Road Trip Essentials
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- Items to bring
- Preventing boredom
- Keeping you safe
- Keeping you healthy
- Keeping the car tidy
- Items for destination
You’ll need gas and snacks, obviously—but what else should you pack for a road trip? A good road trip is both fun and safe, and no matter your destination there are a few essentials you should consider bringing along.
Road trips can be expensive, and many of our tips are intended to help you cut costs. Speaking of cutting costs, give Jerry a try before you hit the road.
It’s a free car insurance comparison app that can help you find savings (in 45 seconds) without sacrificing coverage. The average user finds $879 in annual savings. That could buy a ton of postcards and gas station candy!
So, get ready to pack your road trip games and inflatable rafts. Here are road trip essentials to help you have a safe and memorable adventure.
Items to make you happy
Don’t leave without some healthy snacks! Make sure you have something with protein to keep your energy up. There’s nothing wrong with a drive-through, of course, but if you’re in the middle of nowhere then you may not be able to find something when hunger hits.
Of course, packing your own snacks also helps you save money instead of blowing your hard-earned cash on expensive and poor-quality treats.
Key Takeaway Healthy snacks are good for you and will keep you full longer than most treats you’ll find at rest stops.
Still, it’s important to have a bit of fun when you’re road-tripping—that’s what memories are made of! A sweet treat can make a big difference in your mood when you’ve been driving all day and you’re exhausted.
Pack some bulk licorice or a jumbo pack of M&Ms and indulge. You can also pick up some candy at a gas station if you left home without a stash.
A stick of gum can help freshen your breath and give you something to do when you’re stuck in the car. But there’s another hidden benefit to bringing gum on your road trip. Studies show that chewing gum can help you concentrate.
So, pop in a piece of gum and you’ll be able to stay focused on the road during a long-distance trip—plus, your breath will be minty fresh when you arrive at your destination.
If you have a good thermos, bring it along! Hot coffee or tea is a mood booster, especially on a chilly morning or evening road trip. You can even pack soups and take your thermos on day hikes.
There’s no need to use plastic silverware when you eat on the road. Bring a set of travel cutlery. You don’t need a set of fancy travel cutlery. Just grab a fork, knife, and spoon from the kitchen before you leave.
When you pack your own eating utensils, you can enjoy a picnic lunch anytime the mood strikes—and you’re bound to stumble on some gorgeous vistas on your road trip.
Prepare your travel cutlery by wrapping the items in a tea towel or tucking them into a Tupperware. Wash them in a rest area sink or simply pop them in the dishwasher when you return home.
Slippers or slip-on shoes (whether driving or passenger)
If you will be driving for hours on end, try slipping into a more comfortable pair of shoes.
Passengers can wear slippers to facilitate better blood flow and relax comfortably. Drivers may wish to wear slip-on sandals to allow their feet to stretch and breathe. Keep in mind that driving with slip-on shoes can be a safety hazard, so make sure you choose carefully and stay alert.
Pillows and blankets
Dozing in the backseat while someone else is driving is one of the best parts of a road trip. For trips longer than an hour, bring a pillow and a blanket to create a cozy nest for resting.
Headphones can be a lifesaver, especially with multiple passengers or on multigenerational family trips.
Kids can use them to watch a show on their tablet without bothering everyone else. If the bickering in the backseat turns into a war zone, the adult in the passenger seat can wear noise-blocking headphones to enjoy some peace and quiet.
Get some cheap dollar store sets of headphones to keep in the car if you’re worried about losing or damaging more expensive technology.
Long road trips can be hard on the body. Pack a yoga mat or towel so you can get out and stretch when the mood strikes (or the aches begin). Many rest stops have surprisingly beautiful views, and they usually have a section of grass that’s perfect for performing a short yoga sequence.
Items to prevent boredom
Plan ahead and bring some road trip games! If you don’t have anything, don’t worry. There are plenty of road trip games that you can play without any special supplies. Beat the boredom by whipping out the classic license plate game, or challenge your kids to a competitive game of Cows on My Side.
There is nothing worse than losing juice on your phone or tablet when you’re on a long trip. To avoid low battery situations, make sure to pack mobile chargers. Older vehicles may need special chargers that fit into the cigarette lighter socket, whereas newer vehicles may have USB charging ports.
