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Picture it: You pull out of the driveway, excited to begin your family’s first cross-country road trip. An hour into the drive, your toddler is screaming for a snack. You realize that you packed them in the very back of the car. You end up pulling over at a gas station to get something to eat. An hour later, the batteries on your oldest child’s electronic game die and you have to stop again. During hour number 3, your husband tells you he needs his sunglasses out of the suitcase. At this point, your excitement has turned into irritation. You begin to wonder if you will ever reach your destination. Sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be like this. With some simple tips, you can learn to pack for road trips like a pro. Then, you will have everything your family needs right when they need it. Read on to find out how.
Think It Through
First, you have to think through your trip so you will know what to prepare for and how to pack. Think about not only what you will need while actually at your destination, but also what you may need while in the car. You also need to consider what you might need if something goes wrong. When considering your car trip, think about how long it will take, whether you will be stopping for the night along the way, what time of day you will be traveling, and whether you will be eating on the go or stopping for meals.
Pack It Up
Instead of packing everything in one or two big suitcases, try using several smaller bags. Pack each bag with related items and for a specific purpose. If you are going to be stopping for the night during your journey, pack an overnight bag that contains 1 change of clothes for each person in the family. Then, when you stop, you can just unload one or two bags instead of taking everything out of the car. If you will be starting the trip at night, put your kids in their pajamas before you start.
I always pack one suitcase with clothes for myself and my husband. I pack another one with my son’s clothes. If we will be spending the night along the way, I pack a third bag with clothes for each of us to wear on day 2 of the drive. I pack yet another bag with all of our toiletries. The benefit of putting all of the toiletries in a separate bag is that if something spills, it won’t ruin your clothes or electronics. I also pack a bag of toys for my son to play with in the car and another one with snacks. Additionally, I pack a “just in case” bag with things like a flashlight, paper towels, trash bags, wet wipes, etc. I also throw a pillow and blanket for each person into the car.
Load The Car
Packing everything into the car is similar to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Pack the largest items on the bottom. You also want to load the bags that you won’t need until you are at your final destination in the car first. Suitcases containing things that you will only need when stopped can be loaded into the trunk or cargo area of your car. Things that you may need while actually moving, should be put in the passenger compartment. Preferably, you want to put the bags near the person who is most likely to be getting into them.
In our car, I put the large suitcases of clothes in the back cargo area. I put our toiletries bag, overnight duffel, and camera bag on top of that. My purse, pillow, and laptop go in the front seat. In the back seat next to my son, I put his toy bag and pillow. The just-in-case bag and snack bag then sit in the backseat floorboard on the opposite side of the car from my son. Our phones, along with my husband’s wallet, sunglasses and ipod, go in the front seat in either the cup holders or console.
This makes it easy to get to what we need when we need it. If someone gets hungry, I can reach into the back and grab a snack. My son can grab his toys when he wants them. My husband can get to his music when he’s ready. Once we stop for the night, I only have to pull out 2 bags. Then, when we arrive at our final location, I unload the entire car.
Other Tips to Pack for Road Trips Like a Pro
Here are a few other tips and ideas of things to pack to improve your road trip experience:
-Be ready for messes and mishaps which may happen along the way by packing trash bags, paper towels, tissues, and wet wipes.
-Bring extra batteries and chargers to keep all of your gadgets working.
-If you have small kids, it’s also a good idea to bring a spill-proof cup for them.
-For babies and toddlers, stash a change of clothes in an easy to reach place in case of a diaper mishap.
-If you have multiple kids, consider packing each child their own toy/activity bag. This will eliminate many fights in the car.
-If your kids tend to fight over snacks, pack each of them their own snack box to prevent arguments over who gets the last cookie.
-Before leaving, check the weather for your route to see if you need to pack any special weather-related items.
-If you have a child that is prone to car sickness, see our tips for handling that on road trips.
Road trips can be a lot of fun for the whole family. They are a great way to spend some quality time with the ones you love most. Packing the car the right way can make your trip much easier. The above tips are simple to follow but make your trip much smoother. Think through your whole trip. Pack your items in several bags instead of one or two. Put the bags where they will be easy to reach when you need them. Plan for the unexpected and be prepared. With these tips, you too can pack for road trips like a pro. For more road trip tips, see how to save time on road trips, how to have a successful road trip with kids, safety road trip tips, and the best snacks for road trips. Happy travels.
P.S. Want more road trip tips? Our Travel Resource Library is full of FREE tools including our best road trip snack list and a road trip scavenger hunt for kids. See the box below for details on how to get the password to the library.