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Road Trip Packing list: What items do I need for a road trip?

Before any great outdoor adventure is very important to have all the important items packed in your car. It is amazing that you are ready to head out on the open road with your friends or family to explore. Plan a successful road trip by planning and preparing in advance.

It is extremely important to fully prepare for your road trip and be ready for anything that can come up along your way. You might be used to only being a few miles from a gas station or grocery store, but a large portion of the United States and other countries have great distances between services.

Summer might be the most popular time of the year for a road trip, but any time of the year is great for a road trip if you are correctly prepared. Do not forget about fall foliage, snowcapped mountains and spring flowers.

Keep on reading for our complete road trip packing list with everything you will need on the road to stay happy, well fed and safe.

Car Essentials:

1. Emergency Car Kit

The emergency car kit should include at a minimum: jumper cables, a first aid kit, road flares, rain ponchos, flashlight and batteries, rags, a fire extinguisher, antifreeze and brake fluid. 

2. Roadside Assistance Membership

It is important to get your car checked and know how to change a tire before heading to the open road. However, a flat tire is not the only thing that can go wrong, and a Roadside Assistant membership can be clutch when stuck on the side of the road. 

3. Gas Rewards Card

It is amazing the benefits you can get from a gas reward card. Depending on the brand you reach rewards levels depending on how much gas you buy in a month and others automatically save you a certain number of cents a gallon just by showing your free card. Better yet, sign up for all the free gas rewards programs on the go and save no matter where you fill up.

4. Power inverter

Make sure you have the charging cords for all your electronic devices before leaving home. While many smaller items can run using a simple 12V car plug adaptor, larger items like a laptop require a power inverter, which supplies you with a regular household plug. It is perfect to help charge camera batteries and even a powered cooler.

5. Small battery-powered fan

You might be thinking air conditioning is enough for a road trip, but one of the best parts about a road trip is spending time outside your car, especially camping. Road trips in the summer can get hot and humid when camping making a battery-powered fan your new best friend.

6. GPS

An up to date GPS is great as it not only gets you to your destination, but it helps find any attractions to visit, restaurants to try and nearby hotels. 

7. Road map or Atlas

Technology is amazing and defiantly does make a road trip easier. But you should never put all your eggs in one basket as a GPS can break, crash or loose service. This is especially the case when you have to change the destination or route in the middle of nowhere. It is extremely important to bring a road map or atlas on your road trip even if you only use it to keep track of where you have been.

Camping Essentials:

1. Tent

If you are camping you need to have the right tent for you adventure. The two most important things are getting a tent of the right size and right weather rating. This is something to watch out for, especially if you plan on a road trip during cooler months. It is also recommended to pack an additional ground tarp, even if the tent has one, to help keep it dry and clean.

2. Inflatable Mattress or Mattress Pad

Your body will thank you in the morning with a high-quality mattress pad or inflatable mattress. You will never find a camping spot without lumps or rocks and a comfortable place to lay down will help you sleep well through the night.

3. Sleeping bag, Blankets or warm clothing

It is important to bring the right number of blankets, sleeping bags and layers depending on the weather of where you are going. Remember, even in the summer locations at higher elevation or in a desert can have much lower temperatures at night then you might expect.

4. Cooler

Nothing is better at the end of a warm day on the road or exploring than relaxing with a cool drink. Having a cooler not only allows you to chill your drinks, but it helps keep any fruits, vegetables or dairy products fresh no matter the weather.

5. Pillow

A pillow is the perfect companion for a road trip of any length. Even if you plan on not camping and staying in hotels, a pillow is a great addition for a passenger’s nap on the road.

6. Water Bottle

Nothing adds up quicker in waste and space than relying on buying bottled water. Having a reusable water bottle or jug helps cut down on the trash and allows you to fill up at any appropriate water pump or sink.

7. Camping cookware

Do not rely on buying prepared food at the store or hitting up every fast food joint on your road trip. It can be a tasty treat but gets old fast. Bring appropriate camping cookware depending on how and what you plan on eating. Do not forget the silverware and fuel for the stove.


1. Debit Card

A road trip would not be possible without paying for it. Our favorite road trip card is the NB Debit Card. They are a small-town bank in terms of quality customer service, but compete with the big banks in terms of technology and benefits. The best part about this Needham Bank Debit Card is that they do not charge ATM fees when using another bank’s ATM and automatically reimburse any ATM fees the other bank may charge. This is super helpful during a road trip when you only encounter regional or local bank ATMs. Using a debit card is also great for a road trip as it helps you better budget your adventures and does not allow you to overspend what you have set aside for the trip.

2. Credit Card

On any trip, we also suggest bringing a credit card in case of an emergency. There are certain purchases, especially hotels that can put a large hold on your card for an extended period of time and it is best to have these types of charges on a credit card.

3. Spare Cash

Needham Bank Travel Debit Card

Always keep some spare cash someplace in your car. Keep it in small bills as you never know when a destination or attraction only takes cash, or you encounter a self-paid envelope at a state or national park.

Personal Items:

1. Baby Wipes

Being on the road means you will not always have a regular place to wash off or clean yourself up. Baby wipes are great for a road trip to clean your hands before a meal and refresh yourself after a long hike.

2. Drinking water

You can never have too much drinking water with you on a road trip. This is especially true when you are planning to camp for several days and access to restock your water can be limited. This is especially important if you plan on cooking and cleaning with fresh water.

3. Non-perishable snacks and food

When planning for what food to bring on a road trip, remember it is going to sitting in your car, no matter how warm or cold it gets inside. It is best to bring plenty of non-perishable snacks and foods, especially items that require limited preparation for those long days.

4. Quick dry towel

A quick dry towel has countless jobs on a road trip. It is easy to remember that you will need to dry off from swimming or a shower, but it can also be used to dry dishes, provide shade and help you cool off in the heat. A quick dry towel is perfect as you do not need to worry about packing a wet towel into the car the next day.

5. Toiletry Tote

On a road trip it is helpful to keep all your toiletries in one bag. A road trip means you will only be spending a few nights in each destination, at most and no matter what type of accommodations you stay in you will need your toothbrush. It is also helpful when you are camping and need to walk a short distance to the bathroom, without having to worry about dropping anything.

6. Reusable Bags

Reusable and resealable bags are the ultimate road trip essential. They can be used to store extra food, organize small items and most importantly keep valuable items dry in the rain.


1. Music Playlist

Nothing sets the mood for a road trip than the perfect playlist full of positive vibes and songs to sing along to. It is best to create a road trip music playlist that is offline, in whatever form works best for your car. Do not rely on streaming music or having the best choice in radio stations across more vacant parts of the country.

2. Book

A road trip is full of adventure and excitement, but all that fun can get tiresome. In the evening it is great to sit by the campfire and enjoy a good book. A book also cannot run out of batteries or service in the same way that electronic entertainment can.

3. Flexible Itinerary

The most important entertainment for a road trip is the itinerary itself. It is great to have a pre-planned itinerary on where you want to go and places to sleep. However, the best part about a road trip is the freedom to pull off the highway at an interesting looking exit and see where the adventure takes you in the day. Bring a flexible itinerary for the best road trip possible.

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