Top car packing tips for road journeys

It’s always a good time of year for a road trip. No matter if you’re going to the airport, across country to enjoy some time away, travelling with friends, or visiting family, hitting the road with an exciting destination in mind can be tremendous fun. Of course, packing does come into it, and deciding what to put into your car is no easy task. How much should I bring? Where shall I put essential items? How can I make sure the kids have what they need? All of these questions and more need answering, so make sure you read on for our list of top car packing tips for road journeys.

Make sure Camping gear is easily found

For those planning a camping trip, it’s important to make sure all the things you need once you arrive at your chosen site aren’t buried in your car. This is what Kirstie of the award-winning travel blog The Family Adventure Project told us was her number one car packing tip: “If you are camping, make sure your tent and sleeping mats are packed last so they are easily accessible. The last thing you want to be doing is rooting about in the dark or the rain for a tent peg!”

Manage your space

couple driving a car

The Family Adventure Project really is an inspirational resource for those who love to travel and, thanks to the experience of Kirstie and her husband Stuart, is full of great tips for those looking to pack their car for family trips. Take this piece of theirs on packing for a Japanese road trip, for example. Kirstie was also able to part with some top tips on how to save space while packing, which we have been able to share here:

“A family can easily fill a car for a day trip, let alone a road trip. Be organised and pack systematically, labelling each bag or crate and keeping gear in the same place for the whole trip so things come to hand easily and you aren't faced with the random contents of a car boot sale every time you go into the back. Use every last space in a logical way; we often store a change of shoes in the passenger foot wells, and stash refillable water bottles in the doors. All the sunglasses go together in the glove compartment with the sun cream and first aid kit. Baby wipes are strategically placed everywhere in case of spills or sickness.”

Pack an overnight bag and roll your clothes

When going on a longer trip, you might often be required to stay at a hotel before your flight or stop off for a night before reaching your ultimate destination. This is why Vicki from Make Time to See the World – a top travel blog of ideas and inspiration – says to pack a bag specifically for this purpose, making this preliminary stop less of a hassle: “If you’re packing for a long journey and you have a night (or two) in a hotel along the way, pack a weekend bag that can be slipped in and out of the trunk with minimal disruption.”

Vicki also has a handy tip for how to save space when packing your clothes: “Rolling your clothes is a great way to save space in your bag, and if you can compress those rolls within space saver bags, then even better!

“I also have a full post of road trip essentials that comes complete with a free printable road trip packing list which is separated into sections (car essentials, navigation essentials, comfort essentials and ways to stay entertained!) to make sure you have everything you need for the perfect road trip.”

Pack essentials close to hand

Imagine needing to contact someone while on the road but your phone is dead and your charger is packed away in a suitcase. It’s not an ideal situation, and this is one of the reasons why Sam from the family travel and outdoor lifestyle blog Travelling With Our Kids says that one of her top tips for packing for a car trip is to make sure you can access your important items easily: “Have your must-have essentials close at hand (snacks, overnight bag, wet wipes etc.). Doing this means you don't have to stop to look in the boot. Also, make sure you have all your electronics charged (or with the cables nearby so you can charge them if required).”

Use plastic boxes for food

Travelling With Our Kids is replete with great tips and inspiring stories regarding family travel, and thankfully, Sam was able to offer us another of hers regarding how best to pack your car before beginning your journey. Sam says in order to save space you should consider using containers for any snacks you plan on taking: “Packing your food and items you are taking in plastic boxes means it is easier to pack your car and they can be used for additional storage when you reach your destination.”

Pack light

Packing a car

It’s always tempting when preparing for any kind of trip to over pack. The last thing we want is to be on the road or reach our destination and realise we don’t have what we need. But packing lightly is important, as not only does this save important room in your car but also allows you to find what you need more quickly. This is advice given to us by Jurga of the family travel blog Full Suitcase. Jurga stressed packing lightly as being highly important: “My top tip for any road trip is to not over pack. Road tripping means that you have to change many hotels, so the last thing you need is a trunk full of bags that you have to pack and unpack every night.”

Don’t bring too many kids’ toys and do your research

Jurga also has some excellent advice to offer those travelling with young children, advising, among other things, that parents do the requisite research in order to save space in the car: “Traveling with kids also means extra luggage. If you are travelling with a baby, try to contact your destination and ask if they have a baby bed, high chair, and any other baby items for hire. This will save you lots of space in the car. Only pack what you really need, like a baby carrier or a compact travel stroller.

“Also, take as few toys as possible and only pack the ones that have been proven to keep the kids busy for a long time. A ball or a frisbee is always a good idea, also travel games. Leave all the stuffed animals and oversized toys at home. Kids are very creative - they can play with stones and sea shells for hours. Check these family road trip packing suggestions for more ideas.”

Clean out your car before packing

Ford EcoSport

You can’t make the most of the space you do have if you try and pack for your trip before taking out unnecessary junk and belongings from your car. Marcie from the fun and passionate family travel blog Marcie in Mommyland recommends just this as her top tip, advising giving your car a good clean before cramming in your bags: “I recommend fully cleaning out your car before a road trip. Take everything out of your car (including car seats) and vacuum the carpet and seats. Then, only put back the necessities for your road trip. Now you know how much room you really have to pack your car. Think about the activities your family will be doing. Do you need a stroller? A baby carrier? A pack and play? Pack the bulky stuff first. Then add your suitcases.”

Let the kids pack a bag and bring snacks!

Marcie also highly recommends giving your kids some agency in the packing process. By allowing your kids to take some control of their own belongings, they can feel involved in the process and will also be happy that they brought what they wanted: “I encourage my kids to pack their own backpacks with snacks, toys, and activities to keep them occupied in the car. Then, I like to pack more snacks in a bag I keep up front with me. We also bring a lot of baby wipes with us, in order to keep hands clean after snacking! My kids like to drink a lot of milk, so we keep a small cooler with bottled milk and ice packs.”

We hope the above advice has been helpful! And if you’ve got a trip planned in the future or if you’ve just picked up a brand new ride from your local Ford dealership and want to really put it to the test, make sure you utilise the tips above, pack smart, and then enjoy a wonderful road trip.