Stave off boredom by preparing some audio entertainment like podcasts, playlists, and audiobooks. These are perfect for keeping your mind engaged while keeping your eyes on the road. Make sure you download everything as offline files, since you won’t be able to stream anything when you lose cell service in the hills.
Do you have a camera or another device that may need charging? It can be surprisingly hard to find batteries on the road. Pack a stash to make sure you don’t miss out on anything due to dead batteries.
If you plan to visit any state parks, you may need some cash to pay the entrance fees.
You can usually pay with a card at the gate if you arrive during daylight hours and there’s a ranger to accept your payment. However, if you arrive after dusk or if you plan to camp out in a rural park, you may need a bit of cash to pay the fee at an unmanned campground box. Bring some fives and ones.
Items to keep you safe
You never know when a bit of duct tape will come in handy on a road trip. Your side mirror could get sideswiped or your roof rack could break. Slap on some duct tape and it will hold things together until you can go to a repair shop.
Driving in bright sunlight can be extremely tough on your eyes. Bring some sunglasses to keep your eyesight sharp and ensure a safe road trip for you and your passengers.
A hat helps to keep the sun out of your eyes, too. It’s a smart way to protect your face from harmful UV rays, especially on long road trips.
UV window shades
Truck drivers can tell you how damaging sun exposure can be if you drive for hours at a time without protection from the sun. Grab some UV window shades to prevent sunburns and keep the inside of your vehicle cool and comfortable.
Flashlight / headlamp
Add a flashlight or headlamp to your road trip kit. It will be helpful in an emergency, like a flat tire at night, but equally useful for overnight adventures and dawn hikes. A headlamp has the extra benefit of being wearable so you can keep your hands free.
First aid kit
Keep a basic first aid kit in your car. You’re unlikely to fall victim to serious injuries on a road trip, but antibiotic ointment, wipes, bandaids, and bandages can help prevent infection for casual scrapes. If you’re traveling with young children, this is an essential item.
Don’t hit the road without an emergency kit! You should always keep a few things in your vehicle, whether you’re running errands around town or crossing state lines. Your kit should include jumper cables, flares, and reflective triangles at a minimum. Check with your local auto supply shop to pick up a prepackaged kit.
Even if you don’t need the kit, you may be able to help other drivers who may need a jump.
If you are embarking on a longer trip, make sure to bring extra car fluids. You should consider packing some spare engine oil and antifreeze, especially if you’re going on a long winter road trip.
Many gas stations sell these fluids, but since you can’t predict when the container will run dry, it’s safest to carry extras.
Proof of insurance and ID
Make sure you bring proof of insurance on your road trip.
Most insurance companies provide a small ID card that contains your policy number. This information is verifiable by police officers, and you’ll need it if you get pulled over. If you get into a car accident, you can use this card to exchange insurance information with the other party.
Jerry offers digital proof of insurance right inside the Jerry app. This is great because you don’t have to worry about losing a tiny card—Jerry gives you instant proof, always at your fingertips.
Stay safe and don’t get lost. Bring a paper map as a backup, and use a navigation app to make sure you arrive at your intended destination. Backcountry driving can be challenging if you lose a signal, so make sure your navigation tools are up to the challenge.
Special road trip apps
Impress your friends by downloading road trip apps that reveal secret attractions.
There’s an app that lists free camping sites to help you save costs and camp responsibly. Another app, Roadtrippers, can help you plan your route by finding unique local attractions—world’s largest frying pan, anyone?
All the planning in the world doesn’t guarantee a smooth road trip. Before you hit the road, subscribe to a roadside assistance membership to ensure you’ll be protected if the unexpected happens.
If you’re on the hunt for the right roadside assistance membership, download Jerry. Jerry’s services include tire changes, towing, and even Uber credits—basically, everything you need to continue your road trip, even if you face a few small bumps along the way.
Items to keep you healthy
Don’t get dehydrated! Lots of people try not to drink too much water on a road trip because they’re worried about finding a bathroom. But it’s quite easy to find a gas station or fast-food restaurant—or at worst, a tree.
Pack a full water bottle so you can stay hydrated and avoid poor water quality. Plus, you can refill at gas stations and save the planet from extra plastic waste.
Emergen-C or vitamin C tablets
Road trips can be hard on the immune system. Keep some vitamin C tablets in the car to pop into your water bottle, so you can enjoy your trip without sniffles or sinus pressure.
