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18 Fun Things to Pack for a Road Trip

Things to Pack for a Road Trip - Car in a roadtrip
Christine Ellis
Christine Ellis
November 11, 2022

Are you looking for fun things to pack for a road trip? Taking a long journey by car can quickly go from exciting to boring after the first hundred miles. However, with the right preparation, you'll have plenty of options to pass the time in a fun and interactive way that will make all your passengers happy once you hit the road.

To help you plan what supplies to bring on a road trip, check out these top suggestions by road tripper experts who travel cross-country to visit friends, family, national parks, cities, and even those quirky attractions off the beaten path. Whether driving your personal vehicle or setting up a rental car, these items you'll want to pack will make your adventure more entertaining!

18 Fun Things to Pack for a Road Trip

1. National Park Pass

National Park Annual Pass

A National Park Pass is the simplest of items to pack for a road trip, but it can be the most enjoyable. The America the Beautiful Pass is only $80 annually but gives you access to all 63 national parks and over 340 national park sites and monuments across the US.

You can use the pass to avoid paying entrance fees if you plan to camp along your road trip route, as most national parks have campgrounds that allow tent or car camping. In addition, you can stop for the day and enjoy exploring the natural wonders each park site offers and maybe barbeque up some burgers for a picnic lunch.

Don't think all national park sites are off the beaten path. There are many locations in urban areas that you can incorporate into your trip's plans. For example, consider the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument if you're traveling through Alabama or the Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Missouri. In addition, most major cities, including New York City, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, have wonderful urban national parks worth the visit.

2. GoPro

Documenting your road trip will be much more real when you strap a GoPro to your head or chest and go about your daily adventures. A waterproof model and some extra accessories can help you catch unusual footage you'd miss when trying to film using your phone or camera. In addition, it's easy to upload, save, and edit your videos during your trip to create an awesome digital scrapbook you can share on social media with family and friends.

3. Bathing Suits and Hiking Boots

Keep a couple of packing cubes full of bathing suits, quick-drying towels, and hiking boots and socks for your traveling crew. Even if your final destination does not include a pool, beach, or plans for nature walks, you never know where you'll find an opportunity to take a dip or explore the local terrain along your route.

Maybe you stop at a state park for a picnic lunch and want to hike a trail safely. Having appropriate footwear can prevent blisters or sprained ankles. You may come across a public-access community pool or a lake with a beach when checking out the nearest town, and you can take a refreshing dip before you carry on down the road. These items only require a little storage space in your vehicle but can make the difference between a quick and easy enjoyable detour or missing out on some fun.

4. Road Trip Playlist

Sure it's easy to turn on the radio or XM music stations and cruise to whatever music comes on. But when you take the time to build an epic playlist with your and your passenger's upbeat favorites, you'll soon be singing along at the top of your lungs, and the miles will fly by! An amusing game to increase the fun is to see which passenger can first name the song and artist, with pieces of candy given out as prizes.

5. Programmable LED Car Sign

For silly interaction with passing cars, you can plug the programmable car sign, such as the one by Leadleds, into your 12V outlet and attach it to your back or side window using the integrated suction cups.

Use the remote control to type in different messages (keep it clean, please!) and have fun getting reactions from other travelers. The sign allows you to have a stationary or scrolling message with different speed modes and is simple enough to program, even for kids. Look online for various LED car signs, such as those that allow you to program the display using an app on your mobile phone or that have a color-changing feature for the lettering.

6. Frisbee or Soccer Ball

Kid playing with a Frisbee

Rest stops are crucial on road trips to use the bathroom and stretch your legs. Having a frisbee or ball on hand will allow you and your passengers to exercise and enjoy a few laughs testing your catching or kicking skills.

If you're traveling with a dog, they will love running to retrieve the frisbee, and it will poop them out so they will be more relaxed during the next leg of your trip.

7. License Plate Game

You can play many versions of this game, but the wooden kit by Melissa & Doug is ideal for kids or those who are kids at heart, as there are no pieces to get lost, it is reusable, teaches the state capitals, and even has a tiny version of the plate on each tab to help make a match.

Adults may have more fun trying out the bingo-style version by Regal Games, with sliding doors to close when you find a matching license plate to the state on your bingo card.

As you travel, have passengers compete to find the most state license plates and flip the piece for that state. It helps kids learn the US states' location and will keep passengers busy hunting for that elusive plate during the entire trip. There are also affordable paper or dry-erase versions that won't bust your budget.

8. Bubble Maker

Kids and adults will have a great time opening up a bottle of bubbles and rolling down the window to let the moving air leave a trail of "magic" behind the vehicle. But, of course, this activity works best when traveling at slower speeds, like cruising through a small town or down peaceful country backroads.

Of course, you can go old school and blow on the wand to create a smile on everyone's faces. During a rest-stop break, have a contest to test who can make the biggest bubble, with the losers having to run some laps or do some push-ups.

9. Headphones

Comfortable headphones can help passengers do their thing without bothering the driver or others inside the vehicle. You can bring noise-blocking headphones to grab a nap or use standard versions to listen to your favorite music or watch a movie or game quietly.

Over-the-ear headphones are easier to wear for long stretches versus earbuds. However, opt for wireless models if your electronic devices can support them to reduce tangles or broken cords.

10. Road Atlas

Don't think a physical map book is useless with modern GPS technology. On the contrary, a large-format road atlas can work as a learning tool for kids, who can trace your route, figure out mileage, point out upcoming rest stops or attractions, and even make suggestions for places that sound interesting to stop.

Adults can find the map invaluable when the location services on their phone act up or when they need to find an alternate route due to an accident or bad weather. Lastly, if you travel often, a road atlas can act as a diary of your past trips, especially when you add notes in the margins about the places and people you experience along the way.

