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A friend recently came back from doing a road trip across Europe. Whilst sharing stories of his adventures one thing came apparent, he was seriously unprepared. There are many things to pack for a road trip, many of which he forgot.  

There was many times where he found himself looking for a certain something that he needed. If he didn’t have it he had to buy it, that worked out costing a pretty penny in unexpected expenses. What he needed was a list of things to pack for a road trip. In comes my eagerness to fulfil that need.

That was the inspiration for this article. Here you will find the most extensive list of everything that you could possibly need for a successful road trip. Not all road trips are created equal however. This list has been designed to cover absolutely all areas. I’m not saying pack all this stuff, i’m saying use this as a starting point to make your own decisions of what you may need. After all a 2 week road trip across Europe is going to require you to pack differently to a 2 month road trip across south Africa. By the way if you’re planning a trip across Europe be sure to check out Barcelona as well as the hidden gem Bratislava

Without further ado here is the list of things to pack for a road trip. 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you decide to make a purchase through one of the links below I make a small commission at no expense to yourself, Many thanks! 

things to pack for a road trip
  • Spare tyre – This one is pretty self explanatory, i’m not trying to insult your intelligence (honest!). It is just something that is so easy to become an oversight that it is easily forgotten. As well as a spare tyre make sure you have the appropriate tools to actually change the flat! I suggest investing in a Tyre Change kit, trust me its a lifesaver and therefore deserves to be at the top of things to pack on a road trip.
  • Emergency car kit – This one sort of coincides with the last one but if you do happen to break down, it’s important to have the right gear to help you out. This emergency kit will cover everything you need from hi-vis vests to foil blankets etc.
  • Important documents – Check. Double check. Triple check. Any important documents need to be one of the first things you pack. Keep them close by and too hand because you never know when you may need them. If you’re not sure whether or not your going to need a document it’s best to take it just in case. Out of all the things to pack for a road trip this is one of the most important. 
  • Car manual – This will help you on more than several occasions. Unless you’re confident you know your car inside and out it’s best to have the manual. This will help with many different things such as tyre pressure, the cars specification and basic troubleshooting.
  • Physical maps – I know what you’re thinking. Google Maps duh! well while I agree that it is great it’s only good so long as you have an internet connection. Even if you have offline maps there only good if you have battery. Do you see my point? Good old fashioned physical maps. Just pack one and thank me later. 
  • Travel guides – As well as being massively helpful to give you an insight to the area you are visiting they can seriously enrich your travels. They make your travels so much more enjoyable by giving you more things to do along the way. They are a cheap expenditure but worth their weight in gold. 
  • Phrasebooks – Handy and polite. Not only is it massively helpful to know how to ask where the nearest toilet is or gas station is also very polite to know even the very basics of the local language. People aren’t expecting the world and you don’t need to be fluent but basic phrases such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ go a very long way.
  • Local currency – I find that wherever I go it’s always best to have a little bit of local currency on you. Cards and apple pay are great if you can use them but if you can’t then you’re stuffed. Depending on where it is you’re travelling you’ll find that a lot of the smaller shops and businesses may not take card, especially in more remote areas where there isn’t a big tourist scene. Another tip is to spread your money out over several different locations so that if you do happen to lose where you normally keep your money it isn’t all lost. Another thing that i found has been really handy is a neck pouch travel bag. It keeps everything important close by on your person and also protects against pickpockets.
  • Pen and paper – You never know when you’re going to need to write something down, I personally have a small notepad that I have with me most of the time. It seems trivial but it doesn’t take up a lot of space and really does come in handy.
  • Swiss Army Knife – Ok so this was bound to come up at some point right? It doesn’t actually have to be Swiss army brand and can be any multi purpose knife tool but I find them to be a lot higher quality. I personally use the Huntsman Swiss Army knife and that works great for me (By the way, it’s 30% off at the moment so follow the link and get yourself a great deal!). There are ones that have a lot more tools on them but i find this one to cover pretty much all the bases.
  • Flashlight – Another self explanatory one here. Easily overlooked? YES. I’ve personally been in situations where a flashlight would have come in handy. Just a handy piece of kit that is super cheap and can be picked up at any hardware store. 
  • Refuse bags – Just get yourself some bin bags or something man! Trust me try spending the majority of your time in your car over the course of several weeks and see how much rubbish you accumulate. Just buy some bags to gather your rubbish. Help keeps your car nice and tidy.
  • Travel pillow – If you’re not the driver and want to catch a nap or even staying in your car a few nights here and there to save on costs then you seriously need to invest in a travel pillow. I’ve used several travel pillows over the years and i personally think that the J Travel Pillow is my favourite. It gives great support across the neck and chin and gives a good sleep. 
    what to pack for a road trip - blanket
    Nothing beats a good blanket while travelling.
    • Blanket – If for whatever reason you find yourself spending the night in your car or even an evening it’s best to have a good blanket. Now the choice is yours, depending on how much you’re packing and where you’re travelling will depend on what blanket you get and how thick it is. I personally suggest investing in a Travel fleece blanket. They’re really quite cheap, last for ages and also most importantly don’t take up a lot of room. 
    • Ice scraper – This one’s a but subjective, if you need one pack one? need I say more? 
    • Waterproof Poncho – A good poncho will protect you from the elements and keeps you dry during any downpours. They cost next to nothing and fold down so small they take up literally next to no room. We use the Terra Hiker as it is really durable material and can double up as a shade tarp and ground sheet. 
