6 Tips for Packing Your Car for the Holiday Drive
The holiday season is when Americans do most of their traveling. Making the four hour trip to Grandma’s house is tough even when things go perfectly. There are the bathroom breaks, gas fill-ups, stops to eat, and the incessant “Are we there yet?” to deal with. Low temperatures, bad weather, and dangerous road conditions can make the drive even more stressful.
Packing effectively is a critical part of good preparation, especially when deciding how to get all the luggage, snacks, water bottles, pillows, and electronics loaded into the car. Here are a few tips for efficiently packing your car for the holiday road trip with the family.
1. Trip Needs vs Destination Needs
Regardless of the time of year, packing your car correctly means determining what you need for the trip versus what you need when you get there. Make a list of what you will need during the trip, (extra diapers, coats, or iPads), and pack those items last. Remember the acronym L.I.F.O., which stands for Last In, First Out. The last items you want to pack in the car are the first items you want to take out. It prevents having to unload everything if you need to get to something while on the road.
To help follow L.I.F.O properly, pack your car trunk from back to front and from bottom to top. This helps ensure items packed last (i.e. trip needs) are toward the back and on top of other items.
2. Maximize suitcase space
Along with the cold weather comes bulky sweaters and thick socks. These thick items make packing your suitcase even more difficult. Take advantage of every nook and cranny in your luggage to help eliminate one or two extra bags altogether. Co-packing and sharing luggage is a good strategy. Here are a few tips for packing your suitcase:
Buy travel-sized containers for shampoos, body washes, etc.
Put liquids in a ziplock bag in case of spills. Moving from cold to warm temps increases the air pressure inside any bottled products you have.
Roll your clothes instead of folding them. It will help you save space and avoid wrinkles.
Use vacuum-seal bags. Less air means a tighter fit.
Pack odd-shaped items (i.e. hair dryers, high heels, etc.) at the outer perimeter of your luggage and work inward with the rest.
Stuff your shoes full of small items. Put breakables in your socks.
Take a mesh or ziplock bag for bringing back dirty clothes
3. Pack a winter safety bag
Hopefully nothing like a flat tire or snow drift will ruin your winter travels, but it never hurts to be prepared. It’s a good idea to pack a winter safety bag in an easily accessible spot. The last thing you need is to unload half of your car’s contents on the side of the road just to get to a set of jumper cables. Depending on where they’re located, your spare tire, lug wrench, and jack may also need to be moved to a more accessible location. Here are a few essential items for your safety bag:
First aid kit
Flashlight with extra batteries
4. Make a “We’re Here!” bag
After arriving at a holiday destination, it’s common to need specific items right away. Arriving in the middle of the night with sleepy children usually entails finding pajamas, tooth brushes, medicine, etc. Traveling with pets may require having leashes, food, and pet toys readily handy at the destination or during rest stops. Anticipate these needs and pack a bag with as many anticipated items possible. Pack the “We’re Here!” bag last.
5. Prepare children for the long haul
Traveling with children can be stressful because of their need for things like entertainment, food, drink, or attention. Here are some great tips to prepare children for long car rides and avoid stressful situations:
Have easy-to-take medicines ready to go in case your child becomes sick during trips. Be prepared when temperatures get high, allergies flare up, or coughs kick in.
Cut back on television a week prior to departure. Regardless of whether or not you plan on letting your kids watch shows during the trip, they will either be used to the absence of a screen, or appreciate it that much more.
Pack sugar-free car snacks. Keep the sugar rushes to a minimum.
Keep them anticipating something else. Bring along a group of toys, snacks, books, etc. as rewards to be doled out intermittently on the trip.
6. Leave space for the presents
On the return home, the car will probably contain more items than when you left. Keep some empty space for Christmas presents or Thanksgiving dinner leftovers.
Before packing anything and set out, get your car serviced by a mechanic or local car dealership.