How to pack your car for a holiday or road trip: top packing tips to maximise space and keep luggage safe

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The ultimate guide to getting all your luggage safely and securely stowed before hitting the road

Summer is here and with it comes festival season, the lure of a road trip and the prospect of a week or two's holiday.

For millions of families and friends that means piling into the car and heading off somewhere new - whether that's in the UK or further afield - usually in pursuit of some decent weather.

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When organising such trips there is plenty of preparation you can do - packing the right clothes, planning your itinerary and plotting every fuel stop and lunch location along your route - but there’s always a fear that you’ll still be standing on the driveway half an hour after you were due to leave trying to figure out how to fit that last piece of luggage into the car.

Of course, you could just cram stuff in any old way, slam the boot and hope for the best but taking a little time and care can save stress in the long run, and ensure nothing gets damaged or left behind in the process.

So, with that in mind, here are our top tips on car packing for your next holiday or road trip.

Proper planning prevents poor packing

Before you start stuffing suitcases in, look at the size and shape of your car’s boot and the size and shape of all the things you want to pack. A little forethought will help you work out the best place for everything and maximise space.

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Start with the heavy stuff

Put your biggest and heaviest bags or cases in first and position these as close to the rear seats as possible. Once these are in you can start stacking the smaller, lighter items on top, making sure everything is securely in place and not likely to slide around.

Think about how you can best fit all your items of luggage around each other (Photo: Shutterstock)Think about how you can best fit all your items of luggage around each other (Photo: Shutterstock)
Think about how you can best fit all your items of luggage around each other (Photo: Shutterstock)

Use soft bags

Rigid suitcases are great for protecting your luggage if you’re flying but they take up a lot of space. For car travel softer bags are a better option, allowing you to squash and squeeze them to fit the available space. When you’re packing these bags, experts recommend you roll rather than fold your clothes to maximise the amount you can fit in each bag.

Suck it up

Even better than rolling items into soft bags is vacuum packing. You can pick up vacuum packing bags from any number of places and by sucking all of the air out of the bags you can half the amount of space soft items like clothes and bedding take up.

Don’t overload

Try not to let your packing obscure your view out the rear window and make sure there are no items lying loose that could move and injure someone if you have to brake suddenly.

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Cramming too much in is bad for your fuel economy and risks overloading the car’s suspension so think about what you’re packing and ask yourself if you really need it all. If space is tight you’ll need to prioritise and decide whether a dozen pairs of shoes are really necessary or if you can live without those camping chairs.

Use every space

Remember what we said about planning? If you’ve done it right you should be able to arrange things to make the absolute most of your car’s boot, fitting odd-shaped items around other bags and boxes. But don’t just use the boot. Door pockets, gloveboxes and centre consoles can all be used to hold smaller items and if you’ve got small passengers, the rear footwells can double as storage spaces too.

Seat back organisers are also a great way to keep bits and pieces you’ll need for the journey, such as drinks, snacks and games.

Keep a go-bag

The last thing you want while travelling is to realise you’ve packed something vital right at the back beneath everything else. If you’re going on a long trip it’s a good idea to pack a small bag with any day-to-day essentials - snacks, sun cream, passports - and pack this last or keep it in the body of the car. That way when you stop for a break you’ve got easy access to everything you need.

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Check your tyres

Finally, if you know you’re going to be travelling fully laden it’s essential you adjust your car’s tyres accordingly. The owner’s manual should give two pressures, one for a light load and one for a heavy load. Make sure you inflate the tyres to the correct pressure to avoid potentially damaging your tyres while travelling.

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