The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List

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From Thule’s roof-top carrier to the best travel snacks, these are the essentials our travel experts don’t hit the road without.

<p>Travel + Leisure / Reese Herrington</p>

Travel + Leisure / Reese Herrington

Road trips have long been a vacation tradition, though their popularity has really taken off in the last few years. Compared to cruises and flights, they involve more planning, from mapping out your route to picking sightseeing pit stops. Packing for a road trip also requires more thought and attention to detail than your average trip.

We’ve done our fair share of road trips and are here to steer you in the right direction. For this packing list, we’ve laid out the essentials you should bring with you, focusing on comfort and convenience. From tech gear and entertainment options to snacks and safety items, some of these must-haves may have even slipped your mind entirely.

Packing List for a Road Trip

Here’s everything you need to pack for a road trip, plus our top recommendations for each category. These picks work together to make sure you arrive at your destination and stops easily, safely, and in good spirits. Use this as a checklist and read more about each of our specific recommendations below.

Tech Gear and Accessories

Snacks and Drinks

Comfort Accessories

For Entertainment

For Pets

Health and Safety

Don't forget to take these necessary accessories along for the ride. Not only will they help make long days on the road a lot less cumbersome, they’ll also help you handle any "potholes" that may pop up along the way. When it comes to gear, be sure to choose items that can work with a variety of different devices and charging ports. When it comes to accessories, go for items that are comfortable, convenient, and have quality construction.

Andobil Car Phone Holder Mount

Best Car Phone Mount

Having a hands-free dashboard phone mount is an absolute necessity on any road trip. It’ll allow you to easily glance at your GPS map and directions without taking your eyes too far off the road — and it saves precious cupholder space for actual cups. This Andobil model came out on top after our car phone mount testing for its multiple mounting options (all solid and sturdy) and quick-release feature (so you’re not fiddling with getting your phone out). The adjustable telescopic mount makes for a smooth swivel transition between different drivers and seating positions. It also keeps your charging port accessible so you won’t lose power in the middle of following directions.

Price at time of publish: $28

Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Best Noise-canceling Headphones

Sharing such a small space with your fellow roadtrippers can take its toll. Slipping these comfy noise-canceling headphones over your ears gives you 11 different levels of sound-blocking so you can completely drift off into your own world of music, movies, and podcasts, or keep an ear out for interesting car conversations. Plus, you’ll get the superb sound quality from Bose, a top-tier brand.

Price at time of publish: $329

Thule Motion XT Rooftop Cargo Carrier

Best Roof Carrier

If your road trip involves any extra activity gear or you just want to free up some space to make the journey roomier for everyone inside, getting a rooftop cargo carrier is a no-brainer. Our tests revealed that the Thule Motion XT is the best available across several categories. We traveled with luggage, snowboarding equipment, and camping gear in this cargo carrier and loved how sturdy, lightweight, and secure (it’s lockable) it felt. It was also impressive how easy it was to assemble and load/unload. This carrier comes with 16, 18, or 22 cubic feet of storage.

Price at time of publish: $1,050

Related:The Ultimate Long-trip Packing List

USAMS Multi-Charging Cable (2-pack)

Best Charging Cable

This cable is a four-in-one charger must-have on the road. You can power and fast-charge up to four devices simultaneously. The four cables include two lightning ports, a USB-C port, and a micro-USB port, making it a cinch to plug-in different types of devices like phones, tablets, e-readers, headphones, and more. Remember, this is just the cord, you’ll need either a power bank or a car-lighter adapter with a USB port to source power.

Price at time of publish: $11

If you’ve ever taken a road trip, you know that it creates the perfect environment for snacking. Popping a few tasty treats in your mouth as you watch the gorgeous (or even painfully dull) scenery through the window almost go together as well as popcorn and movies. We’ve also given thought to how and where you’ll store your travel snacks and drinks and whether you’ll need to keep anything hot or cold as you drive. Since you might find yourselves snacking more than usual, nutrient-rich snacks that will fill you up are a priority. Of course, there’s always room for a little junk food, too.

