The Ultimate Packing List for Your Next Road Trip

Road trips can be an amazing adventure! You can go anywhere and see just about anything you want to see! No running behind because a fight got canceled. You can make plan changes easily and whenever you like. Plus, you can stay as long or as little as you want to see and do new things!

Here’s one of our road trip plans!

However, one challenging aspect of doing a road trip is packing!

It can be difficult to know what you need to pack and how much of it you need to pack. You want to take enough. However, not too much since you will be, basically, living out of your vehicle for your entire trip.

To make this simpler for you, I’ve put together the ultimate packing list for your next road trip! The list is in no particular order, but I have found all of these items useful when traveling!

Here is your ultimate road trip packing list!

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Snacks and other food items, such as peanut butter or lunch meat, are great because you do not know when it may be challenging to find restaurants as you are driving down the road.

You will also find that picnics will be enjoyable. Maybe you want to stop outside a lake or at a visitor’s center to stretch your legs? This would be the perfect place to grab a quick sandwich and enjoy your new surroundings!

You just can’t beat views like this!

Plus, you don’t want to get stuck in a traffic jam or behind a car accident and be hungry or thirsty!

Pro tip: Keep your snacks in a clear, plastic container. This makes them easy to find when you want them. You can look inside and see what snack options you have, without rooting through the entire bag of snacks. Plus, the plastic container will keep them from getting smooshed in the car!! Who wants a smooshed Twinkie or Cosmic Brownie?!?!

15.5 Quart tote

7.5 Quart tote

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Since you’re packing food, you will also want to pack some drinks!

You may want a small backpack cooler.

Or you may want a larger cooler. Check out this 32-liter, easy-to-carry travel cooler!

It all depends on how much you are taking with you and how many times you plan to stop by the grocery store!

However, either way, make sure to pack some water, as well as other drinks you may enjoy! Water is necessary to stay hydrated, especially if you are hiking or doing other adventurous activities!

Additionally, a cooler is necessary to pack lunch meat, fruits, and veggies. Fruits and veggies are good to make sure you are getting some good vitamins while you are out and about! The cooler will help them they stay good while you are on your road trip!

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Phone cameras are great and easy to access, but sometimes you need a regular camera. Regular cameras can often get you better pictures, especially at a distance. It’s not necessary, but it is often very beneficial to get the pictures that you want!

Here’s my camera, lenses, and case!

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4—Charging Cords for all Devices

With all the electronics we have these days, charging cords are necessary! You don’t want to use your phone’s GPS to get where you are going and run out of battery! You may also want to bring a spare charging cord (or two); just in case one gets misplaced, left behind, or caught in a car door!!

Bonus tip: Pack a portable charger as well and keep it charged!

Pro tip: Pack a power strip! Not all hotels are created equal, especially regarding electrical sockets! There is no need to worry if you have a power strip with you! One electric socket now becomes four, five, or six instantly!

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5—Laundry Soap

You don’t want to have to pack for two weeks, but you want to have clean clothes! So, you have to do laundry on vacation! Make sure to pack your typical laundry detergent and dryer sheets, if you use them. I have sensitive skin and can’t use whatever laundry soap is available at the hotel laundry facility!

Pro tip: I have discovered extra-large Zip-Loc bags! They are amazing for holding all the dirty laundry! The zip-up, so you don’t have to smell the dirty clothes. Plus, the bag has a handle, so it’s easy to carry to the laundry room!

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6—First Aid Supplies

It’s good to have some first aid supplies handy just in case! I recommend buying a full first-aid kit if you do not already own one! It’s great for road trips and keeping in your car every day just to be safe!

Here is a first aid kit similar to what I own:

Here is a slightly bigger first aid kit; I love the flexible case.

Bonus Tip: I keep a small first aid kit in my backpack with me. It holds band-aids, Advil, small antiseptic cream packets, flossers, safety pins, anti-chaffing cream, and sunscreen.

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7—Ziploc Bags

Ziploc bags can be used for almost anything!

I always pack Zip-Loc bags of various sizes (sandwich size, quart size, and gallon size)! They can be used for almost anything!

Put your liquid lotions in them so they don’t leak all over your other belongings!

They are great for leftovers! You never know when Little Johnny may need those leftover French fries!

The zip bags are also great for keeping trash from smelling up your car, holding an extra easy-to-access change of clothes, making snacks travel-size, and on and on and on!

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Yes! I said carabiners! You don’t need to be going rock climbing to use them! They work great for various other purposes! Most common for me, I put a carabiner on my water bottle. This way I am hands-free and still have my water!

Bonus tip: I recently began using a large carabiner on our stroller! This is great for EVERYTHING! It can hold their diaper bag or small backpacks with their necessities! It can hold shopping bags! If you’re going to a theme park, the large carabiner can hold refillable drink cups or popcorn buckets! Carabiners can hold a wide variety of things and then when it is time to close up the strollers, take the entire carabiner off! No need to clean out the entire basket underneath! Everything is ready to get off the stroller in one move!

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9—Binder Clips

Binder clips? Yes! Binder clips!

Binder clips can be used for so many things! They make great chip clips but don’t take up a lot of room once you finish the bag of chips. They can be used to keep the hotel curtain closed! That way you aren’t waking up at 5 am because the sun is coming through the crack between the curtains!

The binder clips can even be used as clothes pin when laundry oops happen! On our most recent road trip, my husband ran out of clean underwear and the only laundry mat in town had closed for the day. So, I did some hand laundry and had to hang his undies up to dry over night! It wasn’t great, but it worked!

