Road Trip Essentials: Must-Have Items for Your Journey (2024)

Are you planning on taking a road trip soon? If so, check out this list of road trip essentials.

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What to bring on your Road Trip Journey

This list of road trip essentials will help you pack on your next driving road trip.

Several times a year I go on road trips with my youngest daughter to see her grandparents. This involves traveling over three tall mountains passes and LOTS of hours in the car.

So I’ve learned with experience what I like to have in the car. I’ll share these things with you below.

Please get inspired by this list but don’t consider it an all-inclusive list since your needs will vary.

You will have to amend this list to meet your individual needs and circ*mstances.

1. Roadside Emergency Kit

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An emergency kit is essential for any road trip.

Include items like a first aid kit, flashlight, batteries, multi-tool, jumper cables, and a basic toolkit. Be prepared for unexpected roadside emergencies.

A high-visibility vest is a great thing to include as well.

If we’re traveling in our SUV, we keep our kit under the trunk floor near the spare tire.

2. Map or GPS Device

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Ensure you have a reliable map or GPS device to navigate your route.

While GPS is convenient, it’s wise to have a backup map in case of signal loss or device failure.

I almost always drive the same route – so I know it by heart – but having a map in the glove box is a good idea.

3. Water, Snacks & Napkins or Wet Wipes

Don’t leave home without water and food.

Stay hydrated and energized with plenty of water and a combination of fresh and non-perishable snacks. Granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit are convenient options for on-the-go munching.

I also love the crunch of fresh vegetables on a road trip. (It helps offset the inevitable junk food I buy on the trip.)

And you never know when the road will be closed for construction, accidents or landslides, so it is best to be prepared.

To wipe off wet or messy hands and mouths, it is good idea to keep some extra napkins or wet wipes within easy reach.

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I usually just have a stash of napkins from fast-food places close at hand, but wet wipes are handy too.

Small Cooler for Snacks and Drinks

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You’ll want something to keep your drinks and snacks cold. I personally like soft-sided coolers for road trips. (I can stick them on the floor in front of a seat.)

I don’t have this exact cooler, but I have a similar, old one that has a the Velcro access panel on the top. I like being able to easily get at the stuff inside without having to undo the entire zipper.

4. Comfortable Clothing and Blankets

Pack comfortable clothing and blankets for long drives and roadside picnics.

Layers are key to staying comfortable in varying weather conditions.

If you’re traveling in the winter make sure you have appropriate winter clothing in case of a vehicle break-down or road closure.

And I like to have my winter clothing within the same the compartment of the vehicle as me. So if I’m in my truck, I want to my winter clothes in the cab, and not in the box.

You can probably guess why. (Though I don’t like to think about it too much.)

5. Entertainment (engaging audio)

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Keep boredom at bay with entertainment options like audiobooks, podcasts, music playlists, or travel games.

A tablet with games or downloaded content can also be great entertainment for passengers.

On road trips, I’ve started listening to longer-form content like audiobooks more than music. The longer format keeps me in the flow and engaged longer compared to a music track that abruptly ends every 3 minutes or so.

I access audiobooks through the Hoopla app which is connected to my local public library.

Check it out or you can look into getting a free Audible trial from Amazon.

6. Cash and Cards

Have a mix of cash and cards for

  • tolls
  • parking fees
  • and unforeseen expenses

It’s also a good idea to have spare change for vending machines or parking meters.

7. Sun Protection

Shield yourself from the sun’s rays with sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen. UV protection is important.

I’ve seen plenty of drivers with a burnt left arm.

8. Car Charger and Power Bank

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Keep your devices charged and ready to use with a car charger and power bank.

This ensures you stay connected and can rely on your devices in case of emergencies.

And since we rely so much on smart phones for everything from maps, to paying for stuff, to showing reservations, we need our devices charged.

My older truck doesn’t have a USB power outlet so I ensure I have one that’ll plug into the 12V cigarette outlet.

9. Travel Pillow and Blanket & Lumbar Support if needed

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Make your journey more comfortable with a travel pillow and blanket.

Resting during pit stops or during long stretches of driving can help you stay refreshed and alert. And I just appreciate being able to get out and stretch my legs.

And get a nice supportive lumbar support cushion if you need more lower back support.

10. Toiletries and Personal Care Items

Pack essential toiletries like tissues, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and basic personal care items.

These come in handy for freshening up during rest breaks.

And have you ever got popcorn or other snacks stuck in your teeth while driving? So annoying. Having some floss in your car can come in handy for times like this.

11. Roadside Assistance Information

Carry contact information for roadside assistance services or your vehicle’s warranty coverage.

