The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List (for USA and beyond)

by Mark & Kristen Morgan
Mark Kristen with Blue Ford on snow in Yellowstone National Park road trip packing list

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2020 has been a doozy, hasn’t it? So what better way to make amends for lost time this year than with a good old fashioned road trip! No matter your destination – USA, South America, Europe, Australia – we have put together an ultimate road trip packing list to help you prepare for your time on the road.

There really is nothing like feeling the breeze in your hair and your favorite tunes blaring through the speakers as you hit the open road day after day. However, the day can take quite a turn if you haven’t prepared properly.

But now that it’s almost road trip time, what do you pack?

 From first aid kits to camping gear to cooking essentials, we have you covered! This ultimate road trip packing list will prepare you for all scenarios. 

Related Content: In this post, we address mainly camping and essential road trip items. For a complete list of clothing, toiletries, electronics and travel gear, please check out our long term travel packing checklist

We’ve condensed all essential items in this entire post into a downloadable checklist that you can keep on your phone or even print out a paper copy. Tick each box as you pack to make sure you have everything.

Just sign up below to receive your FREE copy!

    *Please note this post may contain affiliate links. If you click on one of them, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! We recommend only products we use and as always, all ideas or opinions expressed in this post are entirely ours. Thank you for the support and happy travels!*

    Yes, you are going on a road trip! We are so excited for you and we want to congratulate you on your awesome decision. 

    Road trips are such an adventurous way to travel. Not only do you experience point A and point B, you also get to experience all the hidden gems in between. But we want to make sure you have all your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed before you leave!

    Let’s start with a few basic questions:

    • Itinerary – What region do you want to travel?
    • Timeframe – How long will the road trip be?
    • Weather – What climates will you experience?
    • Budget – How much do you have to spend?
    • Vehicle – How are you going to get around? Car or campervan?
    • Camping/Sleeping Options – Where do you plan to sleep? Hotels, campsites or maybe in your car?
    • Must-See Experiences – Is there anything you just cannot miss?

    After you have answered all of these important questions, you will now be able to formulate a list of items you may need. This is a complete road trip packing list of the items we always bring on a road trip, but tailor this guide to your specific needs.

    Road Trip Ideas: Would you prefer to head to the stunning Black Hills National Forest on this South Dakota Road Trip or does the hot desert filled with dramatic rock formations of the Utah Mighty 5 sound better? Check both out and see which suits you more!

    Car Essentials

    Our blue ford against orange rocks at Capitol Reef Utah

    Make sure to start the trip right with all of the necessary paperwork. You don’t want to be half way through your trip only to realize you can’t find your car insurance when you need it! Depending on where you will be road-tripping, make sure to also have proper ID (or visa information if necessary). 

    We always cover ourselves with both travel insurance and roadside assistance when on a road trip.

    If you are planning a road trip in the United States, AAA is the best option for roadside assistance. For about $100 a year, AAA allows up to 4 roadside assistance calls per year including towing up to 100 miles, flat tires and even help when you lock your keys in your car!

    Bicycle assistance is also included with extra options for motorcycle and RV upgrade coverage if needed.

    • Passport (if needed)
    • Driver’s License
    • Car Registration Paperwork
    • Insurance Information
    • Car Manual
    • Credit Cards / Debit Cards
    • Extra Car Key
    • Itinerary (give to friends and family so they have an idea of where you will be)
    • Accommodation Confirmations (if needed)
    • Roadside Assistance
    • Travel Insurance

    Travel Insurance: We always use and highly recommend World Nomads for the most comprehensive cover and peace of mind.

    Automotive Necessities

    Car Emergency Kit
    Fix-A-Flat Kit
    Tire Pressure Gauge

    Despite your knowledge level of car care, we highly recommend bringing some of these items in case of car trouble. Hopefully, you won’t have to use any of these, but it is much better to be prepared.

    We already had a lot of these items hanging around the house so we made our own ‘car emergency repair kit.’ Or if you don’t have any of these items, just purchase the entire kit in a one stop shop!

    Navigation & Charging

    Phone Car Mount
    Garmin Drive Smart
    Journal

    You can’t get where you are going unless you know how to get there! While most smartphones have great GPS systems, what happens if you do not have data, signal or battery?

