The Complete Summer Road Trip Packing List

Driving along the road in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park - Summer Road Trip Packing List

Getting ready for a big summer road trip can be overwhelming, but, I have put together the quintessential summer road trip packing list so, you don’t have to! This list has everything you need to get ready for your road trip. And if you click on any of the item photos it will take you directly to Amazon where you can purchase these for your road trip.

Driving along the road in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park - Summer Road Trip Packing List

I tend to do a couple of road trips a year some small (weekend) and some longer (week). I usually go solo but, on occasion, I do take my nieces or nephews with me. This checklist makes packing a bit more challenging depending on the length of the trip because I have to make sure I have enough to keep them occupied throughout the drive if they are with me.

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Must Haves for a Road Trip

  • Reliable Vehicle – Make sure if you are using your vehicle that you are up to date with all the maintenance (tire pressure, oil change, etc.)
  • Drivers License/Registration/Insurance – Don’t leave home without them, trust me! I got all the way up to Mackinac City (4 hours away from home) on one trip and realized oops, forgot my license. That added some stress to that trip that was completely unnecessary.
  • Smartphone/GPS – This is an absolute must for knowing where and where you are going.
  • Road Maps – Most of us have smartphones now, but on the off chance you are driving through an area with no cell coverage having a paper copy map or an offline map on your phone can come in handy.
  • Extra Cash/Coins (tolls, parking) – Believe it or not, there are some places that do not take credit cards, so, be prepared especially in rural areas.
  • Books – I always like to read a little before going to bed. So, these books would be for unwinding or sitting by a pool. But, most importantly, I read them to help me plan epic road trips and vacations.
  • Music – SiriusXM (Roadtrip Radio), Spotify, and iTunes are all great sources for music while on the road.
  • Camera/Manual/Charger/Extra Memory Cards – I never leave home without something to take pictures on. Whether this is my smartphone, DSLR, or point-and-shoot, gotta save those memories.


Should Haves for a Road Trip

  • Snacks/Water/Cooler – Everybody needs nourishment, even in a car. Make sure to have plenty of water bottles for everyone in the car. I also like to take my niece’s grocery shopping with me before the trip to have them participate in decision-making. And, of course, this way, I can make sure they will eat something during the trip. I have a lot of picky eaters in my family! Helpful Hint: freeze a sponge and put it in a ziplock bag for an instant ice pack.
  • Travel Insurance – Depending on the length of your trip, I would suggest getting travel insurance. It adds another layer of protection to your vacation if anything unforeseen happens.
  • Extra keys – Always a good idea to have an extra set of keys with you. I went on one trip where a guy lost his keys in the river while he was tubing and had to get driven back home to pick up another set of car keys.
  • Portable Chargers/Charge Cords – This is the area I tend to forget a lot. I have had to purchase many replacement charge cords for my phone because I left mine at home. I now have a junk drawer filled with extra cables. It is a good practice to store an extra charge cord in your vehicle.

 Health/Safety Items for a Road Trip

  • First Aid Kit – You never know when you might need a Band-Aid.
  • Aspirin – Long days in the cars and kids, enough said.
  • Hand Sanitizer/Baby Wipes – I hate sticky fingers!
  • Flashlight – if you need to find something in your trunk/car at night.
  • Insect Repellent – Keep those buggies away from you!
  • Sunscreen – I burn easily, so this is a must-have for me, whereas Kayla would say she needs color.
  • Motion Sickness Remedy – This is tough, especially if you aren’t sure anyone has this problem. Kayla and I learned on a bus trip out west that we suffered from this. Luckily, some other passengers had extra sea bands that saved us. Now, I don’t leave home on any trip without them.
  • Blankets/Pillows – I always have a blanket in my car all year. It is great for watching fireworks, picnics, or just keeping warm at night.


Personal Care Items for a Road Trip

  • Travel Size Toiletries – Save yourself some packing space and downsize your shampoo.
  • Deodorant – Make sure everyone in your car brings some and applies it. As my sister can attest, when a teenager forgets to put some on, it makes for a very uncomfortable drive for everyone in the car.
  • Sunglasses – another one of the items I tend to forget at home.
  • Kleenex/Napkins – For those unforeseen messes in the car.
  • Toilet Paper Roll – For the restrooms that don’t have any.
  • Bandana – This item can come in handy on hot days. Helpful Hint: Put a bandana in a freezer/ziplock bag, and use it on the neck if overheated.

Entertainment for on the Road

  • Coloring Books – This is both of my niece’s favorite thing to do right now. On a recent road trip to Holland, Madison colored in the car the whole drive. I was so surprised this kept her entertained the whole trip.Madison walking around the tulips at Holland Tulip Festival
  • Markers/Crayons – My nieces have snatched my Copic markers as their go-to marker for coloring, but any marker/crayons/colored pencils will do.
  • Travel Journal – This is something that I take everywhere with me. Each night I asked them, “What was their favorite thing to do that day”. It is nice to look back and see how much their interests of changed over time.
  • Binoculars – Traveling during the day, the kids can spot birds or exciting sights out the windows.
  • Games – Got to keep the kiddos busy and entertained, or you will be hearing, “Are we there yet?”
  • Laptop/Tablet – This is one item that should be negotiable. I know that my nephew usually has his head glued to his tablet but, it does keep him occupied on long trips. I personally like electronic free trips but, that doesn’t happen as much anymore as they are all getting older.


Just In Case Items for a Road Trip

  • Bathing Suits – This is a must for the summer road trip packing list if the hotel has a pool.
  • Ziplock Bags – For wet items instead of throwing them directly into your suitcase.
  • Rain Ponchos – For inclement weather. These are great to get at home cheap if you are traveling to Disney, it always rains at 4 pm in the summer.
  • Travel Towel – In case you need to dry off from rain or something to sit on after being in the pool.
  • Garbage Bags – Something to keep the trash in while you are driving on your summer road trip.

Organizational Help for a Road Trip

To keep your vehicle organized and clean try some of these suggestions for your summer road trip packing list. Helpful Hint: a shower caddy makes a great fast food holder for kids.

Kayla exploring the abandoned jail cells at Eastern State Penitentiary - Summer Road Trip Packing List

Road trips can be stressful but, with careful planning and a little organization, you can have some great, epic road trips. Just ask my niece, Kayla, about our road trip to Philadelphia, in her words, “it was awesome!”

I hope you found my summer road trip packing list helpful for you and if you want to save it for later, go ahead and pin it. And if you need more travel gear for your road trips and vacations, check out my Amazon Store.

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Further Reading

If you are going on a road trip this summer or fall, check out these posts for further travel inspiration:

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