Route 66 Packing List: Road Trip Essentials

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Are you planning a Route 66 road trip and not quite sure what to bring with you? Packing for any road trip can be a hard task, but packing for a Route 66 road trip can be even harder. If you’re not quite sure what to bring along, we’ve put together a Route 66 packing list full of road trip essentials that will make filling your trunk for your cross-country road trip easy.

Your Route 66 road trip will take you through 8 different states (Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California) and you’ll be spending at least a full week (though probably several) in your car. A Route 66 road trip will take you through multiple terrains, multiple areas, and multiple climates. That can make packing a daunting task! Plus, with plenty of trunk space to fill, it can be easy to way overpack or be completely disorganized.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive list of everything to pack for a road trip, check out this Ultimate Road Trip Packing List. But keep reading for a specific packing list for Route 66 travel along with some tips for what to consider, what to wear, and how to pack that trunk.

With this packing list you’ll be fully prepared to hit the road for an adventure of a lifetime!

Route 66 Packing List for Your Road Trip on The Mother Road

Packing Considerations

When deciding what to pack for a Route 66 road trip, there are several things you’ll want to take into consideration. You don’t want to start packing only to realize you have way too much stuff, too little stuff, or stuff that doesn’t work for you and your travel style. Here are some packing considerations to think about before you start stuffing your car.

How big is your car?

The bigger your car, the more stuff you can bring. A compact car like a Nissan Versa will have less space than a Chevrolet Suburban. And a classic convertible? Even less. So take the size of your vehicle into account when planning what to pack for a Route 66 road trip. But, even if you’re driving a larger car, remember that you don’t necessarily need to go overboard. You still have to lug your luggage back and forth between your Route 66 motels!

Who is traveling?

In the same vein – the more people traveling, the more luggage needs to be accommodated and the more space for packing is taken up with bodies and bags. Additionally, traveling children will require lots of extras, like strollers and toys.

Are you flying first?

If you don’t live in Chicago or Los Angeles (or any of the eight states on the Mother Road), chances are, you might be flying in and renting a car. Even then, if you are planning a one-way trip you might be considering renting a car and flying back home. Keep in mind that if a flight is part of your journey, whatever you bring will have to fit in your carry-on or checked luggage.

What time of year are you traveling Route 66?

The time of your travel will also dictate much of your Route 66 packing list. Arizona and New Mexico are hot in the summer and have pretty temperate winters, but, come December, Illinois will be cold and snowy. Make sure you have car accessories and a wardrobe that works for every state and climate.

Where are you staying?

If you’re staying in historic Route 66 hotels and motels, you don’t have to think too much about extras. But, if camping is part of your plan, you’ll need to make room for tents, sleeping bags, and items to make s’mores.

What to Wear on a Route 66 Road Trip

When it comes to what to wear on a road trip, there are no hard and fast rules. But there are some things you might want to think about before deciding on what you’re going to wear on a Route 66 road trip and before you start packing up your clothes.

Be Comfortable

The number one rule for dressing for road trips is to BE COMFORTABLE. You’ll be spending hours on end in the car so the last thing you want to wear is constricting jeans or too small high heels. Cool, loose layers are the way to go!

Be Cute

OK, so dressing cute isn’t exactly a requirement. But, you’ll probably be making lots of stops at iconic roadside attractions, neon signs, museums, and other tourist attractions. So, if your Instagram photos are important to you, plan to dress for the aesthetic.

Bring Layers

If you’re driving the entire length of Route 66 you might experience many different climates throughout the course of your trip. And even if the forecast is nothing but high temps for the entire time you’ll be on the road, be sure to bring a hoodie or jacket for cold restaurants and air-conditioned museums.

Protect Your Eyes

Sunglasses are a must-wear item for a Route 66 road trip. You’ll want to protect your eyes in the bright afternoon and darken the road on those times that you’re driving directly into the sun.

Pack For The Seasons

Depending on the time of year you are traveling, your packing list might look drastically different. In winter, prepare for parts of the route to be cold and even snowy. In the heart of summer prepare for most of the route to be sweltering. Be prepared that at any time of the year, you might reach entirely different climates in a single week.

Pack for Your Activities

Everyone has different priorities for where to stop on their Route 66 road trip. I love roadside attractions and always wear cute clothes to match. If you love national parks be sure to pack your hiking boots. And if greasy diners are your thing, maybe pack some extra clean t-shirts. Just in case.

What to Add to Your Route 66 Packing List

There are so many things you could add to your Route 66 packing list. Where to start? Check out this general guide to what to pack for a road trip and find some more specific Route 66 ideas below.

Route 66 Road Trip Essentials

There are some things you should never go on a road trip without. Here’s a quick look at all the road trip essentials that should be at the top of your Route 66 packing list.

