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Taking a long drive around Australia is the dream of many. Whether you are travelling solo or as a couple, an Australia road trip is the adventure of a lifetime. Having done many drives myself, both as a couple and on my own, I have put together a comprehensive list of road trip essentials for travelling around Australia.
Road Trip Essentials for Travelling around Australia
This road trip checklist is designed for people driving in Australia and staying in accommodation. Packing camping gear is a lot more involved than this list and there are many road trips you can take without having a tent or a trailer.
If you are based in Australia, you can click on the highlighted links to see my recommendations.
Having road trip essentials and other travel items will enable you to have an organised and safe trip. Australia is incredibly big and diverse, and whilst I consider it an easy country to drive in, the sheer size and climate conditions require some important considerations.
If you are wondering what to pack for a road trip, there are 5 areas to consider: driving items, personal items, how to manage your food and drinks on the road, what you need for packing and which travel apps will make your trip a breeze…
This ultimate travel packing list may seem like a lot of stuff but it also depends on how far you go and what your individual needs are…
My Tasmania road trip was a good experience in learning what I needed for an enjoyable journey.
Emergency roadside toolkit
Whilst self-drive in Australia is generally good, a breakdown can always happen and you need to consider an emergency preparedness checklist. If you find yourself in an isolated area, you will need to be self-reliant and you need a fairly comprehensive road trip kit to solve any minor roadside issues.
A complete emergency roadside toolkit is a good idea for your Australia packing list. They’re not that expensive and could be a lifesaver in case of emergency. Typically, a car emergency kit contains a basic toolbox, jumper cables, a shovel, a tire repair kit, a flashlight, a reflective safety vest, a tow rope and gloves.
You can also buy a few essentials separately. Booster cables are road trip car essentials in case of battery failure. On the road in Australia, it’s not too hard to flag another car down for help. You’ll need a functioning engine to recharge your battery with the jumper cables.
My Southwest road trip to Albany went without a hitch but due to the age of the car we had, booster cables would have been a good idea.
Foldable Reflective Sun Shade & Car Window Sun Shades
For long drives in the sun on your Australia itinerary, and especially if you have a passenger in your back seat, windscreen covers are a simple way to avoid the bite of the sun.
Sunlight is harsh in Australia. If you leave your car in the sun for a while, trying to hold on to the steering wheel will hurt! A foldable reflective sun shade to leave in your windscreen will mean you don’t burn your hands when you’re ready to hit the road again. I remember it being very useful on my Perth itinerary!
First aid kit
For any driving holidays, you should have a first aid kit tucked away in the car. Without going overboard with a survival kit bag, it’s good for your peace of mind. Vehicle first aid kits are comprehensive and usually contain scissors, tweezers, adhesive tapes, a tourniquet, bandages, wound dressings, gloves and a first aid guide.
Australia is full of small dangers and it’s a good idea to be prepared.
Even if you don’t have an emergency roadside toolkit, it’s a good idea to have a flashlight. From finding something you’ve dropped in a dark carpark to making your way back from the beach after watching the sunset, a flashlight is one of the things to take on a road trip.
Printed Road Maps
After all this technology talk, it’s time to take a step back in time! On a long road trip, an old-fashioned printed road map is not out of place. I like the spread of a road map, I find it easier to get a broad view of my journey. Some maps have useful indications on the terrain or a scenic route.
I dropped my phone on a Melbourne road trip once, in the Grampians National Park, and it went totally dead… Getting to the airport without a map turned out to be quite stressful… I got there in the end but it’s now part of my road trip must-haves.
Mobile Phone Holder
Unless you have a GPS in your car, it’s a good idea to use Google maps on your phone. In order to avoid blowing out your data usage, I recommend downloading them to your phone. They are pretty reliable in Australia but you don’t want to only rely on mobile coverage.
Driving rules in Australia are very clear: using (or even holding) a mobile while driving is illegal, and it’s a focus area for the local police. Installing a mobile phone holder on your dashboard is a safe way to get access to your maps while driving. Whether you need maps locally or for longer drives, a mobile phone holder is one of those must-have travel items…
Multiport USB Car Charger
With the technology used in the car while driving, you may as well recharge your device while driving. A USB car charger is a cheap yet very useful device to have around for a long drive.