Knowing who to call in case of a breakdown provides peace of mind during your travels.

12. Trash Bags and Cleanup Supplies

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Keep your vehicle tidy and organized with trash bags and cleanup supplies.

Dispose of garbage responsibly at rest stops or gas stations to maintain a clean and pleasant environment.

I feel like the car trash can shown in the product photo above would be too small…but they sell like crazy so obviously some people disagree with me.

13. Extra Fluids for your Vehicle

I have a gas-powered vehicle so I always carry extra oil, antifreeze and water in my vehicle.

Plus, I’ve learned hard way to bring transmission fluid in my vehicle.

I have an automatic transmission, and I’ve had a minivan in the past with an automatic tranny that started spraying out fluid on a hot summer day after driving up some mountain passes.

Once it cooled down and I added more fluid, I was at least able to limp back home.

Other Road Trip Essentials for Families with Kids

In addition to the essentials listed above, here are 10 more road trip essentials specifically tailored for families traveling with kids.

1. Car Seat Organizer

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A car seat organizer keeps essential items like snacks, toys, books, and wipes within easy reach for little passengers. It helps keep the backseat tidy and organized during long drives.

I have similar organizers and they’ve made a big difference on road trips with my youngest daughter.

2. Travel Activity Kit

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Create a travel activity kit filled with coloring books, crayons, stickers, puzzles, and other age-appropriate activities to keep kids entertained and engaged during the journey.

I like Aqua Art books where the kids “paint” the books with a water-filled brush. Once wet, colors appear on the pages. Then when the pages dry, the kids can do it all over again.

And if they spill, well it’s just a bit of water.

3. Portable DVD Player or Tablet

Some parents disagree with this, but…

A portable DVD player or tablet loaded with kids’ movies, shows, and educational apps can give your kids something to do while they’re strapped into the car.

Don’t forget headphones to minimize noise in the car.

4. Travel Snack Box

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Pack a variety of kid-friendly snacks in a travel snack box, including fresh fruit and veggies, and whatever else your little one likes to eat. And that they can eat on their own.

Having a selection of snacks on hand helps prevent hunger-related meltdowns.

5. Travel Potty

For potty-training toddlers or young children, a portable travel potty is a convenient solution for emergency pit stops.

6. Comfort Items

Bring along comfort items like favorite stuffed animals, blankets, or special pillows to help children feel secure and comfortable during long car rides.

Familiar objects from home can provide a sense of reassurance.

And before you take off again after a rest stop, make sure you have those items with you.

7. Baby Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

Stock up on baby wipes and hand sanitizer for quick cleanup of spills, sticky fingers, and messy faces.

These essentials help maintain hygiene and cleanliness while traveling with kids.

Sometimes we’ll stop at a playgrounds near the highway, and the hand sanitizer comes in handy to clean my daughter’s hands when there is no sink around.

8. Travel Medicine Kit

Prepare a travel medicine kit with essential items like children’s pain relievers, fever reducers, allergy medication, anti-nauseants (for car sickness) and any prescription medications your child may need.

Be prepared for common ailments or minor injuries on the road…especially if it is multi-day road trip.

9. Travel-Friendly Games

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Pack travel-friendly games and interactive toys so the family can have some fun while cruising down the road.

Look for compact versions of classic games like travel-size board games, card games, or magnetic puzzles.

10. Proper Car Seat and Restraints for the Children’s age

Make sure you have the appropriate car safety seats and restraints for the child’s age.

This reference from the USA’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will help.

If you aren’t from the US, check with your government’s requirements.

11. Muslin Blankets or Lightweight Towels

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We keep a muslin blanket like this in the console of our vehicle.

Our daughter is way too old to use it as a swaddling blanket, but it has come in super-handy on road trips for blocking the sun.

I’ve rolled up the window so it traps the blanket inside the vehicle and acts as a sunshade for my daughter.

It keeps the sun off of her, but also cuts down on glare if she is on her tablet.

This is one of the things I keep in our car because I’ve learned the value of having it from experience.

I hope this list of road trip essentials has helped you.

Do you bring something with you on road trips that you’d never leave home without?

You May Also Like:

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Tidy up your car with these car organization ideas.

Thanks for checking out this article.

Tim from

Tim worked in construction for a few years before going to university. Then he worked as a community pharmacist for 10 years and now works as a full-time writer and online publisher. He has experience in several different, far-reaching lines of work.
“I sincerely hope you find the articles helpful and informative.”
Tim from

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Road Trip Essentials: Must-Have Items for Your Journey (2024)


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