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Once you have planned your route, booked your accommodation and made all other necessary arrangements, next up is packing for your road trip!
Read More: If you haven’t planned your route, booked your accommodation and made all other necessary arrangements yet, check out our article How to Plan a Europe Road Trip – The Essential Guide
Our Road Trip Packing List has grown over the past few years. What started out as a Family Camping Packing List seven years ago, has evolved into a comprehensive Ultimate Road Trip Packing List.
While some road tripping folks prefer to pack minimalistically, I don’t belong to that camp. I like to be prepared (for various eventualities) as well as appropriately equipped for outdoor activities.
As a mum who road trips solo with kids, safety is my top priority. Hence, I’d rather take too much (and not need it) than too little (and don’t have it if needed).
I have divided this road trip packing list into categories covering everything you’ll need for a European road trip from UK (or from/to anywhere, really!). It’s a complete packing list of things to take when travelling with kids to help you decide what things to bring on a road trip – tweak it to your needs and enjoy the ride!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Car Essentials & Non-Essentials
Documents to Take
First Aid Kit & Medicines
Road Trip Essentials
Road Trip Food
CAR ESSENTIALS AND NON-ESSENTIALS
- EU Car Travel Kit (if applicable)
Carrying an EU Car Travel Kit is compulsory in most European countries. It contains emergency kit items such as a warning triangle, hi-vis vest and more. The AA provides a handy PDF guide for a compulsory kit.
Whereas AA’s Euro Travel Kit can be purchased here.
If travelling via France, you are also required to carry breathalysers with you.
You can either get some French NF Certified breathalysers here or get a complete French Travel Kit here which already contains breathalysers.
- Head lamp beam converter kit (if applicable)
When travelling to mainland Europe, the legal requirement is to ‘not dazzle oncoming drivers’ rather than specifically to adjust/convert the headlamp beam pattern. Without adjustment the dipped beam will dazzle oncoming drivers and this could result in a fine.’
In the two Travel Kits mentioned above, these are already included.
Alternatively, you can get a pair of head lamp beam converters here.
- UK magnetic plate (if applicable)
From 28 September 2021, you need a UK sticker instead of a GB sticker. If you are embarking on a European road trip from UK and do not have a UK sign on your license plate, you will need a UK sticker on the rear of your car.
UK stickers are included in most EU Travel Kits – if not, you can get a magnetic UK plate here.
More information can be found on the government website.
- First Aid Kit
While carrying a first-aid kit is compulsory in some European countries, it is recommended in others and not required in few. The useful PDF document by the AA mentioned above provides further details on most European countries.
Even if this isn’t a requirement in the country you are travelling to, I highly recommend to always carry one. AA’s Standard First Aid Kit can be purchased here.
- Electric Tyre Inflator
Owning an electric tyre inflator can be a life-saver. If you lose tyre pressure and aren’t anywhere near a petrol station, having one (or not) can make (or break) your day.
Some break-down kits – such as this and this one from the AA – already contain tyre inflators. Hence, check before purchasing. I have been using this tyre inflator for the past few years and it has saved our day on more than 5 occasions.
This is a top tip I recommend to everyone.
Rather than listing a thousand reasons when you might need one, I’ll list only one: You never know when you’ll need one – so just take one with you (and let me know when it came in handy).
I highly recommend investing in a top quality torch – you can’t go wrong with Ledlenser which I’ve been using for several years now.
- Kids’ car seats
Kids grow fast. Therefore it’s vital to ensure that their car seats will last them for the duration of your road trip; or upgrade them if necessary.
Read More: For a full list of Car Essentials to carry out before a road trip, check out our article How to Get Your Car Ready for a Road Trip.
(that make life easier)
- Roof Box
Whether you need a roof box or not will depend on how big your car is and how much you intend to pack. It is a very handy travel kit to own as you practically double your boot space.
Our experience: While we managed without a roof box on our first summer road trip in 2016, we bought one for our trip to the Scottish Highlands the following year.
I had left it too late to book accommodation. Hence, we had to take more stuff because I decided that we would camp instead.
Made by the world’s biggest car-rack brand, I highly recommend this roof box. Be aware that they come in different sizes so make sure to pick a suitable one for your car.
When buying a roof box, you will also need to acquire some roof bars. Simply enter your UK car registration number here to find suitable ones for your car.
Depending on the roof box and accessories you choose, you will need to budget about £500 for the luxury of having extra storage space.
