A Simple Road Trip Checklist: Packing Essentials

by Alex DiBacco
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Road trips really are the best. You get to hit the open road and go virtually anywhere you want without the constraints of a flight.

You also get to stay in your own car and pack as many items as you need.

Over the years, we’ve taken tons of road trips around New England, and I’ve forgotten to pack way too many items. Eventually, I had to come up with a system so that we weren’t stopping off at CVS every hour or so to pick up another item. 

Here’s my full system for packing so that you (hopefully) don’t forget a single thing!

Related Posts:

What to Pack For a Road Trip

I’ve copied all of my favorite links below, but I’m providing a simple, structured road trip packing list here that will help you pack.

Road Trip Packing List:

Essential Documents:

  • License
  • Credit cards/money
  • Car registration and any other car-related documents
  • Passport
  • Any other identification needed

Car Items:

  • Travel trash can
  • First aid kit
  • Snacks
  • Water/soft drinks
  • A pillow
  • A cozy blanket

Personal/Purse Items:

  • Advil/pain medicine
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wipes
  • Mini Tide-To-Go
  • Chapstick
  • Portable Phone Charger
  • Travel umbrella
  • Listerine tablets
  • Sunglasses

Personal Packed Items:

  • Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Cosmetics kit
  • Mini blow dryer/hair tools
  • Mini brush
  • Comfy travel shoes
  • Travel fleece
  • Beach towel

Making a road trip packing list is pretty easy as long as you think about each step of the trip and what you may need. Don’t forget to bring all chargers and electronics!

While you’ll need to pack clothes and other pieces depending on where you’re going, these are the most essential items that I’ve found I use the most while I’m actually on the road.

I recommend making a road trip checklist on physical paper (or printing out this post) and checking off each item so you don’t forget anything. Before I started making a road trip checklist, I almost always had to stop off the highway and buy something. Not only does that waste time, but it’s a total waste of money when I had all of the things I needed at home!

I like to pack my car’s console with all of the items I’ll leave in the car, then bring a large purse/backpack for all of my personal items. I’ve linked some of my favorite bags and backpacks below.

I also typically bring a duffel bag with my clothes/more permanently packed items. Those are linked below as well (my favorite is the Longchamp duffel). 

In my mind, a road trip food list is super essential: I always need my snacks while I’m in the car! I have my absolute favorites, but bring what you like.

Road Trip Food List:

  • Some type of salty/savory snack (popcorn, chips, etc.)
  • A sweet snack (dried fruit if you’re healthy, chocolate if you’re like me!)
  • Water
  • Gatorade (or something with electrolytes)

Road Trip Health:

It’s sadly easy to get sick when you’re away. Not only does one of us get carsick every single trip that we take, but we often find a virus setting in.

I recommend bringing Vitamin C in addition to pain pills like Advil or Tylenol. Whatever helps you kick a virus, make sure to bring it!

How to Organize a Bag For a Road Trip:

I’ve included some of my favorite bags below (both smaller duffels and actual purses/backpacks), but my biggest piece of advice is to get some type of divider and sort your bag.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve gone away with a beautifully organized bag only for it to turn into a complete mess after a few hours. A divider is super necessary!

These are some of the best purse dividers; these backpack organizers work super well. If you’re looking for a duffel bag organizer, try any of these on Amazon.

Road Trip Games and Books

A road trip can get super boring really quickly without some type of entertainment!

We love audio books (especially anything crime-related) and can pass a good 5 hours or so listening to a book that’s especially thrilling.

We also love playing games! Our favorites are:

  • 21 Questions (one person guesses, the other answers)
  • Guess The Song
  • Alphabet Categories

The Best Road Trip Apps

Good road trip apps are essential. I like to download any apps that I plan on using before we actually take off; service can be super spotty in the New England area, especially on the major highways.

Some of my favorite road trip apps are:

  • Google Maps (duh)
  • Waze (not as good for navigation but great for avoiding traffic and road blocks)
  • MyRadar (tracks the weather in real time; you can literally see storms approaching)
  • Apple Music or Kindle (make sure to download your favorite songs beforehand in case you don’t have service)
  • YouTube (great to listen to live music or instructional videos that you’re interested in)
  • Podcasts (again, try to download a few episodes beforehand)
  • Audible (you should be able to get a free trial before your trip)
  • Depalo (literally the best app for sourcing cool photo locations if you’re a photo junkie like me)
  • Kindle
  • Open Table for restaurant bookings
  • Netflix
  • HotelTonight
  • RoadTrippers (helps you plan out every detail of your road trip and approximate gas mileage)
  • The Outbound (a great app that gives you ideas for what to do in the area)
  • Fuel App (sources local gas stations based on your location)
  • Trip Advisor (reviews of local restaurants, hotels, and attractions)

My Favorite Road Trip Essentials:

Here are some of my favorite things that I bring on a road trip. Check them out if you don’t have everything you need yet!

Happy traveling!

xo, Alex



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