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Heading out on a road trip but need a packing list? Our family has done quite a few this summer, as it seems to be the vacation of choice for many families.
Whether you are heading out for a short weekend jaunt or a longer road trip vacation, here is our tried and true list of things to bring on a road trip!
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Why Road Trips For Vacation
Our family loves road trips because it is such a great way to see everything you miss when you fly from one point to another. Though they can be long, and tedious, they are often a lot of fun. With the right road trip activities, your kids can be kept engaged enough to pass the time.
Road Trips Are About The Journey
Many years ago, before kids, my husband and I did a road trip in Ireland. We flew into Shannon and spent a week driving across to Dublin, stopping in a new bed and breakfast each night. This was before the internet, so we would call places each night to check on availability.
But what made it so fun is that we often saw things we didn't expect to see, giving us opportunities for unexpected stops. In fact, sometimes, we would plan to see a town but didn't care for it much. Moving on to the next town that wasn't on the plan was sometimes more exciting than the one we planned.
And then there are the photo opportunities. Road trips can allow you to find the best photo stops in National Parks to capture the location's beauty in ways you simply can't do if you travel on planes and trains.
Road Trips Can Immerse You In A Location
Because you are spending hours driving through somewhere, road trips allow you to really see a lot of a location.
In fact, this past summer, we took a three-week road trip through Montana, Utah, and Colorado. It was definitely one of the best USA road trips we have ever taken.
In addition to really taking in the gorgeous landscapes and spotting things new to us, like buffalo grazing in the field, we also stopped and supported many local businesses selling delicious local foods and chatted with locals. Roadside stands selling huckleberry treats in Montana was a highlight of the trip!
During our Ireland road trip, we also listened to Irish radio. Listening to popular music in the country (or state or region) and local news can teach you a lot about what is going on in that location.
Road Trips Can Inspire Unexpected Adventures
Sometimes on road trips, we will find an unusual roadside store, attraction, or a view that we want to see. Unexpected adventures are often some of the things my kids remember most about a road trip.
One of the reasons I love the Road Trippers app is because this handy helper not only provides directions, places to stay, and places to eat. But it will alert you to unique attractions and things to see along the way.
Road Trip Packing List
Now that you are ready to plan your road trip, let's get you packed! While generally speaking, packing for a road trip will be dependent on where you go, there are some road trip essentials and necessities you will need. Here are our recommendations for things you need for a road trip.
Road Trip Essentials: The Car
- Driver's License
- Roadside Assistance or AAA card
- Car Registration
- Rental Agreement (if applicable)
- Car Manual
- Car Essentials (spare tire, jumping cables, scrapers, tire pressure guage)
- Spare Key
- Roadside Emergency Kit
- First Aid Kit
- Car Seats (If you are traveling with little ones, check out this review of the best portable car seats.)
- Sunshades for windows
- Travel pillow and blanket (lovey for kids)
- Freezer Bags (in the event of carsickness, they can be used)
- Cell Phone Holder
- Pen and Paper
- Paper towels and Disinfectant wipes (in case of spills/carsickness)
- Wet wipes for hands
- During Covid, PPE Kit:
- Extra Masks
- Hand Sanitizer
- Extra Disinfectant Wipes
Road Trip Essentials: Food and Meals
- Portable Snacks
- Granola Bars
- Single Serving Snacks like Pretzels/Chips
- Hummus (in cooler)
- Cheese and Crackers (in cooler)
- Energy Bars
- Single Serving Cereal
- Single Serving Nuts/Seeds
- Mini Almond Butter Packs
- Boiled Eggs (in cooler)
- String Cheese (in cooler)
- Trail Mix
- Refillable Coffee Mugs
- Refillable Water Bottles
- Portable Fridge
- Portable Meals
- Pasta Salad
- Egg Sandwiches
- Disposable Cutlery
- Sandwich Bags For Storing Leftovers
Check out my post on The Best Road Trip Food: 101+ Easy and Simple Road Trip Meals and Snacks You'll Love!
Road Trip Essentials: Your Suitcase/Your Trip
- Suitcase with Compression Bags to Maximize Space
- Body Wash/Lotion
- Hair Brush/Hair Products
- Clothes (shirts, shorts, pants)
- Rain Jacket/Light Jacket/Windbreakers
- Trip Specific Needs
- For Hiking
- Backpacks for Hiking
- For Camping
- Sleeping Bag
- Portable Grill
- Smore's Kit
- Camping Equipment
- For Dude Ranch
- Cowboy Boots
- Riding Gloves
- Beach Trip
- Beach Clothes/Coverups
- Goggles/Snorkel Gear
- Water shoes/Flip Flops
- Beach Gear (buckets, noodles, floaties, wagon, canopy/umbrella, etc.)
- For Ski Trips
- Ski Gear (skis, helmet, poles, jackets, pants, boots, gloves, hot pockets)
Road Trip Essentials: Electronics
- Cell Phone
- Portable Charger for Car
- Chargers for Your Electronics
- Download the Road Trippers app (get 30 days free of Road Trippers Plus with my link ⬅)
Road Trip Essentials (for kids, especially!): Entertainment
- Audible audio books app
- Kid Road Trip Activity packs
- Portable DVD Player
- Travel Games
- Sketchbooks and Colored Pencils or Clipboard with Paper
- Road Trip Kit
Road Trip Essentials: Money and Travel Documents
- Credit Cards
- Traveler's Checks (if applicable)
- Coins for the car for tolls/laundry
- Travel Wallet
- Travel Purse
- Portable Safe
- Travel Documents/ID
- Contact Information For House/Petsitters
- Travel Itinerary (Flight Details, Hotel/Accommodation Details, Tour Information and Contacts)
Road Trip Essentials: Health and Safety
- Health Insurance Cards
- Traveler's Insurance Information
- First Aid Kit For the Car
- Bug Spray
- Medicine Pack
- Essential Medicines and Prescriptions
- Allergy Medicines
- Motion Sickness Medicines
- Pain Relievers for Adults and Kids and Dispenser
- Upset Stomach Medication
- PPE Cleaning Pack
- Sanitizer Portable
- Sanitizer For Car
- Disinfectant Wipes
Final Thought About Road Trip Packing List
Packing for a road trip can feel overwhelming, but this handy road trip packing list will help you plan. While each road trip is different, planning ahead for the things you need for a road trip and packing efficiently will make your family vacation go much smoother. Use this family road trip packing printable list to make your packing easier, so you can keep your eyes on the road making lasting memories with your family.
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