Van life is our favourite but only because we have perfected our road trip packing list to save time, money and stress. Road trips are the best way to see a country as you have the absolute freedom to sleep, eat and drive without relying on someone else’s itinerary. However, they can be tough, tiring and time consuming without these few essentials.
Whether you’re planning on camping in Australia or a road trip in New Zealand we have learned regardless of country, season and travel style this road trip packing list includes the few must haves that we can’t leave home without. Whether you’re wondering what to bring on a road trip that’s months long or simply a weekend away we share the items that are vital in not only getting you to your destination safely but making the journey as epic as possible. Best of all, the majority will help reduce your waste and encourage you to be a more responsible traveller.
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THE ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS WE CAN’T DRIVE WITHOUT
The most obvious of all road trip necessities, you need to know where you’re going. We rely on Google Maps but in the US, we use Waze or to save phone battery you could use a GPS device instead.
2. Fuel / Fuel Finder Apps
Once you have planned your route one of the most important road trip essentials is fuel. No one wants to be stranded during a road trip and on the topic of apps there are several available worldwide that can help you find the cheapest and nearest petrol stations.
3. Phone Mount
Although apps play a major role in our road trip packing list it is illegal to use your phone whilst driving, so to remain safe please purchase a mobile phone mount. This simple device is universal both in terms of phone type and car type, it simply sticks to any dashboard.
4. Driving Licence / Insurance
One of the most important road trip necessities especially if driving abroad is to ensure your license (both paper and hard copy) are packed as well as the correct insurance information.
During our New Zealand road trip the snowy horizons, wet roads and low sunshine created dangerous driving conditions but luckily Daz had polarized sunglasses. If you are wondering what to bring on a road trip do not forget these road trip essentials – they could save your life!
You have your route planned, full tank of fuel and sunshades on, the next item on your road trip checklist is some companions. Although we love solo adventures, it isn’t very environmentally friendly to road trip alone. There are numerous Facebook groups to find lift shares or travel buddies after all who else are you gonna annoy with your car karaoke?
FUEL FOR YOU
If you are looking for what to bring on a road trip to keep you energised and alert you will need snacks that are non-perishable and non-sticky. Nothing is worse than melted chocolate, sticky steering wheels or crumb covered seats so choose your snacks wisely. We recommend nuts, cereal bars or energy balls. If you will be camping as part of your road trip, we have so many cheap, quick and easy camping recipes that we have made on the road including vegetarian camping meals. If it’s your first taste of van life our campervan cooking tips will ensure you won’t go hungry on your road trip.
On the topic of staying alert and energised, staying hydrated is essential on any road trip! Our road trip packing list would not be complete without our trusty water bottles which not only prevent plastics from landfill but prevent over-priced service station water. They are also far easier (and safer) to drink out of as you don’t have to remove the lid and they prevent unnecessary leaks or spillages.
Coffee is one of the most important road trip essentials and this handy little device is probably our biggest money saver from our entire road trip packing list. Not only does it mean we can have delicious barista style coffee on the move, it saves us the expense of buying tasteless service station coffee during our road trip.
10. Stojo Coffee Cup
Whether you are brewing your own barista worthy coffee or making a quick coffee stop there is no excuse for using disposable coffee cups. We are obsessed with how practical our Stojo cups are – not only do they fold up saving space in your car but they can fit in your pocket, come with a straw and they are essentially unbreakable as the silicone is far more durable that ceramic or glass. An item not to be missed from your road trip packing list!
On the topic of collapsible silicon (when did we get so sensible?) these containers are incredibly useful for any road trip. The smart design means they take up very little space, but they are handy for lunch on the move, storing leftovers and most importantly will not leak if tipped up on any crazy corners.
12. Cool Box
An essential for any Summer road trip packing list, these will ensure any snacks or drinks are kept cold and picnics remained chilled even when your road rage begins to heat up.
GADGETS & ELECTRONICS
13. Wi-Fi Hotspot
This is probably one of our favourite road trip essentials. Simply buy a sim card from the country you are in and then all mobile phones/devices in the car can connect to this one Wi-Fi hot spot making it easy for passengers to stay entertained on the road as well as find directions, campsites, petrol stations etc.
14. Portable Charger
A vital addition to any road trip packing list, this portable charger allows you to charge all devices on the move. Most importantly it has the best battery life from the many we have tried & tested from our time on the road and can fully charge 1 phone around 7 times, so technically lasts a full week! Also handy for charging other road trip necessities such as the Bluetooth speakers, Wi-Fi hot spot, cameras and more.
