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How to pack smart for a road trip



Going to take a road trip? Fantastic. 

Before you hit the road it's key to plan -- carefully and thoroughly. Things like a true budget is vital, although a special “indulge” is permissible (but keep it sensible).  

Also important is what you take, as you don't want to have to buy what you forget at home. How you pack it in your vehicle (car, truck van, mini-bus, you name it) is vital.  The good news is whether it is a trip alone or with many there is a packing format.

Here are some tips I have learned along the way:

Bag It 

Individual bags are packed or perhaps you choose individual plastic boxes with an individual small duffle bag for daily “things”. Daily items such as tooth brush, tooth paste, etc.  Label each “container’ with masking tape. You remember today, tomorrow but not in a few days. Put each person’s bags and items in separate piles by the door. Departure time is close! When you pack the car, keep in individual piles rather than just tossing into a heap. Packing space is never enough.

Access to the Vitals

Easy access, a separate bag/box with medical supplies is important, ie: band-aids, Neosporin, bug spray, sun screen, scissors, tweezers, Pepto Bismol, Milk Magnesia.  You know the things that you don’t need daily but when you do they are worth a king’s ransom.

Front Seaters

A couple of large towels- under front seats, back seats - will have multi purposes: as a blanket, cover for items in car, beach, and such.

In front, thermos bag for those “I’m hungry” snacks (15 minutes after lunch), bottled water and soft drinks. Frozen ice paks are good if feasible. Real ice can get a little messy, but it can work.  Plastic bags of several sizes can be so helpful especially the middle size for unexpected tummy happenings. A roll of paper towels – in front area will be used more than you expect. Always in your pocket, have a few folded paper towels. Never can tell, but the multi-use Duck tape if needed can be a treasure. A zillion good places to store it -even with medical supplies. Pillows-placed conveniently are a very useful must-haves.

Secret Space

There is a nice amount of space under the seats, so use it. Tightly rolled rain parkas, flashlight, and such can fit nicely. Another nice space is [usually] in the door which is perfect for umbrella, hand sanitizer, napkins, etc.

A large plastic pill bottle- preferably with dark sides – is perfect for coins, be they for tolls, newspapers, etc. Lottery! In a semi clandestine area,  like taped under glove compartment, but not so hidden it can be seen if looked for – an emergency card with contact numbers [written with a permanent ink pen] just in case.

If you have OnStar or a GPS, of course, they have their perches, but real maps, should be marked and folded BEFORE leaving for easy reading –not by the driver while driving.  NO!

 If your vehicle has a middle console, this can be a perfect place for more items: Cell phone car charger, reservation confirmation data with phone numbers, small amount of monies [just in case], camera, and such.

The pockets in back of seats are useful for toys, books, pencils and such, especially the individual spiral notebooks [I recommend]  that each has for their road trip memories. These will become keepsakes, even if they are a little hard to decipher. 

There is a lot of useable space and if you use it wisely and carefully you will be surprise how much you can fit in the nooks and crannies of a vehicle. Speaking of “space” don’t squish passengers, or parcels.

Keep a List

As you carefully and excitedly pack your car, consider making an inventory or directory of boxes/bags and such. So helpful. Take a picture of what your car looks like packed as you start your trip and then what it looks like when you return home.

No matter how or what you pack, road trips are wonderful, therapeutic, rejuvenating, rewarding, surprisingly special. Enjoy.

Stay safe. Plan another.

Driving diva Gerry Hemple Davis is the author of several travel books including Romancing the Road