    • Bottles of water – There’s literally nothing worse than being in the middle of nowhere, 4 hours away from the nearest shop and dying of thirst. Pack a case of water just in case and when you get down to your last 2 bottles restock, unless of course you like relentless thirst, in which case by all means move on to the next item. 
    • First Aid Kit – If you’ve been on an extended trip before you’ll already know that medical supplies is one of the first things to pack for a road trip. A first aid kit is a must, chances are you probably won’t need to use it. But it’s always good to prepare for the unexpected. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy just the bare basics will do. You can buy supplies and make up your own first aid kit if you’d like but chances are it’ll work out cheaper just buying one ready made like this 90 piece compact kit, which’ll last you ages unless you’re particularly accident prone (like me). 
    • Suncream – Another essential especially when travelling in places where the sun in particularly relentless. Just make sure you buy a sun cream that is good enough and up to the job. SPF 15 probably isn’t good enough in the height of summer for example. 
    • Insect spray – My god there’s nothing worse than being eaten alive by bugs. I wouldn’t mind but the itch afterwards is unbearable. Just be prepared and invest in some inspect spray. It’ll save you being constantly bitten and can also protect against anything that the different bugs may be carrying. 
    • Hats – At least one anyway, just something that is going to protect you from the suns harsh rays and keeps the sun of your face while driving.  
    • Travel Games – Travel games are a really good way of breaking up the travel, especially if you’re travelling in a group or with younger travellers. There’s plenty of different travel games so just pick up a few and enjoy.  
    • In car charger – An in car charger is another must. If you’re spending the majority of your time travelling in your car then you may as well utilise it and use a car charger to help keep your phone and other devices juiced up. It’s also good to have a car charger if you know you’re not going to be able to get to another charging point for a while. 
      things to take on a road trip
      Make sure you pack enough.
      • Powerbank – Another good item to have is a powerbank. If your away from the car and need some quick juice for your phone then this is the way to go. It’s a good idea to invest in a good powerbank too, a stronger power bank can be used to charge your phone many times as well as different devices. Slightly more advanced power banks have capabilities to charge larger devices such as cameras and tablets.
      • Hand Sanitizer – There’s nothing worse than being ill while travelling, it can ruin what could potentially be a fantastic experience. While on a road trip or any other trip for that matter I always take a travel hand sanitizer and then a larger bottle which i use to keep the small one topped up. It’s not going to protect you against absolutely everything but it’s a good start. 
      • Boot/Trunk organiser – If you are seriously considering going on a road trip, especially one of a longer duration then you would want to seriously consider getting a trunk organiser. It helps keep everything organised and helps you utilise space, which will be scarce if you’re packing everything you’ll need.  
      • Travel mug / Water bottle – Well you need something to go in your cars cup holder right? Stay hydrated travel buddies. 
      • Medicines – This one is a given, if it wasn’t for my partner I would have gone travelling without all my medication on many occasions. Just check and double check you have everything you need. 
      • Towel – Ideally if you’ve got the space pack two per person, that way you can have one being cleaned and dried while using the other one and then keep rotating. They do have travel towels which are normally micro-fibre or similar material which take up considerably less materials than their traditional counterparts, they’re a worthwhile investment. 
      • Toiletry bag – Keep all of your toiletries in one place, that way if something does leak it doesn’t ruin everything in your bag. 
      • Wet wipes – It’s an easy way to keep yourself clean if you don’t have access to a sink. As well as this you can use it to clean sticky hands and dusty dashboards if needed.
      • Day bag – Literally just a small style backpack which is meant to house all your smaller essentials. Nothing to fancy or large, just something super convenient at transporting things you may need. Good for things like day trips. I’m currently using the Berghaus 20 litre daysack and that works well for me. 
      • Eye mask – If you’re a light sleeper then it’s good to bring them along for the ride. Takes up no room at all and if it helps you get a good nights sleep then it’s got to be worth it right?
      • A good playlist – Nothing makes a road trip better than a good playlist. This thing sits at the heart of every road trip essentials and it needs to be a good one. pack in some power ballads and remember, if your are using something like Spotify or similar to download the playlist for offline use, it sucks getting half way through a playlist, losing signal then being stuck on buffering for three hours.
      Because the right playlist is the difference between a good road trip and a GREAT road trip
      • Utensils – Travel cutlery is always a good idea because have you ever tried eating soup with your fingers? On a serious note though investing in a small set of travel cutlery can help keep things tidy and clean. 
      • Fuel Can – Honestly just investing in a small fuel can is a good idea, that extra re-assurance that you’ve got an extra can of fuel is really nice especially if you are unfamiliar to the area you’re in and aren’t sure where the next gas station is.
      • Spare Trainers/Shoes – Because if the first pair gets wet your going to need a spare right? but honestly depending on what you are depending on doing on your travels a pair of shoes can get ruined pretty quickly, it’s always best to have a spare pair so that you can change into them if need be. 
      • Car cushion – Anybody who has spent more than a few hours driving  knows that you can get a seriously numb bum. That can seriously take away from the joy of driving. I strongly suggest investing in a good cushion to help make you more comfortable. 
      what to take on a road trip
      Now go on an adventure, my wanderlust friends!

      There we go, a nearly 40 strong list of things to take on a road trip, this is however just the tip of the iceberg. The list is a way to get your creative juices flowing and to help you develop your own extensive list. Take what I have written and add or remove items from it accordingly. 

      If you liked this article then please share it and drop a comment below on suggestions for new articles or any feedback you may have. If you liked this list and was thinking about backpacking then please check out my checklist of what to take backpacking. Once again thank you for watching and subscribe to my email list for regular updates. 

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      Categories: Road Trips


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