15. Portable Speaker
This speaker makes it to our road trip packing list because we have used it every single day during our New Zealand road trip and only charged it once. Not all cars or campervans have epic sound systems or Bluetooth connections.
16. GoPro / Dashcam
Dashcams are not only incredibly useful from a safety point of view but they are also fun road trip essentials to film your route. We love our trusty GoPro as it can double up as a dashcam thanks to the accessories pack that we purchased below. Although this pack isn’t the official GoPro accessory pack, they are far cheaper and fit any GoPro. We have had them for years and they are still going strong!
HEALTH & HYGIENE
17. Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel
With the amount of pee stops Daz makes, our road trip packing list would not be complete without a large bottle of anti-bacterial hand gel. Ideally buy a larger bottle so it’s cheaper and to save lots of little bottles going to landfill.
18. Car Sickness Prevention
The roads in New Zealand can be incredibly twisty at times which can make even seasoned road trippers who have never been car sick before, feel queasy. If you are wondering what to bring on a road trip for those who suffer from motion sickness, we have a few natural remedies that are lifesavers. Firstly, whether travelling by car, boat or bus this natural oil blend promises to cure nausea as well as calm anxiety (ideal for fearful flyers). Whilst the travellers companion is more of a cure during motion sickness, the stick on patches are a prevention if you know prior that car sickness is likely.
19. Bug Spray
An often forgotten item on the road trip packing list is insect repellent. Road trips are the perfect way to get close to nature, but you don’t want them so close that they’re nibbling your ankles. Long car journeys and itchy insect bites do not go well, so don’t forget to tick this off your road trip checklist.
20. Sun Cream
What’s more uncomfortable than itchy insect bites? Sunburn. Although one of the more obvious road trip necessities, it’s often left behind on cloudy mornings and then much needed when the sun decides to show up in the afternoon so keep some in your car just in case.
21. Anti-Septic Cream
Should you fail to pack road trip essentials 19 & 20 then you will need number 21. From all the insect bite remedies Sudocrem (or equivalent) has been the only one we’ve found that instantly stops itchiness and soothes redness. It’s also great for any spots, sunburn or scrapes. Best of all, the small 30g travel tubes last so long, do not be fooled by their size!
OUR FINAL FAVOURITE ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS
22. Reflective Sun Shades
Essential for any Summer road trip packing list these sun shades keep your car cool and are life savers when trying to sleep in a campervan during Summer. They are just one of many ways we have found to stay cool in your campervan and are definite road trip essentials for Sunnier days.
23. Picnic Blanket / Microfibre Towel
As you are limited on space when packing for a road trip, it’s extra useful when road trip essentials have many purposes – cue the micro fibre towel. Not just handy for the obvious drying function or spontaneous sunbathing sessions but vital to any road trip packing list as they can double up as blankets, picnic rugs, or window shades. We do not travel without ours.
A good playlist can turn the longest drive into a full blown Broadway performance. Plan your playlist ahead of time to avoid playing with your phone whilst driving or simply search on Spotify for road trip anthems. If you’re feeling brave leave your playlist open so all passengers can add their favourite tunes although this may cause more chaos than karaoke. When you’ve lost your voice to too much Disney sing along, switch to podcasts or audio books to keep you entertained.
25. Travel Pillow
Don’t forget a travel pillow from your road trip packing list from when you become tired out from all that singing. To ensure you’ll never forget it, there are travel pillows that attach to seat belts so you don’t even have to pack it. Daz often leaves his travel pillow behind because it takes up too much space in his bag, but thankfully we have discovered the Trtl travel pillows which are not only better for your neck than traditional U-shaped pillows but are Half the size and weighs only 148 grams!
We mentioned earlier that road trip essentials which have multiple uses receive extra bonus points so enter the most trusty of all road trip necessities – the penknife! With 14 different tools from tweezers to cork screw, bottle opener to scissors our loyal wee penknife has resolved many sticky situations!
Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed your favourite road trip essentials from our list. We hope our road trip packing list suggestions have made your life a little easier, now the hardest part is deciding where to go. If you’re looking for some road trip inspiration our favourites have been North Island of New Zealand, the road trip from Te Anau to Milford Sound or Great Ocean Road all of which we did in our fabulous Travellers Autobarn kuga campervan.