My 5 Favorite Things to Pack on a Road Trip

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My 5 Favorite Things to Pack on a Road Trip

We’re planning another road trip for next month (goal: check off a few more states and capitals!), and so I’ve definitely got packing and traveling on the brain. Everyone does travel a little bit different, but today I thought I’d give you a glimpse into the way we like to travel by sharing my 5 favorite things to pack on a road trip. I’m also excited to share that today’s post is part of a collaboration. (Read on!)

In no particular order, here they are:

Favorite Thing #1: Our Travel Notebook

One process I’ve created for each of our vacations (roadtrip or otherwise), is to compile a simple notebook. I like using the three-prong folders that go on sale around back-to-school shopping season.

In my notebook, I print out everything: air travel confirmations, rental car reservations, hotel reservations, trip itinerary, dog sitter information, stuff we’d like to do and more. Could you access all this information from your phone? Sure, you could. But there are times when it’s far more practical to whip out a notebook and quickly locate what you need at a glance.

As the trip progresses, I’ll tuck in brochures of places we went, postcards, receipts and the like and tuck them in the folders. At the end of the trip, this becomes a nice document of everything we did and when we did it and a great planning tool for future trips. For more information, read about my post on our Travel Notebooks.

Favorite Thing #2: Good, Old Fashioned Atlas

We never leave home for a roadtrip without an atlas! We like the Rand McNally ones (like the one pictured above, from Amazon). These are great for seeing the “big picture” of roads, highways, and points of interest. I also often pass them back to the kids during the trip to help them get a visual of where they are and how much farther we need to drive.

I do recommend you make sure your atlas is current as things do change. The 2018 Rand McNally Atlas pictured above additionally contains detailed maps of major US cities as well as National Parks.

Favorite Thing #3: Small Ice Chest

We’ve done road trips with coolers and road trips without them, and I definitely prefer the trips when we choose to bring one along! Now, if you’re like my family, you’ve likely already got the car packed to the brim with suitcases and pillows and all kinds of stuff. Given that, you want to pick a cooler that’s not going to take up too much room.

What do I keep in our cooler? Primarily drinks, such as bottled water or La Croix. I change out the ice whenever we hit up our next hotel stay. We’ve also been known to tuck in some snacks like string cheese or grapes in there, too. While I don’t own the Coleman Cooler pictured above, it is highly rated on Amazon and looks like it would stay chilled a good long time as it’s steel-belted. If I were to purchase a new one, I would definitely consider this route as we’re often in the car virtually all day during a roadtrip, so finding something that keeps something chilled a long time is a definite bonus.

Favorite Thing #4: Binoculars

One of the advantages of taking a road trip is that you have the flexibility to stop and take in the sights if something strikes your fancy. We like keeping a pair of binoculars on hand for this very reason.

If you happen upon a wildlife reserve or a vista, you’ll be prepared. The ones pictured above come from Amazon.

Favorite Thing #5: Boogie Boards

Last year, I spied these gimmicky-looking “Boogie Boards” at Costco. I didn’t think much of them, until a friend mentioned how much her kids loved them. On a whim, I purchased one for each of my kids (they were about $18 apiece). Turns out, they were a huge hit! So much so, that I ended up listing these as one of my Top 10 Costco Finds for 2016!

You can write on them – practice math, handwriting, doodle, play tic-tac-toe – and then erase it all when you push a button. I’ve seen a similar model at Costco this June.


At the start of this post, I mentioned that this was a collaborative effort. That’s because a couple other Pacific Northwest Frugal Bloggers have written about the same topic today! I hope you’ll visit each of these blogs to read up on their 5 favorite road trip item lists:

Thrifty & Thriving 
Thrifty NW Mom

1 thought on “My 5 Favorite Things to Pack on a Road Trip”

  1. These are some very interesting ideas but for us, would have to be midified slightly as we don’t have younger kids at home and our 18 y/o doesn’t like to do the same things as we do.

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