One thing to note when travelling with a roof box is the additional height it adds to your car. Keep this in mind when booking your Channel crossing via train or ferry. A roof box will also limit access to some parking garages but this is only an issue in towns and cities.
- Cycle Carrier
Taking bikes on a road trip; why not?! They’ll be great fun to experience some local adventures en route.
However, if you plan to cycle only once or twice during your road trip, you’ll be better off renting bikes onsite rather than dragging them along.
When looking into bike racks, bear in mind that there a three types available:
– Roof mounted
– Rear mounted
– Tow bar mounted
For more information, check out this article by Cycling UK.
I highly recommend Thule’s roof bike racks of which we have two (soon to add a third).
A list of all top quality Thule bike racks can be found here.
- Car Organisers
Keeping the kids’ stuff organised in the back seats will keep them content and save your sanity. I find these back seat car organisers indispensable (and they are also great at preventing dirty shoes being rubbed off on the back of the seats).
They come in a pack of two perfect for two little adventurers.
DOCUMENTS TO TAKE
Check your passports’ expiry dates at least 6 months in advance and apply for new ones if necessary.
- Credit & Debit Cards and Bank Details
If going abroad, check your bank’s cash withdrawal charges and open a new bank account if that’s going to save you some money. Cash withdrawal charges abroad add up very quickly.
Also, inform your card providers about your travel dates and destinations to prevent your cards being blocked due to suspicion of fraud.
Always keep some cash on you especially when travelling to remote places where cash points are a scarcity.
Setting aside some cash for emergencies – such as a car break-down or where cards aren’t accepted – will ensure peace of mind.
If you are going abroad, convert some currency before you leave.
- Tickets for Channel Crossing
Make sure to pack the debit/credit card that you used to pay for your tickets. I also print them out just in case.
- Travel Insurance Details & Contact Numbers
Print them out and store in a secure and accessible place. Do not rely on soft copies.
- Car Insurance Policy Details & Contact Numbers
Print them out and store in a secure and accessible place. Do not rely on soft copies.
- Road-Side Assistance Cover Details & Contact Numbers
Print them out and store in a secure and accessible place. Do not rely on soft copies.
- Driving License & Car Registration Details
Store them in a secure and accessible place.
- Car Log Book (V5C) & Green Card from Insurer
Now that the UK has left the EU, please note that UK motorists need a car insurance ‘green card’ to drive in Europe in addition to their Certificate of Motor Insurance and the log book (V5C) for the vehicle. More information can be found on the UK government website.
- Accommodation Bookings: Addresses, Contact Details And Check-In/Check-Out Dates
Assuming you have booked more than one accommodation, it’s a wise idea to note down your check-in/check-out dates as well as their addresses and contact details. You wouldn’t want to turn up somewhere a day too early or late!
- Mobile Phone & Selfie Stick
When travelling solo with kids, pack a selfie stick for obvious reasons. I use this one.
I highly recommend taking a light camera with you. From experience, I find it taxing on hikes to drag along my DSLR camera.
Using a Go-Pro is a great and fun way to capture all the actions on your road trip.
I purchased a Go-Pro HERO7 Black for our last road trip which I highly recommend. GoPro has released new models in the meantime if you want to check those out.
And don’t forget the accessories so that you can actually use it for all your actions! I have a skimmed down set from Rollei.
The only reason you will need a laptop is to store the thousands of pictures and videos you take. If your mobile phone camera is sufficient for you – and you upload the photos onto the Cloud regularly – then leave your laptop at home.
- Power Bank to charge your phone on the go.
- Electronic Tablets
If you decide to entertain your kids with tablets, take them along. My children have a Kindle Fire that I purchased for our first road. We also use them for audiobooks and eBooks. Check out our favourite audiobooks in this article.
Read More: For ingenious ways to entertain kids on a road trip, check out our article Top 11 Road Trip Activities for Kids.
- Head Phones
Chances are that your kids will be watching different films or listening to different audiobooks, so head phones will be vital.
Safety Advice: We have found that overhead headphones prevented the kids’ heads from fitting into their high-back booster seats and thus becoming unsafe. Therefore, I strongly recommend earphones instead – check out the earphones we have.
- All Relevant Chargers
Don’t forget to take all the relevant chargers with you.
- European Travel Adaptors
If you intend to travel to mainland Europe, you will need travel adaptors for the sockets in order to be able to use your plugs. I use an adapter that also features two USB ports so that I can recharge all my gadgets overnight in one go.
