I’ve done enough moving and road trips in my Honda Accord enough times to call myself an expert in the art of packing small cars (and leaving enough room so you can still see out of the back windshield).
It really is like a game of Tetris and I have to thank my parents and friends for playing with me.
Here are some tricks that I wish I had known sooner:
Start with the larger items
It may be tempting to start by throwing blankets in the back seat or shoving a small duffel bag into the back corner of your trunk, but there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself trying to finagle everything again when you’re trying to find a spot for your larger items. It may be more efficient to start with the big items, then use the space you have left to play Tetris with everything else.
Clothes inside clothes inside clothes
Need to bring multiple pairs of shoes? Pack your flats into your boots, or pack accessories like scarves and jewelry into your shoes. Additionally, fold a flattened pair of underwear into your shirt instead of balling it up and throwing it in your suitcase. You’d be amazed how much safe that can save!
Space saver bags are your friend
Use vaccum-sealed space saver bags to shrink down everything you can – clothes, blankets, stuffed animals, dog toys – whatever you can. These magical products remove all the air from your packing and make your items as small as physically possible.
Most suitcases (especially hard shell suitcases) are unnecessarily bulky. If you’re trying to fill a small car for a road trip, you probably don’t NEED to use suitcases. Instead, use soft duffel bags for your clothes and toiletries. They’re easier to fit into small spaces (like under a seat), and could be easier to stack.
Everything else you need to bring can be packed separately.
Customize your vehicle if possible
If you can’t remove the back seats, think for a minute about the best way to position them. If you’re bringing a lot of larger items, like guitars, boogie boards, etc., it might be best to lay them flat (if possible). If you’re mostly packing boxes and smaller items, it may actually work in your favor to leave the seats upright. Why? It will help you position things so that they don’t move around in transport. Anything you place directly behind the chair won’t be able to move, so it creates a nice little spot for fragile items.
Extra small spaces
Don’t forget about all the extra nooks and crannies. Roll up a beach towel and place it under the driver’s seat. Put your sunscreen in the back cupholders. Lay a blanket flat across the top of your other items instead of rolling it up and trying to shove it inbetween them.
Don’t forget the seat pockets
Seat-back pockets aren’t just for brochures and extra fast food napkins. Use them for anything you forgot or anything you couldn’t find another place for – socks, extra phone chargers, toiletries, hats, snacks, water bottles, etc.
Organize your glovebox and other compartments
Clip your insurance card and other documents to the sun visors instead of placing them in the glovebox. That will leave room for you to put other things there, like electronic devices or extra road trip snacks.
Most important tip: Nothing you’re trying to bring with you is worth sacrificing the safety that comes with being able to see out of the back window.
Safe travels, friends.