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What to Pack on a Road Trip: The 13 Essentials You'll Need

Don’t hit the road without these must-have items.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Road trips, whether they’re cross country or just a quick visit upstate, require a very specific packing list. Even with the luxury of being able to bring more than just a duffle bag or carry-on suitcase, it’s all about packing pieces that are easy to style and can be layered.

Spending several hours in the car and bouncing around from location to location means you’ll want to be ready for any situation or climate. So, when choosing pieces, you'll want to prioritize versatility and comfort. Every traveler should pack basics that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits, including solid tees and an interchangeable piece of outerwear. While you can add a bold item or two, mainly sticking to simple garments will help you get maximum wear out of your outfits. If you’re searching for a way to elevate more relaxed ‘fits, use accessories like your favorite pair of sunnies or platform sandals to personalize your looks.

Ahead, we’ve rounded up 13 items you should bring along for your next road trip.

A Solid Tee

<p>Edward Berthelot/Getty Images</p>

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

The first item you should pack in your travel bag? A T-shirt in a solid color or rather a few of them. T-shirts in traditional colors like black, white, or navy will act as the base of your looks and pair well with just about any bottoms. You can go for a sporty look by combining your tee with cargo pants or dress it up by trading pants for a midi skirt.

Relaxed Trousers

<p>Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images</p>

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

Being stuck in a car for several hours (or days) calls for comfortable pants. Jeans may be your go-to on the daily, but they can be restricting when on a long trip. Instead, reach for a pair of pants with a relaxed silhouette, such as wide-leg trousers or joggers, for maximum comfort and movement.

A Cardigan

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

With neutral bases, you’ll want to pack a few pieces of outerwear to round out your looks. A cardigan brings those cozy vibes but can add a pop of color to your outfit when worn in a vibrant hue or bold pattern. You can pair it with a sundress, leggings, or even a maxi skirt – the options are truly endless.

A Button-Down Shirt

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Button-down shirts may be a French fashion staple, but they should also be at the top of your packing list. They look amazing as a standalone top but are just as chic when worn over a basic tee or tucked into wide-leg trousers. This versatile piece can also be used as a swimsuit coverup if you plan to stop at any beachside locations.

A Tote Bag

<p>Edward Berthelot/Getty Images</p>

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

A road trip is the perfect opportunity to bring out your biggest tote bag, especially if you’re a traveler who dreads forgetting essentials. In a tote, you can pack everything from your favorite snacks to sunscreen and an extra sweater, so all your bases are covered. If you don’t want to lug around a tote while exploring destinations, pack a small wristlet to bring with you on those occasions.

A Matching Set

<p>Edward Berthelot/Getty Images</p>

Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Take the effort out of outfit planning by packing a matching set. Whether it’s a cozy lounge set or a patterned two-piece, this coordinated look will appear effortless without sacrificing comfort. If you’re skipping around to a few different cities, you can get two uses out of your set by mixing and matching the pieces with other garments.

A Denim Jacket

<p>Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images</p>

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

A denim jacket is a timeless layering piece that will keep you warm and can be tossed over nearly every outfit in your travel wardrobe. Whether you choose black denim, traditional blue, or a jacket with beaded embellishments, this piece will make for an effortlessly cool ‘fit. For an even more relaxed look, opt for an oversized version.

A Maxi Skirt

<p>Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images</p>

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

Maxi skirts are another great option for bottoms that can easily be dressed up or down. Pair a satin maxi skirt with a white tee and ankle-strap sandals for a well-balanced look, or opt for a knitted version to add some texture to your outfit. Going for a statement look? Reach for a cargo maxi skirt that is as edgy as it is comfortable.

Sneakers

<p>Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images</p>

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

When packing for road trips, it’s best to limit your shoes to one or two versatile pairs. Sneakers are the most popular option because they’re the best for exploring and can be paired with everything from a T-shirt and shorts to a romper. Just make sure to pack a pair you’ve worn a few times to avoid any foot pains that come with breaking in new footwear.

Slip-On Sandals

<p>Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images</p>

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

Not into sneakers? Slip-on sandals are another footwear option that is versatile and comfortable to walk in. Birkenstocks are back in style if you’re searching for a trendy option, but any sandal that can be slipped on and off with ease will do for a road trip. If you need some extra height, consider platform sandals with a back strap to help with stability.

A Romper

<p>Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images</p>

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

Sometimes, you just can’t be bothered to match a top with bottoms, and that’s why we recommend throwing a romper into your bag. It’s a no-fuss option that comes in a variety of colors, so you can make the look as bold or as casual as you’d like. To complete the travel-friendly look, accessorize with a belt and chunky footwear to contrast the casual garment.

Sunglasses

<p>Christian Vierig/Getty Images</p>

Christian Vierig/Getty Images

No road trip is complete without your favorite pair of sunnies! They’ll protect you from harsh sun rays, and they add a certain cool factor to even the simplest of outfits. While it’s always a good idea to pack neutral sunglasses that will go with every outfit (you can’t go wrong with black aviators), consider throwing in an additional pair that makes more of a statement with a pop of color or a unique shape.

A Baseball Cap

<p>Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images</p>

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

Whether you’re riding with the top down or simply need a bad hair day fix, a baseball cap is a must-have in your travel bag. It’s small enough to carry with you everywhere and gives off a sporty chic vibe when paired with more elevated pieces like a midi skirt or halter top. Stick to neutral hues for a hat you can easily pop on with all your outfits.

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