Packing the car for a road trip.
Sergiy Zavgorodny

Packing Tips for Road Trips

You may not have to worry about airport security checkpoints or airline baggage fees, but road tripping still involves a fair amount of planning. As you decide what you're going to pack, remember that you can improve your gas mileage with a lighter trunk.

Eagle Creek's No Matter What medium ripstop duffel bag,
Eagle Creek
Use duffel bags to maximize your trunk space.
When it comes to packing your clothes for a road trip, try to avoid bringing multiple structured suitcases that will take up a lot of space in your trunk. Instead, use smaller, soft-sided bags like duffel bags and backpacks to wedge around the rest of your gear.

If you plan to stop at a hotel along the way, pack an overnight bag with only the items you'll need to use that night, including a change of clothes, pajamas, toiletries, and medications. If traveling with kids, it's a good idea to consolidate everyone's clothes into one bag (a wheelie bag might make sense in this case). If you will be leaving some bags in the trunk overnight, make sure you park your car in a safe spot and bring any valuables with you into the hotel.

Pack the rest of your items -- the things that you only plan to use at your final destination -- in a separate duffel or weekender bag. Spread your family's things out over a few different bags. These should go in the back of the trunk to save room for up front for the items that you will use en route.

Photo Caption: Eagle Creek's No Matter What medium ripstop duffel bag,
knit sweater
StyleCaster Media Group
Go for super-comfy outfits.
Since you will be sitting for a long period of time, comfort should be your top priority. Wear soft, roomy pieces in breathable fabric. Cotton blends and jersey are great options. Avoid items like jeans (the heavy denim may be uncomfortable and will take forever to dry if something is spilled on it) and light-colored clothing that will show dirt and stains easily.

Think about where you'll be stopping along the way, especially if you're planning to stop at a nicer restaurant or hotel. You can't go wrong with simple, unfussy outfits. Breezy dresses and leggings paired with tunics are great options for women. Cotton twill chinos or trousers and T-shirts are good choices for men. If you do prefer to wear jeans, choose a lightweight pair in a dark wash to hide stains.

Be prepared for weather changes by dressing in layers, but skip bulky items that will cause you to overheat in the car. Have a sweater and rain gear (such a light windbreaker) handy in case of inclement weather.

Børn's Kai leather sneakers (retired)
Wear shoes that fit well.
Just like your clothes, comfort is key when it comes to choosing the shoes for your next road trip -- especially if you're the driver! "Avoid shoes that may easily slip off your feet, such as flip-flops or sandals without straps to keep them secure," says AAA ( spokesperson Heather Hunter.

Sneakers, loafers, and sandals that securely strap to your feet (but that aren't too tight) are all great options for drivers.

"It's also important to take into consideration that some people's feet may swell slightly when seated for a long period of time, so make sure the shoes won't restrict or cut into the feet too much in case they do swell during the trip," Hunter says.

The Bobble, $9.99 each. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Move Collective
Stock a cooler with food and water.
Carve out space for a hard-sided cooler in your trunk, and fill the cooler with items that are easy to eat on-the-go. Grapes and baby carrots are good bets. Before you leave the house, be sure to leave enough time to peel and cut any fruits or vegetables into bite-size pieces. Pack all items in individual Ziploc bags.

Bring along non-perishable or individually-wrapped foods like granola bars and popcorn (pop ahead of time and divide among small Ziploc bags). If you want to pack certain perishable items, such as cheese or pre-made turkey sandwiches (hold the mustard and the mayo -- bring packets and add them later so the bread won't get soggy), just be sure there is enough ice in your cooler to keep everything thoroughly cooled.

Stick to liquids that are clear -- they will be much easier to clean up if someone spills. You can't go wrong with bottled water. Consider getting reusable water bottles with built-in filters -- such as the Bobble ( to refill along the way. Avoid drinks that are tough to remove from clothing and upholstery, like grape and cherry juice.

Once you've stocked your cooler for the trunk, fill a small soft-sided cooler to keep with you in the car. Each time you do stop, re-stock it with supplies. Replace foods and drinks that were consumed or rotate out items that are no longer cool.

Photo Caption: The Bobble,
TomTom GO LIVE 1535 M GPS (retired)
Get a GPS unit.
GPS units are invaluable on road trips, especially if you're driving through unfamiliar territory. They will can help navigate around traffic, find nearby rest stops, recalculate your route if you accidentally get off course, and much more.

If you're renting a car and don't own one, you may want to consider a rental. "Many car rental companies offer GPS units for rent as well," says AAA's Heather Hunter.

That said, it's extremely important that you do not rely completely on your GPS. Like any gadget, it may malfunction or it may provide you with incorrect information. So be prepared, and research your route and your destination ahead of time.

If you have a smartphone, take advantage of its capabilities and load up useful apps before you go. There are tons of apps that can help make your trip go more smoothly, from rest stop-finders to fun games for your kids. Just be sure to complete any downloads, including movies for your iPad or laptop, before you leave home while you have a reliable Internet connection.

double usb car charger by Belkin
Keep your gadgets powered up.
Along with wall chargers, it's also helpful to bring along extra batteries and car chargers so that you can keep your tech powered up at all times, especially in older cars that don't have places to plug your devices. Consider investing in a cigarette lighter car charger with more than one USB port so you can double your charging capability. Before you leave, test out your car chargers on each of your gadgets to make sure they work properly together. Buy extra-long cords, such as a USB extention cable, to give your device more mobility inside your car—if the cord is long enough, you can leave your device plugged-in during the entire drive.

If you have an older car, another connector you might want to look into is one that allows your deivce to play through your car's stereo system. Newer vehicles have Bluetooth or auxiliary-cable inputs, but if your car is not equipped with these, there are still old-fashioned options such as FM transmitters.

You can stash small gadgets and chargers in the glove compartment, but you might want to consider packing them in a soft-side tote or special travel case for added protection.

Lifeline First Aid 85-piece Road Traveler Kit
Check your emergency kit.
Don't assume that everything is in working order. Just like you should get your car checked out before each road trip, you should also check each of the items in your emergency kit.

Make sure the batteries in your flashlight are working (if you're not positive how fresh they are, go ahead and replace them and bring extras), that the spare tire hasn't deflated, and that items in your first aid kit haven't expired.

Among the items in your emergency kit, remember a blanket and jumper cables. "During the winter, it's a good idea to update the kit with additional items," says AAA's Heather Hunter. "Include sand, cat litter or traction mats, an ice scraper, snow brush, hand warmers, gloves, a hat, and additional warm clothes."

Photo Caption: Lifeline First Aid 85-piece Road Traveler Kit
Lysol disinfecting wipes, $3.99
Make cleanup a cinch.
Carry pre-moistened antibacterial wipes (consider moist towelettes for your hands and Lysol wipes for cleaning the car), paper towels, and plastic grocery bags for trash. Always stash extras in the trunk, but have some of each of these items with you in the car at all times. These will work when you can't wash your hands (though washing hands is more effective in terms of viral infections).

In the trunk, you might want to set up a collapsible laundry hamper or a fabric-covered organization crate, especially if you're traveling with toys, sports equipment, or destination-specific gear (such as inflatable toys and towels for the beach). You can use egg crates for this, too. They're great for managing small items, and you can throw dirty clothing in them as well. Then all you have to do when you get back home is take the hamper or crate straight to the laundry room.

Photo Caption: Lysol disinfecting wipes, $4,