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27 Road Trip Essentials to Pack for 2020

Are you getting ready to pack your car for your next road trip adventure? There are some important road trip essentials you’ll want to bring on the trip. Our family has been on a lot of road trips, including an annual trip from Seattle to Edmonton, Alberta, and here’s what we pack.

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It’s important to pack your car well for a road trip! That includes bringing items that will help you clean up messes, stay comfortable in the car, and even something to help with bad smells.

Road Trip Essentials to Pack

Paper Towels

Paper towels take up a bit of room, but they are very helpful for spills and messes. Families will find that paper towels can serve them well for cleaning up kid messes. We’ve also used paper towels to clean off messy shoes after a muddy walk.

Toilet Paper

A roll of toilet paper can be useful in a couple of cases. Sometimes you might need to stop at a park or rest stop and they might not have toilet paper stocked.

You might also want some if you’re stuck using a “green latrine” at some point (that means using the bathroom in the woods). Just make sure you toilet paper pack in and out. :)


Kleenex is always a good thing to bring along if you need to blow your nose. It’s good to keep in mind that allergies might affect you when driving in nature with plants you might not be accustomed too.

Wet Wipes

We find ourselves using wet wipes/diaper wipes all the time on a road trip. My husband especially likes to use them after filling up the gas tank. I also love using them with the girls after eating.

For 2020, disinfecting wipes are a big essential to pack on a road trip!

Hand Sanitizer

Having a bottle of hand sanitizer is a road trip essential. We store a pump bottle in the cupholder between the front seats and everyone can access it. Works well for eating on the go and after being outside. Especially for travel in 2020.

And don’t forget to pack your face masks! Include some disposable ones if you can’t easily wash or replace your cloth masks.

Odor Eliminator

When a few people start spending hours together in a small space there’s a chance there will be some smells. Fast food smells, dirty shoe smells, or human gas can make the car stink. Pack some sprayable odor eliminator and consider an air freshener, too.

Road trip essentials to pack on a road trip

Trash Bag

This is one of the most vital road trip essentials if you want to keep your car organized on a road trip. I like to tell people to pack a garbage bag for each “row” of seats.

We love using this car trash bag for between the front seats, but each of our girls gets a grocery bag to keep near their seats to put garbage into.


No one wants to ride along with someone who is hangry, so be sure to pack plenty of road trip snacks. With kids consider packing a separate pack of snacks for each kid so no one has to hear arguments about who ate too much of what.

If you plan to pack your own lunches or snacks that need to stay cool, make sure to pack a small portable cooler. We also own one of these electric coolers and it’s nice for longer trips where ice packs can’t stay cold.

Gum / Mints

Most people won’t be brushing their teeth during the day while driving, so mints and/or gum are a good thing to pack. They’re going to help keep your mouth feeling a bit fresher and save others from smelling bad breath.

Reusable Water Bottle

While you don’t want to make a lot of bathroom stops, it’s still important to stay hydrated. Bring your own water bottle so you can refill at restaurants and avoid single-use plastic bottle purchase. An insulated bottle is great for keeping your drinks cold, too.

Facial Towelettes

This one works for men and women. Paul and I both like to use some facial wipes after we’ve been driving to help us feel refreshed.

Lip Balm

Dry lips can be really irritating, especially when you’re stuck in a car for hours.

Eye Drops

If you have trouble with dry eyes, or if you wear contacts, pack some eye drops for the trip. I wear contacts and find that driving with the air blowing on my face can make my eyes dry out.

Dental Floss

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve relied on these flossers to help us get rid of something stuck in our teeth after eating on the go.


This is another comfort item, dry hands can be frustrating if you’re stuck in the car for a long time.

Lens Cloth

If you wear glasses, make sure to pack a lens cloth so you can keep your glasses clear.


I’m sensitive to sunlight so I couldn’t imagine taking a road trip without bringing a pair of sunglasses. Consider getting polarized sunglasses to help with harsh sunlight glares.

Slip-On Shoes

Wearing slip-on shoes is a must for road trips. If you’re not driving then you’ll want to slip off your shoes and having to keep untying and retying them for each stop can be frustrating and time-consuming.


Passengers will appreciate having a pillow on the trip. You can pack a full-size pillow from home, or use a small pillow or travel neck pillow.


For our family, Paul is always wanting it cooler to drive than I want it as a passenger. Bringing a blanket can help everyone stay comfortable.

