Packing for a Road Trip in the U.S.A

Packing for a Road Trip
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Why a Road Trip?

When the Pandemic hit in March 2020, I had high hopes that our Africa Trip in June would continue as planned. I was way too optimistic! Towards the end of the summer, I started to have travel withdrawals. The only option was to do a road trip in the U.S.A. We have two large dogs and traveling with them would be no easy task. Our trip would have to include camping since many hotels do not take dogs or have a 25 lb limit. I hope this list helps you when you’re packing for a road trip, where ever it might take you.

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Camping List

We car camp. The list below is not for backpack camping! As far as coolers go, we have a very large one and a smaller one. I like to keep meats in a separate cooler in case they leak. Your choice of tent is up to you. My husband likes to stand up in our tent and we have two large dogs so we opt for the Coleman 6 person tent with screen. I also recommend buying a shade tent that can be placed overtop of the picnic table and cooking area. It will also provide respite during the rain.

For cooking, we like to cook in a Dutch oven but it’s pretty heavy. You can easily sit it on the coals and cook. Please try to be environmentally friendly and buy reusable items instead of plasticware and paper plates. That includes your choice of dish detergent.

The one thing that I bought on our last trip which was a game changer is the portable toilet. When the bathroom is 1/2 mile away and you’re drinking beer, this is a life saver. I think next time I will add a privacy tent as I was taking some chances a couple times with the neighbors spotting me.

Packing for a Road Trip: Items for Your Car

DO NOT assume your GPS will work on your phone. Always have a back up plan and know how to read a map. On our last trip we went through tolls that only took coins. Make sure you have money for tolls when toll attendants are not available. And any road trip involves coffee. Get yourself a good insulated coffee mug.

  • Spare key
  • Phone charger
  • Travel bottle for coffee or water
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper Money and Coins…for parking meters, air pump at gas stations, tolls, broken ATMs, laundromats, etc.

Clothing List

I really try to pack lightly. The key word is TRY. Plan on 7 days of clothes and washing them or re-wearing after that. Bring clothes that are lightweight and won’t weigh your bag down. ONLY PACK WHAT YOU CAN CARRY! Do not expect others to carry your bags for you.

Three pairs of shoes should be your maximum. I really like my Keen Rose Sandals. My first pair lasted 10 years. You can hike in them or wear with a skirt to go out on the town.

Your list will vary depending on your destination. Research the weather. You might need to pack warmer clothes. Clothes you pack for Florida will be much different than clothes for Upper Michigan. Pack accordingly.

My favorite outfits now include leggings. They are comfortable and versatile. You can dress them up or down and they double as a layer underneath jeans for cold nights at the campfire. My favorites are Nordstrom Zella, Athleta, and Spanxs. I’m currently obsessed with anything Athleta. I try to be a fashionista and admittedly I have many failures. Athleta clothes are not cheap but they are very well made and super comfy. My favorite feature of the website is the “wear it with” section. When you choose an item, it gives suggestions on what to pair it with. I’ve gotten many compliments on my outfits from using this feature. More suggestions on what to wear for a warm weather road trip can be found here.

  • Leggings
  • Bandana/scarf
  • Swimsuit
  • 4 shirts (2 long-sleeve shirts and 2 short sleeve)
  • 5 pairs of underwear/bras
  • Pajamas
  • Hiking shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Going out shoes/sandals
  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 long sleeve t-shirt
  • 2 pair shorts
  • Hiking boots
  • Dress or skirt
  • Fleece
  • Sweatshirt
  • Hiking pants 2 pairs
  • 1 lightweight jacket/raincoat
  • 4 pairs of socks (preferably smartwool)
  • Hat/gloves (weather dependent)

Packing for a Road Trip: Toiletries

I recommend buying small travel bags instead of using plastic bags for your toiletries. TJ Maxx has a travel section where you can find them for cheap. I always like to bring my own shampoo and conditioner. Your accommodation may not have it or it may be sub-par. I learned my lesson one year in Costa Rica. The hotel we stayed had bright neon pink soap that doubled as shampoo. I think I was bathing with industrial soap. My hair was not happy.

  • Hair Conditioner/shampoo
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Brush
  • Plastic bags (wet clothes/muddy shoes)
  • Soap
  • Contact lenses
  • Baby wipes
  • Chlorox wipes
  • Razor
  • Deodorant
  • Lip balm w/sunscreen
  • Lotion


This list used to be a lot longer. Last time I went to Africa I had 5 lbs worth of CVS products! I now only bring the necessities. When I was packing for a road trip last year, I forgot to pack my Cipro. I ended up going to a minute clinic and getting a prescription. Cipro is used to treat bacterial infections. It’s a general anti-biotic and good to have on hand. Your doctor should be able write you a prescription.

  • Bacitracin/Neosporin
  • Tweezers
  • Ziploc bags
  • Vitamins/probiotics
  • Heartburn remedy
  • Advil & Tylenol


There are many other miscellaneous items to remember when you are packing for a road trip. I’m a bit of a nerd and like to have binoculars. Good binoculars will cost you over $300. If you can’t afford it I’d just omit it from your list. I like to learn about the flora and fauna of the places I visit. It’s also fun to try and identify birds from a laminated guide like this one. And do your research about bugs! There’s nothing worse than being bitten relentlessly by mosquitos. It will ruin your trip. Note: Avoid the UP (Upper peninsula of Michigan) in June. There is no amount of bug repellent that will save you from the UP in June.

  • IPOD and speakers
  • Camera, memory cards, extra batteries
  • Travel books
  • Hat
  • Tissues
  • Water
  • Towels
  • Laundry Bag
  • Notebook/pen


Don’t assume you will have WiFi everywhere. Bring a print out of your lodging and other items you have booked. I like to send post cards to friends and family so my address book is on my list.

  • Itinerary/reservations
  • Address book
  • Car Insurance card

Dog Items

If you are bringing your dog(s) and forget something, most items can be purchased but make sure you can purchase your brand of dog food where you are going or bring enough to last the entire trip. There is nothing worse than switching dog food brands on a road trip. Doggy diarrhea is unpleasant at best. Speaking of which, remember to buy some poop bags. Being a good dog owner means picking up after your dog(s) and confirming to the hotel staff that they should continue to allow dogs at their facility.

  • Dog Food
  • Dog bed (optional)
  • Shot records
  • Treats
  • Extra collar
  • Leash

If you think I missed something please let me know by commenting below! Happy Road Tripping!

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