RXBar Protein Bar Variety Pack 6 Flavors

Best for Between Meals

RXBars are one of the best travel snacks to have on you. We love the variety of flavors and minimal ingredients. Each bar’s makeup is listed on the front of the package, usually totaling between just four to six ingredients. These chewy bars are lightweight, don’t require refrigeration, and are packed with a good balance of protein and fiber to keep you satisfied between meal stops. They’re a great way to prevent your stomach from grumbling in the home stretch and come in variety packs that allow you to sample best-selling flavors.

Price at time of publish: $27

RIND Skin-On Dried Fruit

Best Dried Fruit

Dried fruit snacks are a great way to satisfy any sweet and tangy cravings you get while on the road. These all-natural dried fruit snacks standout because they have no added sugar (sorry, Craisins!), and offer a variety of textures between chews. Rind Snacks also include the fruits’ skins, giving these snacks a bit of an extra zing for your tastebuds. The variety pack is an excellent call for road trips where everyone can pick a pouch full of the fruits they’re craving.

Price at time of publish: $37

Harvest Snaps Calbee Harvest Snaps Gluten Free Crisps

Best Vegetable-based

These Harvest Snaps crunchy pea snacks hit the spot and are a sneaky way to get in a bit of vegetables while road trippin’. A crowd-pleaser with all ages, these snacks list vegetables as their first ingredients. The variety pack features a handful of different flavors, from lightly salted to wasabi to tomato basil, to keep your tongue entertained while on your trip. They’re also individually wrapped for easy snacking (without having to share).

Price at time of publish: $29

CraveBox Care Package

Best for the Sweet Tooth

Okay, sometimes the stomach wants what the stomach wants, and you’ve got to cave-in to a little junk food on vacation. With 50 different types of name-brand snacks — Goldfish, Fun Dip, Rice Krispie Treats, granola bars, Oreos, Swedish Fish, Pirate’s Booty (to name a few) — the Cravebox Classic Snack Box will make sure there’s something to satisfy everyone’s snack desires during the drive.

Price at time of publish: $289

Hydro Flask Flask Tumbler - Stainless Steel, Reusable, Vacuum Insulated with Press-in Lid

Best Insulated Cup

Bringing along tumblers for the whole crew should be a non-negotiable. Pouring cans, bottles, or cups of beverages into your tumbler will help keep your drink of choice hot or cold much longer than its original vessel. The Hydro Flask All-around Tumbler is BPA-free and comes in 12, 16, 20, and 20-ounce sizes — all designed to fit into a standard car cup holder. The double-layer insulation keeps your drinks hot or cold for hours, while the lidded top with a sip slot helps prevent spills.

Price at time of publish: $28

IceMule Jaunt 15L Soft-sided Cooler

Best Cooler

Stuffing a few of your favorite cans or bottles into a cooler is a great way to avoid extra stops and spending cash on the road. We’re fans of the IceMule Jaunt 9L soft-sided insulated backpack cooler (which has made several of our cooler lists, including Best Small Coolers) because it doesn’t take up too much space; has a leakproof, roll top closure so you can toss it anywhere in the car; and is easy to toss on your back as you unload at every stop. Plus, it keeps items cold for up to 24 hours and compresses down nicely when not in use.

Price at time of publish: $110

Related:The 10 Best Backpack Coolers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Vankor Car Trash Can

Best Portable Trash Can

This 2.5-gallon car trash bin has a convenient boxy frame that isn’t easily crushable, keeping your road trip trash safe in the container. We like that it can be clipped behind the headrest of either front seat or set on the floor well between the two back seats. There’s also a solid rubber “vortex” opening that makes it easy to discard bottles and cans directly through the lid. This trash can is leakproof, which helps keep your car dry in case of any interior spills. Emptying is as easy as flipping the lid and taking out the garbage bag liner.

Price at time of publish: $13

One of the most important ways to prepare for a road trip is to make sure you’ve got items to keep you comfortable during long drives. You’d be surprised how quickly you start feeling a bit uncomfortable in your seat or with your travel mates when in such a confined space — conflicts over music options and what the perfect inside temperature is can abound. That’s why we’ve got comfort picks for the driver, passenger, and even those in the back.