  • Drivers License
  • Car Key (Plus an Extra)
  • Passport (if traveling from another country)
  • Credit Cards/ATM Card
  • Cash and Coins
  • Copy of Car Insurance and Registration
  • AAA Membership Cards and/or Phone Number for Roadside Assistance
  • Your Car’s Manual
  • Prescriptions Medications
  • Mobile Phone with GPS & Maps App
  • Laptop
  • Tablets, eReaders, or iPods
  • Electronic Toll Pass
  • Phone Charger, Car Charger, Portable Charger
  • Hands-Free Phone Mount
  • Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Road Trip Entertainment
  • Road Trip Snacks

Route 66 Guidebook

Be sure to pack a Route 66 guidebook for your trip. Guidebooks are great both for planning your road trip (to find the best attractions, hotels, restaurants, and more) and while on the road to look up what attraction is next, stay on course, and find more information about where on The Mother Road you are. Here are some of the best Route 66 guidebooks to bring along with you on your road trip:


A Camera

Sure, your phone probably takes great photos. But, if you want to take your travel photography up a level (or want to keep your phone free for other tasks like playing music and using as GPS), a DSLR or mirrorless road trip camera is a great investment. Browse this list of the best road trip cameras or check out some of these highlights:



Protect your eyes, make seeing the road easier, and look cool in photographs. Sunglasses are a must-pack item to pack for a Route 66 road trip. Go for a pair of polarized sunglasses for maximized UV protection.


Route 66 Travel Journal

Bring a travel journal along on your road trip to record your thoughts, keep an itinerary, doodle, or make notes. Buy one with a fun-themed cover to keep as a souvenir!


Day Pack

It’s always a good idea to pack a day pack. Bring a small empty backpack that you can use to throw a few things in when heading out on a day hike, going to the hotel pool, or to transport items between your car and your motel room.



It’s always a good idea to keep some cash on hand while on a road trip, especially when on a Route 66 road trip. While most places take credit cards now there are some places on Route 66 where you’ll need to pay with paper (or, at least, where it is preferable). You’ll always want to have cash for tolls (if you veer onto the highway), tips, and emergencies. Be sure to also have quarters and pennies for pressed penny souvenirs!


Paper Map

Just in case, it is always a good idea to bring a paper map or road atlas along for the long drive. Sure, your phone has a GPS, and there are apps that guide the way, but sometimes technology or wifi signals fail. Plus, you’re traveling Route 66, you might as well go old school when it comes to finding directions.


Postcard Stamps

If you’re planning to send a lot of postcards from the road, don’t forget to stock up on postcard stamps before you leave! That way you’ll never have to scramble to find them after buying your souvenirs.


Rain Jacket

You never know when the weather is going to change and it is always good to be prepared for rain. Umbrellas can be bulky to pack and hard to carry so a light rain jacket is preferred to pack in case of rain.


Car Organizers

If you’re taking a long road trip like Route 66 it is a good idea to invest in some car organizers. Driving in an unorganized car is not fun and car organizer allow you to take some of the clutter that will most definitely amass and get it out of your way. Here are some different types of car organizers to consider:


Power Strip

If you’re bringing a lot of electronics, or are traveling in a bigger group, it is a good idea to pack a power strip. While nice hotel rooms usually have a lot of outlets to choose from smaller roadside motels don’t always. Bringing your own power strip allows you to charge more things at the same time.


Water Bottle

Adding a water bottle to your Route 66 packing list is a must. Don’t waste money on gas station bottles of water and instead bring a reusable one and fill up on the go. Make sure you get one that fits in your car’s cup holder!


The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book

Enjoy fun games and challenges to pass the time on your Route 66 road trip and have a keepsake to look back on for years to come with The Road Trip Journal & Activity Book, an entertaining must-have for your next vacation.


Clothes, Shoes, Toiletries, and Everything Else

Packing for Route 66 is, for the most part, no different than packing for any other road trip. Check out this Ultimate Road Trip Packing List for more of the travel essentials and other ideas of what to pack for your Route 66 road trip.

How to Pack for a Route 66 Road Trip

Now that you know WHAT to pack, how about HOW to pack it? Whenever packing for a road trip, you’ll want to keep in mind what you are bringing, how much space you have, and how often you’re going to be taking things in and out of the car. Here are some helpful items that will make packing easier!

Choose Your Luggage

There are many different options when it comes to choosing road trip luggage: hard-sided suitcases, soft-sided suitcases, duffel bags, and backpacks. There is no right or wrong type to pack. I do recommend that instead of bringing one giant suitcase you try to split your items up between smaller bags for different parts of the trip. Also plan to have a small, dedicated bag for toiletries, pajamas, and anything else that you will always need to bring to your accommodation. That will make it easier to transport items between your car and your hotel room. Need help picking out luggage for your Route 66 road trip? Check out this list of the best road trip luggage for car travel.

Use Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a traveler’s best friend. They help organize your suitcase and help you save space. Use packing cubes to divide up your clothes by type or day and you’ll never have to search your luggage for a lone sock or stray underwear again.

Use a Hanging Toiletry Bag

Packing all your toiletries into a hanging toiletry bag provides storage, helps you organize them all in one place, and makes them easily accessible when you hang the bag from the hotel shower.

Bring a Laundry Bag

When taking any long road trip it is essential to keep your clean clothes separate from your dirty clothes. Bringing a laundry bag to store your used clothes is a smart idea. You won’t have to sniff test underwear to figure out which pairs in your luggage are clean and which are dirty and it will lighten the load in the suitcase you’re lugging between your car and your motel.

Plan Your Route 66 Road Trip

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Last modified: January 18, 2024

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