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Patience may not be something you can pack in your suitcase or backpack, but you definitely need to bring it with you! You need to have patience to deal with traffic, bad drivers, and rude people.

However, you also need patience to deal with those who you brought with you! Maybe your oldest kid smells up the bathroom EVERY DAY. Maybe you never realized how much your youngest child sniffs his or her nose! The list can go on and on about how your family can annoy you after being together on vacation for a week or two. Because of this, the more patience you have, the less stress you will have!

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11—Open Mind

Just as important as patience, an open mind is immensely important when you travel! Having an open mind is even more important on a road trip! You need to be flexible enough to change plans when you find something fun to do that you didn’t know was an option! On our most recent trip we changed plans slightly to do a mountain coaster

And to rent UTVs. I never even knew this was a thing until we saw other people doing it and then looked into it!

You also need to have an open mind when something has to be taken off your plan list. This can be due to good reasons, such as finding other fun things to do! It can also be due to not so good reasons, such as rain changing your plans for you.

Everyone can benefit from having an open mind when it comes to trying new activities or foods!

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12—And, of course, MONEY

You will need to pack some cash and a credit or debit card. When packing cash, make sure to bring small bills and change.

You will likely need change to do laundry periodically. As I mentioned before, you definitely don’t want to pack two weeks’ worth of clothes in your vehicle! You may also need cash for toll roads. There are more toll roads in the US than I ever imagined!

Additionally, you will likely need to have a credit or debit card to book hotel reservations. Credit or debit cards are also likely needed for holds the hotels, or other places you may be renting from, require as insurance for the safe return of their belongings.

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Pack one bathroom kit that goes into each hotel with you every night! Our contains items that everyone needs. For example, toothpaste, aloe, lotion, fingernail clippers, fingernail files, Q-tips, flossers, over-the-counter medication, band-aids, shampoo, conditioner, and special soap you prefer!

We also pack a few other items that I have found beneficial through the years, such as:

  • Glow sticks (they make great night lights, especially in bathrooms)
  • Command strips (fantastic when the bathroom does not have a hand-towel hook! They go up easy and come down easy without damaging the wall!)
  • Chapstick (you never know when you will need it)
  • Extra carabiners!
  • Extra binder clips!
  • And…a unisex belt….my husband ALWAYS seems to be forgetting his belt when we travel unless he is wearing it when he leaves the house!

This saves space in the vehicle, as well as space in the hotel room. Space is already limited in a vehicle; do you really need five tubes of toothpaste for five people?!?!?


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50 thoughts on “The Ultimate Packing List for Your Next Road Trip”

  1. I like the idea of going hands-free, but with the necessary things at hand. I will invest in a good carabiner. Whether I am rock climbing or not, this little thing can be handy.

  2. I love that you included patience! I love the genius who came up with laundry pods. They are easy to travel with and use. We also have sensitivities to detergent in our house, so being able to bring our own brand is key.

    1. I’m also very sensitive to smells and soaps, so we definitely pack our own laundry soap to be on the safe side!

  3. I love the binder clip idea! Such a great addition to our packing list. We always need something quick and easy to keep things closed or hang something up with our 4 kids. You just never know what it will be and binder clips could work for so much!

  4. Great list, love the ziplock bag idea for lotions and liquids – they have spilled so many times in my backpacks! The cooler is also a must! Nothing is better than having a cold drink on your road trip without having to stop!

    1. Ziplock bags are a lifesaver for me! I use them for just about everything when we travel!

    1. Thanks! We just did a big road trip and I love sharing all the things I did to make our trip easier!

    1. We (my husband) actually left behind not one, but two, chargers on our last road trip!

  5. This is a great packing list. Having spent a lot of time on the road this past year, we have discovered that less is more, provided you have the right combination of less.

    1. I’m glad it’s helpful! I love traveling and have learned a lot about how to condense and what is really necessary!

    1. Coolers are one of those things you just have to fight the right size for your needs! We have several at home to choose from depending on where we are going and how long we will be on the road!

    1. The clear plastic bins were something new we tried this trip and we will not be going back to anything else!

    1. Binder clips are definitely my friend! They are small and can be used for so much! (One trip to Disney, we used them to make the under-stroller basket survive until we got back home!)

  6. This is a great list of things that could be useful on a road trip that you otherwise would forget!

    1. Yes! Sometimes the simple things (carabiners, binder clips, …) are far more useful than you would imagine!

  7. Great tips. I already use a few but the binder clips for the hotel curtains was priceless. Thanks for sharing.

    1. We used to use chip clips, but then I switched to the binder clips because they are smaller and work just as well!

  8. Love it! I’m glad I am not the only one with an obsession for ziploc bags and carabiners! I must admit, now I will also inlude binder clips! I actually pack a small ziploc bag of clothes pins… but I think the binder clips may work even better!

    1. I have a few safety pins too! I keep a couple in my backpack and then a few more in our bathroom kit!

  9. There are so many great suggestions here! We always pack an extension cord too. And while we’re at home, we never use laundry pods, but when I find them on sale, I buy several bags of them. They are so great when traveling and will fit in double bagged ziplock bags. We place them down in our suitcases to maximize space.

    1. They are my favorite! I drive my teens nuts if I pull them out and use them in town for anything, but they are thrilled to use them on vacation for about anything! Teens!

    1. I love packing it in sandwich bags, that way there is nothing to pack back home once I use it!

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