AmyHomie Cooling Blanket

Best Blanket

Long road trips can hypnotize us into nap mode (unless we’re the driver, of course). This lightweight, silky smooth cooling blanket is a great addition to any road trip, especially for riders who get cold easily (remember, you’re sharing the thermostat). Made from bamboo fibers, the AmyHomie Cooling Blanket helps make the car feel cozier without causing you to overheat. It comes in 12 colors so it’s easy to distinguish whose is whose.

Price at time of publish: $25

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow

Best Pillow

Trying to sleep in a car is like trying to sleep on an airplane in coach and can be especially cramped for your neck. That’s where the Therm-a-rest Compressible Pillow comes in. It’s available in three sizes, all rectangular like your traditional pillows at home, and several patterned color prints. Plus, you can rest easy knowing this comfy and breathable travel pillow is filled with leftover foam used to make REI sleeping bags and covered in recycled/upcycled fabric. When not in use, it conveniently compresses down to about the size of a thick umbrella, which is key for cramped spaces.

Price at time of publish: $59

Related:The 11 Best Travel Pillows of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

Fenglaoda 8 Pairs Compression Socks

Best Compression Socks

If you didn’t already know, we think compression socks are some of the most underappreciated travel accessories. These Fenglaoda 20-30mmHg compression socks are god-sends for those long drives, whether you’re a driver or passenger. Just like when you’re sitting for hours on a plane, road trips can cause the same circulation issues. Wearing compression socks will help keep blood circulating, reducing overall leg fatigue and cramping and making for a more comfortable ride. These specific socks come in multiple colors and patterns; have a soft-padded bottom and roomy toe tips; and are easy to get off and on.

Price at time of publish: $26

Cushion Lab Patented Pressure Relief Car Seat Cushion

Best Seat Cushion

Courtesy of Amazon
Courtesy of Amazon

If you’ve ever driven in a commercial truck or cargo van, you know the driver’s seat has extra padding, lumbar support, and shock absorption to keep the driver comfortable over long drives. While some passenger cars do have plush, supportive seats, they’re not designed for the long haul. The Cushion Lab Pressure Relief Seat Cushion makes sure your bum and back stay comfortable and adequately supported through the trip. The ergonomic contour designed memory foam helps drivers sit up straight and cradles pain points like your thighs and hips for a more comfortable ride.

Price at time of publish: $73

Munchkin Brica Sun Safety Car Window Shade with Heat Alert

Best Window Shade

Driving in the sun for hours can get hot, hot, hot, no matter which seat you’re in. These Munchkin Brica White Hot Sun Safety Shades mount easily on the inside of passenger windows and can be pulled down like a retractable shade. These are especially ideal to place on the windows next to kids or babies since they shield from heat and UV rays. The shade itself is made of mesh that enables you to see outside of the window. There’s also a small red heat indicator that turns white at high temperatures.

Price at time of publish: $16

Lulls in scenery, interstate slowdowns, and particularly long stretches of driving can all make your road trip feel like it’s lasting an eternity. Keeping entertained makes the time go faster, gives everyone a little personal break, and can help keep spirits high. Think about things that will keep the car entertained as a whole and individually and products you can bring to make it all more accessible.

Regal Games Original Travel Bingo Assorted 4 Pack

Best Driving Game

Go old school with these tangible travel bingo boards that were a go-to staple for road trips back in the ‘80s. These boards, which have players vying to reach B-I-N-G-O first based off the “I-spy” out of the car window game that can keep kids (and adults) occupied for hours. This is a real (and reusable) value buy.

Price at time of publish: $10

Lusso Gear Backseat Car Organizer

Best Backseat Tablet Holder

Creating an in-car entertainment console is as easy as clipping and strapping this portable entertainment organizer to the back of the seat in front of you. We like how lightweight and comprehensive the Lusso Gear Heavy Duty Backseat Car Organizer is because it’s not only got a see-through pouch for storing your tablet to watch movies — it’s also got five mesh stash pockets to hold anything from snacks to sippy cups, as well as spots to store hand wipes, additional toys, books, or additional devices. Family road trips have never been more convenient.

