What and how to pack for a road trip? Make a great checklist to survive
What and how to pack for a road trip? Make a great checklist to survive

When most people think of travel, they immediately have visions of large planes and immediate trips. People do not go on a road trip as much as they once did. This is unfortunate because going on a road trip is a much more memorable experience than flying. Getting the car and hitting the road is much less expensive than paying for your entire family to fly.

If you are going to have a road trip, one of the most essential preparations is to make a road trip packing checklist. Making proper packing your road trip will help you to easily take certain stuff that you need during the trip.


Road trip packing tips & hacks: Get ready

Most people think about what they need to pack, but there’s so much more you need to know and do when preparing for a road trip.

  • Select your road trip companions first – if you’re going with your family or significant other, you can jump ahead to step 2. If you’re selecting friends to take on your road trip, make sure you’re truly compatible. That person that’s fun to hang out within a bar or go out with for the occasional coffee may not be someone you can handle on a 24-hour basis. Add all that time together to the proximity you’ll share during the ride, and tensions may mount. How do you know that they’re the right person to bring? You want someone who generally shares your interests and attitudes, who is as much like you as possible or is complimentary, and someone who rarely (if ever) ticks you off. Watch out for any annoying habits or personal grooming issues – they will get to you on a road trip.
  • The next item on this checklist for a road trip is to select a destination that the entire group is excited about. It’s not good enough for just one person or half of your group to be enthusiastic about where you’re going. A road trip is often a week or more, and part of what keeps you going every day is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: your destination. You don’t want some people in your group thinking that pot of gold is just a pot of cheap gold-painted plastic coins.

  • Map your road trip so that your route to your destination and your return route is different. This will make both journeys more interesting and give you more opportunities to see interesting sights, stay at different hotels, and eat at different restaurants – jazzing up your road trip considerably. Plan your route to hit sights, towns, cities, and various attractions along the way. If you don’t care about the journey, take a plane!

Road Trip Map

  • Make your hotel/motel or campground reservations and print out all reservation information to have on hand in case there is a mix-up. Doing this has saved me many times when mistakes were made on the hotel’s end – sometimes I even got an upgrade and some complimentary wine or a fruit basket for my troubles! If I hadn’t had the printed reservation, I would have had to find other accommodations (and when you’re in a popular area – that can often mean no accommodations).
  • Pack your maps, any printed directions, and any reservation confirmations in a waterproof zippered bag that you’ll keep in the car for reference. The waterproof and zipper part will come in very handy when you accidentally spill that soda or there’s a downpour of rain when you’re carrying it to and from the car.
  • Get your car checked out and have any necessary maintenance work done. I recommend getting an oil change unless you just got one – better safe than sorry. Check the condition of your tires and replace them if they’re worn. If you don’t have AAA, consider getting it for not only the benefit of roadside assistance but also the discounts most hotels offer to AAA members.
  • Get both a roadside emergency kit and a first aid kit and put them in your trunk. Be sure that the spare tire is in good shape.
  • Arrange for your pets and plants – either boarding the pets or having someone stop in at your home to take care of everything. Have all mail and newspapers held or have a friend or neighbor take them in daily.
  • Even if you don’t have plants or pets, ask a friendly neighbor to keep an eye on your home. Let them know the exact length of your trip and also let them know that if they see a moving van in front of your house, call the police! I’ve heard too many stories of neighbors seeing a moving truck or van and thinking that it had something to do with the trip their neighbors were taking.
  • Get an extra refill of any prescriptions if possible – it’s good to have more than you need in case your trip runs longer for some unforeseen reason.
  • Check with your cell-phone provider to make sure you’ll have coverage where you’re going and what the roaming fees are. You might want to check if your traveling companions have different calling plans and see if they are complementary (they have coverage where you don’t and vice-versa).
  • Get or rent a roof-top cargo carrier if your car is too small for all of your stuff.

Road Trip essentials

road trips can sometimes be full of awful surprises ranging from a flat tire to breaking down on the side of the road at a time your phone’s battery is about to “die”.

I compiled a road trip checklist of the top 10 necessities which you have to usually keep in your car, which must help you to get out of your predicament quickly.