- GPS Device
If you have one or think you will need one, then take it along. I have never used one before but can certainly see that it could come in handy on our remote hikes.
The Garmin inReach Mini looks very tempting at first (and second) glance…but I don’t have any experience with it (yet).
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a healthcare professional. The recommendations below are purely based on my knowledge and experience. As with all medicines, it’s vital to always read the leaflet/label. Always seek medical advice.
- Arnica Bumps and Bruises Skin Salve
A traditional herbal medicinal product used for the symptomatic relief of sprains and bruises.
This salve is our most-used medicine in our kit. Kids are kids and accidents will happen (as they will also to adults) – and that’s OK – but having something to soothe a bump or a bruise is very helpful.
- Arnica Bumps and Bruises Spray
A first aid essential for bumps and bruises, stiff muscles and minor sports injuries. Safe for everyone to use. This spray comes in very handy for bumps to the head where it is difficult to apply the salve mentioned above.
- Calendula Cuts and Grazes Skin Salve
A traditional herbal medicinal product used for the treatment of minor wounds, cuts and grazes.
- HyperCal Wound Salve
A traditional herbal medicinal product used for the relief of painful cuts and minor wounds.
If you want to get only one salve for cuts & wounds, I recommend the HyperCal Wound Salve as it’s also great for painful wounds.
- Combudoron Ointment
Traditionally used to relieve minor burns and scalds. We also use this for nettle stings or similar.
- Insect Bites Spray
Traditionally used to reduce irritation and swelling after insect bites. Although it’s hard to prevent insect bites, once you have been bitten, this spray comes in very handy. It was our saviour during our road trip to the Scottish Highlands during midges season.
- Ruta Ointment
An Anthroposophic medicine for the symptomatic relief of sprains.
- Copper Ointment
An Anthroposophic medicine for the symptomatic relief of muscular pain and cramps.
- Insect Repellents
We only use 100% natural insect repellents. During our road trip through the Scottish Highlands, I have used 3 different insect repellents – amongst them were A. Vogel and Incognito – that worked to some effect. However, midges are a whole other thing when it comes to insect repellents, and while none of them worked perfectly against midges, some worked somewhat. As a tick repellent, we have found Mosiguard effective.
- Tick remover
You will need to remove a tick (and all parts of its body) as promptly as possible. Always…always carry a tick remover with you. I have somehow ended up with four various tick removers over the years. I always carry this tick remover which I favour in my mini first aid kit. But I also have tick remover 1, tick remover 2 and tick remover 3 in my comprehensive first aid kit which I leave in the car.
For more information on Lyme disease, check out Lyme Disease Action’s website.
- Small scissors to cut plasters or clothing if necessary.
- Saline solution to flush out dirt from wounds or eyes.
- Alcohol-free wipes to clean cuts and grazes. (Alcohol-free is important so they won’t sting.)
- Adhesive wound closure strips (steri-strips) to close deep wounds.
- Emergency blanket to keep warm or cool in an emergency.
- Colloidal Silver Spray has many great uses. Amongst others, we use it as a hand sanitiser as it has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
- Homeopathy Kit for emergencies. Always seek advice from a healthcare practitioner. I have a couple of kits from Helios.
Likewise, all the products I recommend in this section are 100% certified-natural (unless stated otherwise) to the best of my knowledge.
If you are unsure about natural skin and body care products, simply look out for the NaTrue certification on the packaging – you can find a list of 100% certified-natural products on NaTrue’s website.
- Tooth Brushes
- Tooth Paste
- Kids’ Tooth Paste
- Mouth Wash
- Dental Floss
- Facial Cleanser
- Face Cream
- Eye Cream
- Kids Face Cream
- Body Lotion
- Foot Balm – after a day of hiking, this foot balm is utter bliss for your tired feet.
- Hand cream
- Body Wash/Shower Gel
- Shampoo I love using the kids’ shampoo & body wash.
- Make-Up: If you are after natural make-up, I highly recommend Dr Hauschka or Lavera – both are 100%-certified natural by NaTrue.
- Sun Cream: For health & environmental reasons, we prefer non-nano (as opposed to nano) sized particles of the active ingredient zinc oxide in our sun cream. We also use a face stick for easier application on the face.
- Cotton Pads
- Cotton Buds
- Bio-Degradable Wet Wipes
- Sanitary Products
- Hair Brush
- Hair Bands
- Hairdryer (yes, I do take my own hairdryer with me!)
