Whether you’re driving a few hours or a few days, how well you pack your car can be the difference between a great trip and a terrible one. Take control of your trip and make traveling feel like part of the vacation with these road-ready tips.
Tip #1: Great Packing Starts the Night Before You Leave (or earlier)
The best way to pack your car is to start with a blank slate. Clean out all of the clutter and vacuum for a fresh start. Start packing the night before so you won’t forget anything during the morning rush. Packing early also gives you time to troubleshoot in case you run out of space. Create a road trip checklist and make sure to refer to it every time you load something up.
Tip #2: Roll Don’t Fold, Check the Weather and No Hard Luggage
Take an inventory of everything you are packing before you start putting things into your car. Ask yourself what you may need during the drive. Put things that you won’t need in first, and then stack the things you will likely need on top for easy access.
Use luggage with soft corners since it will be easier to pack into your car. If you have a lot of loose items, you can get a plastic or rubber tub so you don’t lose things between bags.
One of the largest space consumers on a family trip is clothing. Check the weather before your trip not only for your destination but also for your commute pack accordingly. Once you’ve picked out what you need, roll your clothes instead of folding them: they will take up less space and have fewer wrinkles.
Tip #3: Things to Keep Within Reach of the Driver
Between the center console, cup holders, glove box and door panels, there is plenty of space for storage of important items for the driver. Have sunglasses or a hat handy in case of glare from the sun, and also have tissues, small snacks and water tucked nearby in case you need them. Any type of car is okay for a road trip, but an SUV with more space is always better!
Your GPS and maps can fit perfectly on the dash or in the center console along with chargers for your phone or other electronics. The passenger can store any other items near their feet if necessary.
Tip #4: Things to Keep Within Reach of the Passengers
The back seat is the perfect area to store food and a smaller cooler of drinks to keep you on the road longer. Pack snacks that are healthier than what you can get on the road since most your options will be fast food. Nuts, dried fruit and granola all make great road snacks. Include a few of your favorite drinks (especially water) along with ice packs a soft cooler in case of emergencies
Spills seem to happen even more than usual on the road; store moistened wipes, paper towels and trash bags in the pocket behind the driver or passenger side seat.
For entertainment, pack more audiobooks, movies and music than you think you will need just in case you hit traffic. If you run out you can always play a road trip game like I Spy, You Heart That? or 21 Questions.
Tip #5: Always Be Prepared and Save Space for Safety
If your brakes are making a weird noise or you aren’t sure about how well your spare tire is doing, you should make sure your car is 100% road ready especially if you are driving long distances.
You can quickly tackle small emergencies by packing travel and first aid kits underneath your seats. Travel kits should include a flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries, jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge with an air pump and Phillips/flathead screwdrivers, while a first aid kit should have bandages of various sizes, tweezers, hydrogen peroxide, pain relievers, suntan lotion and aloe.
Do not pack your car to the point of being unsafe to drive. You can rent or buy a car-top cargo carrier if everything you need won’t fit inside your trunk. Be sure to leave room so that you can see out of your rear-view mirror and use appropriate measures when tying or storing goods on the roof of your car.
If you have things tied onto the roof, on a bike rack or similarly outside the car, make sure you attach them safely. Plan a stop shortly after beginning your drive to check that everything is still attached securely.
Follow these tips for a simple and easy road trip experience. Need advice on where to go? Check out this article for the best 10 stops on a SoCal road trip.