The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List for a Smooth Ride

Hit the open road confident that you're fully prepared with this list of road trip must-haves.

Published May 19, 2023
Family packing luggage

If you're hitting the open road for a long trip, you don't want to forget something important. This is your ultimate road trip packing list for everything you need - and some things you might have never thought of before. With these road trip necessities, you'll be prepared for every situation.

Make Road Trip Packing Easy

Know all the items you'll need for a great road trip, plus get our picks on extra items to make everything more comfortable and convenient, with this handy list. You can also use the printable version to check off what you've packed and add other items specific for your travel needs.

Basic, Vehicle, & Emergency Items

Before you pack the car with all the bags and items you'll want for the ride, make sure you've covered all the items you might need for traveling in a car and to be prepared for an emergency, whether it be a flat tire or a weather-related issue. (These are items that can also come in handy anytime, not just on long road trips.)


  • Spare tire & changing kit
  • Jumper cables
  • IDs & car registration
  • First aid kit
  • Cash & spare change
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Paper towels, wipes, & spare toilet paper
  • Water
  • Bag for trash


  • Ice scraper
  • Extra keys
  • Gas can
  • Umbrella
  • Snacks

Spare Tire & Changing Kit

You'll be spending a lot of time in your car for a lengthy road trip, so it's important to make sure you have everything you might need for an emergency. Equip your vehicle with a spare tire and a changing kit so you can replace a flat if you need to. Also, make sure you or someone else in the vehicle knows how to change a spare tire.

Jumper Cables

Speaking of emergencies, hopefully you won't need a jump on your exciting trip. But if you do, it's best to keep jumper cables in your trunk. It's much easier to find someone who can help jumpstart your car if you already have the cables on hand.

IDs & Car Registration

This might be an easy road trip item to remember, but it's worth a double check before you leave home. Make sure all of your IDs are on hand and your car's registration is within reach should you need it.

First Aid Kit

You have your car prepared for every unplanned situation. Make sure you also prepare your family for unexpected situations like minor injuries. A basic first aid kit helps you treat minor scrapes, burns, and other injuries that could happen in nearly every circumstance.

Cash & Spare Change

Debit cards are accepted virtually everywhere, but it's a good idea to have some spare change and cash on hand just in case. Tolls, rest stop vending machines, or gas stations might require cash in some areas and you'll be glad you came prepared.

Flashlights & Batteries

File this one under the emergency car item list. At least one flashlight, but preferably a few, comes in handy for late night stops, low-lit rest areas, or a tire change after sundown. Make sure you have a pack of batteries on hand as well.

Paper Towels, Wipes, & Toilet Paper

One thing you can count on for a long road trip is at least one mess in the car. Whether it's sticky fingers after a snack or a small spill, make sure you're prepared for small clean up jobs. Keep a roll of paper towels and a pack of baby wipes near the driver or passenger seat for those inevitable messes. Also keep a roll or two of toilet paper on hand for rest stop bathrooms that aren't fully stocked. A small bottle of all-purpose cleaner might also come in handy.


Food is important in case of an emergency, but water is essential. Keep a pack of water bottles in your trunk so you can stay hydrated in an unexpected situation. A stainless steel water bottle that's reusable is perfect for quenching your thirst during a long drive.


You know you won't forget your phone on a long road trip, especially if it's your source of tunes and directions. But you could easily forget your car charger. Make sure you have all of your device chargers accounted for before you hit the road.

Trash Can and/or Bags

Even a short drive might produce a bit of waste or trash. Keep a mini trash bin lined with a plastic bag in your car for keeping the space clutter-free. Have extra bags on hand so you can ditch the used bag at gas stations or rest stops and add a new bag to the bin.

Ice scraper

Even if you never find a need for an ice scraper at home, you never know what sort of weather you could encounter during your travels. Pack a scraper for clearing your windshield on a frigid morning and look for one that also includes a brush for freeing your car of debris.

Extra Car Keys

Locking yourself out of the car is also an unplanned road trip obstacle that occurs more than you might think. If you have at least one other passenger with you, give them an extra car key to keep in their pocket. If you find yourself locked out at a pit stop, you'll have a spare key to get you back on track.

Gas Can

No one actually plans to run out of gas on the highway, but it happens. Keep a gas can in your car for an emergency trip to the gas station. For your road trip, you might have a bit of gas stored in the can, so you aren't going on a long hike if you run out of fuel. With a little gas on hand, you can top off your tank until you get to the next gas station.


No one wants it to rain on their road trip parade, but the weather is unpredictable. Keep an umbrella or two in your car for quick dashes inside a restaurant or other establishment should a downpour come your way.


You don't want to stop for every single meal, especially snack time, so keep some on hand. Having road trip snacks in the car is important for emergencies as well. If you find yourself stranded for any reason, you'll want something nutritious to keep your energy up.

