Clothes for the Road: 10 Essentials to Pack for Every Road Trip

road trip car sunglasses clothes

We’re officially in summer mode now, which means we’re itching to get out on the open road. Along with beach days, grill outs, and rooftop happy hours, nothing seems better suited for warm weather than an old-fashioned road trip.

While there’s a lot to love about a cross-country adventure, there’s also a lot to stress out about, namely what in the world do you pack for a trip that takes place almost entirely in a moving vehicle? Do you bring along a pair of dress shoes just in case you wind up at a fancy cocktail bar or do you ditch them in favor of, I don’t know … a really cool traveling hat?

We thought it over and have come up with the 10 essential items everyone should bring along on their next road trip. These accessories are versatile, comfortable, and, most importantly, effortlessly stylish.

Versatile Sneakers

SeaVees 08/63 Hermosa Plimsoll – $63

While assembling your road trip wardrobe, a perplexing question will undoubtedly cross your mind: What kind of shoes do I pack? A pair for driving? Some sandals for lounging in the backseat? Dress shoes for… just in case? Though you’re free to travel with as many kicks as you want, the more you bring along the bulkier your suitcase is going to be. That’s why we say cut the fat and pack a single pair of versatile sneakers, like these from SeaVees. Not only will they be comfortable for long stretches of driving time, but they’ll also look just as good propped up on the dash as they will stretched out under the table of a fancy roadside eatery.

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Comfortable Socks

Bombas Classic Marls Ankle Socks – $12

To go along with your sneakers, make sure to pack a pair of comfortable socks. Driving can be fun, but it can also be painful with particularly strenuous sessions leading to cramps and back pain. Though soreness is inevitable, you can help improve the situation by wearing socks infused with a little extra tech. For example, these ankle socks from Bombas are built with a performance footbed, making them super cozy for lengthy shifts behind the wheel.

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William Painter Aviators – $165

Another crucial must-have for any road trip is a fantastic pair of sunglasses, especially if your route doesn’t feature a lot of natural protection from the sun in the form of trees or mountains. While a dime-store pair of specs will do fine, why not up your game by investing in some high-quality shades? We like these aviators from William Painter, which not only feature a classic silhouette but come outfitted with polarized lenses and UVA ray protection.

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Baseball Cap

Mollusk Cotton-Twill Cap – $35

Even if you’re traveling with some of your closest pals, a baseball cap will quickly become your best friend on the road. It acts as an amazing buffer from the sun while driving, yes, but it can also serve as a stylish cover-up for those days when you didn’t quite make it to the shower. Keep things cheeky with a playful hat like this one from Mollusk, which elevates this essential into something fun and fashion-forward.

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Lightweight Jacket

Outerknown Adios Packable Jacket – $98

When thinking about what to pack for a road trip, you may not initially consider bringing along a jacket, but it’s not a bad idea, especially it’s as compact as the Adios Packable Jacket from Outerknown. Made of recycled polyester, this garment is as great for the environment as it is for your travels, especially if you get stuck in an unexpected thunderstorm miles away from your motel.

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Travel Shorts

Topo Designs Global Shorts – $59

Shorts are a must-have on a summer road trip, but that doesn’t mean all shorts are created equal. That’s why we think there’s no better option for the open road than these Global Shorts from Topo Designs. They’re lightweight, moisture-wicking and guaranteed to take up virtually no room in your luggage. Plus, the versatile design makes them as appropriate for behind the wheel as they are for an impromptu mountain trek or art museum tour.

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Cozy Hoodie

Mack Weldon Ace Hooded Sweatshirt – $88

Another cozy go-to is a classic hoodie, which can function as equal parts car blanket, pillow, A/C shield, and outfit booster. Since a hoodie’s all about comfort, you can’t really go wrong with your pick as long as it feels good to you, but if you’re looking for suggestions, we recommend checking out this sweatshirt from Mack Weldon. It swaps out a traditional cotton construction for super soft French terry, making it a luxurious companion for any journey.

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Straight Leg Jean

Everlane Straight Fit Jean – $68

When pondering what to pack for a road trip, you can’t go wrong with a traditional straight leg jean, like this pair from Everlane. Not only will the loose fit prevent any sort of bunched-up feeling while you’re hunched over the steering wheel, but the relaxed cut makes for an awesome adventurer aesthetic that looks great with button-downs and T-shirts alike. And to dress it up, all you have to do is make a high cuff at the ankle for a look that’s trendy and modern.

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Black T-Shirts

GAP Essential Short-Sleeve Crewneck – $18

No matter the situation, you’ll be well served by keeping a few black tees in your suitcase. Not only will they hide sweat stains from malfunctioning car air conditioners, but they’ll also make you look camera ready when you happen to wind up at an unexpected house party or stumble into a rocking concert. We’re not too particular about what kind of tee you go for, but we’re fond of a simple crew neck like this from the GAP.

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Travel Shirt

Orvis Wrinkle-Free Oxford Short-Sleeved Shirt – $89

That being said, you can’t wear tees for every occasion, especially if you’re traveling for a specific event like a wedding or surprise party. That’s why it’s important to bring along something a little dressier, like this wrinkle-free short-sleeve shirt from Orvis, which is going to look crisp and clean from the moment you yank it out of your suitcase. Throw this bad boy on and folks will have no idea that you didn’t give it a thorough ironing.

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Do you have a different type of trip coming up and are looking to outfit yourself for it? Check out the best travel clothes for everything from a weekend away to a week-long business trip.

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