4G LTE mobile hotspot from right inside your car, supporting up to 10 different devices at once. Better yet, it operates on a prepaid model, so you pay up front for the amount of data you want to use and it will let you know when you max out (via a built-in LCD screen).

Handpresso Auto

Are you feeling really fancy? There’s nothing worse than needing your pick-me-up cup of coffee when you’re virtually light years away from the closest gas station of Starbucks joint. Here to save you from this awful scenario, is the Handpresso Auto. This slick, portable espresso machine is powered up via a cigarette lighter. Is this a bit ridiculous? Not if you’re in desperate need of caffeine. Plug it in, pack it with coffee, and let it do its thing. Voila. Here’s some fresh espresso for you and your friends as you’re cruising to catch the sunrise.

Heavy Duty Bags

You never know when you’re gonna need them. If you make a pit stop at a scenic beach and need to load sunscreen, towels, blankets, snacks, and drinks all into one bag, you’ll be glad you bought a heavy duty one. They also double as perfect totes for farmer’s market shopping, carrying fishing accessories, you name it.

Conde Nast’s travel editor, Sarah Meikle said “I load the car up with a few different size boat totes zip top from L.L.Bean. Each of my three kids has a different color for packing up their crap. They're easy to pack and easy to access! It's no big secret but I can't go anywhere without.”

The Towel Blanket

Is it a blanket? Is it a towel? We really can’t tell you. All we really know is it’s comfy, large, fairly water resistant and perfect to toss on the ground for those roadside picnics. It’s also a great thing to have when the leather seats in your old VW are scorching hot from the heat and you’re not in the mood to burn your butt.

Last but not least it can keep the air conditioning at bay when Karen refuses to turn it down from full blast. Try one of Pendleton’s oversized styles for something chic. If you’re opting for something cheaper, any Mexican style blanket from Amazon will do the trick.

Backseat Light

There’s nothing more annoying than driving down the road at night and having one of your passengers blind you from the backseat as you try to read. Coming from the passenger’s perspective, waiting to pass another streetlight so you can squint and read another sentence of your book isn’t very efficient.

Here’s what you can do. Pack a plastic book light to get you through. Better yet, you could pick up the LuminAID Inflatable Lantern for $20. It runs on solar energy, is waterproof, shatterproof, and can last up to twenty-four hours (let’s just hope your road trip isn’t that long). In addition, it has five different brightness settings, so no one (reader included) will be blinded by the bright light.

Travel Pillow

Make the driver jealous as you snore from the passenger side and catch up on all those zzzs you lost out at when you woke up at 5 in the morning. Travel pillows are also awesome to use cozying up for a daytime nap. Warm cozy people = happy people.

UV Window Shades

This goes hand in hand with the sunglasses. It can get blazing hot in your car during a road trip and a little shade never hurt anybody. Consider picking up some cheap UV window shades for the people in the backseat.

What You Need for Your Personal Care Kit

We’ve already mentioned the stuff for your pearly whites. But don’t forget these other road trip essentials for your personal care kit: sunscreen, lip balm, body wipes, makeup remover, mist spray, dry shampoo, a mini hairbrush, hair ties and hair grips, tissues, allergy medicine, and a baseball cap or floppy hat for extra shade.

That’s All Folks. Now, Let’s Pack Up Those Road Trip Essentials

We hope that we could help make your road trip packing experience a little easier. Not all of us enjoy tearing the garage apart for those little things we might need. Did we forget anything on our essentials master list? Do you have any tips for extra comfort on the road? Let us know in the comment section below.

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