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Road Trip Essentials: What to Pack on a Road Trip

To make your road trip run as smoothly as possible, you need to pack certain essentials. Planning ahead and packing the right items can minimize your stops, save you money and keep you entertained along the way. Here’s a planning guide to get you started.

Your Car

Do not leave home without your registration and license. Keep a copy of your car insurance policy and contact numbers with you in the event of an accident. It helps to have your car manual on hand so that if a red light comes on, you can find out what it means. Check that your spare tire is in good shape before you set off.

Use a hands-free kit for your mobile phone to ensure your hands are on the wheel at all times. You don’t want the extra expense of a fine.

A roadside emergency kit containing items such as jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge and a warning triangle will make sure you’re ready for most eventualities.

Your Navigation

You may think you have all the navigation skills you need, but it doesn’t hurt to have some help. Investing in a GPS will help you navigate in unfamiliar territory. You may have Google Maps or Waze on your phone, but you don’t necessarily always have service.

Waze is a social and navigation app available for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android that also gives you real-time updates about traffic and so on. It’s worth downloading for when you do have service. Electronics can fail you, so take the precaution of printing out directions ahead of time.

Your Bags

It helps to use duffle bags because they are easier to pack and stack. Each passenger can take a small tote bag in the car for snacks, activities, etc.

Your Comfort

Sunglasses, a travel pillow, a window shade, a pair of slippers and comfortable clothes all make a long journey more comfortable. Choose loose, breathable clothes and think about layering to cope with cooler or hotter weather. Remember that dark colors hide wrinkles and stains.

Your Personal Care

Sunscreen, body wipes, lip balm, a hairbrush, toiletries and tissues are items you can stash in your personal care kit.

There’s no guarantee that toilets you need to use while on the road will have a supply of toilet paper, so remember to take some with you.

Your Food and Drink

It’s cheaper to bring healthy snacks from home than buy them on the road. Nuts, seeds and freeze-dried fruit or vegetables make good snacks.

A big bag of trail mix can be a good option for a long journey. Make it yourself and store it in a Ziploc bag. Nature bars are another convenient option.

Take along some mints to keep your breath fresh and some wet wipes to clean up after eating.

It’s critical to stay hydrated, especially if you’re traveling in very hot weather. Keeping a few large bottles of water in the car can really help out. Using travel mugs with resealable lids can prevent unnecessary spillage.

Pack in a thermos and ask if you can fill it up at convenience stores and gas stations instead of using their disposable cups.

First Aid Kit

Take along a first aid kit that includes basic supplies such as bandages, an antiseptic, safety pins and band-aids. They can really come in handy when you are far from the nearest town.

Include some painkillers and anti-inflammatories to deal with unexpected aches and pains. Sitting in a car for long periods can take a toll on your body.

Take along some hand sanitizer, as you may find yourself having to deal with some unsanitary conditions somewhere along the way.

Stay Connected and Entertained

Taking along a car charger is essential if you want to recharge all your electronic devices. The whole car can charge if you use a power inverter with dual outlets and dual USB ports.


Hand-held devices are a good diversion on a long trip. A game like Mad Libs gets everyone involved and prompts you to make up funny stories together. Trivia apps and even classic card games can keep your mind off delays if you are waiting at a roadblock or for a ferry.


Choose a playlist that’s not too mellow or repetitive, as it could put the driver to sleep. You can download playlists from Spotify. Try to choose music that everyone in the car will enjoy. If your teenage children absolutely hate your music, they can wear earphones and listen to their own. Bluetooth speakers can help in areas where reception is poor.

Miscellaneous items

A Swiss Army knife, a flashlight, a few extra batteries and some garbage bags will always come in handy on a long trip.