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Your Road Trip Essentials Checklist

Pack these road trip necessities to keep safe, comfortable, entertained, and ready for just about anything on your next outdoor adventure.

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Aerial view of road amidst trees in forest.Michael H/Getty Images

Wheels up!

The open road is a welcome relief to worries about COVID-19 and back-to-school blues. In fact, 71 percent of respondents who had to cancel their summer travel plans are now considering alternative road trip vacations to enjoy the outdoors according to a new poll by SWNS for Skyscanner. Added bonus: A road trip can actually be beneficial to your mental and physical health. Outdoorsy’s first ever Road to Wellness survey found that 94 percent of North American families feel less stressed and are happier and healthier after taking a road trip and spending time outdoors. If you’re ready to roll, make the most of your adventures by packing these road trip essentials organized so you can build on each list, so you have all the right things to bring on a road trip without overpacking. Don’t hit the road without reading this road trip survival guide.

Charger plug phone on carCASEZY/Getty Images

Car essentials

According to a survey by the popular Gasbuddy app, nearly one in three Americans are planning to hit the road this summer. First things first though; there is no road trip without your license and registration, so make sure they’re in a safe, easy to reach location. Also, get your car serviced beforehand and fix any minor problems—broken windshield wipers, oil change, tire rotation—before you hit the road. Then add these handy road trip necessities to your trunk, dashboard, or glove compartment for a worry-free ride.

Bottle of blue sanitizer ethyl alcohol hand gel cleanser put in the car, prepare for protecting coronavirus, COVID-19Dusit Ngambanphue/Getty Images

Personal road trip essentials

Safety and comfort are equally paramount when you’re heading out on a driving trip. Keeping these road trip necessities close at hand will make your road adventures feel more like a vacation and less like a chore. And be sure to consult these life-saving road trip planning apps before you hit the road.

Rear view of senior couple in convertiblekali9/Getty Images

Clothing road trip essentials

We know, with a whole car or RV to pack with your personal items, it may seem like you can throw half your closet in the trunk and roll out. But trust us, you’ll be happier if you have a packing road trip checklist that limits your clothing to keep your traveling space neat and make packing up easy. This clothing plan is for a week on the road in warm weather. Bring small packets of Woolite or other detergent for quick sink washing, and plan to hit the laundromat if you’ll be on the road longer. This list of things to bring on a road trip will depend on the season and your destination, but in general, it should include:

Girl Reading Book Inside Car ConceptRawpixel/Getty Images

Entertainment road trip essentials

Although getting there is half the fun, the rest of the road trip excitement is when you finally get to your destination and can start to enjoy the great outdoors, whether that’s at the beach, the mountains, or in a quiet rural area. Pack some special gear to keep you entertained both outdoors and indoors, so you’re ready for inclement weather as well.

Mixed race children using virtual reality goggles in carInti St Clair/Getty Images

Traveling with kids

Road trips make for a great family vacation, but it does require some additional planning to make sure the kids are both safe and entertained throughout your road trip. In addition to the road trip necessities for kids below, bring along some ginger and other natural remedies to beat motion sickness. And plan on stopping at least once every two hours to let the kids stretch and take a bathroom break. These are the best car games to play with your kids.

Dog leaning out window of carJacobs Stock Photography Ltd/Getty Images

Traveling with pets

Not unlike traveling with kids, taking your pets on the road offers ample rewards, but requires additional planning for their safety and comfort, and for your sanity as well. Plan for extra stops for pet relief and make sure your destination is pet friendly. It’s worth the extra efforts, though; your pet will love it, and taking your dog outside is one of the 15 habits of great dog owners. Here’s everything you need for a great road trip with your dog.

Tent and car on field against cloudy skyCavan Images/Getty Images

Camping essentials

Pitching a tent in the woods sounds like an easy vacation. But acquaint yourself with your camping gear, advises Dan Yates, the founder of campsite booking site Pitchup. Make a checklist, and make sure you take your own water bottles, cutlery, and everything you need to be self-sufficient in the woods. And follow this expert advice to avoid the camping mistakes most first-timers make.

Vacations in Poland - Camper trailer on the shore of bay of the Drawsko lakeewg3D/Getty Images

RV essential

According to VacationRenter, searches for RVs were up more than 350 percent at the beginning of the summer compared to the quarantine spring, and over twice the previous all-time high. So there’s a better than average chance that if you’re going on a road trip, you may be traversing the country with the comforts of home at your fingertips. To make it feel even more comfortable, you can bring some camping and entertainment essentials, above, then add these additional RV highlights.

Wherever your park, make sure you follow these 11 unspoken rules of RV etiquette.

Surface Level Of Tire Tracks On SnowHuang Sairui / EyeEm/Getty Images

Cold climate considerations

One of the highlights of road trips is discovering something different from home, including a different climate. If you’re heading north from wherever your starting point is, chances are you’ll soon find colder temps, especially if you’re traveling in the fall or winter. Be sure to bring the following so you’re not too cold to enjoy the scenery.

Next, read on to find out 11 destinations that are even better in the winter.

Sources:

  • SWNS for Skyscanner:”Americans are itching to travel again but will take these precautions on their next trip”
  • Outdoorsy: “Road to Wellness survey”
  • Dan Yates, the founder of campsite booking site Pitchup.

Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.