When road trip season is upon us, it’s time to head out on the open road and go wherever the asphalt may take us. While a road trip is an exciting way to spend a vacation, there are certain items you should bring with you to ensure it’s a smooth trip.

Below, we outline 26 road trip essentials you’ll want to pack before heading out to ensure you have the best road trip experience possible.

1. 12-Volt Phone Charger

Most newer vehicles have ample USB charging ports to handle charging every passenger’s phone charging needs. However, it never hurts to have a few 12-volt chargers plug into your vehicle's power ports (or cigarette lighters). Bonus points if you have one with multiple USB ports in it.

This ensures you have plenty of ports to keep every device charged, as many electronics other than cellphones use USB car chargers, including some video game consoles, tablets, laptops, and portable DVD players.

While you’re at it, make sure to have plenty of charging cables too in various formats so everyone is covered. This includes micro-USB, USB-C, and Lightning cables.

2. First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is a must-have item on every road trip. There is no need to go crazy on the full kit that allows you to practically perform open-heart surgery. A simple kit with bandages, gauze, antiseptics, some over-the-counter medications for headaches or motion sickness, and other basics will suffice.

This ensures all the basic ailments can be quickly cared for if needed. Keep the kit accessible too. Many people put them in the trunk, meaning you must pull over to access the kit. Put it in the main cabin, so you and your passengers can easily get to it.

3. Insulated Water Bottle

When you get thirsty during your trip, do you want to have to stop by a gas station to get cold water, or would you rather save the time and money bringing your own water from home? Likely the latter.

The problem is, if you put the water in a normal bottle or cup, it’ll only remain cold for a short time. Investing in a quality insulated reusable water bottle can keep your water ice-cold for hours — sometimes 24-36 hours. Plus, these bottles are generally well-sealed to prevent leaks.

4. Audiobooks

You can’t read and drive, but you sure can listen and drive. If you’re in the middle of a great book and have to head out on a long road trip, see if there is an audiobook available so you can finish the story on the road.

You can also get educational audiobooks, like those that teach you a foreign language, to turn your road trip into an educational experience.

5. Hand Sanitizer

In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, hand sanitizer was everywhere. Today, many of these dispensers have followed the path of the payphone — the structure is still there, but it’s never actually functional.

Despite the abandonment of these sanitizing stations, it’s still wise to sanitize your hands after interacting with items many others touch, like a handrailing, fuel pumps, and more. So, stock up on your own hand sanitizer and keep a few bottles within reach inside your vehicle to freshen up and prevent the spread of viruses.

6. Playlists

On long road trips, it’s a great idea to have all your favorite music saved to playlists to make the trip go faster. Log onto your preferred streaming service, like Spotify, and create a playlist for each of your favorite genres of music or just a few playlists with random tracks you love. You can also fill the playlist up with your favorite podcasts if you prefer.

This way, when you get in the car, you can just choose your playlist and have hours of entertainment ready without the distraction of changing stations to find better music.

7. Sunscreen

In the summertime, the Canadian sun can be rather unforgiving. This is why bringing along some sunscreen on every road trip is a great idea. This will ensure you’re protected from the sun’s harmful rays and can avoid getting a painful sunburn.

8. Toilet Paper

When you’re on a long road trip, you never know when nature will call, so you always want to be prepared. This is why you want to bring along toilet paper. It is useful if you’re stuck doing your business remotely or if you find a public restroom with no toilet paper.

9. Toiletries

If you’re on a several-day-long road trip, don’t forget your toiletries. This includes your toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, deodorant, hair product, body soap, shampoo, conditioner, and more. Some hotels may offer these for free, but it’s better to pack your own if the hotel doesn’t offer them or they are unsatisfactory.

10. GPS

Many new cars now have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which have built-in GPS systems known as Apple Maps and Google Maps, respectively. However, not every car has this, so you can either get a windshield mount for your cellphone and use Google Maps or Apple Maps straight from the phone or purchase a standalone GPS unit and use this instead.

11. Jumper Cables or Jump Box

A dead battery can quickly throw a wrench into any road trip. You can counter this by always bringing at least a set of jumper cables with you. Better yet, bringing a jump box — a battery-powered unit that can jump-start a car, as needed — is even better because it requires no second car to start your vehicle as the cables will.

If you’re bringing a jump box, make sure to charge it so you have its full capacity if needed.

12. Travel Mug

It’s no mystery that coffee cups from fast-food joints and coffee shops aren’t great. And during a long road trip, they can become saturated and leak or you grab it the wrong way and spill coffee. You can avoid this by bringing a travel coffee mug and transferring your coffee into that, then throwing the cup away or recycling it.

Plus, these mugs are often insulated, keeping your coffee hotter longer.

13. Sleeping Bag

Even if you’re not planning on camping, a sleeping bag with a low-temperature rating (0 degrees C or below) is a great thing to bring with you on a road trip. If the unthinkable happens, and your car breaks down in the cold winter months in Canada, this can keep you warm while you await help. It can also be a great help if you can’t find a hotel to stay and need to sleep in the car for a night.

