Taking a road trip is one of the great American experiences, whether you have a specific destination in mind or just want to take in the sights of the country. Here are a few packing tips to maximize the space in your car for your comfort:
Use your roof
If you are driving to a specific destination, utilizing storage containers on car roof racks is a great way to give yourself enough room to spread out in the car. Make sure you get one that locks securely. That way, if you are taking a multi-day road trip, you can just toss an overnight bag in the back seat and not have to worry about digging through piles of suitcases to find your toothbrush.
Whether or not you can utilize roof cargo, it's important that you put some care into the order that you pack your belongings. Larger, bulky items that you probably won't need to get to during the course of your trip should always be arranged first. While your instinct is probably to use suitcases for everything, consider something softer. Duffel bags – or even garbage or plastic bags – are a great option for items like beach towels or clothes that you don't mind getting a bit wrinkled. The softer bags will allow you to pack more into a smaller space.
Keep things secure
If you're going to be stopping overnight at a hotel, make sure your valuables are kept safe. Whether you leave them in your car or in your hotel room while you go out to eat, it will give you peace of mind to know that no one can get to your things. Invest in laptop locks for your computers or a portable safe for small items like jewelry, passports or even a handgun.
You never know what is going to happen out on the road, so make sure you are prepared for just about anything. When you're traveling in the summer, keep extra coolant on hand in case your car gets overheated. If it's the winter and you may run into bad weather, consider investing in snow chains. Double check your spare tire, and make sure you know how to change a flat. For yourself and your passengers, always make sure there is plenty of water and non-perishable food on hand. In addition, it's a good idea to have a flashlight, a first aid kit and jumper cables ready before setting off on a trip.
Be smart with your smartphone
Nowadays, many of us rely on our smartphone for just about everything, and this is especially true for road trips. It's likely you'll use your phone for navigation, music and to chat with friends along the drive. Look into specific apps that may be helpful for traveling – there are plenty out there that offer traffic updates, can recommend restaurants in the area and can even tell you where the next gas station is. Let your passenger handle most of these tasks and always keep a charger in your car. Depending on where you're driving, consider bringing along an old-fashioned paper map as well. There are still plenty of places across the country that don't have cell service.
If your car is so stuffed that you and your passenger have to move your seats up to fit everything in, consider cutting down on luggage. Not only will you be uncomfortable crammed up against the dashboard, it also presents a real safety concern should you get in an accident. Plus, repacking the car for the return trip will be just as difficult, especially if you pick up any souvenirs along the way.