Anytime you're preparing to hit the road for an epic road trip, several things are key factors to ensure a successful journey, from choosing the best car for a road trip to packing the right clothes. Your trip packing list is crucial, especially in a place with landscapes as extreme and diverse as Iceland, where it can make all the difference.
The Land of Fire and Ice is filled with glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls, hot springs, and more. So it's natural to wonder what to leave home and what to carry with you. If you need some packing tips on what to bring on a road trip we've got you covered with this comprehensive road trip packing list.
We created several categories to make sure you take with you all the items you need. Our goal was to provide you with a checklist of essential items so you can go on your road trip fully prepared. Make sure you also pick the best car model for your trip to ensure it fits your plans.
Practical road trip essentials
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what you should pack for a road trip, let's cover some basics. There are certain items that you don't want to leave behind when preparing your suitcase.
Driver's license. Yes, this is one of the completely obvious things to bring on a road trip. But make sure that your license is valid in Iceland. If it's not printed using the Roman alphabet or in one of the accepted languages, you may need to obtain a translation or an International Driving Permit. Europeans, Canadians, and Americans don't need to worry about this.
Paper maps. While you should have good cell service throughout most of your trip, it's not always guaranteed. Don't always assume that you can rely on Google Maps, especially in the more remote parts of the island or the interior. The free Maps.me app is useful for downloading maps with GPS to use offline.
First-aid kit. When you reserve an Iceland car rental, your vehicle will come with basics like a spare tire and jacks, but they don't include a first aid kit. Iceland is a rugged place and you want to be able to attend to those scrapes and scratches you rack up while hiking Skaftafell glacier or trekking to the top of Skógafoss waterfall.
A few Band-Aids, some antiseptic, and a few cotton swabs or bandages can go a long way when you're on the move. You should also include some sort of painkiller such as aspirin, Tylenol, ibuprofen, or another anti-inflammatory. Sore muscles from all of your outdoor activities or a headache from the Midnight Sun will not be enjoyable.
What to pack for a road trip: Tech
In our modern world, sometimes it's necessary to stay connected no matter where we are. And you don't want your smartphone camera to die just as you're about to take an amazing shot of Godafoss waterfall for Instagram.
Travel camera and USB chargers or a spare battery. Whether it's the camera on your iPhone or a more professional DSLR, you're going to want to capture photos of your trip.
Portable Wi-Fi hotspot. Getting good internet in Iceland can be a challenge, depending on where you are. If you plan on disconnecting from the world for a week or so, this is great. For the rest of us, portable Wi-Fi is one of the essential things to pack for a road trip. As we mentioned previously, mobile coverage in Iceland is pretty good, but you won't always have service.
Games for the road. Whether digital downloads to your phone or the analog versions from the days of yore, road trip games are the perfect way to pass the time on those long stretches of highway. And it’s not just for keeping the kids entertained on family road trips. Adults enjoy them as well!
And obviously, you'll need to have a rockin’ road trip playlist to provide the soundtrack to your trip of a lifetime.
Road trip must-haves for staying comfortable
Comfort is king when on the road, and while thinking about what to pack for a road trip, it's all about staying happy.
Snacks. I don't know about you, but when my blood sugar gets low, I tend to get more hangry than hungry. Save your traveling companions some woes and keep around nuts, dried fruit, and other healthy, filling snacks.
Blanket and a travel pillow. The only thing worse than being hungry is being cold. Stay warm by keeping an extra sweater or blanket in the car and having a comfortable pillow to rest your head on.
Things to bring on a road trip for personal care
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you have to go 100% feral. Although if you do, no judgement whatsoever; after all, it’s your vacation. Here are some things to take on a road trip to keep you feeling fresh and clean.
Lip balm. Wintry conditions can dry out your lips and we don't want you to be uncomfortable. Keep some chapstick in the glove compartment or in your day pack.
Sunscreen. This surprises many, but you'll need sunscreen during an Iceland trip. From the glare of the sun's rays off of an icy glacier to those sunny days trekking Landmannalaugar, it's a necessity.
Baby wipes and hand sanitizer. You never know what you'll encounter on the road. It's nice to keep things as hygienic as possible or just quickly freshen up.
What to bring on a road trip
Reusable water bottle. This will save you a ton of money. Tap water in Iceland is not only safe to drink, but it's fresh and delicious. You'll stay hydrated when visiting places like Svartifoss and there's no need to keep purchasing water bottles during your trip.
A day pack. You'll need one for day trips, hikes, and excursions to hold your camera, snacks, water, and more.
Plastic bags. These are multi-purpose. You can use them to shop for groceries if you don’t have a reusable shopping bag. They are useful for storing your swimsuit in your backpack after a swim in a hot spring or a geothermal river in Iceland. They’re also used as garbage bags in the car.
Extra rolls of toilet paper. This is definitely one of my road trip must haves. Icelandic gas stations won't always be stocked, so don't get caught out.
Road trip necessities: A roadside emergency kit
Hopefully, when you're traveling, you won't run into any problems or need roadside assistance. But in case you do, you want to have an emergency kit available. When figuring out your road trip necessities, don't forget to check with your car rental company about the following items. Pack any that aren't included in the roadside emergency kit that comes with your vehicle.
Reflective vest so other cars can see you. This item of clothing not only keeps you visible, but also alerts other drivers to the fact that you may be in need of help. Light sticks may also be useful.
Jumper cables in case you need to jumpstart your automobile.
Roadside warning triangle. This is especially important in Iceland where road conditions and weather conditions can cause low visibility. If you're pulled over to the side of the road, especially the Ring Road, you want others to see you far in advance.
Gauge for measuring tire pressure. Having good tires is essential for navigating the roads here. You should also check that your spare tire is in good shape before setting out.
Emergency contact numbers. It's always a good idea to have this on hand in case something goes wrong. In fact, I would recommend leaving a copy of your travel plan both with your loved ones and the Icelandic travel safety authorities (safetravel.is). For your reference, the emergency phone number in Iceland is 112.
You should also know how to contact your Iceland car rental provider and have a copy of the insurance policy. They may also be able to provide you with a copy of your car's manual. After all, it's likely going to be a new vehicle for you, so you may run into some questions while on the road.
This last category may not be the most exciting road trip essentials, but I promise that if you end up needing them, you'll be so glad you have them.
Essential road trip packing list: Everything you need
All right, now you're more than ready to get behind the wheel. All that's left now is to pick out your clothes and start planning your adventure. From your desired route, rental car, to your favorite day trips from Reykjavík and the food you'd like to try. So much to see and do!
Remember, this is a list of things that I would bring, but everyone's case is different. Take this as a starting point and if there's something else you absolutely have to have, then by all means, pack it. It's all about comfort and convenience on your Iceland road trip.