How to Pack for a Budget, Cross-Country Road Trip w/o Kids!
So you are going on a road trip, Awesome! No really, I am so excited for you, there are so many things to experience/see/do when you hit the open road. It may not be as dramatic as international travel but trust me when I say, you will see many different walks of life if you open your eyes to somewhere new. You will also see a lot of Walmarts, Waffle Houses, and Ruby Tuesdays to name a few.
Have patience my dears! Learning to travel on the road is just like any other learning endeavor. You gotta crawl before you walk!
I am currently on my third road trip. The first two lasted 40 days each and I spent more money than I’d like on trips to those annoyingly awesomely convenient Walmarts, but when you need a can opener for that well planned lunch what’s a girl to do?
So how do you make your road trip cost effective, convenient and the trip of your life? PLAN AHEAD!
So read on as I describe the perfect car/truck pack list! Don’t bother with this list if you are only in the car for a week or so, this is maintenance travel my friend. We are in this for the economical long haul.
Whether you are glam camping or slumming it in motels you need to have things accessible. The best way to do that is to have your stuff organized and in separate bags or containers. This way when you just need that bottle of allergy meds you can pull out the first aid bag instead of digging through a huge luggage bag, cause who wants to do that when they’re sneezing their head off!
Doesn’t matter if you’re bagging it or boxing it here are my suggestions for each compartment.
Obviously we have all heard that rolling your clothes is better than folding cause it saves space and less wrinkles so I won’t mention it here. Wink wink. But when packing this bag be aware of different climate zones you are going to travel through and which zones you are hitting first. If you are headed to Florida put the cold stuff on the bottom.
For long term trips you are most likely not washing your clothes after each wear, but I would suggest packing a plastic bag or garbage bag to store your dirty clothes. This way two weeks into the trip you’re not at a laundromat struggling to remember how many times you wore that shirt.
If you have the space in your ride, a cheap and convenient way to store your clothes is one of those plastic drawer systems. It makes it super easy to find clothing, especially in different climates.
So you may ask why not just put these in with my clothes? Well I’m here to tell you there will be some nights when you pull into the motel/campsite and don’t give a shit about what you will be wearing tomorrow, and all you will want to do is brush your teeth. I highly recommend a Backpack for these. When you do feel like bringing in your clothes, plus the cooler, your computer, take out, and that bottle of wine you might want some free hands.
While your at it throw your computer in your toiletry bag along with your phone charger. Those are the two things you will almost always want with you. If you have a smart tv plug in like Chromecast or fire stick, throw that bad boy in there too!
It’s going to happen. You will have a headache, or heartburn, or the sniffles. So lets move past the macho mentality “ain’t nothing gonna bring me down!” It’s inevitable! You are on the road, meeting tons of people, changing temps, shitty food! At some point your body is gonna fight back and say hold up I need a break!
Be prepared! Because honey aspirin is expensive when you buy it two pills at a time. Even if you buy a bottle, aren’t you kicking yourself because you have like twelve at home!
Go to the craft store and get yourself some Screw Stack containers. Toss in your most commonly used pills. If your really into it grab some airplane bottles to hold alcohol or peroxide. Screw Stacks work great for spices too!
For this I use a drawstring bag, its the perfect size for magazines, books, etc. Again its easy to throw on your back to take into a hotel room or around the campfire. Also, I usually keep this bag in the cabin of the car behind our seats. This way you always have it close when you’re not driving and bored with facebook.
Next up is the really important part of cheap roadtripping…Food.
Can’t do a budget road trip when you eat every meal out. Think about it. If you do McDonalds breakfast $6. Lunch at Chipotle? $10. Dinner at Ruby Tuesday with a glass of wine and tip $30. Thats $46 per day per person, on food you could have stayed home to eat.
Nope. Instead we plan on eating two meals from the groceries in our car and one meal a day out. That way we can try that local restaurant that was on the food network for their banging BBQ. Or just have that hot meal at the end of the long day.
