Organize Your Car For a Road Trip

Last year, AAA estimated 33.9 million Americans were on the road during July 4th weekend. During the golden days every fall, people drive far and wide to see the Autumn leaves. And in November and December, not even the high price of gasoline can keep people from going over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.

To have the best time possible when you and your family or travel buddies are on the road, be sure to drive straight between the dotted yellow lines, but organize with a curvy “S” for Success: Safety, Sanity and Simplicity!


It should go without saying that arriving safely is the most important aspect of any road trip. Review these safety basics long before you pull out of the driveway.

  • Have a reputable mechanic check your oil, tire pressure, battery, belts, hoses and fluid levels a few days before you get on the road.
  • Review your car maintenance records to see if you are due for any major system overhauls. Dealing with a roadside breakdown is always more expensive than doing preventative care
  • Pack a car safety kit including a small toolbox, jumper cables, emergency flares, a flashlight, an aerosol flat-fixer, and a first-aid kit. When traveling to snowy climates, include a bag of cat litter or rock salt, a warm hat and gloves, a few thermal packs and an ice scraper/snow brush. If you might be changing a flat or doing minor repairs yourself, carry a light-weight rain slicker to keep your clothes dry and clean while you work. Pack your kit last so in an emergency you don’t have to unload the trunk to get to what you need.
  • Bring your cell phone and auto-charger and a list of emergency numbers at home and your destination.
  • Leave a copy of your itinerary and directions with friends. If you leave your directions at a rest stop or they blow away, this is a better back-up plan than guessing which way “looks” right.
  • WEAR A SEAT BELT! Make it a rule that everyone must wear one, or the engine (including the heat and air conditioning) won’t be turned on.


Parents, teenagers and little tyckes in an enclosed space for hours on end is a recipe for chaos. Keep the mood light with these alternatives to rousing choruses of “Are we there yet?” and “Don’t make me come back there!”

  • Entertainment– Pack brain-teasers and trivia questions to speed the time. MadLibs® may have fallen out of fashion, but the goofiness makes them perfect for long road trips. Bring a variety of music or books-on-CD to satisfy each person and take turns for each rider’s preference. If your vehicle is equipped with a back-seat DVD player, be sure to bring programming for all-ages, but pack headphones so the driver doesn’t have to listen to same Wiggles song for 300 miles.
  • Food-Pack a cooler of easy-to-chew, fragrance-free finger foods-no one wants to smell that tuna sandwich two hours after lunch and you don’t want to arrive covered in crumbs. Small plastic container of celery and carrot sticks, pretzels and fruit are healthy but won’t make you feel full when you’re folded into a car for hours on end. Bring beverages in plastic bottles with tops rather than pop-top cans to keep things neat.
  • Breaks-Stop for bathroom visits and stretching every two hours. That’s the perfect time for the driver and navigator to change positions to reduce road fatigue.


Don’t stuff your station wagon like it’s a covered wagon. After all, half the fun of a vacation is buying things at your destination, and you don’t want to pay to ship it all back home.

  • Don’t pack everything you own for a four-day weekend. Make a checklist of what’s needed for each event on the trip, check the items off as you pack, and give yourself permission to not be perfect. You can always pick up items at your destination.
  • Bring directions and maps from at least two sources. AAA offers free Trip-Tiks to members, and you can get turn-by-turn directions from Mapquest or GoogleMaps.
  • Fill your gas tank the DAY BEFORE you leave on the trip, so you can get on the road as soon as possible. Gas prices are lowest in the middle of the week, and if you have a long trip ahead of you, consider visiting to find the cheapest gasoline prices along your route.
  • Pack zip-lock baggies in multiple sizes for everything from wet washcloths to dirty diapers to knocked-out baby teeth.
  • Bring loose change for vending machines and toll roads.

The success of a road trip often depend on the company you keep. There’s no way to ensure that your first trip in a new romance won’t be your last, or that siblings will even be speaking to one another by the time they reach the Happiest Place On Earth. But if you organize your trip to plan ahead and travel SAFELY, you’re much more likely to enjoy the journey as much as your destination.

Copyright © 2005 Julie Bestry and Best Results Organizing. All rights reserved.


About the Author:   Julie Bestry is a professional organizer, speaker and author, who helps individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems. Her most recent book is 57 Secrets for Organizing Your Small Business. For information on how Julie can turn your chaos into serenity, visit Best Results Organizing at

You may reprint this article, as long as you include all of the above text, the About the Author box and a working link to