12 Packing Essentials for long Road Trips

The philosophy of Less Is More comes strongly into play when packing for a road trip.  Whether it be for just a few days, or for a few months, playing the “Rearrange Shuffle” and ruffling through your belonging to find things, gets old quick.  Trust me, we’ve been on the road in a van (while building it) packed with snow, surf, puppy, and baby gear for almost 5 months, I’m an expert on the “Rearrange Shuffle”.

The best time to update your trip packing list will always be on your trip.  Although it does you no good at the time, it will make that next trip all that more dialed in.  I started this list last year on what turned out to be a 5 month road trip, the perfect amount of time to discover exactly all you’re missing.

It was winter in Oregon, and I, dressed in my best morning outfit of pj bottoms, snow boots, beanie and The Husband’s finest wrinkly flannel, took a quick trip over to grab some mountain coffee  creations.  Mocha and pumpkin spice Latte were both on point, and the bagel sandwiches were prepared all toasty-warm & melty.  

Walking back to the truck with ipad, keys, wallet, 2 drinks, (why didn’t I bring a purse?) an Almond Joy scone, and bagel sandwich all balanced perfectly, I set the coffees on the hood, and opened the door.  Placed everything else inside the truck, started it up to get the heater going for the pup, and reached around to grab the coffees from the hood.  Coffees in hand, I turned back around…. and watched my door s-l-o-w-l-y creep close and barely click, just enough to lock me out.  

That did not just happen.  

I stood there for a moment, thinking if there was anyway I could get the dog to press the unlock button.  Nope.  Of course I didn’t bring my phone either.  Oh, but I could call from my magic jack app on the ipad, if it weren’t locked inside the truck.  Walked back to the coffee shop to see about using the phone, naturally the 1 number I have memorized went straight to VM.  Without a second thought, the Barista offered to drive me to the place we were staying, to grab my spare key.  Love that small mountain town kindness!

So here it is, The Essentials List for long road trips.  Some basics, and some things you may not of thought of.

1. Spare Keys 

Car, trailer, tool box; anything with a lock.  Store it in a separate spot as the originals.  We kept the spare trailer key in the truck and the spare truck key in the trailer, hoping the odds of locking ourselves out of both at the same time would be low.

2. Spare Pet Tags 

On this trip alone, 2 collars went down in the ocean and a 3rd broke and the tag disappeared.  I ordered some back ups from Pet Tags 4 Less, they have free shipping, usually arrive in about 3 days and you can find almost any color for $2-$3.  I knew a few places we’d be staying, so I made a couple with different local addresses and phone numbers too.

3. Large refillable water container   

Avoid spending $2+ for a small bottle at each gas station, or lugging around a bunch of jugs.  Save money, space, and cut down on trash.  Most groceries have a refill station for purified water for as little as $0.25/ gallon.

4. Jar of change 

For the laundry mat, camp showers, random vending machines, there always seems to be a need for change on the road.

5. Collapsible Camp Bucket
A nice water proof bucket is great for holding shower stuff, doing dishes, washing baby, acquiring ice in bulk from unmonitored hotel ice machines…

6. Large umbrella 

For beach sun and mountain rain.

7. Re-usable Grocery Bags 

Great for groceries, yes, but also for cherry picking from your main load when taking small trips to the beach, or inside a friends house, campground shower, and of course for the ever popular rearrange shuffle

8. Camp Towels 

Total game changer.  Lightweight, quick to dry, and they take up minimal space.  Found these after a laundry ransacking that left us towel-less.

9. Basic First Aid Kit +

  • Bandaids, regular & waterproof
  • New Skin (liquid bandage) 
  • alcohol swabs & Neosporen 
  • nail clippers & tweezers
  • vitamins & prescriptions
  • scissors 
  • bottle opener

10. Handheld Tool Box 

  • jumper cables
  • wrench
  • screw driver
  • tire pressure gauge
  • duct tape 

11. Kitchen Essentials

  • salt & pepper
  • 1 knife, 1 fork & cup/ person
  • 1 med size bowl
  • 1 pot with lid
  • 1 small pan
  • ziplock bags
  • foil (can double as a baking dish)
  • paper plates, paper towels
  • 1 tabletop $25 bbq propane grill
  • small French press (or if you’ve got solar, go for the Nespesso!)

12. Dry Snacks 

Undoubtedly there will be multiple long stretches of road where your only choice for sustinence will be “something-something food mart & gas”.  Keep a bag filled with easy-to-grabs

  • fresh fruits
  • celery & carrots
  • jar of peanut butter
  • nuts 
  • crackers
  • oatmeal (pretty easy to grab a cup of hot water on the road)
  • cliff/ kind bars
  • organic fruit strips
  • popcorn

If you need more or less, there’s stores and goodwill on the road too.  Or a laundry mat, sometimes we leave clothes at a laundry mat and assume they go to a good home.  This trip we let go of some of our clothes, baby blanket and baby clothes (they grow so quick), dog bowls (after stepping in and dropping things in the water dish, it was voted out and replaced with these sweet locking stackable travel ones), 3 towels (not intentionally), and a pair of very used snowboard boots.  The thought of freeing up space makes it easy to let things go.  However, we seemed to have acquire more then  was let go, not even mentioning parts, tools and materials.  We needed a baby travel swing, after Fynlie went 3 days without a nap.  There was still snow so I needed new pretty sea green snowboard boots.  To make small wave days more fun we had to get an 8ft foamy surf board.  Yeah… 

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