Car packing tips and tricks for your next adventure

Have you ever started packing for a journey to one of the top USA ski trip destinations and realized there was no place left to put the skis after you squeezed everything else from your packing list into the trunk?

We’ve been there.

Greenvans started with “one passenger van” to rent to a community of musicians. Since touring bands require a lot of equipment, which is not compact, we became experts in packing for long journeys on the road soon enough.

Maximizing space and fitting as much gear as possible is just as essential for musicians as for families and friends on a road trip. Here are 16 tips and tricks we’ve learned to make the experience of packing a car as seamless as possible:

1. Get the right vehicle

Ample space for packing is essential on a road trip of any length, so whether you’re planning a Memorial Day getaway or hitting up the best places to go camping across the country, a passenger van rental is a great option. Depending on your cargo and how many people are traveling, we can remove one or two rows of seats to accommodate your things. Bring skis, tents, beach chairs — whatever you need, as everything will fit snugly in the back of the van.

2. Clean and organized

One of the most essential road trip packing hacks is that your vehicle must be clean and clutter-free. Before you begin, remove all dirt and debris from the back, floor, and seats to ensure nothing you bring is soiled. Take out unnecessary items that may have been collected over time, including bottles, cartons, and tools in the trunk.

But if you would rather avoid this step, rent a Greenvans passenger van from Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond, New York, or Washington, D.C. Our vehicles come spotless and organized, with plenty of space to pack everything you need.

3. Pre-pack correctly

This step can save you a lot of time and stress down the line. Sit down with your travel companions and list everything you need to bring. Start with the essentials before moving on to the non-essentials. If you’re unsure where to start, check out 30 road trip essentials to add to your packing list

A solid vision of what’s coming with you for the ride will help you avoid overpacking and help you decide which items need to be within reach when you are on the road.

4. Use vacuum storage bags

This has single-handedly changed the car-packing game for road trippers all over the globe. Long stretches between destinations can lead to naps, and pillows and blankets are useful accessories. Unfortunately, they also take up space. Fortunately, vacuum storage bags exist. These come with a valve cap and a hand pump to suck the air out of the bag, thereby compressing and significantly reducing the size of soft but bulky items. These bags are also helpful for jackets, sweaters, and clothing in general.

5. Consider a hitch mounted cargo carrier.

How do you pack a car for a road trip? Look into buying or borrowing a hitch mounted cargo carrier. If you need a little extra storage space behind the van, a hitch mounted cargo carrier is an easy way to pack some extra gear without having to rent a trailer. This is especially useful for coolers or if you’re bringing the grill with you.


6. Rent a trailer 

Another excellent source of additional space is a trailer that can be hitched to different-sized vehicles. It’s one of the top packing tips for road trips that require lots of gear, like snowboarding getaways or camping adventures. Determining whether your car can handle a trailer and, if so, up to what capacity is imperative. 

Alternatively, consider a Greenvans van rental from any of our northeast locations. Our passenger vans have a class 3 factory tow hitch for up to 5,000 lbs. Talk to one of our friendly customer service reps to determine if you need a trailer for your trip and how to rent it.

7. Break down more oversized items to conserve space

Are you bringing large sports gear? Musical equipment? Disassembling what you can into smaller components can help conserve space in your vehicle. Make the trip more accessible by organizing the pieces into labeled bags or containers, making them easily accessible for reassembly later. 

8. Use all storage spaces available.

There’s more to a vehicle than just the trunk! One of the most overlooked car packing tips is to use unconventional storage space. See what you can fit under the seats, in seatback pockets, and the glove compartment. You might be surprised at the space you can save using these hidden areas. Storage spaces like these are helpful for the items you’d like to have within your reach. See #13 for more specific examples. 

9. Buy van organizers 

Consider investing in a collapsable car or van organizer. These come in many styles — some slipping over the back of your seat and others fitting in the trunk. Most are equipped with insulated waterproof storage containers. If you plan on bringing tablets to watch movies, look for an organizer with a touchscreen tablet holder that hangs behind the front seat.

10. Hang bags to free up floor space 

Hanging garment bags and shoe organizers on overhead hooks is a great space-saver. It also makes these items accessible while driving, so consider turning toiletries, snacks, and tissues within reach. However, ensure that they don’t block the driver’s view wherever you decide to hang these items.

11. Stow heavy items at the bottom

Knowing how to pack a car for a road trip isn’t only about space; it’s also about stability. Considering weight distribution when filling a vehicle of any size is crucial. Put all heavy items at the lowest level of the cargo area to maintain a lower center of gravity. This will prevent top-heaviness, which can affect the vehicle’s handling when not correctly organized. Use storage bins to secure your heaviest items and prevent the van from shifting during the drive.

12. Start packing early

It might sound counterintuitive, but trust us — the earlier you start packing, the less likely you are to overpack. We recommend starting at least two weeks before departure day. Take your suitcases out and begin to drop in the essentials. Over the following weeks, every time you think of something important, add it to your bag. Pack with purpose three days before you hit the road, going through everything you’ve already included. 

You will likely stumble upon a handful or more items that don’t feel necessary. If you don’t need them, don’t bring them! Early packing gives you ample time to consider what is and isn’t worth bringing. It’s also a less stressful approach than cramming everything in the day before you leave.

13. Use small Bags for essentials

Think of road tripping like flying on a plane. Some items are carry-on-worthy, while others are suitable for your checked luggage. What will you want access to while seated? Consider books, electronics and chargers, toiletries, headphones, sweaters, emergency kits, etc. Pack these items separately in smaller bags or containers, preferably with labels for ease.

14. Bring a packable insulated cooler

A valuable addition to road trips, both long and short, an insulated cooler serves several purposes. First, you can save money by bringing your own snacks and beverages to keep everyone satiated on the trip. Second, it doubles as a storage container, so if you plan to get medications, baby supplies, or anything else that needs to be kept cool, put them here. Third, it can be used in place of a traditional picnic basket. Rolling through the beautiful Berkshires in autumn and want to relax under a colorful tree for lunch? You’re already prepared!

15. Bring a trash can

You can go old-school and bring a trash bag or buy a fancy can with a lid that slips over the back of the passenger seat. Either way, having a concentrated area to keep rubbish will save time when arriving at your destination and keep your home base feeling fresh and clean.

Put packing struggles in the past

Packing does not have to be a nightmare if you are prepared! Make a list, prepare early, buy items for organizing, and rent a van from Greenvans! Why squeeze everything you need into a tiny trunk if you don’t have to? With a clean and modern rental van, you’ll enjoy plenty of cargo space, comfortable seating, and large windows to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the USA.


The quality & service you’re looking for is right here.