When we travel we have a pantry and a cooler. The cooler needs to be maintained with fresh ice or a refrozen ice pack, but other than that it is pretty economical.
We keep this and the cooler in the back seat, within reach for snacks or making a sandwich on the road. We have snacks, bread, ramen, peanut butter, etc in it for our meals. We also keep a fork/knife/spoon/plate/bowl/cup for each person. Trust me, nothing is more annoying then to try to go to a Chick-Fil-A for a spoon at 11 am to eat your yogurt for breakfast and be told they don’t carry spoons.
Also good to have; can opener, wine opener, beer opener, plastic bags, paper towels, binder clips (for closing chip bags), and garbage bags.
Generally any open box would work for your pantry. Milk carton, cardboard box, grocery basket…if you ever came across a free one.
This is just a basic utility bag for camping out. Lighters, pocket knives, rope, Leatherman, etc. For a detailed list of what we keep in ours check out the Roadtripping Camping Checklist!
We used a rubbermaid storage container for ours. It had everything in it we needed to prepare a meal with that wasn’t already in our pantry. Inside we had our cutting board, knives, camp stove, propane, utensils, pots & pans, etc. When we were camping we just pulled it out with the pantry and cooler. When we were in a motel, it was conveniently in the back of the car.
That’s the major bags I like to have. Ryan and I also have a book bag with our snorkel gear handy and I like to have a beach bag at the ready as well. It has my beach book, sunscreen and my favorite beach towel.
Wait I’m not done, sorry.
Ok so you have all your junk separated now you gotta pack it away so its easy to get to…when you NEED it!
FOOD, ENTERTAINMENT, & TRASH should be close to you when you are in the front seats of the car. We used a bungee cord to tie a small trash can to the behind the center console, it was out of the way but still highly accessible.
CAMP gear should be together and easy to access. CLOTHING should be grouped together as well. Last year we tried to have two bags each for different seasons. We would keep one bag tucked deep under the mattress and the one we needed close to the front. This was a huge pain in the ass! It felt like the weather went from summer to winter and back again every other day! Trust me your gonna wear less clothes than you think, pack light!
STUFF WE ALMOST ALWAYS FORGET
ATLAS. The odds of your phone GPS going out is actually pretty good when you get to some of the nice, more secluded areas. The odds of your car GPS going out is less likely but still a possibility. Have a road Atlas to make your mother and me happy, stay safe friends.
CAR BATTERY CHARGER. (preferably one that can inflate tires too) Again you may have roadside assistance but that does not guarantee you will have cellular service to call them.
EMERGENCY KIT. Extra Water, flares, radio, that foil blanket thingy. Really this should be in your car every day but for real going cross country.
DOWNLOADED MOVIES & UPDATED PLAYLIST. Trust me the road gets boring from time to time. Radio stations get even more tired. Have a back up for when service is out or you have used up your data. If your like me and don’t have a ton of saved music, I like Spotify. Pandora has a better algorithm for stations in my opinion, but…Spotify lets you save unlimited music to your phone for offline use! so might be worth the extra $5 a month if your on the road.
COPIES OF CREDIT CARDS. Hopefully you won’t need this but in the event you lose your wallet or ‘eek’ it gets stolen, have a picture of your cards to ease the pain and time you spend on the phone canceling cards.
WINE KEY. No but seriously have you ever tried to open a wine bottle with a shoe? Zero fun. But just in case you’re desperate. How to open a wine bottle with a Shoe.
BUG SPRAY. OK so maybe you’re not camping. But have you ever been to South Carolina when there wasn’t swarms of gnats? Bring it and keep it close and dear to your heart. Stay tuned for a non-toxic bug spray recipe!
For a more detailed checklist for your journey please download my trip planners.
That is it friends…for now. If you like these tips there are plenty more to come! Please follow my blog to follow my journey!
Safe Travels Friends!
Have anything I missed? Let me know!