Fitting It In: How To Pack for a Road Trip

Think of your car as one big piece of luggage on wheels.



Road trips are a great way to make the most of your travels, savoring every mile as you connect with your fellow adventurers and discover hidden gems along the way. Plus, you can even choose to embark on a themed road trip—one that fits your passion and personality. (From foodie trips to eco drives, you can choose your road adventure.)

Whatever kind of road trip you take, though, you can’t just throw your stuff in the car and go.

Before you head out, you’ve got to fit the family’s collection of bags, snacks, shoes, electronics and more in your car—without blocking your rearview mirror and while keeping passengers comfortable and safe.

Don’t bury what you’ll use most

If you think about what you’ll need along the route before you pull away from home, you won’t need to unpack and repack. The more organized you are, the easier it will be when you stop. Items like comfortable walking shoes, rain jackets and travel guides are great to pack at the top of your luggage or in a separate bag.

Pack your car in zones

Think of how to best use the space you have by dividing your car into separate smaller zones. Keep what you’ll need to access most often—such as phone chargers, addresses and sunglasses—in the front console. The area beneath the seats is perfect for items that you might need right away, such as first aid or roadside emergency kits.

Multi-pocket organizers that attach to seat backs can hold books, tablets and snacks for the kids. Unused cup holders are great for kids’ crayons or small toys. If room permits, you can put things like bungee cords or jumper cables in the space where your car’s spare tire or jack are located. Store what you’ll need at your final destination in the trunk. Place lightweight clunky or odd-shaped items in a luggage compartment on the roof; mount bicycles on secure racks.

Stack heavy to light

As you would with your suitcase, pack the largest and heaviest pieces of luggage on the bottom and the lighter, softer things on top—just remember the first tip and don’t bury what you’ll need often. Also try to keep your heaviest bags toward the center of the car, to reduce the possibility of any handling issues. And make sure you secure any loose, light items—so a sudden stop won’t send them flying.

Pack for your stops

If you plan to stop overnight, pack a small duffel for each passenger—or a single bag for everybody for one night—and store them where you can easily retrieve them without unpacking your entire car. Make sure you bring your valuables inside for the night, too.

Pack snacks that aren’t messy

Bring a cooler and fill it with healthy, neat snacks such as apples, homemade sandwiches and water in reusable bottles. Use ice packs, which can do double duty in case of minor bumps or bruises.

Clean as you go

Share a small bag for trash, and keep extra garbage bags and paper towels in an easy-to-access container in the back. Throw away your trash at each stop.

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