Road Trip Car Packing Tips: All That Tetris Playing Paid Off

Before my last road trip, a friend looked at my Subaru Crosstrek and was like how do plan on fitting luggage for three people for two and a half weeks into that? Well, I got really good at using space when my daughter and I would travel in my Volkswagen Beetle, so this new car is practically a U-Haul in comparison, but it also just takes a big of planning.

My dad, daughter and I have been going on lengthy road trips for several years now, and in that time, I’ve become a PRO at getting everything into the car. Which, I personally consider impressive, because we’ve used a different vehicle on every trip.

There are rules. And they know them, and that’s how we are able to survive without me screaming my head off (which maybe I did once or twice in the early days of our trip to South Dakota).

Strategize Before You Leave
I have everyone bring everything down by the car and then I sit and play “Tetris” for a bit, trying to figure out the best way to get bags, suitcases, coolers into the car, and then that becomes my model for the rest of the trip. And by Day 2, my travel buddies know the order to bring me their belongings. Pink and Black suitcases need to go in first and the other suitcase goes in on the side. Then I load up the other items. Everything has its designated spot, and once that’s established, I can load the car in a matter of minutes every day that we head for a new destination.

Don’t Let People Put Their Own Stuff in the Car all Willy-Nilly
When I first started road tripping I thought it would be easier if everyone hoisted their own suitcases up into the car… I was absolutely wrong. 100%. Sure, it was nicer on my back not to be lifting so much, but heavy stuff was put on top of lighter/breakable souvenirs and after my new mug from St. Louis’s amazing City Museum broke two days after we left that town, well, I put a stop to that. I am the designated loader, and if my back is sore, I let one of them help, but I am VERY specific about where everything goes. (I think that’s the Virgo side of me coming out!) They may roll their eyes, but the last two trips everyone’s belongings made it home unscathed.

Leave Room for More
Don’t fill your car so tightly that you have no wiggle room for anything extra. Inevitably there will be souvenirs or the sweatshirts you had to buy because it was freezing or something along those lines. Make sure your clearly laid out plan has space for more things.

Make Everyone Responsible for Their Own Personal Items
This is harder when the kids are really little, but if you are traveling with kids are six or seven, its time to make sure they leave the hotel/motel/campsite with whatever they came with. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do a final scan of the rooms, but it does mean that when you get ready to leave one destination to head to the next, they know to look for their phone chargers and to grab bathing suits out of the bathrooms. This is a huge time saver in the mornings.

Have Everyone Carry Something to the Car
Even if your little ones only carry their stuffed animal and blanket, that’s a start. Being the sherpa for everyone’s stuff is exhausting, and means a million trips back and forth. If you can save one or two trips, or avoid getting those deep marks in your arms from carrying 15 bags at one time, its a blessing.

Make Sure Things You Need While Driving Are Easily Accessible
If the backseat is full with people, you may not have room for all their devices and snacks to be right next to them at all times, but make sure when you load your trunk space that items they may need while you’re driving are reachable. There’s nothing worse than a tween whose iPad charger is packed in the depths of the trunk. Or a freezing kid who can’t reach their hoodie. Even if you have to make a stop to get things out of the trunk, if these frequently used items are on the top, it will save you from looking like a crazy person on the side of the highway with all of your luggage strewn about.

So what should you pack and what shouldn’t you pack? That’s a whole other blog post.

What’s your best road trip tip? Tell me, I’d love to hear from you.

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