Grab your keys and load up the car for your next road trip. Let’s break down the road trip essentials we’re always sure to carry in our vehicle. We’ve listed some of our favorite products along with stuff we love to carry in our car for the right occasion.
Now, we’ve done our fair share of road trips. We drove a truck across Africa, road tripped around the hills of Ireland, explored the Canadian Rockies, and plenty more. In fact, we almost always use a rental car or our own truck in our travels these days.
Road Trip Essentials
First aid kit
We traveled with a first aid kit during both our South Africa road trip and Iceland Ring Road trip. Thankfully, we never had to use it, but it was comforting knowing we had a few essentials should we need burn cream, band-aids, gloves, or disinfectant. Here’s a well kitted one on Amazon.. If you’re really going off the grid like we did in Africa it’s good to have sutures, blood clotting solution, fluid, and antibiotics.ds
If you plan on talking on the phone during your road trip then invest in a Bluetooth headset so you can drive with your hands-free. They are very easy to set up and the ease and safety of having both hands available while driving is invaluable.
Of course, these days plenty of automobiles come equipped with handsfree Bluetooth so it’s a good idea to set it up before you hit the road. When we’re in a rental car we always make sure to connect our phone if it’s an option before we drive out of the parking lot.
We just completed a road trip around Alberta and British Columbia in the winter. It didn’t take us long to be thankful for a few snow specific car tools. First off, an ice scraper is priority as well as ashovel, rock salt, seatbelt cutter, and window breaker. I know those last few seem extreme, but they are a very small price to pay that could potentially save your life.
Jumper cablesJumper cablesare cheap to purchase and can get you out of a bind should your battery die. These are good to have in your car not just for a special road trip but also for day to day driving. If you plan on tackling a more adventurous road trip check out our overland equipment post.
Good to have in every car – road trip or not. It came in good handy this past summer when we struck on a deer on dark country roads. A few zip-ties later and we were able to drive the car back to home.
You never know when you could need a good knife. Just make sure to keep it in your checked luggage if you’re going through an airport.
Small trash can
To keep the car from becoming a complete mess get a small travel trash can. These can actually be made out of old cereal boxes!
A phone serves as our communication device and navigation tool nearly every day of our lives. Unless you’re going completely off the grid and using paper maps a phone charger is a must. Depending on how long and where your road trip is you may even want to pack a few extras. (iPhone cables were hard to come by in rural Africa).
If there are a few of you in the car get a multi-way charger so you don’t have to battle over charging your phone.
We traveled with our own French Press all around Namibia and it saved our mornings. If you’re a coffee or tea fanatic consider picking up a travel french press so that you can make your own hot drinks instead of paying for takeaway coffee day after day. Don’t forget your favorite brew!
Gotta have somewhere to keep the hot drinks.Coffee Thermos or a travel mug is perfect for cold mornings. We always have one sitting in our cup holder.
Snacks are essential for any road trip especially if you’re going into rural areas for a while. We are pretty picky eaters and don’t like fast food or gas station food so instead, we always have our car stocked with protein bars, almonds, apples, and other healthy options.
I really hate unnecessary plastic waste and paying for bottled water. So the solution? A good travel water bottle keep us hydrated and reduces waste. My favorite is the Lifestraw Gobecause it filters out bacteria.
Baby bottle warmer
This one for all the mommies out there. A travel baby bottle warmer that fits perfectly in the cup holder. Just plug the car adaptor in and within minutes milk or formula will be warm.
You never know when you could need a lighter, and they are an inexpensive investment. If you are doing any camping this is a necessity.
If you’re using your phone for navigation you’ll need a car mount.Don’t rely on the passenger to hold the phone and give you turn by turn navigation. Trust me – save a headache and potential wrong turns and just grab a car mount.
Blankets are great if you’re going on a trip with kids and want to get them comfortable. Even if you’re not with kids a few blankets are great for the unknown. God forbid you to have to spend the night in your car due to unforeseen circumstances.
Jerry CanA jerry canprobably isn’t necessary unless you are driving into the bush or very remote areas. We had two jerry cans on top of our Land Cruiser while road tripping around Africa and they were 10% lifesaving more than a few times. However, if you’re doing just a short road trip around developed nations you won’t need these.
Eco-friendly wet wipes
Wet wipes are great for just about any kind of clean up. Even for making a pee break on the side of the road in rural areas. The problem with regular wet wipes is that most contain plastic fibers that are not biodegradable. Consider switching to eco-friendly wet wipes and using those when needed. (See more of our favorite eco-friendly products here).
In case it rains you won’t regret having an umbrella. I like nicetravel sized umbrellas like thisbecause I am a travel blogger and travel quite a bit. Hence being able to pack these up is the idea.
Road trip playlist
We have a premium Spotify membership and have a good selection of travel playlist downloaded. You can also invest in Apple Music or Amazon music instead of Spotify. Pretty much everyone knows that music is essential to a successful road trip.
When we road tripped around Iceland we stopped about every ten minutes to grab photos. Chances are your road tripping somewhere absolutely beautiful so don’t skimp on a good travel camera.
Depending on how long the road trip is you may even want to pack anextra pair of sunglasses in case a pair breaks or you inevitably lose a pair.
