So the stars finally aligned, and you were able to schedule that upcoming road trip you’ve always wanted to go on. While you’re super excited, there’s still something in the back of your mind that’s bothering you…
Everyone’s least favorite part of planning a road trip. But, it doesn’t have to be.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about how to make a road trip packing list. Then, you can make the most out of your four-wheel getaway.
Let's get started!
How to Make a Road Trip Packing List: The Basics
The first step for any road trip packing list should be to make a checklist. “What is a checklist?”, you might wonder. Well, a checklist allows you to compile everything you need for your upcoming getaway. With it, you’ll be able to check off things you need for a road trip as you go along.
After all, you don’t want to forget anything important!
If you want to learn more about bringing all the road trip essentials, check out our article on How to Plan a Trip. Or check out our Beginner’s Guide on How to Plan a Road Trip.
And speaking of essentials:
Sunny 16 Voyager Backpack
For the best possible road trip experience, we recommend the Sunny 16 Voyager Backpack. Travel is in this backpack’s name. It’s a 31L camera backpack, making it easy to fit in the car, as well as backpack around town or trails with.
This backpack packs a serious amount of gear for its size, fitting two DSLR cameras, up to seven lenses, a laptop, a tablet, and other accessories. If you’re not a photographer, you can also easily fit plenty of clothes and other travel gear.
It’s made of a weatherproof material, making it perfect for any of your travels, rain or shine. You never have to worry about your things getting wet.
For comfort, this backpack features both padded shoulder straps and padding on the back made of light, breathable material. You’ll have comfort during extended periods of time wearing it, and keep cool when it’s hot out.
You’ll even have quick access during your travels. The Voyager has multiple access points to equipment with both rear access, side access, and a top pocket for your convenience. Having side access as the primary bag opening keeps your equipment safe and close to you.
Overall, the Voyager is a great way to save space, while also still being able to fit everything you need.
How to save Space
Many think you need a big SUV or van to have an enjoyable road trip, but that’s far from the case!
In general, we recommend sticking to backpacks like the Voyager over suitcases. Also, if you need to, you can always use compression packing cubes to condense your clothes and other road trip essentials.
Here are some other methods for keeping your road trip packing list light and consolidated:
- Roll your clothes
- Share bags when there is extra space
- Use seatback organizers
- Don’t pack bulky snacks
How to Plan a Road Trip with Google Maps
Google maps is a great tool for preparing your road trip packing list because it gives you a birds eye view. You can figure out where you need to stop or how long your trip will take. These factors will both affect what you choose to pack.
Of course, maybe you’re worried Google maps will be useless if you’re going to a remote area. The truth is, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
You can download your route before you leave, so you can enjoy Google Maps without worrying about your internet connection on the road.
Here’s a quick overview on how to save a route to your phone, so you can use it offline:
- At the bottom of Google Maps, tap the name or address of the place
- Select the Download button
- Once downloaded, your route will be always be available to you
Road Trip Essential Items
Road trip essentials are the most important things to pack for a road trip. This can be anything from a spare tire to a first-aid kit.
To help you keep track of everything you need, here’s our comprehensive list of road trip packing list essentials:
☐ Driver’s license
☐ Your wallet
☐ Car registration and insurance information
☐ Spare tire
☐ Quart of oil
☐ Jug of coolant or water
☐ Wiper fluid
☐ First aid kit and prescriptions
☐ Swiss army knife
☐ Car charger and Portable Power Bank
☐ Garbage bags
☐ Hand sanitizer
☐ Bug Spray
☐ Paper Money and Coins (For meters and tolls)
☐ Sweatshirt or sweater
☐ Blankets and travel pillow
☐ Travel cup
☐ Jugs or bottles of water
☐ Toothbrush and toothpaste
☐ Rain coat
☐ Tupperware or ziplock bags
What Should I Bring on a Road Trip for Fun?
This question mainly depends on whether you want fun things to do in the car or out of it. For that reason, we’ll break the question up into two sections.
Here are some fun things you can bring for when you’re sitting in the car:
☐ Download a podcast or music on your phone
☐ Electronic or physical book
☐ Scavenger hunt list
☐ Drawing pad
☐ Portable gaming console
However, if you want to know some fun things you can bring for when you’re out of the car, we’ve also got you covered. Here are some great additions to your packing list that can really bring out the fun:
☐ Portable radio
☐ Board/Card games
Food to Pack for a Road Trip
No road trip packing list would be complete without some snacks. After all, there are several parts of the country where you can drive for hours without coming across a quick bite to eat.
For food, we recommend things that are light, healthy and won’t spoil too easily. These recommendations include:
☐ Granola Bars
☐ Protein/Energy Bars
☐ Dried Fruit
☐ Cheese Sticks
☐ Fresh Fruit & Veggies
☐ Sliced Bread
☐ Peanut/Almond/Sunflower Butter
Road Trip Packing List by Length of Trip
While it’s important to be prepared for emergencies, it’s also crucial not to over-stuff your car for a road trip. Regardless of whether you’re taking an 8 hour road trip or a 10 day road trip, it’s good to pack light.
However, your priorities will change based on the length of the trip, so it’s vital to know what’s important, based on the length of your trip.
What Should I Pack for an 8 Hour Road Trip?
Not every road trip is a month-long trek across the country, and the truth is, you can have plenty of fun on a shorter one!
While it’s possible to drive up to 8-12 hours per day, you should stop once every 2 hours. Not only will this allow you to rest, eat and maintain your car, but it’ll also give you a chance to do more activities on your route.
Of course, we do have some road trip packing list tips if you’re trying to straight shot it. When in doubt, don’t overdo the clothes and snacks!
- Chewing Gum: a great way to increase circulation and alertness.
- Podcast/Audiobook: a good way to be entertained, even if you’re the one driving.
- One Change of Clothes: Odds are you aren’t driving 8 hours back on the same day you left, so it’s good to have fresh clothes with you for the next day.
What Should I Pay for a 10 Day Road Trip?
Maybe you’ve never gone on a longer road trip because you’re worried about how much it will cost. Luckily, we can tell you the average cost of a 10 day road trip, as well as your road trip packing list.
The average cost of a road trip is $150 per day, or $1,500 for 10 days.
However, this number can vary significantly based on the type of car you’re using, and the accommodations you’re interested in. For example, the average cheap hotel costs anywhere between $50-$120 per night, while camping in your car or in a tent can cost you as little as $0-$40 per night.
Another example, if you have a car that gets 35 miles per gallon, you're going to spend a whole lot less on gas than a car that gets 19 miles per gallon.
Of course, these expenses will affect what you decide to pack. The more snacks you pack, the less restaurants you need to stop at. But, maybe you want to eat out a lot too.
When in doubt, add a budgeting section to your road trip packing list so you can parcel out what’s best for you.
That being said, here are some of our packing recommendations for a 10 day road trip:
☐ Packing cubes
☐ 3-4 pants/shorts
☐ 4-8 shirts/tank-tops
☐ 1-2 sweaters
☐ 11 pairs of underwear and socks
☐ 1 extra pair of shoes
Up Next: How to Become a Travel Photographer
Now that you know how to pack for your upcoming road trip, you’re ready to hit the road! Let us know in the comments which tip helped you the most.
And, if you want to learn more about how to take professional photos on your trip, check out our article on how to become a travel photographer.