  1. Jumper Cables – Few things come close to that awful feeling where you jump into your car, prepared to leave – and it will not start. You try and try however can’t bring your engine to life. keep a couple of jumper cables in your car always. count yourself lucky if you never should use them. You never know, you might be someone else’s saving grace.
  1. Spare Tyre kit – you’ve got found that your tire has a puncture, it is pouring with rain and you need to fix it. You pull over and slosh via the mud to your trunk – only to discover that you forgot to inflate your spare tire. it is important to make sure that your spare wheel kit is in good condition and which you have all the important gear with which to change your tire. This consists of a jack, wrench, and of course, a spare tire. when you checking the pressure of your tires, don’t forget to look out for any bulges, rips, or bald spots. And make sure to check your spare wheel too.

  1. Self-Charging Torch – For people who worry about getting stranded in the dark, a self-charging torch is important. besides helping you to not crush your fingers whilst trying to change your tire in the dark, it could also be reachable to warn traffic when you have broken down in a spot where it’s difficult to see a stationary vehicle.
  1. First aid kit – assume the best, prepare for the worst’ is why it is important to make sure that you have a completely stocked first aid kit on your car always. not only can it come in handy when you’re trying to keep off motion sickness but it is a vital device for handling any minor accidents. Double-check that it is fully stocked and contains a manual.
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  1. Reflective Emergency Triangle – not only is it handy but by law, all South African car proprietors and users need to have a reflective emergency triangle. A breakdown in busy traffic may be disastrous in case you do not place the triangle at least 45 meters from your car. There are no excuses when it comes to packing an emergency triangle – it is thin, compact, and trouble-free to pack into the corner of your trunk.
  1. phone Charger – On an excellent day, a flat cell-phone battery can cause huge levels of frustration. On an awful day, breaking down with no way to contact or call anybody can push one over the edge. before you get into the car, make sure that you have a car charger in your cubby hole. this can keep away from any nervous breakdowns that may be triggered by a flat battery.
  1. Roadside Emergency contact details – whether you have got it shoved into your cubby hole or stuck to one of your windows, roadside emergency contact details are vital. not only will this save you you from spending the night along the side of the road, but it’ll additionally provide you peace of mind in the case of an extreme emergency.
  1. Map book or GPS – in lots of cases, our phones act as reliable GPS devices. this is till we lose the connection and are left driving around in circles. A satellite GPS and map book are perfect for everyone who often goes on road trips.

  1. Emergency kit – different from a first aid kit, an emergency kit will make sure that you are prepared for the most intense and weird events. ensure that you have a small gym bag that may be kept in your trunk with the following objects:
  • Extra set of clothes.
  • Towels and blanket.
  • Fire extinguisher.
  • Umbrella
  • Extra pair of comfy shoes.
  1. owner’s manual – there is nothing more difficult than pushing a multitude of buttons and knobs when looking to de-mist your windscreen in the pouring rain, or whilst a little light pops up on your dashboard and you don’t have any idea how to decipher it. the solution? make sure that your owner’s manual is usually in your car. keep it in a place this is most accessible to you, be it your cubby hole or on the side of your door.

in case you run through this road trip checklist and realize that you are missing something, make certain which you place it in your car as soon as you can.

How and What to Pack for a Road Trip?

Packing for a road trip: how to pack?

Step 1 – The first thing you need to do is plan out where you want to go. You don’t have to make your list of places incredibly detailed, but a least write down a list of states that you want to visit so that you will be able to easily map out your trip.

Step 2 – Once you’ve decided on where you want to go, you should start thinking about how you will get there. If you’re planning a month-long road trip, you’re going to want a comfortable ride to get from point A to point B. This might mean a spacious SUV or 4-door sedan. Just make sure you’ll have plenty of space to stretch because hours on the road can take a toll on your body. If you are set on taking a motorcycle trip, make sure you have an extremely comfortable motorcycle helmet and plenty of extra storage space.

Step 3 – Now that you figured out where and how you will take your road trip, you should think about when. If you’re planning on taking a cross-country, you’ll probably want to plan it for summer. If you’re planning on cruising up the east coast, then you might want to plan it for fall so that you can see the color change of the leaves. Just make sure that you are being smart and realistic. You don’t want to be riding through Minnesota in the dead of winter.