Whether you take short road trips from Sydney such as Orange or Mudgee, or a longer West Coast trip with a partner, it is likely you will need to charge several devices at the same time. And those long driving stretches are ideal for refuelling whatever technology you are carrying… Make sure your chargers can accommodate have at least two ports.
As you may use your mobile maps on a walk or generally outdoor, I recommend keeping a small battery pack. It’s also part of your survival equipment “when all else fails” in order to never run out of juice when going on a road trip!
Spare car key
I once lost my car key in a shopping centre and it was a mess… I learned my lesson there and would add it to my list of things to bring on a road trip. A car key is never that big and could easily fall out of a pocket or a bag. Make sure you have one locked away in a safe pocket…
Car laptop charger
There are many things to pack for a road trip and a car laptop charger might be a bit of a stretch but if access to power is limited, this could be very useful. If you need to recharge a laptop during your travels, you will need more than a USB car charger. These devices are designed to provide enough power to charge your laptop off the car battery and some of them can even jump-start an engine.
I try not to use it too often in order to manage my data but a personal hotspot can be very handy when you need to use another device and wifi is scarce. Be careful that it can put a strain on your battery. If you are going to use the hotspot function on a regular basis, make sure you have sufficient data available.
I didn’t have the need for a hotspot on my West Coast road trip itinerary but it got me thinking for longer trips…
Spare Change and Toll Tag
Most toll roads are now automated in Australia and it’s best to have a toll tag. If you have a rental vehicle, the vehicle will most likely have one and the funds will be charged to your account. In case you go through a toll without a tag, you have three days to call a number and arrange payment.
On a long road trip around Australia, you are unlikely to go through too many toll roads but a Sydney road trip will certainly take you through many toll roads.
Playlists, Podcasts, Audiobooks
Driving around Australia will present you with some very long stretches of road… And even on a couples road trip, the conversation may dry up after a while. Quality playlists, podcasts are long road trip essentials to entertain you on the road…
Personal Travel Items
There are few essential travel items you will need more than sunglasses… The sun in Australia is incredibly bright, especially in Western Australia. Make sure you pack at least one pair of dark, polarised sunglasses that you keep with you at all times.
If you need prescription glasses, make sure you have them nearby at all times. I would also recommend having a pair prescription sunglasses in order to drive comfortably.
Blanket and Pillow
Long drives can be tiring and as soon as you feel tired or sleepy, you must stop and get some rest. Having a light blanket and pillow in the car means you can stop by the roadside and get some meaningful rest.
One of my Australia travel tips is to choose a lightweight but quality blanket to add to your road trip items. Don’t skip basic comfort!
What to take on a road trip in terms of shoes? I always travel with sturdy but light hiking shoes but on my West Coast Australia road trip, I discovered they weren’t the best for driving. For long drives, sneakers or slip-on shoes with good gripping soles are a much better idea.
Hat or baseball cap
When packing for a road trip, a head covering is just like sunscreen. A hat or a baseball cap is a very important item when travelling around Australia and you should always keep one in your car.
Australia has many areas where access to water might be difficult. Aside from drinking water, keeping some hand sanitiser in your road trip necessities means you can keep your hands clean.
Even if you are sitting in a car for long periods of time, the sun will get you, as I found on my Western Australia road trip. The sun is fierce in Australia and a high spectrum sunscreen is essential to any summer packing list.
Driving in air conditioning means your eyes might get dry. I always keep some eye drops in my toiletries packing list.
Australian roads are well maintained and I’m always surprised at how common it is to find functioning toilets in remote areas. And a lot of these places will have toilet paper! But not always… so come prepared…
Tissues & Cleaning Wipes
I always add tissues and cleaning wipes on my travel toiletries list. I’m not too much of a germaphobe but I like to be prepared for any spills. When you go on a road trip, your car is like your home, you spend a lot of time in it and it’s important to keep it clean.
Whether it’s for personal use or to keep the car clean, a quick-dry microfibre towel is lightweight and versatile.
Food & Drink
On long road trips around Australia, you will need more than a travel water bottle to put in your backpack… Finding drinkable water can be quite difficult in some places and in remote areas, it is essential to have some autonomy. I recommend carrying a large water container and a portable water filter.
Driving across Australia doesn’t mean you have to forgo your beloved cup of coffee or tea, you only need to make it sustainable… This travel mug will keep your drink hot while you ride in the sunset…
Refillable Water Bottle
The best travel water bottle should be insulated, otherwise the water won’t stay cool very long!
