Whether you plan to drive the Golden Coast, explore the Wild West or take on the classic Route 66, an American road trip is always an exciting an adventure. Not only that, but what’s one of the best things about a road trip? You haven’t got to try and pack everything you need into a small suitcase or backpack! You can fill your car or camper van with everything you need before you set off.

That said, filling your vehicle with loads of useless junk isn’t going to be helpful. You need to make sure you’ve got all the essentials for the perfect journey. If you’re not sure where to begin – fear not! We’ve put together the ultimate packing list for your US road trip so you can make sure you have everything you need along the way.

To make this easier and ensure we don’t miss anything important, we’re going to break this guide down into six categories: vehicle, clothing, equipment, essentials, technology and home comforts. We’ll kick-start the list with everything you need to take for the vehicle.

1. What you need to take for the vehicle

Whether it’s a car or a camper van, your own vehicle or a rental, there are some necessities that you shouldn’t be without. You can be as geared up as you like for hiking, eating, sleeping and exploring, but if you have technical issues with the vehicle then none of that is going to matter. For that reason, don’t forget to pack the following:

  • Your driving license – duh!
  • Documents for your car registration and insurance information – as well as any important documents you are given by the rental company (if you’ve hired the vehicle)
  • The car manual
  • A spare key
  • Proof of breakdown cover and the number for roadside assistance
  • A spare tire – with the tools needed to fit it
  • Oil and windscreen wash
  • An ice scraper and snow chains if you’re going somewhere cold
  • Money or a pass for tolls – if you’re going to be using toll roads it’s a good idea to do some research into these before you set off
  • A paper map – because sat navs and phones are all well and good until they lose signal


2. Packing your clothes and accessories

During your road trip it’s likely that you’ll be doing lots of walking and exploring, it’s also likely that you’ll be faced with a multitude of different weathers, terrains and activities, so you’ll want to be prepared for every eventuality. When choosing your travelling wardrobe and accessories it’s best to pack the following:

  • Comfortable driving clothes such as leggings, tracksuit bottoms and loose jumpers – this is especially important if you’re doing long drives
  • Hiking trousers or comfortable jeans
  • Lightweight clothes that you can easily layer up
  • A rain coat
  • Hiking boots or sturdy trainers
  • Flip flops or sandals
  • A hat – one for the sunshine and one to keep you warm in colder temperatures
  • Sunglasses
  • A day pack – choose something like a strong leather backpack to carry your essentials when you go out on day trips, this will also be waterproof should you get caught in the rain
  • A towel


3. Choosing the right equipment

Next on the list is the all-important equipment you’ll need on a day-to-day basis. This may vary depending on whether you have a camper van or simply a car. Those with a camper may already have kitchen equipment built in. But check out the list below for the basic necessities:

  • Portable grill or gas cooker
  • A pot or pan to cook in
  • Bowls and utensils
  • A cool bag for your food (unless you have a fridge in your camper van)
  • Food containers like tupperware or zip lock food bags
  • A tin opener
  • A corkscrew
  • A travel kettle
  • Coffee mugs for your morning caffeine fix
  • A tote or reusable shopping bag
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Bin bags for your rubbish
  • Of course, you’ll also need food! Choose dried foods and cans for the most part as these will last longer. You can buy fresh food as you go
  • A tent – if you plan to spend night’s outside of your vehicle
  • A small camping chair
  • Duct tape and a swiss army knife also come in handy when you’re road tripping


4. Packing your toiletries and essentials

As well as your clothes and comforts, you’re going to need your everyday essentials for basic hygiene. You’ll also want to be prepared if you feel unwell or experience any medical issues. Below are the toiletries and essentials that you don’t want to be without on your road trip:

  • Tissues – perhaps even a few toilet rolls
  • Bug spray and bite creams
  • Medication – including the basics like paracetamol and allergy tablets, but also any prescriptions you may have
  • A stocked first aid kit
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Baby wipes
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Hairbrush and hair bands
  • Shower gels and shampoo
  • Suncream and after sun – make sure you choose a high enough fact as you definitely don’t want to get sunburnt!


5. Taking all the right tech

While you might be going on your road trip to get back to nature and take a break from the always-on culture that we live in, there is definitely some tech that you’re going to want with you, even if you don’t use it very often. So before you set off on your trip, make sure you’ve considered the following:

  • Your mobile – to stay in touch with your family and in case of an emergency
  • A car phone charger
  • A portable power bank
  • A sat nav – unless you’re going old school and only using a map to navigate!
  • Headphones
  • A camera – be that a disposable or digital one (maybe even an underwater one!)
  • An auxiliary cable if you want to pug your phone into the head unit and play your own music
  • A portable radio


6. Don’t forget your home comforts

The final category on the list is home comforts. Though you understandably don’t want to over-pack and fill up too much space (especially in a car) there are some home comforts that will add the perfect touch to your road trip. If you’re not comfortable or you’re feeling a long way from home, these items can have you feeling happy and cozy in no time:

  • Your own duvet and pillows – if you have a camper van, or perhaps a cozy blanket or sleeping bag if not
  • A hot water bottle
  • Slippers or warm fluffy socks
  • A fleece or over-sized jumper
  • An eye mask
  • A travel pillow




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Categories: Lifestyle Travel