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How to Pack for the Perfect Road Trip: The Only List You’ll Need

Sometimes, the less you plan, the better. A last-minute road trip can be a great adventure. You don’t need to pack the whole house. All you need is an adventurous spirit and a tank of gas for an impromptu getaway.

To take advantage of a spur-of-the-moment escape, be sure of two things first: a prepped vehicle and, yes, a tiny bit of planning ahead.

Once you’ve checked your car’s tires, fluids, brakes, and battery, go ahead and fill ‘er up. Then skim our easy checklist below to make sure you’ve got the essentials. You’ll be on the road in no time!

1. Easy Clothes: Think Layers

If you’re going away for a weekend, there’s no need to bring more than one bag. Only bring along items you know you’ll wear. Think about where you’re headed, too. You’ll probably want different clothes for a hiking or beach trip than one to the nearest big city.

Bring some basics that you can mix and match: pants, T-shirts, shorts, sundresses. Bring layers to prepare for sudden changes in the weather, especially if you’re changing altitudes or microclimates. But keep in mind the less you have to lug around, the easier your packing will be. You can always stop at a laundromat or hand-wash clothes while you’re away. For great basics and durable, easily washable wear, definitely check out Kohl’s and Eddie Bauer for great savings and selection.

Don’t forget:

  • Good sunglasses
  • A hat
  • Walking shoes
  • Flip-flops in case of unknown shower situations or blisters
  • A warm sweatshirt or jacket, just in case.

How to Pack for the Perfect Road Trip: The Only List You'll Need

2. Cozy Essentials

An important part of road-tripping is staying comfortable. Whether you’re staying in a hotel, hostel, or sleeping bag under the stars, a few important items will make all the difference in your trip.

Some favorites include:

  • Earplugs
  • Sleeping mask
  • Oversized beach towel or picnic blanket
  • Travel mug
  • Dry shampoo
  • Prescription sunglasses
  • Face mist
  • Makeup remover wipes

If you’re really concerned about comfort, squeeze in your own pillow. It’s the ultimate luxury knowing you have a sweet place to rest your head at the end of a long day on the road. For comfort essentials, definitely check out Target and Walmart to find what you need.

How to Pack for the Perfect Road Trip: The Only List You'll Need

3. Tech Support

Whether you’re heading out solo or with friends, a road trip is a great way to unplug for a few days. That said, you might not want to leave all the tech at home. A few devices can help make your trip entertaining, fun, and memorable. A smartphone or tablet can take care of pretty much everything you’ll need.

Consider the following digital entertainment options, and choose the best device to travel with. Just remember your portable charger!

Pictures & Video

Capture life on the road (from the passenger seat, of course). If you’re not inclined to totally unplug, you’ll be able to share your experiences right away. Otherwise, gather the scenery while you’re gone and edit it when you get home.

Music & Audiobooks

For some people, a long drive in silence is a great way to clear the mind and push Reset. For most of us, though, a little silence goes a long way: playlists, mixtapes, and audiobooks are key for a good trip. Bluetooth speakers and personal headphones make it easy to share the entertainment — or not.


A great road-trip game is to flip a coin at every intersection: heads you turn right, tails you turn left. You can end up in amazing places, but will you know how to get home? A GPS or map app can be crucial for safety on the road.

Travel Apps

If you’re not ditching the smartphone for the weekend, travel apps make it easy to find a hotel room or camping site on the go. Use Gumdrop by Goodshop to find great deals on Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, or other travel sites — and donate to your favorite cause for free — while on the road!

How to Pack for the Perfect Road Trip: The Only List You'll Need

4. Easy, Healthy Snacks

Fill a small or collapsible cooler with water in refillable bottles and fresh fruit and vegetables. If you want to avoid stopping at restaurants, bring some sandwiches for lunch on the road. Crumb-free, non-meltable snacks (like ones from NatureBox) are also essential for abating grumbling bellies.

Some ideas include:

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Baby carrots
  • Trail mix
  • Granola bars
  • Fruit roll-ups
  • Honey-roasted nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Jerky

How to Pack for the Perfect Road Trip: The Only List You'll Need

5. Clean-Up Supplies

That means you, too! Hours in the car can lead to sticky fingers and general feelings of needing a shower. Bring some baby wipes and hand sanitizer for quick refreshes. Mint strips can be the ultimate refresher after hours of snacking on jerky and cheese popcorn. Stash a stain remover pen in the glove compartment for the inevitable “oops!” moment. For little essentials like these, Walgreens is a great resource.

As for the rest of your supplies, a roll of paper towels and a trash bag or two can go a long way. For camping, be sure to bring biodegradable dish soap and a scrubbing sponge. If you have the room, stash some cleaning spray in case of bigger clean-ups.

Don’t forget, the best way to save money shopping for all your road-trip must-haves is to add Gumdrop to your browser. It automatically finds and tests coupon codes for you, then applies the best savings to your cart at checkout.

With these tips in mind, packing for your ultimate road trip will be a no-brainer!

What are your essentials for the perfect road trip? Let us know in the comments!