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How to Stay Sane and Organized On a Summer Road Trip

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In a couple of weeks my husband and I will be headed on a long trip to pick up the girls from summer camp and go on a family vacation. I’ve been on my fair share of 2- and 3-hour rides, but we’ll be tripling our time spent in the car each way (my husband’s idea) and I’m already playing tetris in my mind thinking about everything that we’ll be bringing (and picking up once we get the girls) and how we’ll get it all to fit.

Is it just me or when traveling by car do you tend to overpack? I’m really good about packing a carry-on for a flight, but when it comes to the road travel I am not so great to sticking to limits. I’ve decided to approach the car packing as I would for any space that I organize inside of the home, which is: (1) categorize and contain the contents, (2) create zones, and (3) make the essentials accessible.

Of course, when organizing a car you have to get a little creative with your available space, and slim storage is always the best bet to pack in the most amount of essentials.



  • Categorize and contain. Since we will have triple the amount of stuff on the way home than we have on the way up to our destination, I’m restricting myself to using only half of the trunk and the floor behind one of the seats for storage. We’re limiting ourselves to just bringing carry-on sized bags, which leaves a couple of extra feet of wiggle room. Since we’ll need some everyday items like sunscreen, towels, and extra toiletries we’ll store those in a lidded crate.
  • Create zones. Break down the storage space in the car and store accordingly. Unlike in a home, the storage space and compartments in a car are limited but also necessary to keep categories separated. I rely on making my own compartments with bags and totes, to keep everything I need stored. We’ll be stocking ours with travel games and books because I can already hear “are we there yet?!” and need bring plenty of entertainment options! Oh, and I always keep one of these in my trunk year round to corral groceries and reusable bags, contain items from rolling around, and to have in case I need to store and carry anything.
  • Make the essentials accessible. We’ll be packing our meals and snacks in advance for the first half of the trip, so a cooler is a must-have to keep the food and drinks cool. I love using a cooler that is slim enough to fit behind my seat, but it holds a ton and will keep our meals fresh throughout the long ride. Plus, the best part is that when we no longer need to use it in the car it collapses down and can easily be stores in the trunk or even on the floor underneath my seat.

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