What to pack for a trip from LA to San Francisco

Embarking on a road trip from LA to San Francisco can take anywhere from 5 and a half hours to 7 hours depending on the traffic conditions at the time and the route that you're taking, and while the drive may not be an epically long one, you should still be fully prepared. From a GPS to a really good playlist, make sure you're packing all the essentials you need to make your road trip as easy and hassle-free as possible. 

The essentials 

1. Sunblock

You may think you only need to wear sunblock while you're outside, but in actual fact, the sun's UV rays can still penetrate through your car's windows so you pretty much need to wear sunblock at all times, especially if you're making frequent stops at various beautiful destinations along the way. No one wants to spend hours in a car with a seatbelt touching a sensitive sunburn.

2. GPS

This one's pretty important if you want to arrive at your destination in a timely manner and without too many wrong turns. In this day and age, it might initially seem easier to whip out your phone and rely on Google Maps to point you in the right direction, but having access to a GPS makes spontaneous route changes so much easier to navigate. A GPS will also offer the best up-to-date advice on traffic conditions or major road works/closures so you can always be prepared and plan your drive accordingly. 

3. Maps

When you're out of service range and can't use your GPS to help you find your way (or it's gone flat halfway through your drive for the day), it's always a good idea to have a backup plan. This is where maps come in. Yes, you could download a digital map and use that on your phone or tablet if you need to but we reckon nothing says road trip like trying to navigate highways from the crinkly pages of a paper one. 

4. Cash/loose change

Carrying cash or loose change may seem silly in our current days of digital banking but it'll really help you out if you're ducking into a gas station for snacks or driving along a toll route. While many states are transitioning over to a digital system for toll payment, it's still a work in progress so make sure you have some loose change ready to go. You don't want to be that person who's holding up the line during the rush hour commute.  

5. Comfortable clothing 

While you might be tempted to wear jeans and a nice top while you're driving (in case you decide to stop somewhere for a fancier lunch or wander around a charming town), trust us when we say that an hour in, you'll be regretting your choice. When you know you're going to be spending long periods of time in the car, opt for sweatpants and other lightweight/stretchy clothing to avoid being uncomfortable. No one needs restricted movement or buttons digging into stomachs. 

6. An extra charger

If you've gone to the effort of packing your GPS, camera, tablet, mobile phone, or other electronic devices, the worst thing you can possibly do is accidentally forget or lose your charger at one of your accommodation stops along the way. Make sure you pack an extra charger (and extra batteries) so you can continue your road trip stress-free. 

7. A camera

You simply cannot drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco and not take a camera with you. Why? Because there are too many breathtaking natural parks to wander through and too much dramatic coastal scenery to marvel at. While mobile phones are doing a good job at taking proper camera-like photos, there's nothing more satisfying than setting up the perfect shot to capture an image you want to remember forever. 

The nice-to-haves

8. Cooler 

While not technically an essential item, packing a cooler on your adventure allows you to set up camp for a couple of hours on a beach or in a park somewhere for a nice picnic lunch. There's nothing like munching down a salad sandwich and sipping on your favourite ice-cold beverage while relaxing amongst the peace and quiet of Mother Nature. After all, why not enjoy as much of the great outdoors as possible? 

9. Folding chairs 

Folding chairs are another great item to include on your packing list if you plan on having impromptu lunches or dinners outside. Not only do they make spontaneous plans that much more manageable, but they also ensure you have a comfortable place to sit if you want to put down roots for a couple of hours somewhere along your route. 

10. A really good playlist 

In our opinion, you can't drive anywhere without listening to some really good music and road-trippin' from LA to San Francisco definitely qualifies as a journey that needs music. Whether your favourite genre is hip hop or you prefer listening to the classics, putting together a killer playlist to make the in-between-driving hours go by quickly is a must. Besides, if the driver is getting a bit sleepy, then there's nothing like a bit of Bruce Springsteen to wake you up. 

Want to learn more about travelling between Los Angeles and San Francisco? Return to Los Angeles to San Francisco FAQs

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