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Ultimate Female Packing List to Road Tripping the Southeast USA

southeast USA road trip packing list

Traveling in the Southeast United States doesn’t vary much by season. I’ve written this packing list with the summer humidity in mind, but can easily be adapted for the fall. While most travelers imagine the great road trips of the Southwest USA, particularly Route 66 and the Pacific Coast Highway, the Southeast has some amazing road trips as well. The Natchez Trace, the Blues Highway and I-95 all have something unique to offer. Having just finished a road trip through coastal Georgia and Florida, I can attest to the importance of these items!

Since you’re traveling by car, you don’t have to worry as much about packing limitations, but I still recommend packing light. I recommend a duffel bag or backpack so it’s easier to carry from place to place. Remember, don’t pack anything you can’t carry yourself!

Example Itinerary

New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah, Charleston, Richmond, Asheville, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville and Atlanta are all stops to consider on your road trip through the south. It allows travelers to experience both mountains, beaches, cities and everything in between. Give yourself at least 3 weeks to complete this trip to avoid spending days at a time in the car.

Temperatures can soar into the high 80s F with humidity in the summertime, so your best bet is to travel in fall or spring. Remember that cars drive on the right side of the road in the United States. You may experience some tolls in major cities like Atlanta and Miami, so have cash on hand. It’s also a good idea to keep quarters in your glove compartment for metered parking. Make sure that your car, rented or not, is insured and has some sort of GPS system, even if it’s on your phone. You should also pack a paper map for those times you may be out of service.

What to Pack

2-3 dresses – When it’s humid down south, you’ll be glad to have a flowy dress to walk around in. Bring at least one casual dress that could be thrown on over a swimsuit and one more formal one for a nice dinner.

1 pair of leggings– I always bring one pair of leggings mostly to sleep in or to wear in the car, but they can also be good if it gets chilly at night.

1 pair of jeans– You may want to pack more, but jeans are easy to wear in any city.

2 pairs of shorts– These will be your staples during your road trip.

1-2 skirts– This is your choice, but I like to wear skirts every now and then instead of shorts.

1 hat– Getting sunburn on your head is the worst possible place, so if you will be outside for extended periods of time, do yourself a favor and wear a hat.

3 tank tops– I live in tank tops in the summertime.

1 cardigan– Throw on a sweater for a nice dinner out.

4-6 pairs of undies– There will be laundromats, but ExOfficio undies work better.

1 windbreaker– A waterproof jacket can save you a lot of trouble in a sudden thunderstorm.

1 pair of cute sandals– I constantly stumble in anything other than flats, so I substitute heels

1 pair of flip flops

1 pair of athletic shoes

Toiletries

Deodorant

Mosquito spray– The bugs can be ruthless, particularly in rural and coastal areas!

Sunscreen

Makeup– I combine sunscreen and foundation with BB cream.

Baby powder– I use baby powder as dry shampoo as well as to put under my arms and other places to prevent them from rubbing.

Shampoo and conditioner

Body wash or soap

Toothpaste and toothbrush

Birth control

Towel

For the Car

First Aid Kit – It’s good to be prepared for anything. At least have some bandages and aspirin in your kit.

Spare Tire and Wrench

Travel Insurance– If you’re not American, I highly recommend travel insurance to cover accidents or anything else that could go wrong.

Car games– If you’re not traveling alone, bring games to do in the car like a deck of cards or travel chess.

Snacks and water

iPod converter and phone charger

Paper map – You can get these for free from visitors centers in each state. They’re important if your cell phone is out of range.

Flashlight or headlamp

Umbrella

Travel tote – A foldable bag is good for running to the grocery store.

Since you’ll be in the car you can pack more than you might for an airplane, but I still recommend keeping it carry-on size. I also would use compression sacks to organize tops, bottoms and the rest. I also packed a cooler for my snacks.

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Written by Caroline

Caroline Eubanks is a native of Atlanta, Georgia, but has also called Charleston, South Carolina and Sydney, Australia home. After college graduation and a series of useless part-time jobs, she went to Australia for a working holiday. In that time, she worked as a bartender, bungee jumped, scuba dived, pet kangaroos, held koalas and drank hundreds of cups of tea. You can find Caroline at Caroline in the City.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Megan E. says

    Nice list! I’d also add a scarf in case your legs get cold – A/C is usually cranked up pretty high inside during the summer.

