11 essential things to take with you on a road trip

By Jess Shanahan | Gear

Dec 04

If you’re wondering what to take with you on a road trip, it probably all hangs on the kind of person you are. If you’re a photography lover or vlogger, then you’re going to focus on the tech you can take to make your life easier. If you love to drive hard and fast, you’re going to want car gadgets, and if you’re an explorer, you’ll want maps and technology that make finding the road less travelled much easier.

I’d say I’m a mix of all of those but my road trips are very heavily photographed and filmed so I tend to sway towards camera gear. That being said, I love to explore and have discovered some amazing travel apps and gadgets in my time.

This list of what to take on a road trip includes all the essentials as well as a few nice-to-have items. I’d love to hear more about what you take on your road trips over on our road trip group on Facebook.

Powerbank

While you might be able to charge your phone in the car, it’s important to have a back up if you’re out exploring. (Especially if you’re an iPhone user!)

This iPhone power bank is slim and light so it’s great if you’re short on space or don’t want to lug a heavier power pack around with you.

Or if you want something with a little more juice, this RavPower portable charger could charge your phone 1.5 times over.

Scrapbook

Any book will do but I’d go for something that’s easy to fit in your luggage and is pretty durable as you’ll be pulling it around a lot as you travel. I like anything that looks like it belongs on a pirate ship so that means leather-bound (or leather-lookalike, at least) with thick pages. I like a scrapbook to get nice and fat as the trip goes on.

Instant camera

I love instant photos because they give you an easy way to populate a scrapbook as you travel. There are a few brands to look out for, the iconic Polaroid will probably be your first choice but check out the Instax Square and the Kodak Printomatic too.

Hand sanitizer and baby wipes

Far from the glamour of an instant camera but hand sanitizer and baby wipes are both good things to take on any trip, no matter where you’re travelling. Both can help you get cleaned up quickly (ice cream is usually the biggest culprit here) but the twosome can also help to stop the spread of germs during those times when you can’t find somewhere to wash your hands.

Gimble

Whether you’re looking to make epic vlogs or just want to record some cool videos for Instagram, a stabalising gimble is a must-have. There’s a huge range of options out there, from the £109 Zhiyun gimble for smartphones to the £399 FeiyuTech a2000 Gimbal for DSLRs.

Do your research and read some reviews. Often the old saying of ‘you get what you pay for’ is true but if you’re looking for something to use casually and not professionally, a cheaper gimble will do the job.

reMarkable

I used to take five notebooks with me on a trip as I like a different book for all the different subjects and notes I might be making at any one time.

I’m aware how excessive that is and I knew that wasn’t always going to be feasible so I looked for something I could write on that was as close to paper as the real thing because I love notebooks. The reMarkable tablet hit the spot because it writes just like paper and you can convert it to typed text too.

Getting a reMarkable tablet has changed my whole life and I’m saving plenty of kilograms in baggage weight too.

Zoom lens

During my Austrian road trip, I really upped my photography game with a Canon L-series zoom lens (Austrian cow pictured above). Don’t get me wrong, it was expensive but you don’t have to shell out for the latest kit to get greater versatility. My first ever Canon zoom was this 75-250mm lens that cost just £300 but you don’t even have to pay that, there’s a Tamron 70-300mm lens for under £100. Perfect for getting up close with a subject in your travel photography.

Dash cam

This is a good thing to have in your car at all times as it’ll help you resolve any incidents much more quickly with your insurer or hire car company. A good quality one will also record HD video which is good for any road trip vlogs to show off the roads you’ve travelled.

You could pay anything from £149 for a top-of-the-range dashcam down to £29.99 for something more simple.

Action camera

An action camera is another great way to document your trip. I use a GoPro with a suction mount, either on the outside of the car or on the windscreen. It’s also great for super wide angle selfies too.

Smart travel bag

There are so many cool travel bag options out there these days. Look for anything waterproof with space for all your gadgets and a USB charging port.

For a couple of years, I’ve been using the STM Drifter backpack. It’s durable, has a waterproof cover, is comfortable enough for hiking and it easily fits three days worth of clothing inside along with my laptop, tablet and associated chargers and accessories.

GPS

I tend to use Apple Maps for all my GPS needs but that’s not always practical, especially when I have to think about my data allowance! If you’re going to buy your own GPS unit, then I’d suggest something that you can easily upgrade with new maps. This TomTom GO is a good choice if you need worldwide maps but if you’re a campervan roadtripper, it might be worth shelling out for the TomTom Camper which has camper and caravan POIs too.

The photo above is from a US road trip where we came through the Lincoln Tunnel onto Manhattan and our GPS lost all signal! The moral of that story is make sure you also have a physical map to hand. Navigating NYC via map certainly was an experience!

If you’re looking for further inspiration, this checklist gives you 30 items you need to pack ahead of a road trip.

These are all items I take with me when travelling but I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

What do you consider essential when you’re on a road trip?

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About the Author

Jess Shanahan is a road trip journalist and motorsport consultant who loves high heels, V8s and the open road. You can find her on Twitter @Jetlbomb.