Travel Towel

A travel towel that is compact can come in handy for a few reasons. Perhaps you stop by a beach and walk into the water. Or you might get stuck in a rainstorm and need to dry off your hair.

Picnic Blanket

If you’re planning to stop at parks for a break or to eat then packing a portable picnic blanket can come in handy. Throw in a frisbee, too!

First Aid Kit

While you should make sure you’re covered for serious medical concerns and can access a hospital, minor scrapes can be fixed with a travel first aid kit. Definitely remember some ibuprofen/acetaminophen, stomach chews (Pepto Bismol), allergy pills, and bug bite cream. We’ve used them all on road trips.

travel first aid kit

Emergency Car Kit

You can either buy a pre-made car kit or put one together yourself with some important things like a car jump starter (you can’t count on having another car to provide a jump so be sure you can jump your car yourself).

Also, pack some emergency signals. An emergency kit will have the necessities and some extra precautionary supplies but will have only jumper cables which won’t help you if you can’t find another motorist to give you a jump.

There are also some important things you’ll want to pack for a winter road trip.

Road Atlas

While we all rely on digital maps these days, there’s always a chance you’ll lose coverage. Make sure you pack a road atlas so you can navigate yourself if needed to where you need to go.

Also keep your hotel info, like the address and telephone number, printed somewhere so you can access the info in case of a loss of coverage.

Games & Activities

Don’t forget to pack some things to keep everyone entertained while in the car:


Don’t forget to make sure each person packs their own headphones. There will be times when each person might want to listen to their own music/movie.

Now you’ve packed all the road trip essentials and you’re ready to hit the open road!

Coming Soon: Road Trip Packing List

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    • Hi Kelly, so glad you liked the post. We had a spilled ice cream cone once and let me tell you, the return home trip was not pleasant! Really wished we had the Ology Odor Eliminator then.

  1. I love your road trip tips here. Definitely going to pack these for our trip in May.
    I’m also going to use your post here in my Road Trip Essentials Round Up. Thanks!!
    Your SoFab Friend,

  2. I am going on a trip in a few months and I seen this. Of course what did I do, went to Walgreens and bought all of the items. I love the ology products, but of course you can always use something else. The only thing they don’t have in the ology products is the hand sanitizer. :(

  3. I have a Travelon Anti-theft react small cross-body bag that I plan to use on our cross-country move since we will be on the road for many days and be stopping at a lot of rest stops. One thing I noticed from my many many cross country travels is that a lot of rest stops, while nice, lack the basic needs that I am used to or are not as clean as I had hoped. I plan to use that cross-body bag as basically a “rest stop” bag for toting things I consider a necessity. For instance, most rest stops do not have paper towels, they have those blower hand dryers (which do not work well) so I picked up a camper’s microfiber towel that folds and compacts itself into a tiny zip bag, that way I can whip it out and dry my hands properly. I have a small “camping” roll of toilet paper which is very compact and fits in the bag, and I also have a tiny container of “soap sheets” in case they have no soap (Some stops don’t!), the usual female supplies (I also recommend a quart zip lock bag and a change of underwear if you are expecting your period, if you end up soiling your undies you need some place to store them without getting messy!), I also have some flush-able toilet seat covers for dirty bathrooms, some wet wipes of course, and a small travel deodorant (Just in case I get sweaty and need a quick freshen-up). I think making a kit like this will be the best thing you ever did for a trip ;) Trust me, there is nothing worse than going into a dirty bathroom with no toilet paper, soap or towels available!

    • Those are great tips! We’re always sure to have sanitizer and toilet paper, but your ideas and tips are great because you’re right, those rest stops aren’t always clean and stocked. :)

  4. Hi Kimberly!

    I’ve never heard of the Ology line of products and find it hard to get my hands on greener alternatives where I live. I’ve used Mrs. Meyer’s and 7th Generation products but supply is limited. I’m going to check out my local Walgreens to see if they carry this line & them out for certain!

    • Great Mindy – thanks for sharing. I love Mrs. Meyers & seventh generation too. I was just at Walgreens the other day and noticed they still had the Ology line in the beauty aisle I was in! This collaboration was a while ago, so I’m not sure on how current their line looks at this time. :)

  5. im going on a long train journey to Southampton and the toiletries essentials are really helpful and clear to make sure i have the right things for any incidents/problems.thanks for helping me out.
    thank you!!!!!!!

  6. Great suggestions. I road travel often too and I found that we needed disinfecting wipes for cleaning public toilet seats before using them. They can be purchased in small travel size now.


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