Travel Packing Tips, Tricks and Lists

What’s the difference between packing for a road trip and packing for any other type of vacation? There are several differences and they affect both under-packers and over-packers. Most people fall into one of these two categories.

I’m a reformed over-packer. While trying to reform, I ended up swinging to the opposite end of the spectrum and started under-packing. I’ll never forget the time I thought I’d buy hairspray while on a trip up the California coast with my family.

Sebastian Shaper Plus is the only kind of hairspray I use and I’m a real stickler about it. They sell it in the local CVS in my town, so I assumed it would be easy to find in California. Wrong! We traipsed all over going from store to store. Every time I thought I sighted that white bottle, it was another brand or a knock-off. I gnashed my teeth and wished I’d just packed it.

Since then, I’ve become much savvier, but it took some time and effort and I didn’t have any guidance. These travel packing tips and lists will save you all that time and effort and make you a better packer for any kind of trip you take.

What are you? An over-packer or an under-packer?

Travel Packing Tips


Over-packers have it the worst on road trips. Unlike most vacations where you are limited to one suitcase and one carry-on on the plane, a road trip beckons over-packers with the fantasy that they can bring as much as they want. I can hear the call of the over-packer now…

  • “Of course, we can fit that in! There’s tons of room in the car!”
  • “I’m a master packer – wait ‘til you see me in action. You’d be amazed at what I can fit into a trunk!”
  • “That? Yeah, let’s bring that, too. You never know what you’ll need.”
  • “I was a Boy Scout and you know their motto: always be prepared!”

I wonder how many people are painfully crushed in cars that are over-packed every year. There must be a statistic somewhere. Over-packers need to take off their rose-colored glasses and face the reality that you cannot fit your entire house into your car!

Luckily, even a chronic over-packer can be cured if they’re willing (and read these travel packing tips)!


Under-packers are in heaven on airplanes and trains with their tiny bags and miniature toiletries. Being forced to buy things if they need them on their trip is worth it to not have to drag around heavy bags.

But when it comes to a road-trip, it just doesn’t make sense to under-pack. Having to shop on the road takes time away from sightseeing and other fun activities, and though there’s not an endless amount of room in the car (as the over-packer fervently believes), there is enough room to bring what you need.

Travel Packing Tips

What should you do?

First, check out my General Packing List that covers every kind of trip. Then, see my specific packing lists including CampingSpring BreakSkiing and SnowboardingSummer Beach. These will help you remember those things that didn’t cross your mind. Also, what you pack can depend on who you’re traveling with – see my Romantic and Family packing lists if you’re planning either kind of trip.

More importantly, read my article Packing 101: The List. The simple method outlined in this article makes the packing process so fun and worry-free you’ll end up using it whenever you travel!

Travel packing tips included in the articles The Joy of Baggies, and Packing the Trunk Like a Pro, and Tips for Packing a Suitcase will help you with the packing process itself. With all these tools, the packing will soon be a breeze for you, and your road trip will be that much better for it!

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