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How to Pack for a Road Trip
Find out what you need to make your summer road trip unforgettable.
Hitting the road and taking the scenic route isn’t just a cinematic trope; it’s a classic American pastime. Sure, you could fly—or take a train or a bus—but there’s something to be said for rounding up some friends or family members and settling into a car for long hours of rolling landscapes, long conversations, and sing-a-longs with carefully crafted playlists.
A road trip is always an adventure, no matter how familiar the road. Planning your route is obviously the most important item on your prep list, but packing comes right after. Do you know what to pack for a road trip? After all, you have only the space in your vehicle, and you don't want to crowd it so much that you lose all your legroom.
I submitted your top road trip packing questions to Eagle Creek experts for some sage advice. Here's the ultimate road trip packing list, which details what essentials will elevate your date with the open highway from ho-hum to practically perfect!
Q: What are the top five items I don't realize I need? - Manny: Westport, MA
A: 1. Music. This is probably the most important thing. One of my favorite parts about preparing for a road trip is creating all the playlists. Once the road trip is over, I’ll listen to them, and the music brings back all the great memories, as well as a few laughs. Choose a mix of upbeat songs with familiar choruses and mellow tunes.
2. Drinks and Snacks. There is nothing worst than a hungry or thirsty passenger or driver. Talk about cranky! Healthy snacks that don't need to be refrigerated and are high in fiber and unsaturated fat and low in added sugar are best, such as nuts, granola bars and raisins. Water is the best type of beverage, but don't overload your tummy, or else you'll have to stop for multiple bathroom breaks.
3. Extra TP and hand sanitizer: You never know when you're going to need a pit stop during a road trip, and if there's no public bathroom in sight, you might need to go in the woods. So be prepared!
4. Packing Organizers: Since you’ll be living out of your car on a road trip, organization is key! You don’t want to be tearing apart the car because you’ve lost a matching sock or misplaced your rain shell.
5. Clothes for various climates: If you're passing through various climates on your road trip, like deserts and mountains, remember that you’ll need shorts as well as a jacket and warm socks. Temperatures can swing over 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) in some areas, so do your research.
Q: I’ve heard that over-packing is bad. What should I leave at home? - Paulette: Pahrump, NV
A: First, determine where you are going. If you're going through several towns on your road trip, take half as much as you think you’ll need. You can always buy something on the road if necessary or do a quick load of laundry. No one wants to travel with a duffel bag across his or her lap.
Q: I have a small car. What type of luggage will help me make the most of limited space? - Shantelle: Deltona, FL
A: A duffel bag is what I recommend for small and big cars during a road trip. It’s light and durable. You can strap it down to the roof of your car or squish it in your trunk. Don’t forget to pack with Pack-It to keep your contents organized in your duffel.
Q: How can I ensure that my valuables (cash, documents, laptop, cards) stay safe on the road? - Carys: Billings, MT
A: Leave any valuables you do not need at home. Keep your cash, credit cards and ID on you in a neck wallet when you leave the car. If you're bringing a laptop or tablet, lock it in the trunk or place it somewhere out of sight. Also, keeping the car tidy will make it less obvious that you are traveling with a lot of stuff that thieves may see as valuable. Also, at your stops cover everything with a dingy old blanket to make it look unappealing.
Q: What apps are must-haves for an amazing road trip? - Gabe: Waterbury, CT
Check out this post Eagle Creek wrote on top apps for road trips. They’ve come in handy for me.
Now that you've read the ultimate road trip packing list, grab your bags, your buddies and your rocking playlist and get in the car!
Can you put a tip in here to have road side assistance?
Shannon O’Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008. She travels slowly and supports grassroots tourism along the way.