Know Your Limits
Whether you are headed cross country, cruising through the Deep South, or even taking your car across Europe, there is no denying it – road trips will always be a truly unique style of travel. With the wind whipping your hair and one hand on the wheel, traveling by car allows for real independence.
You don’t need to rely on bus times, you aren’t as limited with what you can take as you are with planes, and there’s less worrying about heavy lifting.
Making sure you have what you need and packing smart so your stops are a breeze is an important part of making sure your trip runs smoothly. Here are some suggestions for how to pack for the road.
Knowing what to pack starts with knowing how much you should be packing. A rule of thumb with road trips is to not go overboard even if you have the space.
The more you’re carrying around, the more you’ll have to sort through every time you stop to make sure you have what you need. It might feel like you have unlimited space, but when you’re pulling into Liberty, Kansas at 2 am, you’ll be wishing that you had just taped your toothbrush to the dashboard so you can get to bed.
Check Your Laundry Situation
The average road trip is about two weeks and it can be plenty simple to pack for just that. If you have a laundry plan though, you can easily cut your load in half and carry around a whole lot less. Make sure that you have time set aside for wherever you decide to stop for laundry.
In many parts of Europe for example, you’ll need at least a two-day stop in colder months since most people don’t have dryers, they opt for hanging their clothes out to dry. If you’re really ready to rough it, you can buy yourself a lot of time with just a simple wash of the essentials in your sink. Consider packing individual packets of laundry detergent that are ideal for sink washing. Also key – a stain removing pen!
Bag it like a Pro
There are two ways to carry your stuff around – either in a big bag or a small one. Many road travelers will opt to pack small individual day bags that they can easily bring into a hotel or Airbnb every night.
Others will go the whole hog and lug in the whole suitcase. We recommend the smaller option, especially in places like the south of Spain where you’ll find you might be parking outside of a small medieval city and walking your way in – the less you’re carrying the better.
Everything But the Kitchen Sink
If you’ll be staying in places with kitchens you can use, you can save a bundle on food costs by cooking your own dinner every now and then. Especially in hostels or shared living spaces, cooking a shared meal for your hosts and fellow travelers can be a great way to make friends with locals or get some key travel tips. Set one medium-sized bag or backpack aside for kitchen materials only.
Fill with a small refrigerator bag for perishables, another small packable bag for grocery runs, and some kitchen essentials. A small pot, simple utensils, and a few spices and non-perishables like oil and vinegar.
Don’t Get Sloppy
The real key to a smooth road trip is not getting sloppy with your stuff. While you’re running around and seeing the sites, you probably won’t think twice about throwing things in the car and not putting them away properly, but your car will smell, and you won’t be as happy when you can’t find the aspirin.
Always have a small, sealable bag set aside for garbage, and actually throw out your trash – don’t just let the cup holders overflow! When you take something out, put it back in the right place, and figure out what you need the most and keep it handy.