Cross-Country Road Trip Essentials: 10 Things You Need to Pack

Vehicle? Check. Gas? Check. Friends and family? Check. That means you’re ready for a cross-country road trip, right?

Hold on a minute before you fire up the engine. If you’re not packing these 10 cross-country road trip essentials, you might be in for some rough times. Get your packing list together with the right way by remembering to bring these 10 road trip must-haves.

  1. Snacks


Get some snacks in your vehicle before you set off. By choosing your snacks ahead of time, you’ll reduce the temptation to grab whatever bag of grease and empty calories you find while you’re on the road. Some healthier road trip snack ideas include:

  • Vegetables and hummus
  • Beef jerky
  • Mixed nuts
  • Protein bars
  • Guacamole
  • Vegetable chips
  1. Road Maps

Road Maps

Road maps? Who wants to bother with that in the age of GPS and Google Maps? As it turns out, road maps can actually be an extremely handy thing to have when your devices are dead or out of service range. A road map can also make a great souvenir, allowing you to visualize and plot out where you’ve been on your trip.

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A U.S. road atlas is a driver’s staple that should be in every automobile, so grab one if you don’t have one already. If you’re heading into the backcountry, make sure you’re prepared with up-to-date maps of any area you’ll be driving through.

  1. Repair Tools

Repair Tools

It’s important to keep some basic auto repair tools around on a road trip because you never know when you’ll need them. You don’t need a portable mechanic’s shop (particularly if you’re not a mechanic). Just make sure you’ve got the tools to change a tire (such as a jack, lug wrench, and a spare), plus a few basics like duct tape, zip ties, a pocket knife, and WD-40. And someone in your car does know how to change a tire, right?

  1. Water Bottles

Water Bottles

Dehydration can happen surprisingly easily, so it’s smart for everyone in your car to have their own reusable water bottle. If you’re heading through remote areas where you can’t count on reliable access to freshwater, bringing a case of bottled water can be a good idea. You might have to stop for bathroom breaks more often, but the trade-off is a car full of people who feel better and are more alert.

  1. Portable Chargers

Portable Chargers

A portable charger will help keep your important electronics functioning when it matters the most. Just plug the portable charger in when you’re near an outlet (such as when you’re in a hotel), let it charge and you’ve got days of charging power for your electronic devices.

  1. Sunglasses


Chances are, the sun will get in your eyes sooner or later on a road trip, so a couple of pairs of sunglasses is a must-have. And while you can usually pick up a cheap pair of shades at a gas station, lots of people prefer to bring their own pair that fits their face and looks good.

Polarized lenses are an excellent choice for driving since they include a built-in glare filter. If you wear glasses, consider either clip-one or another option for keeping the sun out of your eyes, such as a hat or visor. Motorcycle riders, meanwhile, should consider a polarized helmet visor if they have a full-face helmet.

  1. Flashlight


A flashlight is an extremely handy thing to have in an emergency. Sure, you can use your phone’s light, but a flashlight is much more rugged, often has a more powerful beam, and is more comfortable to hold.

Make sure your flashlight has extra batteries, or that you pack a battery charger for a rechargeable model. Tactical flashlights with ultra-bright LEDs are now popular thanks to their proven reliability, cost-effective nature, and ergonomic designs.

  1. Playlist


Part of a good road trip is that it captures the appeal and good feelings of the open road, and a playlist is a perfect way to set the mood. Music streaming services are full of thousands of choices for road trip playlists, but many folks find it most satisfying to create their own.

If your road-tripping crew has varying musical tastes, ask everyone to build their own playlist and switch off periodically, or create a collaborative playlist between several different users. It can be fun to learn new things about your highway companions through exploring their musical tastes, and you might even discover some great new tunes.

  1. Change and Small Bills

change and small bills

America is full of toll roads, and those tolls can be a big pain to pay if you don’t have change or small bills on hand. Use one of the many online toll calculators before your trip to determine how much you’ll need for tolls and then budget in a little extra for any unexpected detours. Have everyone in your road trip crew contribute to the toll fund, and keep it in an easy-to-reach (but not easily visible) place near the front seats.

  1. Hands-Free Devices

hand free device

While the optimal way to drive is to focus solely on the road and nothing else, sometimes you need to answer an important call or change your GPS destination. Since it’s highly dangerous to try to do these things with your hands, grab some hands-free devices such as a Bluetooth headset. Bluetooth helmet communicators are particularly useful for motorcyclists, as they allow them to answer calls and listen to music on helmet speakers without ever taking their hands off the bars.

Whether your road trip is for work, vacation, or anything in between, packing the right essentials will help make your trip a success. If you can, start getting your kit together ahead of time. It’ll be one less thing to prepare in the lead-up to your departure.