Sitting in a car for long periods of time, you are bound to feel a little hungry at times. Or you may need something to nibble on while waiting to get to the next town. Resorting to fatty snacks and sugary drinks is an easy option but it’s worth getting some healthy road trip food.
I find that eating healthy on the road is not always easy. Fresh fruit is a good idea. The only thing to remember is that you can’t cross state borders with fresh fruit, there are bins at the border for you to toss whatever you have left.
When you are used to driving in a casual fashion, rubbish is not too much of an issue but when you are driving long distance, it can become a nightmare if not managed properly.
A simple solution is to have a small car bin. I’ll make sure I have one on my next couple road trip!
Biodegradable Bin Bags
Add some biodegradable bin bags to your road trip essentials list and you’ll keep a clean car all the way around Australia!
Swiss Army Knife
A classic on every backpacking list, a Swiss army knife is a very handy tool to have. Depending on how many tools you choose, this could be part of your survival kit essentials.
Cool Bag or Car Cooler
Embarking on an Australia road trip itinerary, especially in summer, means that your road trip supplies may not stay cool for very long. Having a car cooler or even a cool bag will make the journey more enjoyable.
Australia is full of places where you can take a break from your long drive and enjoy a picnic. Sheltered tables and even functioning barbecues are remarkably commonplace along the roads of Australia. A small and portable picnic set means you won’t have to always eat sandwiches and you can diversify your travel meal ideas.
The best way to travel Australia is to keep sustainability in mind. Single-use plastic is banned or at least frowned upon now.
If you don’t have the need for a picnic set on your road trip, having a basic utensil set is a good idea and should be on every backpacking travel list.
Tote or Travel Daypack
Small Overnight Bag
Depending on what type of luggage you choose for your road trip, keeping a small overnight bag is a great idea, as you won’t need to unpack and repack every time.
Reusable Shopping Bag
I always carry a reusable calico bag, even when I’m not travelling. Single use plastic is now banned by the major supermarket chains in Australia so you need a solid bag to carry your groceries.
There are some very lightweight grocery bag options to add to your road trip packing list.
It’s funny how quickly you run out of pockets when you need to organise so many little bits and pieces. The best road trips in Australia shouldn’t be spent looking for things or dealing with a messy car: a car organiser is a brilliant solution to keep everything you need in one place.
In my opinion, packing cubes are one of the best travel essentials for women and I can’t travel without them! They’re a great way to organise everything in your luggage. They can also be used as an alternative for an overnight bag.
The best packing cubes for travel should be lightweight with a quality zipper.
This may be for a road trip in a bigger car but having some camping chairs to relax in when taking a break in driving might feel like a small luxury.
Small Fold-out Table
If you are embarking on a longer trip and intend to camp or at least to have meals outdoors, consider a small fold-out table.
Travel Document Holder
Just like you organise your travel essentials, don’t forget to keep your travel documents safe: passport, copies of your bookings, car rental agreement, drivers’ licence will fit nicely in a travel wallet.
Essential Travel Apps
Some online applications will make your life on the road a lot easier:
Use Wikicamps to find campgrounds, free camps, hostels and caravan parks. Even if you’re not camping on your road trip, you can use this to find walking tracks, swimming holes, power points, playgrounds, fishing spots and showers.
AirCamp is an alternative to WikiCamps and you can upload your photos to share with the community.
Fuel Map gives you the location and best prices for petrol and keeps a log of your petrol usage and costs.
This app is useful if you are travelling with a gas bottle, this app will help you find places where to refill or swap your gas bottle.
This great app lets you borrow audiobooks and e-books from libraries around Australia for free.
Polar Steps helps you track your travels, share your adventure with friends and you can even create a photo book at the end!
This is the Amazon audiobook app. It’s free for 30 days and you have access to Amazon’s library.
Listen to the radio and podcasts with ABC Listen.
OurGroceries is a shareable shopping list.
Evernote is the best app for any notes, lists, ideas you need to jot down on the road.
With free offline maps, MAPS.ME is very useful when you are in remote areas.
Pocketbook helps you manage your travel budget and track expenses.
Google Maps offers comprehensive and functional maps all over Australia
You can add all your loyalty cards to Stocard and travel with a lighter wallet!
What to Pack for a Road Trip Checklist
Now that you know what to bring on a road trip around Australia, is such an adventure on your travel bucket list?
Please tell me if I’ve missed anything in the comments below!
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