- Bath Towels
- Hand Towels
CLOTHES (per person)
The season, location and activities you plan to undertake, will dictate what clothing to pack.
Our summer packing list consists of:
- Short-sleeve tops
- Long-sleeve tops
- Sun hat
- Rain Coat
- Trainers, Sandals, Crocs (or Flip Flops for some)
Likewise, this part of the packing list will depend on what activities you plan to undertake.
As my kids get older and more adventurous, our Outdoor Gear list is ever-growing. Currently, it encompasses gear for hiking, swimming, cycling and rock-climbing.
Our green & healthy values, also stretch to clothing as well as gear and gadgets.
For health and environmental reasons, the most important factor for me is that water-proof clothing and gear is PFC (perfluorinated and polyfluorinated compounds)-free.
I have found a few brands whose philosophy and practices align with our values, and I’m keen to share those with you in our Ultimate Outdoor Gear Shopping Guide very soon.
- Hiking Boots
- Hiking Socks
- Rain Trousers
- Fleece Jacket
- Head Torch
- Trekking Poles
- Swimming Costume/Trunks
- Water Shoes
- Life Jacket
- Wet Suit
- Beach towel
- Travel towel
- Bike Lock
- Bike Pump
- Allen key set
Rock Climbing Gear
- Climbing Shoes
- Chalk bag
- Carabiner & Belay Device
- Road Trip Games
- Paper & Colouring Pencils
Read More: Check out our article Top 11 Road Trip Activities for Kids to ensure a smooth and happy experience for everyone involved.
ROAD TRIP ESSENTIALS
- Maps: Road maps as a back-up for your SatNav. Hiking Maps to find your way around in the great outdoors.
- Travel Guide Books: Invaluable for any travel.
Everyone has their favourite, mine are:
Rough Guides for general, comprehensive information;
DK Eyewitness for visual inspiration; and
Cicerone’s Walking Guides for invaluable insight into hiking trips.
I highly recommend Cicerone Walking Guides – I have planned all of our hiking trips in the Slovenian Alps with Cicerone’s Walking in the Julian Alps Guide and am now in the process of planning this year’s trip to the Dolomites using Cicerone’s Shorter Walks in the Dolomites: 50 varied day walks in the mountains.
- Travel Diary
I didn’t keep a travel diary during our first road trip and greatly regret it. Luckily, I’ve been using one diligently ever since. I love simple, classic notebooks, so Moleskine is my go-to notebook for anything and everything.
- Pen Knife
- Battery Pack
- Picnic Blanket
- Toilet Rolls
- Bin Bags
- Head Nets (against midges in Scotland, e.g.)
Again, using non-toxic food and drink containers is important to us; both for health and environmental reasons.
- Cool bags
They come in very handy during the summer. However, do check whether you have the facilities to freeze freezer blocks at your accommodation. Even electric cool boxes only work when provided with a freezer block at the start of each day.
- Freezer blocks
- Water Bottles
- Food containers (non-insulated)
We also love this insulated food container to keep food warm or cool. Featuring a wide mouth, it provides easy access to food and makes it easy to refill.
- Kitchen roll
- Paper Sandwich Bags
- Tea Towels
- Washing-Up Liquid
ROAD TRIP FOOD
Pack any foods that are great for road trip snacks. We love nuts, dried fruits, nut bars, oat cakes, biscuits, chocolate (oh, don’t forget to pack chocolate!), etc.
If staying at a self-catering accommodation, pack food for the first couple of days so you won’t have to deal with sourcing food on day one. A couple of jars of your favourite pasta sauce will make quick dinners easy after a long day adventuring outdoors.
I also pack our favourite granola and oats (because we are picky) for quick and easy breakfasts on some days.
Lastly, I also pack our basic essentials such as salt and pepper, coconut oil, vinegar and olive oil. I know that we could buy these onsite, but again, it’s easier to just take them along than trying to hunt them down in a supermarket… and yes, also because I’m picky.
I hope this article can serve as a road trip checklist for your upcoming trip. Take what you need and leave the rest behind. Chances are you will be able to pick-up things along the way should you forget to pack any essential items. Most importantly, enjoy the journey!
- 12 Epic Reasons to Solo Road Trip with Kids (and 5 Against)
- How to Plan a Europe Road Trip – The Essential Guide
- Top 11 Road Trip Activities for Kids
- How to Get Your Car Ready for a Road Trip
- Camping Essentials: Complete Checklist for Camping with Kids
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