Continuing my week of road trip tips and advice, today I want to show you how we packed the car for our 5 week road trip.
Before we headed out on our trip last summer, I sought the advice of a few friends and bloggers on how to have a successful road trip. What did we NEED to take, what should we leave behind. It was a little nerve-wracking to think about doing such a long trip, just me and my kids. I wanted to make sure we had enough stuff, but also didn’t want to pack a ton of extra stuff because…well it would just be more stuff and when you have limited car space, more stuff is not a good thing. My cousin and Holly from Ribbons & Glue were super helpful as they both have done some major road trips.
With all of their help and thinking about our specific trip, I came up with how I wanted to pack. I’ve been asked many times, how we packed for such a long trip. Today, I’m showing you this part of the packing and I’ll be back in my next post with the craft and entertainment center I set up for the kids in the back seat.
For our trip, we were going to be driving across the country. Then we would be in one location for about two and a half weeks. I wanted something that would work for both portions of the trip.
I bought two plastic bins(affiliate link – this links to the exact bins I bought, though that price is ridiculous) at Target. I didn’t have things labeled like I did for this pictures. I did that just for you guys. 🙂
In one of the large bins, I packed all of our extra clothes. Those that we wouldn’t need for the 5 to 8 nights on the road. I let each of us pack about 10 outfits plus we needed 1 dress for a nicer occasion.
In the second large bin, I packed all of the shoes and other additional items(like a big box of tampons…you know the essentials) we would need once we reached our location. We ended up with tennis shoes that just stayed outside of the box and a pair of flip-flops on our feet. The tennis shoes were needed for some of our activity stops during the day.
The suitcase in the middle held all of our toiletries. For 3 girls(and I’m a product hound). I didn’t pack anything in smaller sized containers. I figured for 5 weeks, we would need the full size containers. We have sensitive skin and need certain products you can’t always easily find, so the suitcase worked well for all of those things along with the hair dryer, flat iron, etc. It could easily be pulled out every night to take inside the hotel.
Before we move on from this area, my car (a 2002 Toyota Highlander) has these bumped out areas. They are the perfect to put some of the things we need but don’t need access to. It also ended up being home to some of the Starbucks mugs for states and cities I bought along the way, which you can see if you look back in my Instagram feed.
Based on the advice of seasoned road warriors, I packed a bag filled with extra trash bags, plastic gloves, rags, a roll of paper towels, extra plastic shopping bags as well as zipper bags of various sizes. The zipper bags came in really handy for all different kinds of uses.
I also bought a first aid kit and overstocked it with all kinds of first aid things we might need.
Thankfully, we needed very little of these things other than band-aids, we go through those like water. In theory these are for if the kids (or I) have an accident or throw up. Thankfully the only time I ever needed any of these supplies was when we ate in the car once and my daughter spilled almost the entire container of Macaroni and Cheese from Panera Bread. I’ll take it. I’m so glad there was nothing disgusting to clean up. I will 100% take all of these things again because they don’t take up much space and you never know if and when you will need them. This is very much so a better safe than sorry type of thing to take.
I kept extra napkins, plastic silverware, and two boxes of tissue. I’ll show you where I kept those in a couple of pictures.
Next up in my layers of packing, came our overnight bags. We packed our clothes for about 4 days at a time in these overnight bags. The girls also had a stuffed animal that fit in this area as well as a blanket for when the car was cold(you know when one person is baking in the sun and the other is freezing in the shade). It worked out really well.
The basket contained my vitamins. Again, for 5 weeks, I figured just taking the containers was better than trying to use THAT many plastic bags and pre-pack the vitamins for each day.
I also had an overnight bag, which is the black backpack(affiliate link). In addition to my clothes, it held my computer and my tablet.
In the next layer of my packing was my office in a box. I still kept up with work (this blog) while on the road. I pared down to just the minimum things I needed and put it all in one box for easy storage and easy access. In the center is my camera bag. I ended up with it in the front seat on the trip home. That way I could snap a few shots of the beautiful scenery without having to pull over. Not necessarily the best shots, but it worked.
We also travel with this small, flat ice chest (affiliate link). I have a peanut allergy and I like having a piece of toast with Sunflower Seed Butter (it is good protein) for breakfast. In order to have that, I have to take it with me. The ice chest was great to take some yogurt for snacks and pick up grapes for snacks as well. I just re-filled zipper bags with ice at the hotel each morning before we left. We usually found a hotel room that at least had a mini fridge. I also learned along the way that you can request a mini-fridge for medical reasons. I was told that by a hotel employee when I mentioned that I needed the fridge for my Sunflower Seed Butter due to my allergy. He told me just to request one for medical reasons. I never actually did that, but maybe it can help you.
Oh and by the way, the ice chest works well to hold a bottle of wine with a screw top as well….not that I did that or anything. 😉
Along the route, we added this big pink bin. We ended up shopping and buying a few things along the way. I like to keep things easy to access and somewhat organized, so this bin became my catch-all area. It was handy.
Finally, since I was the only person in the front seat, I used the passenger seat for additional storage of things I needed handy while driving.
I had another bin on the floor with snacks in it. Since I’m 5’9″, reaching these things is a snap for me. This bin also held a container with CD’s and a container with DVD’s. It was VERY handy to have the snack sized bags to give out snacks. I know you could buy snacks along the way, but that will add to costs very quickly, so I bought snacks at Target or the grocery store and just split them up into individual sizes.
I kept extra napkins and plastic silverware in here as well, which came in very handy. The two boxes of tissue fit in the space I have under this middle console. Neat and out of the way but handy when you need them.
Now, I photographed all of this for you so it would be easy to see, but I thought you might like to see the actual use…you know the reality versus the glossy pics. 🙂
This is the morning we headed out on our trip. You can see this full portion of our trip in my post about our adventure west.
This is the morning we were leaving Arizona to head back to the East Coast. Things are a bit more packed….not too bad, but still more stuff. Good thing we started with room. You can see our whole journey East and all the fun places we found to stop in my post about our journey.
There you have it. How a mom and 2 girls packed for a 5,300 mile road trip. We are planning another trip this summer. I think I will pack very similar to this, but I may have to tweak it a bit since we will be doing more driving and not staying in one location for as long this time.