    • Phone Car Mount – Perfect for displaying your phone hands free.
    • Garmin Drive Smart – For a road trip, we recommend a GPS navigation system like a Garmin. We personally use one on our road trips. The best part is that it doesn’t use data on our phones.
    • Paper Maps – Technology still isn’t perfect, especially when you are in the middle of nowhere. Be sure to always carry some paper maps with you just in case. We discussed AAA earlier in this post. Keep in mind, when you become a member (which also get you roadside assistance), you have paper maps available to you for free.
    • Journal and Pens – Write down the things you see and do as you go!

    Camping Gear

    Small Camping Tent
    Dome Tent With Porch
    Sleeping Bag
    Yeti Tundra Cooler
    Camping Chair
    Double / Single Hammock
      • Small Camping TentGreat for a solo traveler or couple!
      • Dome Tent With Porch – Perfect for families!
      • Tent Seam Sealer – Don’t forget to waterproof the tent.
      • Sleeping Bag– Make sure you know the temperatures you may experience during your trip. You want to make sure your sleeping bag will keep you warm enough. It can get mighty cold outside at night!
      • Headlamp – An absolute necessity! Do not leave home without a few of these lifesavers.
      • Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler– Don’t cheap out on a cooler. We put the money out for a great cooler and it certainly paid off. Our food would stay fresh for days (even in the hot temperatures) so we never lost food.
      • Portable Camping Chair – Some campsites have picnic tables while some do not. You will probably need a chair at some point. 
      • Double/Single Hammock – Who doesn’t want a hammock?!
      • ComfortSmart Cot– We opted for cots instead of sleeping pads. We liked that the cots kept us off the ground and they were very comfortable. However, they did take up a lot of room if you don’t have tons of space. 
      • Sleeping Pad You need to put something between yourself and the ground. This is a great option if you are planning to hike and have to carry your equipment.
      • LanternAnother necessity for moving around at nighttime. Higher lumens are better.
      • Smith & Wesson Knife – It will come in handy at some point, trust us!
      • Camp Table – Perfect for anytime! We would pull over on the side of the road and use our table to make meals!

    Cookware & Utensils

    2-Burner Cooking Stove
    Camping Dining Set
    Cast Iron Skillet
    Yeti Thermos
    Silicone Utensils
    Collapsible Washing Tub
    • 2-Burner Cooking Stove Having 2 burners is great when trying to cook a meal! This stove is easy to set up and clean as well.
    • Propane – These smaller propane tanks are perfect for the 2-burner stove. We went through the tanks about every 10 days (cooking most meals). These are typically cheaper at Wal-Mart with a 2 pack costing about $7.00.
    • Long Lighters and Matches– It’s good to have both just incase (the long lighters work best for the 2-burner stove). 
    • Camping Dining Set – How cute is this quintessential camping set?
    • Biodegradable Soap– For responsible and necessary clean-up.
    • 24oz Kettle with Cups – Perfect for coffee and tea whenever
    • Cast Iron Skillet– Be sure to season the skillet before you use it for the best taste possible. Nothing beats that certified campfire taste!
    • Pot and Pan Set – Just 1 of each worked perfectly for the 2 of us. However, depending how many are in your group, you may need to bring more. 
    • Yeti Rambler Thermos– We use this so much because we take this thermos for sunrise / sunset / star photography. It keeps our drinks very hot plus its also works for cold drinks! 
    • Collapsible Mixing Bowl– What a space saver!
    • Paring Knife– Make sure the one you buy has a cover like this one so you don’t cut yourself!
    • Cutting Board or Cutting Board Mats– We prefer the cutting boards, but cutting mats take up less space if you are in a pinch.
    • Silicone Utensils– The best for practicality and clean-up! Plus silicone doesn’t scrape the cast iron skillet or other pans you may have brought. 
    • Veggie Peeler – Try to incorporate as many veggies as possible into your meals!
    • Corkscrew – Wine me up please!
    • Can Opener – No explanation needed, but without it you will be sad. 
    • Collapsible Washing Tub – We used this to store all our cooking items in the car and then just took out the tub with everything we would need when it was time for a meal. 
    • Microfiber Towel – For drying dishes and other items (keep separate from your shower towel).

    Backpacks and Daybags

    Men's Backpack
    Women's Backpack
    Day Pack
    Fjallraven Backpack
    Women's Duffel Bag
    Men's Duffel Bag

    We highly recommend the Osprey Farpoint 40 (or newer women’s Fairview 40) for a travel backpack. However, depending on your road trip set-up, you may not need a backpack. We like the Osprey Farpoint 40 because it pretty much turns into a duffel bag as well as a backpack.

