Plan Your Way To An Epic Road Trip!

When was the last time you went on a road trip?

Chances are the answer is probably pretty recent. Thanks to the pandemic and restrictions on travel the road trip seems to be the new big vacation. I know this from experience, because we recently took a road trip to one of our amazing national parks.

Whether you are someone who has done plenty of road trips, or if you are a newbie, chances are you are looking for the trip to go as smoothly as possible.

Here are a few tried-and-true tips and tricks to help make your next road trip an adventure worthy of the Instagram pics that will follow.

One – Make A List

Or, make a few lists! If you know me, work with me, or follow my blog or social media, you probably know that I recommend that most projects start with a list. Going on a road trip is no different. Here are some of the list ideas that I recommend to start with:

  • Activity List

Let’s start with an activity list. Think about all of the things that you will be doing on your trip and all of the stops that you will be making. For example, your activity list may include things like hiking, biking, or maybe even golf. Stops along the way may include a night with friends, a night at a hotel, or a roadside picnic along the way.

If you start with your activity list you are able to get a good picture of what you will be doing along the trip. This will help you to begin your next list…

  • The Packing List

The best place to start your packing list is by making note of all the things you need for the activities that you included on your previous list. Example, if you are hiking your list may include things like hiking boots, hiking shorts, a moisture wicking shirt, a backpack and sunscreen.

Go through each of the activities that are on the list and add the necessary supplies and clothes to your packing list. After you have all of the necessities for your activities, you then add all of the other things that you will need for your trip; things like clothes, shoes, and toiletries.

You may be saying to yourself, “I don’t need to make a list of the clothes that I’m going to pack!”

If you have ever gone on vacation and found that you have forgotten something like socks, or a certain pair of shoes to wear with a certain dress, making a list will definitely be of use.

  • Food and Snack List

The next list is going to be your food and snacks. Again, you’re going to want to think about the activities that you are taking part in and once again plan accordingly. Make sure you have small packaged snacks for your hike and sandwiches for your roadside picnic. Maybe you are staying in a place where you are able to cook meals. If your accommodations allow you to prepare food then you are going to want to pre-plan your menu so that you know you have everything you need. If you rely on your Airbnb or VRBO to have all of the things you need for your recipes, you may find yourself disappointed. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to find the nearest grocery to where you are staying…just in case!

Two – Decide On A Packing Strategy

Now that you have all of your lists, it’s time to think about how you are going to pack it all into the vehicle you will be driving. Think about how much room you have and decide simple things like, will you be taking a suitcase or a duffel bag? This is a good place to consult with whoever else is going on the trip. More importantly, you will want to check in with the person who will be packing the car (if it is not you!). The last thing you want to happen is to roll down to the car with a huge suitcase when the space you have won’t allow for it.

Three – Pack With A Purpose

One thing to remember when you’re going on a road trip is that you probably don’t need a lot of the same things you may need for other types of trips. One of the best rules to follow is to “keep it simple.” Try to limit things like the number of shoes you’re bringing or the number of outfits. Over packing is just going to make packing (and unpacking) the car that much harder.

If you are staying overnight in a hotel or maybe at a friend’s house, you may want to think about packing a separate overnight bag. This will allow you to easily have what you need for one night in a place without having to completely empty out the car or lug in a large suitcase or duffle.

Utilize things like large totes, or even storage bins to make packing food and snacks as easy as possible. Pro tip: make sure you have a snack bag for the ride so you won’t have to pull over and dig through your food haul to find a granola bar for a hungry kid!

Four – Get Ready To Roll

Two or three days before we leave on a road trip I usually sit down and think about the things that need to be done before we go. And yes, I make another list! These are things like pausing the mail, skipping the milk delivery, and making sure I have no packages arriving from Amazon.

The day before we usually take the time to get other things done so that we can leave and feel like we are not forgetting something. Here are a couple things that I recommend:

Run the dishwasher one last time. If you don’t have time to empty it make sure to leave the door open so the dishes can dry completely. After you run the last load of dishes, remind the family that everything from there on out needs to be washed by hand.

Clean out the refrigerator. This is one of the things that I highly recommend. There’s nothing worse than coming home from a road trip and having stinky vegetables or gross leftovers waiting for you. Taking things one step further, one thing that I have found helpful is to completely empty at least one shelf in the refrigerator. As I am prepping the food and snacks that we are taking I put them all on that one shelf. This way when it’s time to pack the cooler, I can simply say everything on that shelf needs to go in!

Get ready to go. The last thing I do is lay out my clothes for the drive, coordinate the time that we will be hitting the road, set my alarm, and get a good night’s sleep.

Packing for any kind of vacation can sometimes feel like a daunting task. Packing for a road trip brings its own set of challenges. However, by preparing ahead of time and making lists you may find that by the time the wheels hit the pavement you are ready to have a great time!

Published by Jenn DePauw - Organized Priorities

Jenn is the owner of Organized Priorities, a Colorado-based company specializing in Organization, Productivity, and Operations. As an organization and productivity professional, Jenn specializes in individual and team productivity coaching as well as organization for both individuals and small businesses. She is also the author of The Organized Priorities Blog (, an organization and lifestyle blog that focuses on making life more organized, more productive, and a little easier. For helpful tips on everything from weekly planning to home organization, and daily celebrations to words of encouragement you can follow @organizedpriorities on Instagram.

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