How to Pack a Car Trunk for a Road Trip

things in a car trunkYou’ve packed the bags, dumped ice into the cooler and stocked up with on-the-road snacks. Perhaps you’ve got camping gear, kids’ toys, garment bags with fancy clothes and assorted pieces of technology that need to go with you on the trip.

Though some people are partial to simply squeezing everything in to open spaces haphazardly, it often makes better sense to pack with a plan. When you need to find something, it’s much easier to find it when you know where it’s located.

After several years of trunk packing experience, here are my best tips on how to pack for a road trip:

Survey all your items first. Before you begin packing the trunk, set everything out that needs to go in it. This will help you visualize how it will all fit together … and it also ensures you don’t forget to take something into account.

Take note of emergency items. Before you pile everything into the trunk, make note of where your spare tire, tire jack and other roadside emergency items are stored. This way, should you need to stop for an emergency, you know where to find these items without having to tear apart everything in the trunk.

Think of packing as a puzzle. All of the pieces have to fit into the trunk strategically, and all of the pieces that are simply not necessary become glaringly obvious.

Big items on the bottom. Start with placing the largest, bulkiest items in the trunk first. Perhaps you have a large bin of camping gear or a box that needs to be packed. Put these items in their respective places so that they lay flesh with the sides of the trunk, leaving minimal wasted space.

Other items fit into the puzzle. With the larger items in place, place smaller, lighter items on top. Those things you don’t need to access right away should be stored toward the back of the trunk while those you may need to dig into should be kept toward the front.

Keep items that need to be removed in an easy-to-reach place. Though your cooler may be one of those big, bulky items that really should go on the bottom, keep in mind that you’ll need to be able to get to it easily. Therefore, keep your cooler and other must-have items like food bags or a bag with toys for the kids in a place that can be accessed at a moment’s notice.

Fill in the gaps. Now that you’ve packed the bulk of the trunk with all the larger items, fill in the small open spaces between those items and on the sides with smaller, flexible things like pillows, shoes and folding chairs.

5 Responses to “How to Pack a Car Trunk for a Road Trip”

  1. Jenna Vandenberg

    Good tip about knowing the whereabouts of emergency items. I had to unpack an entire trunk to get to my spare tire last month in Yosemite. But in doing so, I also found some unused space around the spare – I could have fit in three more pairs of shoes!

    • JoAnna

      Forget the spare, you need the stilettos! Love it!

  2. Elsie

    Great post! I don’t know how to pack for anything! 🙂 I’ll slowly learn!

  3. Sheila Sullivan

    If you are packing pet carriers that contain pets, please remember pets need AIR!

    • JoAnna

      Absolutely! And frequent stops for stretching and bathroom breaks!


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