Pack your favorite snacks for the drive but also keep a bag of emergency non-perishable food on hand for emergencies. Protein bars, granola, trail mix, and beef jerky will stay fresh for a while and give you a mini meal option if you need to improvise.

Items for Comfort & Convenience

woman stacking clothes and shoes into bag case

Long road trips are loads of fun, but they can get uncomfortable after a few hours. Add some essential comfort items to your list and a few extras that make the trip feel more luxurious.


  • Sunglasses
  • Small Cooler
  • Blankets and hoodies
  • Headphones
  • Phone mount


  • Small fans
  • Pillows
  • Eye masks and ear plugs
  • Playlist


Sunglasses are famous for getting lost or breaking at the most inconvenient times. Pack an extra pair or two for yourself or any passengers who need to borrow some shades during the drive.

Small Cooler

You may stop for most of your meals or just keep a reusable water bottle on hand for hydration, but a small cooler will still come in handy. Keep restaurant leftovers fresh and store a few chilled snacks and beverages for your trip in a small cooler that fits neatly into your back seat.

Blankets & Hoodies

Even if you're on your way to a warmer climate, some passengers might get chilly during the trip. Pack blankets and a hoodie for each person on the trip so everyone can stay warm with the air conditioning on blast or just feel comfortable during a car nap.


Passengers might want to tune out of your favorite podcast or just have some time alone with their thoughts on a long trip. A few pairs of headphones will keep passengers of all ages happy.

Phone Mount

If you're using your phone for a GPS or to play those road trip jams, do so safely. Use a hands-free mount to keep your phone on the dash so you can see your map, incoming calls, and other details without compromising the safety of your passengers.

Handheld Fans

Passengers might find your preferred temperature too warm or you could encounter an air conditioning issue along the way. With a few handheld fans, you'll keep everyone cool in any situation. A cooling fan is also helpful for calming motion sickness. This is another reason you'll want some extra batteries on hand.

Pillows & Car Pillows

Speaking of naps, you'll need a pillow if you want a good quality nap that doesn't strain your neck. Regular pillows are great, especially if you're packing them for your destination, anyway. Car or neck pillows are also helpful for keeping you cozy while you catch a snooze.

Eye Masks & Earplugs

Naps are inevitable for passengers on a long road trip and you make sure your fellow travelers are extra comfy when catching up on sleep. Eye masks to block out the light and earplugs to drown out the sounds of the road will help your passengers get some quality road trip rest.


It's not a road trip without some of your favorite travel tunes. Get everyone in on the playlist creating action and have a few options to choose from as you're making way down the road. You might also find podcasts or audiobooks to keep everyone entertained.

Health & Hygiene Items

For unexpected messes and freshening up between car naps, these items will help you feel clean and healthy throughout your trip.


  • Sanitizer
  • Medications
  • Hygienic wipes
  • Towels


  • Spare toiletry bag
  • Laundry bag
  • Plastic zip bags
  • Toilet seat liners
  • Mints and gum

Hand Sanitizer

Whether the rest stop bathroom is out of soap or you need to kill germs after a stop at the gas station, hand sanitizer is an actual life saver. Keep a bottle or two handy for stopping the spread of bacteria on your trip.

Bag With Medications

A zipper pouch - picture a small cosmetic bag - is perfect for packing all the medications you might need on your journey. Include all of your necessary prescriptions, of course, but don't forget to pack some of the over-the-counter medications you might find a use for. Pain killers, decongestants, antihistamines, and medications for nausea and indigestion are a few basics that could come handy.

Hygienic Wipes

A toiletry bag is helpful, but if you're trying to keep stops at a minimum, a pack of hygienic wipes will help you feel (and smell) like you were doing anything but sitting in a car for hours on end.


Some messes call for more than just a paper towel. Pack one towel for each passenger on your trip. This will come in handy for large messes, impromptu swims, torrential downpours, and catching crumbs during a road trip meal. Microfiber towels are useful for absorbing large amounts of liquids.

Fully Stocked Toiletry Bag

While you're thinking about ways to feel refreshed on your trip, pack a small toiletry bag. This would be a smaller, more compact version of the one in your suitcase. Keep it stocked with travel size essentials so you can freshen up at a rest stop or in a bathroom after a long drive.

Mesh Laundry Bag

Messes are bound to happen during your travels, and that includes spills and other messes on your clothes. A mesh laundry bag will help you keep soiled towels and clothing in one place until you can give them a wash at your destination.

Plastic Zipper Bags

Plastic zipper bags also help stash soiled clothing. The main reason you'll want to keep plastic bags on hand, though, is to keep leftover food items fresh or to seal away any garbage items that might produce an odor. Bags are also helpful for sharing snacks among passengers, so you don't have to pass around the same large bag of pretzels for everyone.

Mints & Gum

If your drive is long, especially overnight, you're going to want a quick and easy way to refresh your breath during stops. Gum and mints are a great way to feel fresh after a long drive or car ride snooze. Gum and mints also help you stay alert during a drive after sundown.

