Preparing for a road trip can be a lot of work. Between deciding where to go, when to leave, and what to do when you get there, you might feel exhausted before you even start the car! To add packing to your to-do list may feel like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be.
Greenvans is here to lighten the load with a ready-made list of road trip essentials that are guaranteed to make the road trip planning process easier and a lot more fun. What’s more, we offer spacious van rentals all over the Northeast to ensure a smooth, comfortable journey for you and your family.
What to pack for entertainment
Staying entertained on the road helps keep the driver alert and the passengers engaged. And while the majority of the U.S.A.’s landscapes are impressive, there is always a stretch or two that can feel redundant. Keep the fun going by packing the following items for long rides.
1. Books or audiobooks
A book, e-book, or audiobook can serve a couple of purposes. For one, it’s a great way to keep occupied during lengthy drives. For another, it can teach you something about an upcoming destination, making it one of our favorite things to do on a road trip.
Download a historical fiction book or the biography of a local celebrity to get some background on your next stop and get everyone excited to visit. Audible has a wide variety of books to choose from, ranging from bestsellers to classic literature. You can also borrow books, in both audio and hard copy form, from your local library.
We don’t all have the same taste in music. If you’re a rock fan but your kids would rather groove to Taylor Swift, there’s just one tried-and-tested solution to make everyone happy — headphones.
Drive in silence while others listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or their choice of music. To make sure everyone doesn’t drift into their own world and stay there, set a limit for on-the-road alone time so each traveler can chill out to the beat of their own drum. Reconvene after an hour or so to chat about your upcoming destination.
Card games are a lively and interactive way to pass the time while driving through less scenic areas. All you need is a standard deck of cards to play Crazy Eights, Go Fish, or Old Maid. UNO is a popular game that uses its own set of cards that can be purchased on Amazon or at almost any rest stop on the way.
Increase the stakes with easy prizes, like letting the winner pick the next game or awarding them with a surprise souvenir at their favorite road trip stop.
4. Outlet strip for carports
If you’re traveling with a group, an outlet strip should be at the top of your road trip packing list. That way, everyone’s devices will be juiced up and ready to take photos, download maps, and connect with loved ones who are joining vicariously through video.
Don’t risk a dead battery on your phone, iPad, camera, or portable charger. Greenvans vans are stocked with four USB ports and two 12V DC power points, but if that’s not enough, an outlet strip can increase your charging capabilities while driving.
5. Puzzle books
If you’ve had enough of looking out the window and want to work your brain a bit, bring a book of crosswords or Sudoku to stimulate your mind while passing the time. Trivia books are always on the list of our traveling essentials, and are especially fun if the questions are travel or destination-related. You can buy any of these online or in stores like Target or Walmart.
6. Music playlists
Apps like Spotify and Pandora allow each traveler a chance to play DJ through Bluetooth connection, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto connections in Greenvans’ passenger vans.
Make a playlist related to your road trip. If you’re on a winter road trip during the holidays, create a Christmas-themed playlist. If you’re on a cross-country trip along the Blues Highway, add Elvis, B.B. King, and other blues greats to the background.
Spotify has a unique feature that aggregates songs between users, so you can automate a playlist with everyone’s favorite songs.
7. Travel journals
If you like to write and you’re thinking about what to pack for a road trip, a pen and a journal should be a priority. Keeping notes about your experience is an invaluable way to pass the time and document memories. Write about your favorite restaurants, the most beautiful views, the places you liked most, and even the places you liked least!
Day-to-day note-keeping doesn’t only help thoughts stay fresh, it also serves as a good reference when planning a trip in the future. What did you like? What would you skip? Knowing the answers to these kinds of questions will turn you into a road trip expert!
8. Arts and crafts
Skip the paint and bring a box of arts and crafts that is vehicle-friendly. Coloring books, sewing kits, blunt knitting tools, and sticker books can help children of all ages turn their travel experience into a work of art.
Use crayons to capture the scenery from the window or knit a warm hat if you’re en route to one of our 25 best U.S.A. ski trip destinations. Keep or gift your masterpiece as a souvenir of your road trip together.
9. Portable board games
Playing games together is a lively way to stay connected and make long rides feel shorter. From Backgammon to Monopoly, there are plenty of board games suitable for car rides. Monopoly has multiple versions that can be played in a portable box, like Road Trip and Deal Card Game.
If you lean toward classic board games, there are magnetic versions of chess, checkers, and Scrabble, perfect for driving through the mountains or over bumpy roads.
10. Tablet holder
Sometimes, you just want to cuddle up in the backseat and watch a good movie. Or rather, you want your kids to. This is why a car holder for your iPad or tablet should be on your road trip checklist.
Purchase tablet holders that slip over the headrests of the driver and passenger seats so those in the back can watch their film of choice while you chat with your partner in the front.
