There’s nothing we love more than a good road trip—the allure of the open road, the endless playlists, the chance to rope in your besties as co-pilots. But if you’re planning to hit the road soon, don’t forget an important part of the equation: the prep.
Take it from us, organization really is the number one secret to stress-free road tripping. With a few good road trip packing lists, some sturdy space-saving gear, and a couple of clever hacks, you’ll be on the open road in no time. (And, more importantly, you’ll always know where your snacks are stored.)
The Driving Setup
Backseat drivers (aka passengers) can have what they need handy while they covet the driver’s seat. Image courtesy High Road Organizers.
First things first: Turn your attention to your driving setup. You’ve got more storage solutions up front than you may think. Ever notice how your cup holder seems like the most convenient place to keep everything within reach, but ends up becoming a junk drawer? Thanks to products like this Driver Cup Organizer, you’ll have all the go-to items (sunglasses/charger/phone) right at your fingertips. Meanwhile stow a small box containing all the important stuff in your glovebox. (We’re talking first-aid, flashlights, tool kits, chocolate…)
Your seats can also double as storage space. Pick up a backseat organizer to keep the bits and pieces you’ll want accessible at all times—from water bottles and wireless chargers to wet wipes and rolled up towels.
Which reminds us—cleanliness! Tackle trash head-on with one of our favorite road trip packing hacks: a reusable cereal box. Narrow, durable, and sealable, line one with a plastic bag for easy trash containment. Also, if you’re gonna be in the car for days at a time, make sure it smells fresh. Swap out artificial fragrances for homemade lavender sachets or even a clove-studded orange, which you can keep in door pockets or slip into one of those backseat compartments. Your co-pilots will thank you.
Keep your body fuelled—and passenger space clean—by filling these road-tested food containers with fresh and healthy snacks. (Or junk food. You’re in charge!) Images courtesy Lunchskins, LunchBots.
There’s a reason we’ve devoted a whole subsection of our road trip packing guide to snack planning—noshing on the go is one of the liberating joys of life on the road. In order to set yourself up for some good nibbling, though, you need to keep a few things in mind.
Let’s talk snack storage. Especially for those going on a long haul, it’s wise to split your food into two main containers. In one large container kept in the trunk (more on that in a sec), store bulk dry goods like nuts, trail mix, chips, and bread where they won’t get squashed or misplaced. Meanwhile, In a flexible cooler bag kept up front (this Igloo tote is a nifty model), keep your perishable products, from sandwich fixings and fruit to hummus and veggies.
We’re guessing you’ll also want individual snacks. You can pre-pack and store small servings sustainably in LunchBots’ stackable, stainless steel, bento boxes and mini leak-proof containers. Lunchskins also provides an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags with its line of reusable Ziplocs. Designate a small insulated bag as the keeper of the micro-snacks and stick that between the backseats. Presto…everyone’s happy.
Durable and lightweight duffle bags store tight in the trunk, leaving more room for small tools, cleaning wipes, and passengers who sing over your favorite tunes. Image courtesy Topo Designs.
You haven’t mastered your road trip packing game until you’ve tackled—dun dun dun—the trunk.
First tip: Skip the suitcases and go in on a few durable duffle bags, which are less bulky than regular luggage and can be squeezed into tighter spaces. Keep your clothes, well-packed toiletries, pillows, and other personal items in these guys. (Pro-tip: Airlock bags will also let you vacuum-seal bedding and other bulkier items for extra space-saving goodness.)
With the duffle bags pushed to the sides, you’ll want to save the main space in your trunk for a set of transparent, stackable, clearly labeled boxes. As a rough template, designate one box for dry food ingredients, one for basic cooking utensils, one for extra medicine and body products, one for extra clothes and towels, and one for miscellaneous extras (think books, games, and sports gear).
Of course, these categories may change depending on the length and style of your travels—and if you’re super tight on space, big, squishable plastic bags can sub in for hard plastic containers—but the moral of the story holds: When it comes to road trip packing, organization is a beautiful thing.
What are your favorite approaches to squeezing a lot of essentials into a car? Share your space-saving secrets in the comments below.