Price at time of publish: $24

Bose SoundLink Flex Bluetooth Portable Speaker

Best Portable Speaker

If you’re trekking around in a car that predates Bluetooth, you’re going to want to invest in a portable speaker for the trip. The radio can only take you so far on a road trip, especially when you hit the middle of nowhere. The Bose SoundLink Flex Bluetooth speaker is tough and gives good depth-of-sound output (no empty bass here). Plus, you can use it post-road trip, too (or at your hotel or campsite), making it a good investment overall. Did we mention it floats?

Price at time of publish: $149

Related:The Best Waterproof Speakers of 2022

Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet

Best Tablet for Movies

Have some backseat riders (or drivers) that need a distraction during your road trip? If you’re not lucky enough to have a built-in back-of-seat screen in your car, getting a decent tablet is the next best thing. The Amazon Fire HD 10-inch Tablet is an affordable option backed by brand quality you can trust. You can run a variety of streaming apps (Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video, for example), plus sync your email, Spotify, and Kindle accounts, essentially making this tablet a one-stop 32 or 64 MB entertainment hub for the long road ahead.

Price at time of publish: $150

Don’t forget about your furry friends! Road trips can also be boring and uncomfortable for our four-legged family members. Make sure to stock up on your pet’s food and treats and that you're able to provide water during the journey. You’ll also want to ensure they are traveling in a comforting and safe pet car seat, have access to bathroom breaks, and have their own ways to keep calm and occupied.

Kurgo Direct to Seat Belt Tether for Dogs

Best Dog Seat Belt

Make sure your pup is strapped in safely with the adjustable Kurgo Direct to Seat Belt Tether. This is one of our favorite dog travel accessories because, unlike a lot of dog seat belts on the market, it clips into the seat belt receiver just like a human seat belt (instead of looping around the headrest). This bad boy is crash-tested up to 75 miles per hour. It also has a swivel carabiner clip to allow your dog to move around without getting tangled up. Note that this seat belt won’t work in Volvos or some Ford trucks.

Price at time of publish: $17

Travel Cat Porta Pawty Portable Cat Litter Box with Lid

Best Portable Litter Box

Need to take a road trip with your cat in tow? The Travel Cat Porta-pawty Travel Litter Box takes the hassle (and stink) out of kitty’s bathroom breaks. This zip-around, leakproof litter box provides your cat a spot to do their business wherever you stop along the way. A carry handle makes it a cinch to move in and out of the car and hotel rooms, while the zipper keeps litter and odors locked in when not in use (no need to change the litter every stop!). To clean, just wipe with a warm wet towel.

Price at time of publish: $40

Related:The 7 Best Airline-approved Pet Carriers of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed (Strawberry Red)

Best Pet Bed

If you’re traveling with your pet, secure them in their own car seat or pet bed for their safety. Smaller dogs, cats, and other pets can easily fit into the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed, a car seat that’s safety crash-tested and certified by the Center for Pet Safety for pets up to 15 pounds. This stylish, mesh dome-topped carrier also doubles as a calming bed for your furry friend, giving them a relaxing, plush, and protective spot to ride out the road trip. When transporting in and out of the car, just zip up the top and add the removable padded shoulder strap.

Price at time of publish: $230

Prima Pets Collapsible Travel Bowl with Carabiner

Best Portable Food and Water Bowls

Just as you pack your own snacks and drinks, be sure to do the same for any pets with you — and don’t forget their bowls. We like traveling with these collapsible silicone bowls from Altima Pets. They are easy to clean, can be adjusted to three different depths, and come with a handy carabiner clip that can attach to their carrier, a car organizer, or any bag you’re using to store your pet’s belongings.

Price at time of publish: $9

Road trips are one of our favorite ways to get around when we’ve got the time, but don’t let the excitement of hitting the open road overshadow your packing prep when it comes to safety. (One big lesson we learned early on was that while sunny days provide good driving conditions, that big fireball in the sky can also cause a lot of driving discomfort.) This list will make sure you’ve got health and safety basics covered head to toe, from a travel first aid kit to sun protection.

