Updated: Apr 14
Road trips are the quintessential American vacation. There are countless movies about the hilarious (and sometimes frustrating!) antics that go with us on road trips. You can simplify the experience and focus on the fun stuff if you take the time to plan ahead. Check out our list of road trip essentials for couples and teenagers, along with a road trip checklist for baby.
Whether you are planning a trip to a national forest or driving a few hours to grandma’s house, these are road trip essentials for car, RV, or plane that you don’t want to miss.
Before you head out on your trip, it’s important to take the time to think ahead about your location, the weather, and where you plan to stay. You will probably pack differently for a camping trip in Wyoming than you would on your vacation to the Florida Keys!
The weather can have a huge impact on your trip. Consider the changes between nighttime and daytime temperatures to make sure you don’t get caught out in the cold without a warm enough sleeping bag, if you are camping.
No matter if it’s going to be snowing or sunny, remember to bring your sunscreen to protect from burns that can derail a fun trip. You will also want to consider how much of a temperature change it will be from your typical weather at home. Especially for kids and teenagers, it can be hard to adjust to daytime temperatures of 90F if you are used to 55F and vice-versa.
The first step to a great road trip planner is to write out all of the essentials that are applicable to your family. Use a road trip app, such as Roadtrippers, to help you plan stops and destinations. Talk about your plan with your family, especially if your kids are old enough to contribute to your trip checklist, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Road Trip Essentials for Car or RV
Make sure your vehicle is in good condition before travel. Get an oil change, make sure your windshield wipers are working, and top up on fluids. You don’t want to be 100 miles away from home when you notice a rattle in the engine or discover that you’ve run out of windshield washer fluid.
Pro-Tip: If you are ready to leave for your trip and you discover something has gone awry with your vehicle, consider renting one. You can rent a car, SUV, and even an RV for your trip. It might require a little extra planning to make sure you bring it back on the right day, and a little extra cash, but it is worth it to make sure you are driving a safe and reliable vehicle on your road trip.
Here is our list of essentials for your vehicle of choice before your trip.
Car tune-up and oil change
Tire pressure and rotation check
Extra warm blanket
Tools to change tires
Chains for tires, if conditions might be snowy or icy
Car insurance card
Extra car key
Small first aid kit
Solo Road Trip Essentials
If you are planning a road trip by yourself or with your partner, keep it simple! Remember that you almost always need less than you think.
General rule: pack one outfit per day, complete with socks and undergarments. Plan for date nights or opportunities to dress up. Look at the weather forecast and plan for sweatshirts or jackets. And don’t forget your swimsuit!
Hiking boots or water shoes
Consider the activities you are planning to do while on your trip. You might need specialized footwear for your adventures!
First Aid Kit
Shampoo and conditioner
Phone, camera, and laptop chargers (and the items themselves)
Pro Tip: Store all electronics and their chargers in a small bag together and return the cords back to the same bag after each use.
Road Trip Camping Essentials
Sometimes you just want the flexibility of stopping at a campsite along your journey and continue enjoying nature. For those trips, we have a list of must-haves.
Sleeping bag or blanket
Lighter for starting a fire
Tent or RV campsite gear
Cooking gear, such as a small road trip stove or stainless pot
Foldable camping chairs
Cutlery items, such as this 2-person mess kit
Gallon jugs of water
Pocket knife or scissors
Food and plenty of snacks!
Road Trip Checklist for Baby
Babies are notoriously difficult to travel with. With ever-changing nap and feeding schedules, unexpected diaper blowouts, and exhaustion, a road trip can seem like an overwhelming endeavor. But it doesn’t have to be!
We’re breaking down the list of road trip essentials for toddlers and babies into two sections: must-haves and nice-to-haves.
Must-Haves for Babies
Diaper wipes (more than you think)
Portable changing pad
Pro-Tip: Not sure how many diapers to bring? Count how many diapers your baby goes through in a typical day and night, then add a few more just in case for your trip. Always bring diaper cream, even if the baby doesn’t have a rash right now. You never know when it might come in handy!
First Aid + Toiletries
Infant Tylenol or Motrin
Boogie Wipes or saline spray
Infant body wash/shampoo
1 shirt/top for every day of travel, plus 3 extras (you know why!)
1 pant/bottom for every day of travel, plus 3 extras
1 pair of pajamas for each night
1 Sweatshirt/Warm Jacket
2 Light Sweaters or Windbreakers
Swimwear: suit, UV protection shirt, UV protection hats
1 pair of socks per day of travel
1 casual pair of sandals
1 pair of sneakers or rain boots (depending on weather)
Pro-Tip: For younger babies, consider bringing light-weight cotton pants instead of jeans or sturdier fabrics. If you run out of pants and have to wash and dry pairs of pants while camping or on the road, lighter fabrics will dry more quickly and are easier to wash.