A travel pack of painkillers in your glovebox could save your entire road trip! At the first sign of a headache, take a pill. Pain can distract you from driving safely, not to mention ruining the mood when you arrive at your destination.
Yes, you can get a sunburn even while riding in a car. Keep a bottle in the car so you’re never without sun protection.
Make sure to slather on the zinc at least 30 minutes before exposure, and reapply every few hours on long road trips. This advice goes for drivers and passengers alike.
It can get dry inside a car, especially when the air conditioning is on full blast. If you don’t already have a spare chapstick bouncing around in your glove box, make sure you pack one and protect your lips from getting chapped.
You don’t need to wear bug spray in the car, but it’s nice to have on hand for when you arrive at your destination. Keep a small canister somewhere accessible so you don’t have to dig around.
When you arrive at your campsite or tourist hotspot, just apply a quick sheen of bug spray and you won’t miss a beat due to hungry mosquitos.
If you can’t find a real bathroom, you may need to resort to squatting in the woods. Bring a roll of toilet paper for emergencies. Trust us, it’s far better than the alternative.
Items to keep the car tidy
Bring a pack of tissues to catch sneezes and snot. To be eco-friendly, opt for a washable bandana. Kids can have their own packs to keep germs contained.
The worst part of a road trip is the accumulation of garbage on the floor. Fast food wrappers, dirt, and smelly socks, oh my!
Contain the mess and install a small trash container in the car. A reusable cereal container makes a great garbage can. Just line it with a plastic bag and close the lid to minimize smells. Otherwise, just sling a plastic bag with handles over a headrest.
For long trips, consider implementing a bit of organization. Washable fabric organizers are perfect for holding snacks, tablets, toys, and sunscreen. Tuck them between seats and label them to help children stay organized. At the end of the trip, just pop them in the wash.
Items for your destination
Clothing, socks, and shoes
It might sound like overkill to pack extra clothing and shoes. However, if you’re going on a long road trip, a spare set of clothes could save you. This is especially true if you’re changing climates (like driving over the mountains).
Extra clothes are good for emergencies, too. If you get stranded overnight in your vehicle, you can layer up to stay warm. If you step into a stream, you can change into fresh socks when you return to your car.
Empty tote bag in case you stumble on a farmer’s market or gift shop
Seasoned adventurers know it is always wise to pack an extra tote bag. You never know if you’ll find a fruit stand or a piece of artwork from a street vendor. Pack an empty side bag in addition to your suitcase or backpack. Worst case, you don’t use it—best case, you’re prepared when you discover treasure.
At the end of the day, it’s better to over-prepare than under-prepare when packing for a road trip.
Make sure you stock up on these time-tested road trip essentials, and remember to locate your proof of insurance before you leave on your grand adventure. If you have 45 seconds, give Jerry a try. You could save up to $879 a year on car insurance.
Frequently asked questions
What should I pack for a 4-day road trip?
To pack for a four-day road trip, you will need enough food, clothing, and safety gear. It’s wise to pack for five days, in case you get stranded or decide to extend your trip.
You should bring two pairs of shoes, several pairs of socks, a jacket, sunscreen, sunglasses, a mobile charger, an emergency kit, snacks, a water bottle, and entertainment like road trip games or a tablet. If you are going camping, pack camping gear and bring cash for state park entrance fees.
What should you not do on a road trip?
Do not drive tired. It can be tempting to overexert yourself to cover more miles or explore more destinations. But tired driving is dangerous, for you and for the other drivers on the road.
Do not underestimate your budget. Do not drive without insurance. Do not hit the road without getting your vehicle serviced beforehand. Do not travel with people who aren’t up for a little adventure.
Road trip essentials for kids
Traveling with kids can seem daunting, but most kids will thrive if they have two things: snacks and entertainment. Pack some of their favorite treats (and then hide a second serving in case of tantrums). Charge up their tablet or bring some fun road trip games.
Finally, make sure your kids are wearing comfortable clothing and that they are protected from the sun with UV shades.
Road trip essentials for winter
Winter road trips require special preparation. Make sure your emergency kit includes an ice-scraper. You may also want to bring some kitty litter in case you run into slippery roads and need extra traction. Pack a thermos and a spare change of clothes, too.
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