5 essentials to pack for your next road trip

Relieve some of the stress of road trip preparations with this insiders’ list of essentials.

Road trips are a great way to satisfy your sense of adventure and see sights you might otherwise miss. From roadside attractions to incredible restaurants, national parks and scenic vistas, there’s always something to admire while taking a road trip.

You can have the best trip possible by making sure you’re prepared before you hit the road. So check out these traveler recommendations for five road trip essentials you shouldn’t leave home without.

1. Vehicle necessities

The first step to having a great road trip is making sure your vehicle is prepped and ready to go. You can start by performing an inspection on your vehicle. This might include checking that your battery, engine belts and hoses are in good shape and that all fluids are topped off. Next, you might want to ensure you have a spare tire, jack and tire iron. Lastly, you can inspect your tires, check your brakes and make sure your lights, windshield wipers and blinkers are all working properly.

It can also be helpful to pack a basic toolkit. You can buy pre-loaded travel maintenance kits or assemble your own. Think about including things like tire sealant, jumper cables, a small set of wrenches, oil and a set of screwdrivers.

2. Electronics and chargers

“For most, a cell phone has become the single most important item for traveling,” says Adam Marland, a professional travel photographer. “It’s a GPS, camera, boarding pass and digital credit card.” So Marland suggests always bringing a small portable power pack on your travels.

Marland says you may also want to consider bringing items like a digital tracker, which can be used to help keep tabs on spare keys or other valuables, and a car-powered cooler or fridge. 

Marland also recommends investing in waterproof travel cases and phone cases to help protect your tech gear. “Salt water is incredibly destructive, and even a small crack can destroy your phone if submerged. So bringing a highly affordable waterproof bag or case is a no-brainer if I will be near an ocean,” he says.

3. Comfort and luxury items

Packing a few luxury items can make the drive more comfortable and enjoyable. 

“Sunglasses are great if you’re driving, hiking or really doing anything outdoors. If I ever left for a trip without my sunglasses, that would be my first purchase at my destination,” says Eva Keller of food and travel blog Discovering Hidden Gems

Marland agrees, listing sunglasses as one of the first things he packs when planning a trip. 

The photographer also recommends packing a microfiber travel towel. “It can instantly become a blanket, pillow or place to sit down. It can be used for sun protection and of course as a towel. They pack up small and dry quickly—important features when traveling,” he says.

Keller also suggests giving compression socks a try. “Everyone can benefit from compression socks,” she says. “If you’re going to be sitting or doing nothing for an extended period of time, they’re essential to help keep blood flowing well.”

4. Adventure gear

The whole point of a road trip is to immerse yourself in an adventure. So make sure you’re prepared for opportunities to explore—it could lead to a richer experience. 

“I always bring a day bag that holds all my essentials, like my phone, reusable water bottle, sunglasses, and wallet,” says Melissa Middlestadt, a travel enthusiast and founder of My Beautiful Passport.

Getting ready for your adventure should also include being prepared for the unexpected. All three travel experts recommend travel insurance. This can help safeguard you from unexpected medical bills, lost belongings, roadway accidents, canceled trips and more. 

The travel experts also suggest carrying a mixture of credit and debit cards and cash. Some credit cards offer certain types of travel insurance and other benefits. For example, the Capital One Venture card offers 24-hour travel assistance services and travel accident insurance. Plus, you can earn unlimited double miles per dollar on every purchase and 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

5. Toiletries and cleaning supplies

Packing some essentials—beyond toiletries like toothpaste, deodorant and mouthwash—can help you feel refreshed and clean while keeping your vehicle tidy during your trip. 

For example, Marland recommends bringing medicines for upset stomachs and motion sickness, and Keller always packs sanitizing wipes. “Water or food doesn’t have to be ‘bad’ to agitate our systems,” Marland says. “It’s incredibly common to experience varying degrees of discomfort when it comes to digestion when traveling anywhere new.”

It can also be a good idea to pack a small first-aid kit including pain relievers, bandages, antibiotic creams and cold packs.

Taking the time to research the area you’re traveling to will help inform what hygiene items you may want to consider bringing. Depending on your destination, bug spray and sunscreen could also be must-haves.

Enjoy the trip

Heading into your trip knowing you’re prepared for anything will make the whole experience better. Pack like a pro and you’ll travel lighter, happier and healthier, ensuring you’re enjoying the journey and getting the most out of your trip.

All packed up? Don’t forget—eligible Capital One cardholders can book hotels and earn enhanced rewards on rental cars and hotel stays through Capital One Travel.

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