14. Baby Wipes

If you have a baby, bringing these is second nature, but they can also be handy if you don’t have a kid. Not only are they a great substitute for toilet paper, but they are also good for light cleaning even if it’s not a family road trip. Say you’re eating something messy and need to wash your hands and face, but there’s no bathroom nearby. Grab a wet wipe to clean up.

15. Bug Spray

This is important regardless in the spring and summer but even more important if your road trip will include camping at campgrounds along the way. Without this spray, you’re inviting parasites, like mosquitoes, to a perfect buffet, and you’re the main course. Keep the bug spray in your road trip day bag, and use it when needed or before heading to the campsite.

16. Duct Tape

Duct tape is a temporary rip and hole fixer, so it should be a part of every road trip kit. Toss a roll in your day bag just in case you rip or puncture something you can’t fix on the road, like your tent, air mattress, or poncho. It’s not permanently water- or air-tight, but it’ll greatly slow the leak.

17. Rain Jacket or Poncho

It‘s hard to predict when rain will strike on a road trip through Canada, and it may not be convenient to hold an umbrella, such as if you're building a tent or a fire. A poncho or rain jacket will keep you dry like an umbrella, but you’ll have two free hands to get the job done.

18. Picnic Blanket

You may not plan to have a picnic-style meal during your next road trip, but unpredictability is part of the fun of being on the open road. You may come across the perfect picnic spot and having a picnic blanket ready to go makes these impromptu changes possible. Besides, folded up, a picnic blanket will take up minimal space.

19. Road Trip Games

There is only so much time you can spend surfing the internet, watching movies, or reading e-books on your tablet or Kindle during the car ride. This is where road trip games can come in handy. Whether they are more whole-family games, like road trip bingo or eye-spy or more head-to-head games, like a magnetic chess board or a card game, having these games can help pass the time and build camaraderie on your next road trip.

20. Roadside Assistance Policy

You can end up in some remote areas when you're on a road trip. The last thing you want is to be stranded if your vehicle breaks down or runs out of gas on these more remote stretches. A roadside assistance policy is a lifesaver, ensuring someone will deliver gas or tow you to a nearby repair shop if needed.

21. Roadside Emergency Kit

If you break down or run out of fuel, a roadside emergency kit can help. These generally include safety items, like flares or warning triangles, which you can place behind your vehicle to warn other drivers your car is stopped. They may also include a small tool kit to perform light repairs, tire sealant, and other items that can come in handy in a pinch.

22. Ice Scraper

Another road trip necessity is an ice scraper. While the temperature may be warm when you leave the house, things could change on the road. An ice scraper ensures you can easily remove any ice buildup encountered on the road.

23. Travel Pillow

Road trips can be long and tiring, so having travel pillows for the passengers to use when they sleep is critical. Also, if you’re going to alternate driving responsibilities with another road tripper, having a comfortable pillow to rest your head on when you’re taking a break from driving will help you return to the wheel refreshed.

24. Garbage Bags

On longer road trips, you’re going to stop for snacks and drinks often, and this usually includes wrappers, bottles, and other trash you need to get rid of. Instead of cramming this trash in the glove box or door pocket, bring some grocery bags you can use as garbage bags. Then, once the bag is full, you can toss the whole thing at the next rest stop.

25. Paper Map

While you likely already have a GPS or plan to use Google Maps or Apple Maps, technology can fail. This is why it’s a great idea to have a paper map as a backup. If your phone breaks or loses signal or the GPS dies, you can resort to old-school map reading to continue your long drive without a big delay.

You may even want to perform pre-emptive trip planning and highlight your preferred route on the map before leaving. This will save the headache of doing it in the car.

26. Portable Charger

While you will have your car charger to keep your phone topped up, what happens if the car dies? You can no longer charge your phone at this point, so having a portable charger that you can plug your phone into will come in handy. Some of these chargers today are also powerful enough to double as jump-start packs for cars too, so if your battery dies, you can jump your car without hooking jumper cables to another car’s battery.

Add a Quality Pre-Owned Car From Clutch to Your Road Trip Essentials List

While putting together your road trip checklist, you may want to include a quality pre-owned vehicle to ensure your trip is smooth and enjoyable. You can pick up this quality pre-owned vehicle from Clutch, Canada’s first online automotive retailer.

Not only can you skip the dealership and buy your vehicle online, but you get the added peace of mind that every pre-owned vehicle we sell goes through a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process. Then we add a 90-day or 6,000-km warranty and a 10-day or 750-km test-own period. If you don’t love your Clutch vehicle during the test-own period, you can return it for a full refund or exchange it for another vehicle.

We’ll also evaluate your trade-in online, handle all the financing, and deliver your vehicle to you, making for a stress-free car-buying experience.

Check out all our quality pre-owned cars ready for delivery today and choose one that suits your needs.