If you are planning on sleeping in your car you will most definitely want a pillow. A travel pillow is great for those in the passenger seat that doesn’t get to lay down flat but still want to get some shut-eye while on the road. If you’re planning on doing a camping road trip check out our camping packing list which goes more in-depth about sleeping bags, tents, and things like that.
Reusable shopping bags
In today’s day and age, I feel like this is kind of a duh product to have in the car. If you could help reduce waste on the planet by simply bringing your own bag to the grocery store would you?
Of course! These bags are cute, reusable, and pack up nicely! Just leaving these in your car at all time will greatly reduce your plastic consumption.
I’ve raved about travel towels all over this website. Travel towels are quick drying, pack up light, and Anti-microbial. They are great to have on a road trip for anytime you find yourself at the beach, swimming pool, or camping. We both have Youphoria towels and they have lasted years.
We use our day bags for just about anything. From walking around a city to snowboarding to hiking, or just putting a few snacks in a travel day bag is never a bad thing to have.
Packable down jacket
If you’re traveling during anytime besides summer I would recommend a packable down jacket. Down jackets pack up light and small and are ideal for fall and spring temperatures. They can even be okay for winter depending on where in the world you are. If you are traveling during the summer I would recommend a fleece or sweatshirtto keep warm at night.
This is definitely a road trip essential as you’re going to want some cold drinks. After we load up the car we throw in our favorite drinks and some ice. Traditional coolers are heavy and a pain and eat up a lot of room in the car so we opt for a portable travel cooler.
Cameron loves to wear a hat so he always has one in the car.
If you were to ask me what the most comfortable thing to travel in is it would be leggings, while Cameron loves spending days in the car with a pair of sweatpants on. Comfort over style any day while on a long road trip.
In Europe, Australia, and North America we rely on our credit cards for everything. However, we wouldn’t dare go anywhere semi-rural without cash on hand. When possible pick up the local currency from ATM’s, but we would recommend always having USD or Euro on hand. Without a doubt a road trip essential!
You never know if you may not be able to fill your tank up because the gas station may not accept credit card. What if the network goes down? For more check out our travel banking post.
Plastic utensils are not only terrible for the environment, but they are terrible for you too! Did you know that only 6% of all plastic can be recycled in the US? That’s a terrible number, and I feel that if more people knew that, they would cut back on their plastic consumption and strive to become more eco-friendly.
On top of that, most plastic silverware is made with BPA, a chemical that is absolutely terrible for your health (scientists have found links to cancer).The first step towards more sustainable lifestyles and travel is with reusable utensils. That’s why we were so excited when we found the To-Go Ware RePEaT Reusable Bamboo Utensil. If you’re going to eat in the car you’ll want these for ease.
The Little Sun is a solar-powered lamp that has been part of The World Pursuit family for years. It can be used on a table, hung around your neck, or attached to a bicycle. Five hours of sunlight will yield five hours of bright illumination. Check here for the most up to date prices.
Washing your clothes while traveling is never fun. That’s why we were super pumped to get the Scrubba. A tiny and lightweight mobile laundry machine. Just put your dirty clothes in the bag, add water and soap, seal and scrub away. Now you can literally wash your clothes anywhere there is water.
Instead of always getting take food in styrofoam or plastic container opt for some Prepworks Tupperware containers. These things pack up nice and small and really come in handy for long travel days when you don’t have easy access to food. These collapsible food storage containers are BPA free, lead, and phthalates free as well.
I love traveling with a power bank to make sure my phone never dies. The majority of the time I don’t need to use it on long flights as some of the nicer airlines provide entertainment systems with USB ports! We also make sure to find a charging point during layovers, but getting to a new city without your hotel reservations and map can be a major pain in the ass. I recommend purchasing this power bank because it’s a great value with solid reviews.
Bags of rice
This is a weird road trip essential, but if you are traveling in humid areas you will definitely thank me. That’s because humidity kills electronics (we may or may not have lost a Canon 5D due to humid air).
You know what saves electronics from humidity? Cheap, good old fashion rice! When we are traveling in humid areas we fill small bags with rice and store them next to our cameras, phones, drones, laptops. Works like a charm!
Fun things to bring on a road trip
Books: Personally I can’t read in a moving car. However, if you don’t get motion sickness like me then definitely pick up a few books for the road trip. Or kindles are a great way to access books easily and save on space and weight.
Playing cards: Never a bad thing to have!
Coloring books: Whether you’re a kid or adult there’s no denying that coloring books are great. Definitely get some colored pencils and coloring books for the kids. If you’re an adult check out a few of these adult coloring books. Coloring books have been proven to reduce stress and increase brain activity!
Helpful road trip apps
- Maps.me: For navigation without WiFi
- Google Maps: Download the most up to date maps
- Podcasts: We love Ted Talks and Serial
- Gas Buddy: Get gas prices
- Trip Advisor: Check our local reviews for businesses
- The 10 Best Road Trips in the World
- A 12 Day Iceland Road Trip Itinerary (Ring Road + Snaefellsnes Peninsula)
- A Namibian Road Trip: Our Itinerary Across the Namib Desert
- Planning a trip to Ireland? Here are 13 Ireland Travel Tips