    Duffel bags are great because they hold as much as a suitcase and can be squashed into smaller places. If you plan on hiking and going on day trips, the ‘day packs’ below are great options:

    Travel Essentials

    Microfiber Towel
    Packing Cubes
    Foldable Windscreen Cover
    Reusable Water Bottle
    LifeStraw Water Filter
    Travel Clothesline

    No matter the type of trip, there are a few essentials we always seem to pack. These items have come with us all over the world:

    Clothing

    Women's Hiking Shoe
    Men's Hiking Shoe
    Sunglasses
    Buff
    Women's Jacket
    Men's Jacket

    Here are a few basics to get you started, but for a complete clothing list (and free printable PDF), be sure to check out our long term travel packing list.

    Snacks

    Jerky
    Trail Mix
    Energy Bars

    Snacks will definitely be a personal preference for a road trip packing list. We always have a mixture of both healthy options as well as some typical unhealthy ‘snacky’ options. If you plan to hike a lot, be sure to keep your energy up with snacks like trail-mix and energy bars.

    These are also great in the car if someone is starting to get a little hangry…

    Personal Health & First Aid

    First Aid Kit
    Emergen-C
    Mosquito Repellent

    Hopefully you will never have to use any of these items, but they are always good to have on hand.

    The easiest way to tackle a first aid kit is to buy the one listed below and take out what you don’t need. We then just added other items from the list to create the perfect ’emergency kit.’

    Winter Items

    Hand Warmers
    Ice Scraper
    Warm Blanket

    We are going to ask you to really consider this option. When we left for our road trip in September from NY, it was a solid 80F. We didn’t have one worry about the cold. Fast forward to November and we were driving through multiple blizzards across the US. We were ecstatic we remembered some essential cold winter gear!

    Extras For A Home On The Road

    Solar Powered Fairy Lights
    Yoga Mat
    Citronella Candle

    You are going to be spending a lot of time in your tent / vehicle. Just a few of these items from our road trip packing list will really make the place feel like a home away from home:

    USA Road Trip Guidebooks

    We found the guidebooks below extremely helpful on our USA roadtrip. If you plan to visit a lot of National Parks, be sure to bring a guide book with you! Sometimes we arrived early or late into the Parks which meant the Ranger stations were closed so we could not get a map. Boy, were we happy we already had a map in our guidebook! 

    National Parks
    Road Atlas
    50 States / 5000 Ideas
    Scenic Drives
    Route 66
    National Parks In-Depth

    And that’s a wrap on our ultimate road trip packing list. We hope you have a wonderful road trip. We would love to hear about your adventures! Be sure to let us know how your road trip went and if there was anything you found helpful on our road trip packing list!

    Happy Packing!

    P.S. Don’t forget to download your free road trip packing checklist pdf (at the top of this article)!

    And if you would like a free long term packing checklist including our entire packing list, head over to our long term packing post!

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    The Ultimate USA Road Trip Packing List

    Our Quick Guide to Help You Book Your Next Adventure

    Booking Flights: The clever Skyscanner algorithm searches all airlines around the world, providing ‘best’, ‘cheapest’ and ‘quickest’ options for your destination of choice. From day one, we have booked every single flight using Skyscanner!

    Booking accommodation: We always use booking.com for our accommodation needs around the world. Booking offers the best prices along with a genius program that gives you discounts and the best availability. They have an easy to use mobile app and we have a very long booking history on ours!

    Travel Insurance: We never leave home without insurance. It’s not worth the risk! Our favorite travel insurance company is World Nomads. They offer flexible and comprehensive cover for: trip protection, any emergency medical issues, emergency evacuation (hopefully not required!) and protection of belongings.

    Destination Guide: Search for your next travel inspiration in the Where Are Those Morgans Destinations realm. Use our Interactive Map, search by Topic, or search by Country if you already know where you want to go!

    Wellness: Take care of your mind, body and soul when traveling short and long term. Keep active, hike, eat well, drink sensibly (hard, we know!) and be mindful of your wellness. Use our Wellness resource for the health boost you need on the road!

    Packing & Gear: We know how difficult is can be to pack for traveling! How do you choose what goes and what stays? What type of climate are you heading into? Our Packing & Gear zone will help you be travel primed!

    Planning a Trip: Our best advice and tips for your next trip can be found in our Planning a Trip area. We break down our budget & finances into expense reports so you can discover the cheapest and most expensive places to travel.

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