Step 4 – Stock up essential supplies (as we mentioned above). You’ll want to have a first aid kit, a reliable cell phone, plenty of food and water, and weather-appropriate clothing. Sometimes the road presents unpredictable conditions and you’ll want to be prepared for anything that comes up. You may even want extra backup like an auto repair membership, so you’ll always be covered.

As long as you plan carefully, your road trip is sure to be a blast. Mix it up by combing the hotel stays with camping. You’re sure to come home with some fantastic stories and memories that will last a lifetime.

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Packing for a road trip: what to pack?

  • Cross country road trip packing list

This is our list of the 8 most essential things you need to take with you on your next cross-country road trip:

1 – Maps (Electronic or Old School)

Like most people, you’ll probably start your journey with a plan. Hopefully, you’re aware of at least the main highways and interstates you’ll be cruising but make sure to always have maps of the area close at hand

2 – Travel Apps

Your smartphone isn’t just vital for routing your trip. There is pretty much an app for everything these days, many of which can help make your road trip easier. We suggest downloading apps (before you start driving!) that help you find everything from great places to eat and clean hotels to parks and other points of interest. Also, use the Weather Channel app to get around storms, rather than drive through them.

3 – Music

Make numerous playlists that each cover a different mood.

4 – Snacks

Pack plenty of snacks for the road ahead, like fruit, pretzels, granola bars, crackers, and nuts, along with a few “less healthy” snacks to keep your sanity. Make sandwiches if you know you’ll be driving for a long stretch with nothing but fast-food chains. Always pack a cooler with drink options and refill the ice at your hotel for the trip home.

5 – Toiletries

Stock your car with daily essentials like tissues, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and some toilet paper, for those who cannot hold it as well as others. Always pack some OTC meds, sunscreen, and a first-aid kit.

6 – Comfortable Clothes, Pillows, Blankets

Whether you driving for the day or cross-country, experienced travelers know that sweatpants are your best friend. Also, in terms of practicality, wearing shoes that can easily slip on and off are ideal for quick pitstops.

7 – Camera

You’ll see some things that you most likely have never seen before. Make sure to charge your digital camera and take along a spare battery if you have one.

8 – Spare Set of Keys and Auto Preparedness

Here’s where the horror stories happen. Now, we are not going to go into our painful memories, so we are just going to say have your car inspected before you go on a long trip!! Oil change, tires inspected, A/C fluids, windshield wipers, check them all. Make your driver’s license, your insurance card, and contact numbers for roadside assistance accessible.


  • Family road trip packing list

before you ever even start to think about how to keep everybody happy and well-entertained, you need to think about keeping them safe, healthy, dressed, and clean. here are the must-have supplies:

  • Basic first-aid kit.
  • The essentials from the medicine cabinet. Take with you some medicine for a headache, a tummy ache, and sunburn are non-negotiable. You might also need to include allergy medicine, cough syrup, and other medicines.
  • Plastic baggies: they’re just so useful.
  • Trash bag: They can be used for sandy shoes, wet towels, and bathing suits, and as a makeshift dirty laundry hamper.
  • A small notebook and a pen.
  • A pocketknife and some scissors.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Baby wipes and tissues.

Of course, you can add anything else you think you might need on the road.

People Fuel

  • Fruit, Soda, trail mix, and beef jerky are all great for road trips and aren’t as fattening as candy. Juice and water are also great to have on hand.
  • There can be snack-splurges along the way, but you won’t have to worry about your kids surviving on sugar and caffeine alone for the whole trip.

Beating Boredom on the Road

  • Pack a bag with books, travel games, Mad-Libs, audiobooks (either one the whole family will like, or paired with headphones), coloring books, and drawing pads for kids.
  • Another fun thing for your kids is to invest in a bunch of those little disposable cameras.

The Tools in the Trunk

  • A stroller is something that will save your back, your arms, and your sanity. Vacations always mean walking to places or through places, and tired little ones can even nap in them.
  • Blankets and pillows for the road might be useful for really far off destinations you also might take into account a cushion that allows you to lean against the side of a car seat if you are nursing.
  • Water toys and beach towels are something you might need to take along if you expect to be near a pool or beach.

