Some people LOVE travel, but I must confess I’m not generally one of them. Travel messes with my routine for one thing, but I also hate packing and unpacking for myself and three kids, (thank heavens the fourth is finally old enough to do her own packing, though I’m not off the hook yet; I still find myself supervising a lot.) Living out of a suitcase is also not at all my ‘cup of tea,’ but it’s necessary if we’re ever going to visit my husband’s family. And since the closest of them lives an 11-hour drive away, the trip is always, ALWAYS a major undertaking, especially considering that if you’re driving that far, it only makes sense to stay for at least a week when you do!
So how do you pack for an extended road trip like that? Well it’s never easy, but I’ve learned a thing or two over the years to make it a little bit easier.
When it comes to packing for extended road trips, my advice is:
Maximize the space in your vehicle.
If you can, plan a day to do laundry while you’re away.
Avoid suitcases, if possible.
Seriously. For weekend trips or airline travel, suitcases can be perfect, but for extended road trips where space is limited, that’s not always the case. Handles and wheels and awkward shapes and sizes can make them difficult to stack and leave you with lots of wasted space in your vehicle. Good suitcases are also pretty expensive, and for us there is also the problem of storing them when we aren’t travelling. We have smallish closets and no basement, so where do you put big, clunky suitcases for the other 48 or 50+ weeks of the year when you aren’t on the road?
Think outside of the box–Or maybe IN the box! Try packing your things in boxes, large duffle bags, totes, or storage bins.
We started a few years ago packing in 18 gallon plastic storage bins and it actually works really, really well for us on long trips. Four bins fit perfectly in the back of our minivan, leaving several inches of storage space on top and a little bit of space in between. These bins contain ALMOST ALL of our clothes, shoes, and accessories for a week+ of travelling. Granted, we’re usually staying with family, but we’ve stayed in hotels before, too, and hauled in our plastic tubs when we had to. (You really don’t get as many strange looks as you might imagine. Either that or I haven’t cared enough to notice…) We’ve also just dug out the things we needed for the day and put them in smaller bags to carry inside with us.
I usually have a bin for my two girls, one for my two boys, one for myself and part of my husband’s things, and one bin entirely for shoes and accessories. Beyond this we’ll usually have no more than a small suitcase for odds and ends, an 18 x 8-inch cosmetic bag, and a hanging bag.
As my kids grow and their clothes enlarge with them, the bin system may not work anymore. At that point we may switch to duffle bags, which are very versatile. They’re generally lighter and more flexible than suitcases, and they’re LOTS cheaper.
Roll your clothes. It really does conserve space.
Pack underclothes, socks, and other accessories in individual baggies for each family member.
This has worked BEAUTIFULLY for me! Especially when packing in bins, little items are easily lost among all the other clothes. Plus I like being able to glance at a baggie and easily pick out Doodle’s purple socks or Little Man’s brown belt. For kids that are close in size or who have similar items, it might be best to label the baggies. And I’ve heard of people using the baggie system on a much larger scale–separating ALL their things into super large baggies. I’ve never done that, but I can sympathize with the OCD packer who would prefer their clothes not ‘mingle’. Need a shirt? Reach in and pull out the shirt bag! What could be easier?