Toilet Seat Liners

If you really want to be prepared for any situation that might arise during your road trip, a few toilet seat liners will make you the travel prepping champion. You never know when you might end up at a rest stop or gas station that has a less-than-sanitary bathroom, but you just can't wait until the next stop. A few liners will help you feel secure wherever you take a restroom break.

Extra Road Trip Packing Items for Families

Young family getting the camping supplies out of the car

If you have kids in the back seat, your road trip might require more careful planning. This list will help you prepare for any sort of situation, including boredom. With the right items in tow, your kids will just be happy to be along for the ride.

  • Back seat organizer
  • Toddler potty/liners
  • Food trays
  • Window screens
  • Backpack for each kid
  • Games/word games
  • Extra clothes
  • White noise soundtrack
  • Handheld vacuum
  • Tablets and chargers
  • Motion sickness bag

Back Seat Organizer

Kids are famous for untidying your perfectly tidy backseat during a long drive, but a backseat organizer will keep the clutter to a minimum. Plus, it's helpful for storing tons of your packing list items for easy reach. Snacks, wipes, games, and sunglasses all tuck away neatly in your organizer so kids can grab exactly what they need without disturbing the driver.

Toddler Potty & Liners

Kids are also famous for doubling the amount of stops you'll make on a road trip and asking for a bathroom break right in the middle of nowhere. Pack a portable potty - like the ones toddlers use for potty training - to make bathroom breaks quick and possible practically anywhere. Don't sweat over emptying the potty because you can bring disposable liners that actually absorb liquids and keep odors out until you can make a pit stop to toss them in the garbage.

Fast Food Trays

If you're making a list of must-have road trip items for kids, this one comes in second only to the portable potty (because that is truly a life save). A food tray that neatly sets in your child's lap or attaches to their booster seat helps them enjoy a meal on the go without getting most of it on your car's floor. You can also find middle console versions of food trays that will help you enjoy a meal while you drive.

Window Screens

Nap schedules are important no matter where you are and sticking to them is much easier when you can control the amount of light coming into the car. Window screens that block the sun will help dim the interior so your little one can grab a snooze.

A Backpack for Each Child

If you have kids of various ages or just need to stop potential arguments before they start, a backpack designated for each child comes in handy. Include a change of clothes, personalized snacks, favorite games, a blanket, and toiletries in the pack. This way, kids have access to their basic needs and an easy grab-and-go bag for pit stops.

Word Games

Games without pieces or boards are the best games for long car rides. Plan for a few rounds of classic word and word association games. Choose a few games to fit each age group in the car so everyone enjoys the friendly competition.

Simple Games

Word games are great, but your kids might look for something more interactive to keep them entertained on the drive. A few car-friendly card games will help your kids play together and stay occupied as the hours roll by.

Extra Clothes

Accidents happen and with kids in the mix, those statistics double. Bring an extra change of clothes - one that isn't stuffed into the depths of a suitcase - for any little mishaps that might occur. For toddlers and babies, more than one extra outfit might be in order.

White Noise Soundtrack

You have the light covered for naps, but you might need to consider the sound as well. If your little one is accustomed to dozing to the sound of white noise or a sound machine, bring along a white noise soundtrack to make car naps as cozy as possible. You can use a CD or a playlist on your phone to drown out the sounds of big trucks and honking horns.

Handheld Vacuum

Snacks and meals in the car mean crumbs everywhere. A small handheld vacuum will save you from a cleaning overhaul after your trip. Keep one on hand for catching small messes as they happen or just freshening things up at pit stops.

Tablets & Chargers

When you run out of word games or you just want to listen to your own music for a change, you're going to want to break out the tablets. Screen time can be a lifesaver on long road trips. Make sure you have a tablet for each passenger and portable chargers to keep the entertainment going.

Motion Sickness Bags

Car sickness can strike at any time and you may not be in the perfect position to pull over when it does. Motion sickness bags will help contain the mess until you can safely pull over and address the issue.

Download Helpful Apps for Your Road Trip

You've packed everything and you're ready to go. Your family is practically bouncing off their seats in excitement. The final thing you need to do is download a couple of apps that make the trip easier and more fun.

  • Plan your entire trip for an organized journey with Roadtripper.

  • Use an app like Sleep Sounds to help little ones nap with noise or just help yourself stay calm and at ease in the middle of intense traffic jams.

  • Large coffee companies like Starbucks and Caribou Coffee have apps that help you track down a location for your caffeine emergencies while on the road.

  • Find the cheapest gas station along your route with GasBuddy.

  • Never miss an interesting attraction along the way with the Roadside America app.

Plan & Pack for a Stress-Free Road Trip

Whether you're traveling to a dream destination or just seeing where the road takes you, you can be be prepared for anything. The adventure of a road trip is much more exciting when you have a plan in place for any need you and your road trip pals might have.

The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List for a Smooth Ride