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How to organize your car for road trips

by respaced on July 16, 2013

It’s summer, which means a lot of you will be taking road trips and spending hours in your car. Cars can benefit from organization too, because maximizing space can really contribute to everyone’s comfort level (leg room = happy campers) as well as to everyone’s safety in the event of an accident. So with that in mind, here are some of my favorite ideas for organizing your car for a road trip:

1. Grab some boxes or grocery bags and clear out the car before you hit the road. To make it easier, label each bag with different category such as “garbage,” “goes in the house,” “goes in the garage,” etc. and get a family member to assist you, so you can hand things to him/her to put in the appropriate bag as you clean out the car. This will make it go much faster than trying to clean out your car on your own! (And need I mention that this isn’t a project to start the night before you leave?)

2. While you are on the road, use a small bag for trash in the car. It sometimes helps to have a small bag in the front of the car as well as a second bag in the back of the car for the kiddos to use. Collecting trash in your car and emptying it each day will go a LONG way toward keeping your car clean and odor-free while you are traveling. A package of bags that are typically used for collecting dirty diapers or dog waste is a space-saving way to pack a lot of disposable trash bags with you.

Playtex Diaper Genie Portable Bag Dispenser @ Target for $3.74

3. At the risk of being too gross, consider packing a car sick kit if you are traveling with children. I know I wish I had done this on our 6-hour trip to our camping site a few years back — purple grape juice vomit everywhere! Now I always pack a car sick kit when we go on long car trips. My car sick kit consists of a bath towel (to cover his seat in case it gets, um, coated), Handi-Wipes for face and hands and extra plastic bags to store soiled clothes, which also double as barf bags. Haven’t had to use it since the one time he got sick; Murphy’s Law at work there.

These car hooks from The Container Store are perfect for holding your trash bag or the car sick kit. $6.99

4. The Container Store also features a few products for organizing the inside of your car:

This Folding Trunk Organizer (above) holds your bags in place with Velcro on the bottom, and folds down when not in use. The price is great too. $11.99

And this Driver Cup, also from The Container Store, sits in your cup holder or child’s cup holder and has three compartments to hold their sunglasses, snacks and small toys or activities. $10.99

5. Speaking of the kiddos, you can also give them access to all of their toys, activities and other necessities (yes, they ARE necessities on a multi-hour road trip!) with a back seat organizer. There are a variety to choose from (just Google “car organizers”), but I really like this one from

Prince Lionheart Back Seat Organizer at for $24.99

6. Take a few extra seconds to pop your directions/map/check-in information in a clear sheet protector, available at any office supply store. It’s such a simple thing, but it really helps to keep those papers from getting lost in the car.

7. Be aware that in a car accident, anything not strapped down can become a projectile (think of your metal water bottle slamming into your child’s head at 60 miles per hour.) It might not be possible to put ALL of your belongings in the trunk, but do make sure you put the most dangerous things (eg. sharp, pointy or heavy things) back there.

8. And while we are on the subject of safety, don’t pack things under  the front seats or allow heavy things to slide down there. The mechanism that allows the car’s airbags to deploy in an accident is located under the front seats, and if you have too much stuff there, it could damage the mechanism, stopping your airbags from deploying when you need them most. Again, put that stuff in your trunk.

I hope you find these tips helpful as you get ready for your next road trip this summer. If you have some of your own tips you have found useful, please include them in the comments below. Happy Traveling!

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