How to pack a car for a road trip

4 minute read

Car boot fully loaded with carefully placed bags and boxes

Road trips can be fun, whether you’re taking a short drive to see some local sights or travelling a bit further afield to visit friends or family. But one of the biggest challenges is packing up the car – pack too much and you won’t fit it all in, but pack too little and you may be left without necessary items.

Efficiency is key when packing a car with lots of items for your road trip. Below, we’ve provided our top tips and tricks to pack your car in the most effective way, while still allowing access to those must-have items.


What to pack for a long road trip

This list contains packing suggestions for the road trip itself, but not those items you might need while you're away.

  • Food - keep hunger at bay with some easy-to-grab foods, such as fruit or crisps.
  • Drinks - staying hydrated is important; pack a supply of water or juice.
  • Entertainment - boredom is expected on a long journey, so take a few things to occupy the children, including books and games. You may also wish to plan some in-car games, such as the classics ‘I Spy’ and ‘I packed my bag’.
  • Blankets - ideal for a snooze and can be folded to be used as a pillow. Blankets can come in handy if you break down during your journey and need to keep warm while waiting for assistance to arrive.
  • First aid kit - this is always a must when travelling. You never know when accidents might happen, from bee stings to cuts and scrapes, so it’s best to be prepared.
  • Physical map – many people now use sat navs to get around, but it’s a good idea to have a printed map just in case the technology decides not to work.
Roadtrip car map

How to pack a car

When packing all your items into a car for a road trip, it’s important to work efficiently to ensure you can fit it all in comfortably. We’ve outlined some of the more efficient ways to pack a car below.


Fold down unused seats

If there are going to be any seats not in use, and you're able to fold them flat, it's a good way to make more space for bags or cases.


Pack the bulky items first

Bulky suitcases and equipment can take up a lot of space, which is why it’s best to get these things in first. It may take a bit of shuffling around to find the best place for them, and some suitcases can be stacked on top of each other where necessary. Try them pushed in lengthways vs. sideways and check they won’t fall over or move too much in transit.


Fill the gaps

Once the largest items are in, there will likely be spaces available to slot the smaller items into. Any flexible items, such as canvas bags, rucksacks and sleeping bags, could be folded to fit the space while also padding the larger items so they can’t move. If you have a boot that's open to the main cabin of the car, like a hatchback or estate, try to keep a gap free in the middle so that you can still clearly see the road behind you in the rear view mirror while driving.

If your boot is likely to be completely filled, it’s worth asking yourself whether you need every item. Fitting too much in your car can increase its weight, and therefore its fuel usage too. Plus, driving with partially obscured vision could be dangerous. Anything that isn’t a necessity could come out, or you could find another place for it.


Make the most of the space

Cars generally have more storage space than you think, and you could use the glove compartment and underneath the seats to put items in.


Put necessities in last

There will be things you absolutely need on the journey, like blankets, food and games. It’s a good idea to put these in easy-to-reach places, like under seats or by your feet. Items that may be needed in an emergency, like a torch or toilet paper, should be packed into the car last, so they’re easy to get to.


Use an overhead carrier/roof rack

If the space you have isn’t enough, you could consider having an overhead carrier installed before you go. Just ensure you take notice of your car’s weight limit, as it may be exceeded when the car is full of people and all packed up.


And that’s it! Once the car’s packed, you can head off on your adventure without the worry that you've missed anything you might need on the way.