7 Top Road Trip Money-Saving Secrets

Road Trips are all about having fun with the family. These savings tips are designed to offer safe, fun-filled, less expensive road trips.

Secret #1. Prepare snacks before you start.

You could purchase fruit bars, chips, healthy drinks, and other snacks from your local supermarket, rather than buying them from a roadside service station at inflated prices. Tip – you can also use these as treats or prizes when playing road trip games with the kids (see Secret #5 below – printable road trip games).

Secret #2. Car checks

It is important to check the fluid levels and other items on all the car’s systems before leaving home. These checks can save you breaking down on a lonely stretch of road, late at night… The major checks are listed below:

  1. Radiator – check the fluid level in the radiator (not when the radiator is hot!) and also the level in the radiator overflow bottle.
  2. Brake Master Cylinder – check that the brake fluid level is at the “Max” mark. important – only use the manufacturer’s distinctive grade if adding brake fluid.
  3. Automatic transmission – check the level of automatic transmission fluid is at the correct mark on the dipstick. Important – Only use the manufacturer’s specified grade if adding automatic transmission fluid.
  4. Power Steering – check the level of power steering fluid in the power steering fluid container. Important – Only use the manufacturer’s specified grade if adding power steering fluid.
  5. (for a manual transmission) Check the clutch master cylinder reservoir to ensure the clutch fluid is at the top mark. Important – Only use the manufacturer’s specified grade of clutch fluid.
  6. Check that the battery terminals are clean and the connecting cables are tightly fastened to the terminals.
  7. Windscreen washer fluid – make sure this is full.
  8. Radiator Hoses – when the car motor is cool squeeze the top and the bottom radiator hoses. If the hoses feel a little tough to squeeze and they spring back to their original shape quickly then there are most probably no problems. If however, you hear crackling noises from inside the hose or it feels spongy, it is most probably time to change the hoses.

If you need a second opinion do not hesitate to get your local mechanic or radiator specialist to check things over for you. It’s better to have this important system working well before you start than have it fail, stranding you and the family and possibly damaging your motor.

If you do not feel confident checking all these items you could get the car serviced, checking with the mechanic that all these systems are OK.

Secret #3. Car Driving Techniques

The whole idea of this article is to offer you money-saving tips and hints. One of the major costs of road trips if fuel. The way you drive, the way you pack the car, tire pressures and the amount of luggage you pack can all have a marked effect on your fuel consumption.

Let’s check out a few of these below:

Packing – try not to pack anything on the roof (in a roof rack) if at all possible. This can increase your fuel usage by up to 5 mpg.

Speed – try to stay at a steady speed, preferably at or less than 55 mph. If you travel at 65 mph your fuel usage can increase by up to 8% and more as you travel faster.

Easy on controls – drive to anticipate road and traffic conditions. If you can reduce the sudden acceleration and braking by being more observant you will save fuel and give the passenger a more comfortable ride.

Tire pressures – inflate to manufacturer’s specification before traveling too far. Under-inflated tires can have a marked impact on fuel usage – increasing it by up to 6 mpg.

Secret #4. Coupons

If you plan a little and save coupons (or print them out from the internet) you may save on fuel costs, accommodation, fun park entry fees, and meals.

Secret #5. Printable kids games

Bored kids can sometimes ruin an otherwise great road trip. You may wish to download some games the whole family can enjoy. These will entertain the kids and the interaction of the whole family will make the time pass quickly. 

Secret #6. Use correct fuel

Only use the type and grade of fuel recommended by the car’s manufacturer. Running on premium grade when the car does not need it, is a waste of money.

Secret #7. Be seen and be able to see clearly

Before you leave ensure that all exterior lights lenses on the car are clean and all lights are working properly. Also, clean the inside and outside of all car windows so that your vision is not impaired by road grime or bugs.

I trust that these tips will save you money and help you have a safe, fun road trip.

Final thoughts

Many people enjoy taking to the open roads for family vacations as well as random trips. Even with rising gas prices, traveling in a car is still typically cheaper than flying. However, it is important to carefully pack your vehicle with extra gear to help you should you encounter any problems on the road. Additionally, you should adopt some safe driving strategies to protect you and your loved ones.

Road trip packing list FAQs

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