How to Pack Light for a Family Road Trip

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‘Packing light’ and ‘family road trip’ are two terms that don’t seem to belong in the same sentence. But trust us, it is more doable than you think. Even if your family is notorious for overpacking, there are plenty of ways you can cut down on the luggage for the next road trip. And no, you don’t have to fully adopt minimalism to do it.

To keep your luggage light and your car relatively uncluttered, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind for your next family road trip.

1. Plan to do the laundry

If the road trip is going to last for more than three days, it’s probably best to bring some laundry supplies with you and cut down on the number of clothes everybody is bringing. Unless there are only three people in the family, having four or more days’ worth of clothes in the luggage is likely excessive and impractical. Hence, doing some laundry during the trip can help you lighten your luggage by a significant amount; you can easily find a laundromat anywhere, and there are also laundry services at hotels.

2. Be selective about the baby stuff

For such small humans that they are, babies sure do need a lot of stuff. And as a parent, it can be incredibly frustrating if you need something for your infant and it isn’t within reach. This is why many of us tend to overpack for our baby, and while it is a way of ‘playing safe’, a lot of what we bring is unnecessary.

That said, be more selective when packing baby gear. They probably don’t need that whole bag of toys while on a road trip, nor that huge carrier if you’re already bringing a stroller. Save space for the most important stuff and leave the not-so-essential things at home.

3. Share the essentials

There is no sense to have each family member bring their own essentials if you can share them anyway. This includes toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, dental floss, and other non-personal items. Instruct everyone in the family to bring only their personal items (e.g., toothbrush, comb, hairbrush, etc.) and plan to share the rest.

If the road trip is going to last for a week or so, it’s also a good idea to just buy the essentials when you get to your first destination, especially if you need large containers of them.

Woman traveling alone in a busy street

4. Limit the number of bags

There is only so much space in the trunk of a car or the storage area of an RV. Either way, you need to limit the number of bags that you bring not to weigh down the vehicle too much nor make the space too crowded. Limit each family member to one or two bags, depending on how much vehicle storage space you have. Furthermore, be specific about the size of the bag they can bring to ensure that no one brings too much stuff.

This strategy is also a great way to prevent family members from overpacking; if they can only bring a couple of bags, they are more likely to think harder of what to prioritize and what they can leave behind.

5. Easy on the toys

One of the most challenging parts about road tripping with kids is keeping them entertained. Road trips are a lot of fun, but the time in between stopovers can be incredibly boring. To avoid meltdowns in the car, they pack a lot of things to entertain their kids, be it books, toys, gadgets, and all sorts of knickknacks.

However, bringing too much of this stuff can easily leave you with a cluttered car—and there is no guarantee that they will keep the kids entertained anyway. That said, limit the toys to a small bag at most. Have the kids choose their most favorite ones to bring on the road trip, but ask them to prioritize the smallest ones.

6. Pack easy-to-match clothes

Packing clothes that are easy to match with each other reduces the number of clothes you need to bring, which applies to the whole family. If you want to stay stylish and keep your luggage light at the same time, make sure that most of the clothing items you bring can coordinate well with each other.

Don’t spend your next road trip lugging around too-heavy luggage every time you check into a hotel or have to get something from a bag. Keep your luggage light by following these strategies, and remember that you don’t need half of the stuff you think you need.