Safety road trip essentials
Only one thing trumps joy while on the road, and that’s safety. Making sure you’re ready and equipped for any emergencies or unforeseen circumstances is crucial to a smooth experience.
We wholeheartedly recommend bringing your vehicle in for a full maintenance checkup before taking a group vacation, even if it’s just a simple day trip from Richmond. If you don’t plan on taking the family car and would like a well-maintained passenger van that’s ready for the road, rent a spacious van with Greenvans instead.
No matter what you plan on driving, when compiling your list of what to bring on a road trip, don’t forget these useful items that we’ve found to be lifesavers.
1. Jump starter and jumper cables
These items will save the day if your car’s battery unexpectedly goes dead. If you’re driving your own vehicle, a jump starter and jumper cables should get you up and running within 30 minutes. Once you start driving, head directly to a mechanic for a battery replacement.
If you decide to rent a van with us, all you’ll have to do is contact Greenvans. Our 24/7 roadside assistance is available anywhere and anytime, for emergencies of any kind, including battery failure.
2. Roadside emergency kit
Emergency kits of any kind are traveling essentials. If you’re headed out for an epic road trip, remember to bring roadside-specific equipment, even if it’s only for your own peace of mind. These kits can be purchased in Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, or on Amazon for quick and easy delivery.
Double-check that your bag includes the following:
- jumper cables
- first aid supplies (more on this below)
- reflective warning triangles
- basic tools
- tire pressure gauge
- emergency provisions
We also suggest watching a video as a refresher on how to measure tire pressure, change a tire, or jump-start a car with the items provided.
Yes, apps like Waze, Google, and Backcountry Navigator are common and useful on a road adventure. However, what happens if you travel through an area with little to no cell service? Or the battery on your GPS goes kaput at a critical moment? What if there is something about the directions that Siri is giving you that just doesn’t seem right?
Let the power of an old-fashioned map be your savior. Download regional maps to your devices before you leave or buy a paper map that details the roadways, landmarks, and exits of the areas you’ll be crossing through. It’s an excellent backup plan that has been used with overwhelming success for centuries.
4. First aid kit
Assemble one yourself or purchase it at your local pharmacy. Either way, a first aid kit is a road trip essential necessary for emergencies both minor and major.
Make sure your kit includes:
- absorbent compresses
- adhesive bandages and bandaids
- adhesive cloth tape
- antiseptic wipes
- instant cold compress
- digital thermometer
If you’re planning to go camping, boating, or hiking, there are first aid kits crafted specifically with these activities in mind. Add antihistamine or anti-swelling medications if you plan to be in nature.
5. Emergency Provisions
Weather happens, and we have no control over the consequences. Should you find yourself stuck in an unexpected delay or breakdown, knowing that you have non-perishable food and water will calm your nerves.
Pack items with a long shelf-life, like:
- nuts and dried fruits
- pretzels, crackers, cookies, chips
- nut butters
- canned goods like tuna
- powdered or liquid electrolyte packets
- water purification tablets
Bring a cooler filled with both spring and coconut water, a great natural source for electrolytes. A passenger van has plenty of space to pack more provisions than you’ll likely need.
6. Reflective Vest and Warning Devices
If you’ve ever broken down in the middle of the road, you know how important it is to warn other drivers as soon as possible. Having a set of warning devices on hand will keep you and your family safe from oncoming traffic until assistance arrives.
Three items are required to be placed in specific locations within 10 minutes: warning triangles, fusee flares, or liquid-burning flares — one on the traffic side and two in the center lane, while a vest will make your presence clear.
7. Driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance
Anyone who plans to get behind the wheel should have identification at their fingertips. In the event that you’re stopped by police or have a roadside emergency, this paperwork will be requested. Not having it could lead to significant delays, refusal to assist, or worse, impoundment of the vehicle.
8. Emergency phone numbers
When all else fails, call a friend! Or, in this case, the institution that can help you. Renting a vehicle always comes with an emergency phone number, but there are times when direct contact is faster.
Bring a notepad with the following phone numbers written down and stowed away in the glove compartment:
- the local police
- the local hospital, medical clinic, or Urgent Care
- a reliable tow company
- your credit card company, especially if you obtained rental vehicle insurance through them
- your travel agency if you used one
- each hotel in which you’ll be lodging
- Greenvans’ emergency line if you rented a van with us
9. Battery-operated fan or space heater
In the extreme and unlikely situation that you are stuck on the side of the road in the height of the winter or the peak of the summer, a fan or space heater will keep you comfortable until help arrives. Some can be charged before departure while others run on battery, so bring backups of everything to ensure the device lasts as long as needed.