EltaMD UV Pure Broad Spectrum SPF 47 Face and Body Sunscreen

Best Sunscreen

Hours of driving with the sun streaming through the windows is like spending a day at the beach under a magnifying glass. Although we have awarded EltaMD UV Sport SPF 50 as the best overall sunscreen, for road trips we recommend EltaMD Pure Broad-spectrum SPF 47 since you’ll be using it multiple times a day. It’s great for all skin types since it’s free from oil, parabens, dyes, and fragrances, and it’s a mineral-based, UVA/UVB-blocking sunscreen. Apply it liberally to any areas exposed to sun, and be sure to reapply every few hours.

Price at time of publish: $32

Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight Watertight .5

Best First Aid Kit

The Adventure Medical Kit Ultralight Watertight .5 is our best overall pick for a travel first aid kit. Inside the double-watertight pouch you’ll have a sampling of common over-the-counter medications to treat minor aches and pain, allergies, and stings; wound care essentials like bandages and antiseptic gel; and tools for removing splinters and ticks. This particular pack is meant to be used by up to two people who are in an outdoor setting for up to two days, but since you’ll be mostly in the car and will have access to additional supplies, it’s ideal to keep stashed in the dash.

Price at time of publish: $23

Ray-Ban RB2140 Original Wayfarer Sunglasses

Best Sunglasses

Truthfully, you can pack any sunglasses as long as they have UV protection — we just prefer the classic yet timeless look of Ray-ban’s Original Wayfarer sunglasses. In our eyes, they’re the best sunglasses for travel on the market. Don’t get caught on the road fighting against the bright glare of the sun. Not only is it dangerous, it’s completely avoidable. If you’ve got a little coin to spare, opt for Ray-ban’s polarized lenses, which give extra protection against glare and produce a crisper overall image.

Price at time of publish: $170

Related:The 13 Best Places to Buy Sunglasses of 2023

Safety 1st Grow and Go All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

Best Car Seat

Child safety comes first and foremost when buying a car seat, but a close second will be their comfort, especially if they’ll be strapped in for hours a day. We love this portable car seat because it’s easy to clean, easy to adjust for the best fit, and has thoughtful details like storage for drinks and snacks. This seat can be adjusted several ways, depending on your child’s age and weight (it fits up to 100 pounds), including being used rear-facing, forward-facing, and as a seat-belted booster seat. Getting your kid in and out is also a snap thanks to the harness design.

Price at time of publish: $160

Wet Ones Sensitive Skin Hand and Face Wipes

Best Cleaning Wipes

Move over, hand sanitizer. You’re going to need something that will not only kill 99.9 percent of germs but can also make you feel like you’ve just cleaned your hands (or face). Use these self-dispensing Wet Ones Sensitive Skin Hand and Face Wipes to clean off your hands before and after scarfing down that bag of chips, post-rest stop bathroom, or for a quick refresh when you don’t have access to soap and water. We opted for the sensitive skin formula to ensure you don’t dry out or irritate your hands after days of use on the road.

Price at time of publish: $20 for pack of 10

What to Know Before Packing for a Road Trip

You should prepare a roadside safety kit

Your travel first aid kit shouldn’t be the only emergency prep you’re packing. Make sure to check that your car has a decent spare, tools to change the tire, flares, and possibly even some extra water available in case it overheats. Don’t forget to add tire chains if you’ll be driving through winter conditions.

Be sure your car is ready for the ride

Be sure to start your road trip with your car in tip-top shape — get the oil changed, top up on fluids, replace worn wiper blades, and get any necessary tune-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I plan a road trip?

Everyone’s experience planning a road trip will be different based on their preferences and personality. However, there are a few basics to keep in mind. We recommend mapping out the mileage and driving time between main destinations and having a backup place to stop in case of inclement weather. Always add a few extra hours onto the driving time for meals, pit stops, and bathroom breaks.

How do I check road conditions for a road trip?

Check weather apps and local weather throughout your trip. Even if you’re driving along the same road for hours and hours, allow your GPS like Google Maps to guide you since these apps will often have up-to-date routing based off of road conditions, accidents, and weather.

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Katherine Alex Beaven has road tripped around several countries, including across the United States several times, in everything from tiny rental cars to a 13-wheeler truck. Alex based this road trip packing list on her personal experience and a collection of T+L-tested and researched travel items.

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