There’s something special about that feeling when you settle down into your car seat, and get ready for that road trip. Whether you’ve been planning it for months, or have just decided to hit the trail, here’s my guide to making a breeze of your packing.
We’ve talked before about planning your road trip, and how to make the most of a last minute chance to get away. Now I’m looking at my favourite travel hacks to pack and get motoring.
What sort of Road Trip?
The road trips we’ve done fall into two categories. We either drive somewhere, and then travel out from that central hub, or else it’s a round trip, stopping off at a different destination each night. For me, each takes a different approach to packing, so you don’t spend the trip wrestling with your belongings. We’ll cover both here.
I Packed My car, and in it I put…?
Let’s deal with the car itself first. If it’s not a hire car, and therefore checked by someone else, do yourself and any companions a favour, and clear it out first. This is not the time to have your footwell rustling with discarded detritus, or to leave the boot half full of the recycling you meant to offload two weeks ago. Clear out and clean up, eh? And don’t forget to do your journey checks: tyres, water, oil, all the good stuff.
Then there’s stocking the car for the road. Here I’d go for
- Easily grabbable outerwear, for when you pull up somewhere and it’s unexpectedly lashing down with rain.
- A small bag of generally useful stuff: hand wipes or antibac, tissues, sun protection and cooling spray or gloves and something warm and fleecy, depending on your destination
- mini first aid kit
- A picnic maker: napkins or kitchen towel , disposable cutlery, bags for rubbish from food you buy en route
- A proper map. Satnav is great, but sometimes you just want to get a visual reference of what is nearby, and where you might disappear off the motorway for a while
- Phone chargers or powerbanks
- Access to music of your choice
- Something to do. There will be times when you’re just parked up and waiting: a book or two, puzzles, your tablet (properly hidden) are all good options. Binoculars can be great too when you’re out and exploring.
- Some change for parking, and places where you can’t use a bank card
- Snacks and drinks of your choice. Don’t estimate how great fruit can taste when you’ve been sitting in the car for hours. Maybe a mini cooler?
Stuffing Your Boot or Trunk
Firstly can I suggest that you try if possible to avoid stuffing the car to the last inch. We’ve had to do that once or twice, and it never adds to the enjoyment factor when you are wasting time on boot tetris.
On that note, and if it’s possible, soft sided bags make a great deal more sense. You can wriggle them into the edges of the boot more easily. I try to use separate bags for bulky items like beach kit or walking gear. It’s easier to check you have everything at the start, and means you’re not unpacking everything when you have something specific planned on one day.
For example, the beach bag contains;
- beach towels
- water shoes
- beach games
- waterproof small bag for phone and cash when swimming
- beach dress and shorts
The Round Trip With Nightly Stopovers
This is the one where handling your bags every night can get old quickly. I have heard of people who pack each day’s outfit into a separate plastic bag, so they can just grab one bag each night. I am not one of those people. I like a bit more choice.
Instead, I try and pack things I will need every night in a separate bag. From phone chargers to PJs, toothbrush to travel journal, all that stuff goes in one place. After that, my outfits go in a separate bag. If we’re staying somewhere I feel comfortable leaving things in the car, I’ll leave the big bag there, and just take out the next day’s outfit when needed. Less to fall over in the room overnight. Even if the clothing bag needs to share our space, it can get shoved in the corner until needed. When you get to a critical mass of more dirty laundry than clean clothes, leave your washing in one bag, and add the remaining outfits in with your essentials.
The advantage of the essentials bag is that it’s also way easier to check each morning if you still have everything you should have. You get into a groove of packing it back, which makes it – for me anyway – less likely you’ll be missing your chargers or your toothbrush at the next stop.
Drive Somewhere, then travel from that base
Here I’m thinking that you may well be in self-catering or an apartment. For a stay like this, I’d be packing a bag of household essentials. It may be fab to try out the local delicacies, but no one’s holiday is made more enjoyable by roaming the supermarket for baking foil, pepper and loo roll. Make a bag for those items, and leave the shopping time for something rather more interesting.
Your packing in this situation is much easier. Depending on where you are staying, it may be worth considering packing smaller bags instead of one big one. If you’ve booked a quaint cottage, hauling a big case up narrow stairs isn’t fun. The same goes for anywhere with a spiral staircase. And it’s much easier to get small bags out of the way under most beds.
When you get ready to head back, do yourself a favour and re-pack your gear by its eventual destination at home. When you’re returning from your adventures, life is made happier by not having to search for all the dirty washing. Nor is it fun to track down everything that once belonged in the kitchen. A few minutes slinging like items together makes that moment when you stick your key in your own door much easier. Ten minutes later, you can have the laundry on, and be sitting planning your next adventure.