10. Itinerary plans and schedule
This is the only item on this list not coming along for the ride. Send a detailed outline of your itinerary and include everything from dates to hotels, campsites to detours. Write out addresses, phone numbers, and the approximate departure and arrival times to each destination. Leave your plans in the safe care of someone you trust who will know where you are, and where you’re not, at all times.
Road trip packing list for comfort and hygiene
Road trips are better when clean and comfortable. You’re sure to appreciate a pristine vehicle after a few days camping in the woods, just as you’ll be thrilled to nap under a warm blanket en route to another morning on the slopes.
No matter where you plan to go, add these items to your road trip packing list to guarantee it’s a relaxed one.
1. Pillows and blankets
For long trips or nighttime drives, passengers can snuggle into a warm blanket while watching the world go by. These cozy items are also essential if you plan to spend a night in one of our rental vans at a campsite or roadside stop.
When the sun visor doesn’t quite block the rays, or you want to feel the warmth on your face but not in your eyes, sunglasses are key. We recommend bringing a backup pair of lenses in case the original set breaks or disappears, as sunglasses tend to do.
3. Trash bags
A clean home is a happy one, and since the vehicle is your so-called home during your road trip, it’s up to you to keep it maintained. Have a bag in the center for waste and do a quick rubbish sweep each time you make a stop.
4. Disinfectant wipes for car
Camping? Hiking? Driving through the forest with the windows down? No matter what’s on your itinerary, you’re guaranteed to collect dust. Keep the seats, wheel, dashboard, and windows dirt-free by toting along a pack of wipes suitable for various surfaces.
Front-seat passengers should be especially aware of the UV rays that can sneak through even the thickest of windows. Wearing sunscreen can protect you from damage that comes with extended exposure to the sun, which can occur during long drives on the open road.
6. Wet wipes for body
Just as the car gets dirty, so does your body. When a hot shower isn’t in the cards, freshen up with skin-friendly wet wipes like Cleanlife, Simpleaf, or chemical-free baby wipes.
7. Hand sanitizer and lotion
It’s not always easy to track down a sink and soap on the road. If your hands aren’t feeling clean and you’re ready to chow down on finger foods, hand sanitizer can be used in a pinch.
Follow it up with a moisturizing lotion to combat dryness that comes with an alcohol-based sanitizer. Lotion also keeps your skin protected against changes in the environment throughout your journey.
8. Deodorant and body spray
Let’s face it — even if you choose to rent a spacious passenger van, you’re still in close quarters. Be mindful of your neighbors by staying fresh with deodorant and a light mist of body spray. This is one of our most highly recommended road trip essentials for adults and teenagers, so if you forgot to pack it, buy it while you’re on the road!
9. Travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash
This item is just as important, if not more, than the above. Long road trips involve lots of talking, napping, and eating. Keep your breath fresh by having a travel kit on hand. Mouthwash is a great alternative when you don’t have access to running water after an on-the-road lunch.
10. Tissues and toilet paper
Hikers already know that tissues and toilet paper are accessories that go into the bag first. But they are also a must when it comes to road-tripping.
Allergic to the falling golden leaves in New England? Tissues will be your best friend. Trekking through uncharted territory in the Smoky Mountains when that bottle of water hits? You’ll be glad you BYO toilet paper. In fact, bring extra — you just never know when they’ll come in handy!
What to bring on a family road trip
Few adventures in life bring a family closer together than a road trip. Watching your child’s eyes light up upon seeing a brand-new landscape, historical landmark, or sparkling city lights is a special moment for any parent.
Keep the momentum going while driving with these road trip essentials designed to keep kids delighted and entertained. Check out our list of entertainment accessories above to ensure your journey is fully stocked with things to do.
1. Toys and games
Many board games come in compact travel sizes or in magnetic form, perfect for a moving car ride. Let your children each choose one game and one toy to join them on the journey. Make the trip extra memorable by taking a photo of their toy in each of the places you stop and turning it into an album when you get home.
2. Plenty of snacks
Choose some of your favorite family snacks, like fruit, nuts, popcorn, or crackers, so everyone stays satiated on the road. Another fun option is to stop in local stores along the way and buy treats that are specific to that area — peaches in Georgia, pretzels in Philly, or saltwater taffy at the Jersey Shore.
3. Window shades
Coming back to a hot car after a day in the sun is rough. Bring a set of window shades to keep the car cool, in addition to finding a shady place to park. It also helps to protect the material in the interior of the car, so it’s a win-win!
If you have a baby on board, invest in a set of shades that slip right over the window. They will keep the sun out of your baby’s eyes and protect their skin from harmful UV rays.
4. Brightly-colored bandages
There are so many nature stops to make on a road trip — like wildlife refuges, national parks, and sandy beaches — that cuts and scrapes are almost a guarantee. Bandages with fun prints or bright colors can help ease the pain, if only psychologically, and make the injury feel a bit less traumatic.
