Road trip essentials checklist

Embarking on a road trip is an exhilarating adventure that promises freedom, exploration, and unforgettable memories. Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a cross-country expedition, proper preparation is key to a smooth and enjoyable journey. To ensure you’re ready for the open road, we’ve compiled the ultimate road trip essentials checklist. From safety gear to entertainment options, here’s a selection of must-have items to pack before hitting the road.

Safety and emergency gear

Safety should always be a top priority when embarking on any journey, especially one that involves driving. Essential safety gear will provide peace of mind and keep you prepared for any unexpected situations. This can include:

  • A first aid kit: A well-stocked first aid kit is a must-have for any road trip. Make sure to include bandages, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any necessary medication.
  • Emergency cones and/or reflective triangles: In case of a breakdown or accident, emergency cones or reflective triangles can be used to warn other drivers and prevent further accidents.
  • Jumper cables: These are essential in case your battery dies and you need a quick jumpstart.
  • Flashlight: Make sure your flashlight has fresh batteries and keep it easily accessible in case of any car troubles at night. It’s a good idea to pack spare batteries, too.
  • Fire extinguisher:  While unlikely, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. A fire extinguisher can come in handy in case of a vehicle fire.
  • Spare tyre and jack: Flat tyres happen, so make sure you have a spare tyre and jack to change it with. Also check that your spare tire is properly inflated before leaving.
  • Multi-tool and a basic tool kit: A multi-tool with pliers, a screwdriver, and a knife can be extremely useful in various situations. A basic tool kit can also come in handy for minor car repairs.


Make sure to pack all necessary documentation in a safe and easily accessible place before heading out on your road trip. This can include:

  • Driver’s licence, registration, and proof of insurance:  These are essential for driving legally and in case of any accidents or traffic stops.
  • Roadside assistance information: If you have a roadside assistance membership, make sure to bring the necessary documents and contact information.
  • Vehicle owner’s manual and relevant service records:  These can be helpful in case of any car troubles or to reference for maintenance needs
  • Emergency contacts: Keep a list of emergency contacts, including family members, friends, and your doctor, in case of any emergencies on the road.

Vehicle maintenance

Before embarking on your adventure, it’s vital to make sure your vehicle is in good condition for the journey. This can include:

  • Oil and fluid check: Check that all essential fluids, such as oil, coolant, transmission, and brake fluids, are at the right levels.
  • Tyre pressure and tread check: Make sure your tyres are properly inflated and have enough tread to safely navigate different road conditions.
  • Brake inspection: Brakes should be checked and replaced if needed to ensure safe stopping.
  • Windshield wipers and fluid: It’s important to have good visibility while driving, so make sure your windshield wipers are in good condition and that you have enough washer fluid.
  • Battery test:  Have your battery tested to ensure it’s in good condition and won’t die on the road.
  • Light check: Having bright lights that work well is especially important if you’ll be driving at night or in the rain and fog. Check that your lights work before you head off.
  • Double-check insurance: Make sure your car insurance coverage is up to date and covers any necessary aspects for your road trip.

Navigation tools

A crucial aspect of any road trip is having a reliable navigation system. Even if you prefer traditional paper maps, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. Some essential navigation tools include:

  • GPS device or smartphone with maps app: These can provide real-time directions and help you navigate unfamiliar areas easily.
  • Paper maps: In case of limited internet connection or battery life, paper maps can be a great backup for navigation. Just make sure to have a current and detailed map of your planned route.

Entertainment and connectivity options

Long hours on the road can get boring (even with the best company!), so it’s important to have some fun activities planned to keep yourself and any passengers entertained. Some of our suggestions are:

  • Music playlists or streaming services:  Good tunes are vital for a road trip! If you use a streaming service, and will be driving through areas without reception, consider downloading the songs ahead of time.
  • Podcasts or audiobooks: These are a great option for longer trips and can make the time fly by.
  • Road trip games: There are many classic road trip games, such as “I Spy” or the licence plate game, that can keep everyone entertained. A deck of cards  or travel-sized board games can also be fun options.
  • Mobile hotspot or portable wifi device: A lifesaver if you need to stay connected while on the road.
  • Charging cables and power bank: Make sure to have all necessary charging cables for your devices, as well as a portable power bank in case of a low battery at a bad time. You may also wish to invest in a car phone charger.
  • Binoculars for scenic viewpoints : If you’ll be passing through areas with great views, bring along a pair of binoculars for an enhanced experience.

Comfort and convenience

What’s the point of  a road trip if you’re uncomfortable the whole time? Make sure to pack items to make your journey more comfortable and convenient. Our suggestions are:

  • Comfortable clothing and shoes: Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the long drive. You may also want to bring a change of clothes in case of any spills or unexpected weather changes. A rain jacket or poncho is another  good idea, as you never know when a shower might come along!
  • Travel pillow and blanket: If you’ll be taking turns driving, having a travel pillow and blanket can make resting during your break more comfortable.
  • Snacks and drinks: Pack some healthy snacks, as well as plenty of water (in a reusable bottle) to stay hydrated and energised during the trip. Avoid eating too many sugary snacks, as they can make you feel tired and sluggish.
  • Trash bags: Keep your car clean and organised by having trash bags handy for any garbage or wrappers.
  • Wet wipes and hand sanitiser:  These can come in handy for messes or quick clean-ups. Keep them in the glove box for easy access.
  • Sunglasses, hats and sunscreen for sun protection: If you’ll be travelling in  sunny areas, make sure to have these essentials on hand to protect yourself from sun glare and potential burns.
  • Sleeping bags: Those camping or staying in budget accommodation might like to bring a sleeping bag for convenient sleeping and warmth.
  • Basic toiletries: Pack a small bag with essential toiletries like your toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and conditioner, so you always feel fresh on the road.
  • Prescription medication:  If you take any prescription medication, make sure to pack enough for the duration of your trip. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of your prescriptions in case of an emergency.

A successful road trip is not just about the destination but also about the journey itself. By ensuring you have all the essential items, you’re setting yourself up for a more relaxed and enjoyable adventure. Remember to adapt the checklist based on the specific needs of your trip and have a blast exploring the open road, whether it’s with friends, family, or solo.

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