The Dos & Don'ts Of Packing For A Road Trip Without A Lot Of Space In The Car

by Kristin Corpuz

Road trips are always an epic adventure. I've been on more than I can count on my hands and toes throughout my life, and each one has been memorable for its own reason. I've always loved looking at the open road and seeing nothing but fields and mountains up ahead, and I love that you always have the option to hop out whenever you see something cool along the highway. It can be difficult knowing how to pack for a long road trip without a lot of space in the car, but I have a few dos and don'ts that can help get you by.

I always make sure to minimize my luggage to just a carry-on-sized bag, and I try to skip things like excess toiletries or another pair of shoes to help save on space. But there are a few things — like a small cooler full of snacks and some extra blankets and pillows — I believe are absolute necessities when you're on the road for a while.

So if you, your crew, your family, or your SO are heading on an extended road trip anytime in the near future, make sure you keep these packing tips in mind. But most of all, don't forget to take a ton of pics and have the time of your life. Road trips are always a special kind of travel you should cherish forever.

DON'T: Bring Too Many Snacks

Though snacks are definitely a necessity on road trips, try not to bring too many — especially ones that are perishable. A good rule of thumb is to try to fit all of the perishable stuff — like cheese sticks, fruit, and deli meats — in one lunchbox-sized cooler, and the rest of the snacks should be non-perishables like chips, cookies, and trail mix. That way, you don't end up wasting food.

DO: Try To Pack In Just One Carry-On And One Personal Item
Kelly Knox/Stocksy

Just because you're traveling in a car rather than on a plane, that doesn't mean you shouldn't follow your general travel packing rules. It can be easy to think that you can bring a ton more stuff just because you're in a car, but in reality, you'll want to save as much room as possible.

DO: Minimize Your Toiletries

Don't feel the need to bring your entire 20-step skincare routine. Of course, bring the necessities like your toothbrush and a face cleanser, but downsize as much as you can. Toiletries often end up being the heaviest items in your bag, and you probably won't be able to use all of them, anyway.

DON'T: Skip The Blankets And Pillows
Dimitrije Tanaskovic/Stocksy

Not only do blankets and pillows make the ride more comfortable overall, but they're really useful to have for any activities you might spontaneously add to your itinerary, like stargazing, a picnic in a field, or a little side trip to the beach.

DON'T: Pack A Million Pairs Of Shoes

I know I'm not the only person who loves taking my shoes off during a long car ride. I've found that road trips usually call for the least pairs of shoes. You usually need something easy, like flip flops, that you can slip on when you're taking a quick rest stop, and a pair you'll need for activities, like hiking boots or sneakers.

DO: Fit As Much As You Can Into The Trunk
Urs Siedentop & Co/Stocksy

Trust me when I say that you'll want as much space in the car as possible. Road trips make you think up creative ways to lie down and get comfortable within the confines of a car, and you'll want to have a ton of room to do so. This can't happen if you're saving a seat for an extra duffel bag. Stuff as much of the luggage as you can into the trunk, so you can all take turns napping in the back seat, or you can recline the front passenger seat for more comfort.

DO: Remember To Leave Room For Souvenirs

When you're on a road trip, you have the potential to come across fun local stores, like thrift and antique shops, souvenir stores, and other unique places you might not see anywhere else. For this reason, you might end up bringing home way more than you brought with you, so make sure you leave a little bit of room, in case one of you decides to buy a cool table lamp or you come back with five vintage coats.