5. Scrapbooking sets
Create a memento of your journey together by making a scrapbook. Use stickers, photos from magazines, gluesticks, and your very own artistic skills to compile an album of your trip. Make sure to finish all the necessary cutting ahead of time to avoid using scissors in a moving vehicle.
6. Sing-along playlist
Perform a full-scale music concert on the road by creating a playlist of your favorite sing-along songs. Make one together or use the powers of the internet to find the best beats to belt it out. Capture the footage on video — who knows when this might happen again.
7. Child-sized backpacks
Kids will love having their own travel backpack to fill with keepsakes at each stop. Encourage them to pick up pinecones in the forest or collect magnets in big cities. They can keep these little items, packed with essentials like water bottles and hats, in their travel backpacks. It will make them feel responsible and lessen your load.
8. Reusable water bottles
Reduce your carbon footprint and stay hydrated by packing reusable water bottles. They are especially necessary if you plan to go on an active trip, like hiking or skiing. Fill up at fresh water stations in rest stops and have some extra water packed for emergencies.
9. Picnic blanket
One of our favorite things to bring on a road trip is a blanket for an impromptu picnic. Long-distance drives increase the chances that you’ll stumble upon a beautiful overlook or a magical canopy, perfect for a family meal. If you have space, bring a basket too, and stock up at a roadside stand with local delicacies to nibble on in nature.
10. A ball
Road trips are great, but long stretches in the vehicle can make a kid antsy. Bring a sports ball so you can get some movement in during the breaks. A soccer ball, football, or even a badminton set can get the blood circulating in no time and is super easy to transport.
Pet travel essentials
Travel can be stressful for even the most social of pets. The constant movement, the new territory, and the high levels of collective excitement can leave your furry friend confused and uncomfortable.
Keep your companion safe and happy by packing according to our road trip checklist crafted specifically for animals.
1. Pet bed
A familiar and comfortable pet bed will bring your pup a sense of security during the journey and make them feel more at home.
2. Seat belt adaptor
This is a dog travel essential, as the seat belt adaptor will keep them comfortably restrained and prevent any unnecessary movement during long rides. Protect your dog’s neck by attaching the adaptor to the back of a harness instead of a collar.
3. Extra water, food, and treats
Ensure that you have an ample supply of your pet’s favorite food, treats, and plenty of water so they can stay nourished and hydrated throughout the trip.
4. Waste bags
The planet is our home and we should keep it clean no matter where we are! Be prepared to clean up after your pet by packing waste bags for pauses at rest stops, and consider purchasing environmentally-friendly compostable bags.
5. Portable water bowl
A collapsible or portable water bowl is especially helpful during outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping, or while traveling extra long distances.
6. Leash and harness
Even if your dog goes off the leash at home, it isn’t wise to assume he or she can do the same in a new, uncharted land. Better to be safe than sorry, so pack a sturdy leash and harness for secure and comfortable walks.
7. Pet first aid kit
Be prepared for minor mishaps by packing a pet-specific first aid kit that includes bandages, antiseptic wipes, and necessary medications.
8. Favorite toys or comfort items
Help your pet feel at ease during the adventure by bringing along their favorite toys and comfort items. Pets get homesick just like we do, so fend off this disconcerting sensation by packing familiar things.
9. Grooming supplies
Pack grooming essentials such as a brush, nail clippers, and pet-safe wipes to keep your vehicle clean and your pet looking their best while on the road.
10. Vet records and identification
Keep important documents like vaccination records and identification tags handy in case of emergencies or unexpected situations during travel.
What should I pack for a 3-day road trip?
For a three-day road trip, it’s essential to pack basic items like clothing and toiletries, pajamas, medications, your driver’s license, and insurance information.
In addition, you’ll want to include road trip travel essentials like:
- a cooler with snacks and drinks
- entertainment such as music, audiobooks, and games
- road maps and a GPS for navigation
- portable chargers for phones, tablets, and laptops
- pillows and blankets
- a roadside emergency kit
- dog travel essentials
What not to pack for a road trip?
There are things that you won’t want to pack for a road trip like travel-sized toiletries, which are unnecessary as there are no restrictions on the road.
Even if you rent a van, it’s important not to overpack so you can leave room for souvenirs. Steer clear of out-of-season clothing, duplicate items, perishable food, and any bulky gear that you can rent easily on-site, like skis, beach chairs, and camping items.
The ultimate road trip essential? A spacious, comfy van
When planning a road trip, the most important decision you’ll make is the vehicle you choose to take. Having a van with 24/7 roadside assistance, modern features, and space to stretch your legs is essential to a comfortable ride.
At Greenvans, we’re confident that renting one of our passenger vans will elevate your journey from good to absolutely unforgettable. Contact us today so you can hit the road in comfort!