Cramped Car? 7 Packing Hacks for Your Next Road Trip


When you’re taking a road trip with family or friends, space always seems to present the largest problem. SUVs and mid-size vehicles now often have third-row seating, which means you can fit more people in your car, but there’s little room for their belongings. What do you do?

You could squeeze items into the already cramped legroom or on laps, but there are better options. Take a look at these tried and true packing hacks for more room on your next road trip.

  1. External Cargo Storage

Even if you’re traveling in an SUV, you sometimes run out of space. External storage, such as a hitch cargo storage box, is the perfect, simple solution. It provides extra space without the need for a tow package or a drag on your gas mileage.

Consider a hitch cargo box from one of the top-rated companies on the internet, Stowaway2. They provide easy ground or waist-level loading, lots of space, and easy access to what’s stored in the back of your SUV. Best of all, they offer free shipping!

  1. Ziploc Bags

Ziploc bags are the ultimate packing hack for road trippers. They’re incredibly handy for organizing and packing some of your smaller, messier items. They’ll keep your lotions and soaps from leaking, your kids’ toys tidy, your delicates protected, and your kids’ clothing organized. They’re also perfect for keeping snacks handy when your kids start acting up.

  1. Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are designed with special compression technology. You can stack clothing, blankets, pillows, and other soft items inside and compress them into compact cubes. You won’t know what to do with all the extra space!

“There’s not much that makes me feel like an organized human as much as dividing my belongings into color-coded cubes,” says Richelle Szypulski, Senior Associate Editor of Travel and Leisure. “It’s so wonderful to know exactly where everything you brought is as soon as you unzip your suitcase. Plus, you can very easily move your packing cubes into the drawers of your hotel dresser and instantly be done unpacking and ready to go.”

  1. Soft Bags

Hard-sided luggage is great for airplanes or trains where you need a little more protection for your things. But when you’re on a road trip, you’re in charge of your items—you don’t have to worry about them getting banged up by uncaring staff. Soft-sided bags are much easier to squeeze into tight spaces than hard-sided luggage, and you’ll free up more room in your car.

  1. Fewer Clothes

You don’t need to pack enough clothing for every day of your trip when you can do laundry on the go. Caroline Costello, author of says that staying in a vacation rental, such as Airbnb or VRBO, is best for doing laundry on the road.

“If you know your accommodations will have free laundry facilities, you’re golden,” she wrote in a USAToday article. “You can wash and wear just a handful of outfits for the duration of even very long trips.”


She also reminds travelers that most hotels have onsite laundry facilities, or that you can find a laundromat. “I always make sure to pack a travel-size packet of laundry detergent and a sink stopper to clean my clothes on the road—it’s my secret for fitting everything in a carry-on bag,” she concludes, recommending the use of a laundry-drying line that attaches to your shower walls with suction cups.

  1. Backseat Entertainment

Kids become easily bored on road trips, which leads to negative and annoying reactions from picking on their siblings to screaming to repeatedly asking if you’ve reached your final destination. The solution is simple: Bring along plenty of backseat entertainment.

If you don’t have an in-car DVD player, attach some Velcro strips to a tablet and the back of your car headrest to keep them occupied for hours. Bringing along bags full of busy activities will keep their hands and minds occupied as well.

  1. Bring a Versatile Pair of Shoes

Shoes take up a large amount of space in the typical suitcase. Most people want to bring more than one pair for various occasions—flip flops for the beach, tennis shoes for walking around, casual shoes for brunch, and dress shoes for a night out.

If possible, bring just one pair of versatile shoes. For example, you might bring flip flops with comfortable soles that work for the beach and walking around. If you must bring a pair of dressy shoes, choose a pair that doesn’t take up a lot of space.

These practical packing tips take much of the stress out of the typical road trip. You can bring along the necessities without sacrificing legroom.