This list will vary based on your baby’s age. We will include essentials such as bottles and formula, but if you are traveling with an older baby or toddler, they may not apply. If you are doing baby-led weaning, you may not need to worry about bringing baby snack items.
For safety, please don’t feed snacks while your vehicle is in motion. Choking can be silent and eating while reclined increases the risks. Find out more about what to do about choking here. Never prop a bottle in the car seat while driving and only offer bottles to babies old enough to maneuver them independently.
Include bottles, nipples, jugs of water, and don’t forget the powdered formula!
Brush for washing bottles and soap.
Pump supplies (if needed) bottles, nipples, and possibly freezer bags if you are traveling to a place with a refrigerator or freezer available.
Brush for washing bottles, and soap.
If you are not pumping and only feeding, you will want to bring whatever essentials that you typically have. If your baby likes a special blanket or holds a beloved toy while breastfeeding, make sure to bring it with you!
Baby Food Jars or Packs
Baby snacks, such as yogurt melts or bananas
A new rattle or toy that baby has not seen before
A mirror so the baby can see themself (and you can too!)
Board books that the baby can read without tearing
Any soft cuddly toy that baby uses for comfort
Don’t forget to bring a car window shade on your road trip! Your baby and your ears will thank you when naps are uninterrupted by the setting sun.
Nice-to-Haves for Babies
Bibs for younger/messier babies
Extra pairs of play-quality clothes that you don’t mind getting stained for messy play, painting, or saucy foods.
Extra pairs of nice clothes for eating at nicer restaurants or taking cute pictures for the ‘gram. Example: a tutu that looks super cute in a woodland photoshoot but isn’t practical for all-day wear.
Bottle warmer (especially if your baby prefers milk at a certain temperature)
Mesh baby feeders for worry-free snack time
Breastfeeding covers, if you use them
Small cooler with ice packs if you are going to pump on the road
Pre-made shelf-stable formula bottles for mess-free mix-free travel
Waterproof wet bag for traveling soiled diapers or clothing before they can be washed
Road Trip Essentials for Kids and Teens
When your kids have transitioned away from the baby stages, traveling can become a fun and exciting adventure. While it is not free of challenges, children that are old enough to have some independence will enjoy seeing new places, trying new foods, and might even be more patient on long road trips.
From potty training to high school, here are your essentials for kids and teens!
Pull-ups or overnight diapers (depending on age)
1 shirt for every day of travel
1 pair of pants for every day of travel
1 pair of pajamas for every night (or even 1 pair per 2 nights)
1 pair of underwear per day (extra if potty training)
1 pair of sandals or slip-ons
1 pair of sneakers
1 pair of socks per day
1 warmer jacket or coat
1 sweatshirt or lighter jacket
First Aid + Toiletries
Anti-itch cream (such as Benadryl)
Deodorant, for teens
Shampoo & Conditioner
You might be tempted to eat on the road at fast-food restaurants most of the time during your trip. But remember to bring healthy and nutritious snacks and plenty of water.
Apples, bananas, or oranges
Crackers or Chips
Mess-free painting tablets or LCD writing tablets
Music playlists downloaded on your phone or on CDs
Nice-to-Haves for toddlers to teens:
Car seat organizer for cup holders, cooler, and toy pockets
Tablets or handheld game systems that don’t need wifi
Portable DVD players for the car
Magnetic travel activity tray (buy or make your own!)
Teenagers and older children might be ready to take on the responsibilities of handling the GPS, managing your road trip app, and picking activities that everyone will enjoy. Your kids might even enjoy learning how to pack their own bags and plan activities for themselves.
Remember while packing for your road trip to bookmark this post, so you can look it over a few times before you start your trip.
Key Items to Capture Memories
No matter if you are traveling by yourself or with your whole family, don’t forget to bring these essential items to capture those special memories and jaw-dropping views.
Download the SimplePrints App (if not already downloaded)
As you explore and take photos on your trip, add pictures to the SimplePrints app to seamlessly transition them into a custom Photo Book, personalized Metal Print, and more! Adding photos as you go saves time, keeps things organized, and makes it easy to share and create photo prints online for yourself and your loved ones.
Check out our post: Plan Your Road Trip Photos with SimplePrints for ideas on how to get started taking pictures on your road trip.
Guest Blogger: Cameya Martin
Cameya Martin is a mother, a wife, a self-identified horse-girl, and a writer. She writes articles for small businesses, memoirs for people, and fiction for herself.