11. Mobile Inflatable Mattress

Inflatable Mattress for camping

If your car has room to fit an inflatable mattress, you can use it to boondock instead of paying for a hotel room when you only require a few hours of sleep. You can also pull it out at night to stargaze at rest stops or quiet areas on your route.

A mobile inflatable bed is around $50 and includes integrated pillows and extra air chambers to fill the gaps between seats for ultimate sleeping or lounging comfort. Remember to pick up a 12V or USB-powered air pump to plug it into your car's power ports for quick fills.

12. Cup Holder Tray

Upgrade your in-car dining experience with this cool gadget that securely fits inside your vehicle's cup holder, so you have a tray to place your food and drink instead of balancing it on your lap.

The SodaRide Car Cup Holder design adjusts to fit any diameter cup holder and comes with a detachable tray and a place for two drinks. The tray is also ideal for holding your camera or phone steady so you can vlog your trip's adventures hands-free.

13. LED Flashlights and Spare Batteries

LED Flashlights

While you can use flashlights in an emergency to flag down help or when walking to an underlit campground shower house during your road trip, there is a fun reason to bring them along. When you stop for a break after dark, you can have a blast playing flashlight tag with your traveling party to break up the trip's monotony.

The winner can ride shotgun for the next portion of the journey or choose where to stop for dinner. You can pick up small LED flashlights that last a long time at dollar stores, and once you reach your destination, you can always use them to make shadow puppets to entertain the kids.

14. WiFi Hotspot

Packing a hot spot can be a lifesaver when on a road trip. With the right service plan, you can access the internet without eating up your phone's data or have coverage when your mobile phone doesn't.

Many cell phone plans will let you add a hotspot for an extra $10-$20 a month, allowing you to research things to do around areas where you plan a rest break or learn about the local culture. Kids can also connect a tablet to keep them occupied when they get antsy.

PRO TIP: One of the most essential fun things to pack for a road trip should be a hot spot that uses a different company than your phone's service plan. Doing so will enable you to have greater coverage, especially in remote areas out west that can get spotty.

15. Audiobooks

A riveting audiobook is a wonderful break from the music and a great distraction when traveling through miles of mundane landscape. Choose the audio version of the hottest best-seller or pick up book titles you have yet to have time to read at home.

You can even select books themed to your road trip, such as those set in your destination location or that explain the history of regions you are passing. Better yet, your traveling party can have a book club on wheels and discuss how they feel about the storyline and characters during breaks.

16. Travel Journal

Writing in a journal

Documenting your trip by writing in a travel journal creates a keepsake of memories and can be an excellent reference when planning future road trips. In addition, making notes of stops along the way, like restaurants or local attractions, gives you a chance to leave a short "review" on likes and dislikes that can refresh your memory when passing through the area at a later date.

Filling the pages with notable encounters with people, places, or wildlife each day lets you add the little details you may forget by the time you get home. Collect and press a leaf or flower from stops on your route or add a sticker or patch to commemorate an event or city. A travel journal is a personal way to highlight the trip through your eyes, and there are all types available at local booksellers or online to suit your needs.

17. Fun Snacks

Packing everyone's favorite snacks is a no-brainer when planning a road trip. Still, you can surprise passengers with unusual snack selections and have fun "taste-testing" them among your group. Trying new flavors from other cultures is an exciting way to perk up everyone's spirits when the miles take their toll.

You can order popular snacks from specific countries online, such as the SakuraBox full of Japanese goodies or the European Snack Mix Package by World Wide Treats that features snacks from Greece, Spain, Poland, Italy, Romania, Belgium, and Russia. Snack boxes are surprisingly affordable and can create hysterically fun travel memories.

18. Pampering Accessories

Turn a road trip into a mini spa by packing beauty accessories like cooling eye masks, rich hand and body lotion, a cord-free personal massager, cozy slippers, and any other item that will make you feel pampered. Adding a yoga mat can let you stretch or meditate each day, no matter your location, and slippers with firm soles can let you run into a store or gas station without worry.

Travel can lead to dry, rough hands, feet, and skin, but slathering on a nice-smelling hydrating lotion will instantly boost your mood and add a pleasant fragrance to your vehicle. Also, drop a gel eye mask into your cooler while you drive and pop it on during a rest stop to relieve tension.

Are you driving through hot and arid regions? Try the InnoGear Car Diffuser that humidifies the air and lets you add your favorite essential oils to soothe your nerves. The unit is rechargeable using a USB port and automatically shuts off when the water is gone.

Road Trip Essentials Make Every Journey Safe and Fun

Along with fun things to pack for a road trip, you also need to consider the essential items that will help you in case of an accident or breakdown requiring automobile repair. Create a kit with these items and pack it in your trunk whenever you take a long road trip:

  1. First aid kit
  2. Non-perishable snacks
  3. Gallon jugs of water
  4. Reusable water bottle
  5. Jumper cables
  6. Road flares
  7. Warm change of clothes
  8. Waterproof matches
  9. Waterproof ponchos
Man checking on his spare tire

It's also critical to have a usable spare tire, jack, and tools to fix a flat. In addition, ensure you have access to cell service so you can find the nearest gas station, check your location on google maps, or contact law enforcement.

Write down the phone numbers to reach your car and travel insurance companies, and keep policy numbers and a list of contacts in a safe place if your phone is lost or broken.

Lastly, have the number of your mechanic or auto repair shop. If you get into an accident, you'll want to immediately contact a repair shop that has expert service and can direct you in setting up towing and repairs. If you own an electric vehicle, look for a shop certified to work on Teslas and other EV models.

Being ready to have fun and handle any worst-case scenario is the best solution when planning a road trip near or far. Using this guide will ensure your trip will be a blast, and you'll reach your destination safely!