    Also, it’s much harder in high humidity to re-wear without washing AND it’s much harder for things to dry if “air drying” so bring enough to last at least 2-3 days before having to wash and plan on wear-wash, not wear-wear-wash.

    • Regan says

      Always brung jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt and also a sweatshirt because AC does get cold, but I know I might be doing something that might require covered skin such as a donkey ride or something like that ?

  2. Lorie says

    If you’re coming to Nashville, leave the cowboy boots and hats at home. The only folks who wear them here are tourists and wannabe country singers. We just wear regular clothes. 🙂

    • andrea says

      Lorie,
      Thank you so much for this information … I will be in Nashville for the weekend, and I certainly do not want to look like a tourist!!!

      andrea

  3. Jess says

    Seconding the scarf idea or a light pullover. A/C in the southeast during the summer can be just as unforgiving as the heat and humidity at times.

    And I thought I’d mention Knoxville as another stop idea — we’re at the crossroads of I-75/40/81. Although we’re not as polished as Nashville or as quirky as Asheville we have a burgeoning bluegrass, craft beer and bbq culture.

  4. Sandy says

    Very helpful. Hubby & I are going on a road trip to St. Augustine, Savannah and Charleston in early May (from our home in Houston). We always overpack for car trips! He is researching bed & breakfasts and restaurants. We probably won’t take our large cooler, but we have a smaller one that is great for wine and picnics.

  5. Lisa Robins says

    These packing guides are so helpful! I would have been packing as if I was going for a week by the pool 😛 ..

    Out of interest, what kind of size bag would anyone suggest?

    I’ll be travelling North America for 3 weeks (crazy how much we are going to fit in) so the first couple of weeks will be a mixture of camping and a few hotels, then our last few nights are in Vegas and we are flying to NYC – any help is greatefully received!!

    July.Aug 🙂
    Lisa x

    • Caroline says

      Hey Lisa, I recommend packing as lightly as possible, especially if you’re traveling between coasts. A duffel bag or small rolling suitcase should be sufficient. It will be fairly hot, so you can dress casually!

    • Cheryl says

      Lisa, I have had several cousins visiting from Australia and staying in the States for three to six weeks–my suggestion after seeing their suitcases:
      pack lightly–its very casual everywhere. Bring one nice outfit and the rest–casual.
      Moisture wicking tee-shirts or sleeveless shirts, shorts, comfy flip flops, sandals and walking shoes are a must (on the east coast it’s like stepping out of a sauna in your bathroom into a sauna outdoors) It will be HOT.
      You can buy bug spray here for mosquitoes and sunblock here at Target or Walmart.
      I live in California and in San Francisco it is cold in the summer at night. You can buy a sweatshirt there (or anywhere) for a souvenir. You will not need a sweatshirt in New York! It may rain in New York and then be steamy. Las Vegas–super hot! But not humid so it’s not too painful.
      If you plan on visiting Alcatraz–buy your tickets NOW because they are sold out one to two months ahead of time. Same with events in Vegas–like the zoom line on Fremont Street.
      My cousins ended up buying a cheap suitcase at the Embarcadero in San Francisco to take back on the plane because they bought so many souvenirs.
      Have fun!!!

      • Marijn says

        Hi Cheryl,
        Your response to Lisa is helping me also, so if you read this maybe you can advise me too. We are going for a roadtrip July-August this summer, Chicago – flight to New Orleans – Dallas – New Mexico – Grand Canyon – Las Vegas – Yosemite – San Fransisco.

        As I am planning to pack light, I hesitate about bringing a summer jacket. I guess it will be very hot everywhere and I won’t wear it at all, am I right about that? Of course I will take a cardigan and leggings for when it’s chilly, but do I also need a jacket, you think?

        X Marijn

        • Brooke says

          Maybe a light jacket? If it storms, it can get quite chilly. Or if you are spending time in heavy air conditioning, or if the temperature in the desert drops at night.

  6. Evie says

    I definitely recommend coming to Louisville! We have lots of restaurants on the scene, interesting music, and a really nice park system that perfect for an impromptu picnic. Plus, while your in KY, you could stop and camp a while near Cumberland Falls, home of the moonbow

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