Helping people have the best road trips possible is something we’ve been doing for decades. In honor of the 90th anniversary edition of the Rand McNally Road Atlas, we’ve compiled 90 tips—45 of them in the atlas itself and 45 more in this series of four articles. Tips #46–#58 focus on packing both your bags and your car. Remember, you can pick up tips #1–#45 in the 2014 Rand McNally Road Atlas, available in stores and online.
#46: Create a travel wardrobe—Part 1. Select a few key pieces in a dark neutral color that you can readily mix, match, and accessorize to create many outfits. Black, navy blue, and brown hide stains (and things can get messy on the road) better than lighter colors.
#47: Create a travel wardrobe—Part 2: Choose clothes made of lightweight fabrics that take up minimum space; are wrinkle-resistant; and are easy to layer, hand wash, and line dry. Good choices are jersey, cotton/Lycra or lighter-wool blends, and that “wicking” technical material used for active wear. If it’s cold, consider investing in some thin but oh-so warm silk long underwear.
#48: Sort out the spare keys. Be sure you have an extra set of all the keys from home and for the car.Designate one person as the “keeper of the spares,” and have that person keep the spare keys with him or her at all times, so you’ll never get locked out.
#49: Make both digital and hard-copy lists of important contacts. It should include numbers for roadside assistance, reporting lost credit cards, your car insurance company, and medical and other emergency contacts. Keep one hard copy in the glove compartment and another in someone’s purse or knapsack.
#50: Leave a copy of your itinerary with someone at home, and check in regularly. This is especially important if you’re traveling alone and/or in remote areas.
#51: Stock up for pit stops. Pack plenty of pocket packs of tissues, hand sanitizer, moist wipes, and a travel size spray bottle filled with alcohol. You can use the latter not only to sanitize hands but also to clean surfaces before eating or to spray public toilet seats. Also, if you have small kids, clean the removable plastic potty-chair receptacle and bring it along in a plastic bag for use in emergency bathroom situations.
#52: Bring a cooler. Even if you prefer restaurants to picnics, have a small cooler filled with healthful drinks and snacks to stay well hydrated and well nourished on the road.You’ll not only keep those energy bars from melting and that fruit from going bad, but you’ll also save money.
#53: Pack things to keep everyone entertained. The list should include car games; print and audio books; and tablets loaded with digital books, games, and movies.
#54: Plan to stay connected in the car. Bring a wireless router that allows for mobile internet access.
#55: Organize loose items in translucent-plastic lidded bins sold at houseware stores. They’re waterproof, durable, reusable, stackable, and come in many sizes. You can see what’s inside, and you can label them. They’re perfect for holding tools; roadside emergency kits; camping gear; pet food and accessories; and rain or snow gear like umbrellas, rain ponchos, scrapers, and de-icer.
#56: Have a separate plastic bin or a box to hold recyclables. If your campground doesn’t offer recycling, check out apps that help you find recycling centers.
#57: Separate on-the-road stuff from when-we-get there items. Smaller grab-and-go bags packed only with overnight essentials simplifies stopping at day’s end.
#58: Load the car with care. The least essential items go in first followed by the more essential stuff (like your smaller, grab-and-go overnight bags). Keep absolute essentials right at hand. These include first-aid kits, important medications, tissues, sanitizers, moist wipes, diapers, etc.
For further details and additional packing tips, see Planning an RV Friendly Wardrobe and RV Storage Smarts, both of which have ideas for general road trippers as well as RVers.