A Great American road trip requires a Great American packing strategy!
Hubby and I drive from Chicago to Florida and back at least once a year. We’ve done it in one day and we’ve taken as much as a week to make the drive. We definitely prefer the lazy, meandering approach. But spending any more than one day driving to a destination requires a serious road trip packing list and road trip packing strategy.
Here are our 7 road trip packing tips:
1. Pack light.
It’s true that no one will charge you $25 (or more) per bag to put the suitcases in the trunk rather than sending through baggage at the airport. It’s always tempting to bring way more than I think I’ll need if we’re driving rather than flying. But then I remember that I still have to drag all of those heavy suitcases in and out of the car and in and out of the hotel. Do yourself, and your back, a favor. Pack just one carryon bag per person. You can do it. Really.
We’re big fans of Ricardo roll-aboard suitcases. (I have three!) We’re such big fans that we want to share Ricardo bags with you! Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter to win a Ricardo bag from A Girls Guide to Cars. It’s just the right size to be the one overnight bag you pack. And the four wheels on this spinner hard-sided suitcase make it super easy to maneuver in and out of the hotel.
2. Pack an emergency kit.
You never know when you might get a flat tire, lose your way or have car trouble. Always pack an emergency kit with items such as jumper cables, flashlight, first-aid kit, flares or hazard triangles, and a car cell phone charger. Bonus points if you have a solar-powered cell phone charger.
3. Pack for easy stops.
If you are traveling with the family and will be stopping for one or more overnights on the trip, pack just one or two bags with the overnight essentials for everyone. That would include toiletry bags for each traveler, pajamas, electronics charging cords, and a change of clothes or, at the very least, a change of underwear. If you are traveling with kids, you will want to stop at a hotel that has a pool, so be sure to pack the bathing suits in that overnight bag as well. Packing the nightly necessities into one or two bags means you will not have to unload the entire trunk and carry every bag into the hotel room just so you can fall into bed and sleep for a few hours, only to repack the bags, carry them back out to the car and repack the trunk the next day.
4. Bring small garbage bags.
I like to use those small plastic grocery bags, fill them and tie the handles together to close them at the end of the day. It helps keep the car organized and neat. Or as organized and neat as possible when everyone is sitting, eating, and drinking in the car for long hours.
A Girls Guide to Cars Tip: Remember to toss those bags when you stop for the night. Don’t make the same mistake I did once. I left banana peels sitting in the garbage bag overnight during a hot Alabama summer night. Believe me, it takes a looooong time to get that rotten banana smell out of the car.
5. Bring big garbage bags.
I use these for dirty clothes. Then they can be tucked into the trunk as they fill up. If you’re a classier person, you can bring laundry bags. But I figure no one really sees my garbage bags until I get to the laundromat or arrive back home.
6. Bring extra car supplies.
I always grab a gallon of windshield washer fluid to bring along on long road trips. After a bad experience last winter with a snowstorm that overpowered our old wiper blades, I’m thinking about bringing along an extra set of windshield wiper blades as well. Since we like to take the back roads rather than the interstate, there’s no guarantee we will find a gas station selling either of those things in a pinch.
7. Bring a great playlist –make them ahead AND while on the road
I like to brainstorm Broadway show tunes and download my playlists (and a podcast or two) while at home with reliable wifi. Then it’s easy to connect to my phone and sing away without having to worry about using data or worse, suffer through trying to find a radio station we can all agree on. Below is a favorite road trip playlists inspired by time in the Chevrolet SS.