If you’ve read our ULTIMATE 2-WEEK USA ROAD TRIP or our IDEAL 3-WEEK USA ROAD TRIP, you’ll probably need a list of essentials to bring on your upcoming road trip! While the obvious things like a car, a credit card and some cash come to mind, there are a few other things you need before hitting the road! This road trip essentials list will show you exactly what! The first thing we usually do when we pick up our rental car is making sure we have all the right documents (driver’s license, registration, insurance & owner’s manual), check if we have a spare tire and then we drive to the closest Walmart to get a few things…
1. NATIONAL PARKS PASS
You obviously can’t buy this at Walmart ;-), but it’s the first thing that came to mind when writing this road trip essentials list! The ‘America the Beautiful National Parks Pass’ is very easy to purchase. At the welcome booth of the first park you visit, you can ask for an annual pass. It costs 80$ and will give you and up to four people in your vehicle access to over 2000 sites! The pass has space for 2 signatures, so as a result once we get back home for our trip we mostly give it to a relative or friend who’s traveling to the USA in the upcoming months and who can re-use it! You could even re-sell it to a stranger theoretically, although we’re not sure that’s allowed.
Buy lots of water!!! You will need it! Especially when you’re visiting during summer, you can’t have enough water. We mostly purchase 1 or 2 big water bottles (5 litres) which we keep in the car in case of emergencies and/or to refill our reusable water bottles. Depending on where exactly you’ll be going on your roadtrip, some places might be really hot and deserted, so having water on you at all times is crucial. Don’t forget to bring water on hikes! We always bring 1 litre per hour hike per person with us. So on a 3-hour hike we would take 6 litres of water with the two of us! While that may sound a lot, you’d be surprised at how much water you need when it’s hot outside!
Although most roads are well-travelled and there are some shops in every place, it’s always a good idea to bring some snacks for the road and for your hikes! A protein or granola bar or some fruit make for some healthy snacks, but roadtripping is all about having a good time, so you’ll always find Reese’s Pieces and Pringles in our car, too!
4. COOLER BOX
A must-have in our road trip essentials list! We always buy a cooler box to keep our snacks and drinks nice and fresh! Depending on when you’re visiting, the car can get very hot, so your water and your snacks won’t stay fresh very long without a cooler box. What’s great about the USA is that you can get free ice cubes in almost every motel, so every morning you can just fill-up your cooler box before hopping in the car.
We always buy a local sim card when we’re abroad to have internet when we travel, but in some of the more remote areas you won’t have an internet connection. That’s where the app ‘Maps.me’ can save lives (and time). It’s basically an alternative for Google Maps or WAZE, which you can use offline. Just don’t forget to download the map of the area you will be driving in before getting on the road! It’s free and better than the GPS the rental car company will try to sell you for an additional $5 or $10 a day!
6. TOILET ROLL
Just thank us later! Because you’ll use it to clean up spilled drinks, blow your nose, wipe the sweat of your face after another hike and for what it was invented for ;-). Feel free to buy some tissues too if you’re feeling a little extra!
7. PHONE CHARGER / USB CORD
Because Maps.me won’t work if your phone just died, and because you’ll need a phone to play sweet tunes when you’re in the middle of nowhere and have no radio signal, which brings us to the next point…
8. MUSIC PLAYLISTS (OFFLINE)
A roadtrip isn’t a roadtrip without good music, and while listening to the radio is fun sometimes, you’ll have moments during your trip where you won’t have radio signal, so better download some music beforehand on Spotify or whatever app you use to listen to music. If you’re tired of listening to music, you can mix it up a little with a good audiobook or a podcast!
9. A GARBAGE BAG
Keep your car clean and tidy and put your waste in a garbage bag or plastic bag. You’d be surprised at home many things you use during a roadtrip that end up in the trash. Don’t forget to throw it out before it starts smelling bad!
10. YOUR PERSONAL CARE KIT
You’ll probably have a bag or a suitcase with clothing and toiletries in it, but we find it useful to have a separate bag with useful items which includes:
- tootbrush and toothpaste
- hand sanitiser
- sun screen
- lip balm
- hair ties
- wet wipes
- mosquito repellent or bug spray
- skin moisturiser
11. A FIRST AID KIT
While we sincerely hope you’ll never have to use it, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Because Laura’s mom is a pharmacist, our first aid kit is almost as big as our suitcases, but it has come in handy so many times! It should definitely contain some basics such as bandages, band-aids, antiseptic and safety pins and we always make sure to have a healthy dose of painkillers for sudden migraines or other aches.
12. CAR AIR-FRESHENER
Because no amounts of deodorant will take away the smell of feet or sweat, but a good air-freshener will!
If you get caught in the rain during one of your hikes, you’ll be happy you brought your own towel, or when you sleep in a dirty motel and using the motel’s towels will make you more dirty than before your shower!
14. A BACKPACK
A backpack or day bag is great for throwing in a change of clothes and a few essentials when walking around in a city or going on a hike.
15. A GOOD CAMERA
We like to document all our trips, so we will always take a camera with us to take pictures and make videos. You can find more about it in our article about our photography gear.
16. A HAT OR SUNGLASSES
Keep the sun out of your eyes while driving by wearing a hat, a cap or sunglasses. For sunglasses we would highly recommend investing in a good pair of polarised ones, which will heavily reduce glare from headlights and light reflecting off of wet surfaces on the road. We found great stylish ones for a very affordable price at Privé Revaux.
17. A HOTEL APP
The thing we like most about roadtrips is the feeling of freedom you get. You decide where you want to stay and for how long. The downside of this is that you often only book your accommodation really late! We often book our hotels and motels the same day and use booking.com 99% of the time. Here you’ll find hotels, motels, bnb’s, apartments and houses at the best prices and the booking process is just so easy. There’s a really handy app as well which we always use on the road.
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Want some roadtrip vibes? Check out our latest USA vlog!
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