Planning and Packing for the Car Trip

Now that summer is in full swing, you’re probably ready to hit the road, whether it’s a family reunion weekend, a trip to the beach, or a road trip in the van with the kids. Here are some checklists to help make your vacation a relaxing and memorable time. By planning ahead, you will avoid the stresses associated with missing or forgotten items.


  • Notify post office that you will be out of town—complete a Hold Mail form
  • Notify newspapers to hold delivery
  • Arrange for someone to watch the house, pets and plants
  • Notify local police that you will be out of town—many towns offer a vacation watch service
  • Put your house in order, change the bed linens and do the laundry—you’ll appreciate returning to a clean house and clean clothes
  • Print out driving directions ( ·
  • Buy snacks and drinks for the road
  • Give itinerary to at least one family member and friend/neighbor
  •  Place some lights on timers
  • Unplug small appliances
  • Set air conditioner to higher temp, or turn off
  • Make sure freezer door is closed


  • Take car in for servicing—check fluid levels
  • Have oil changed in car
  • Check tire pressure, and condition of tires
  • Make sure all lights are working properly
  • Clean out unnecessary items from trunk


  • Clothing (this is another topic for another article!)
  • Jacket or sweater for cooler temperatures
  • Bathing suits, towels, flip-flops for poolside
  • Toiletries—use travel size whenever possible
  • Sunscreen!
  • Medications—in original pharmacy containers
  • Sunglasses, extra pair of prescription glasses
  • Alarm clock, watch
  • Plastic bags for wet clothing
  • Laundry bag
  • Recreational gear, such as fishing pole, running shoes
  • Deck of cards
  • Personal CD players
  • Camera and film
  • Cellular phone
  • Night light
  • Ear plugs
  • Empty bag or suitcase for souvenirs
  • Tote or backpack for day trips
  • Rain poncho/umbrella
  • Water bottles
  • Extra batteries
  • Phone numbers of family members or friends watching the house
  • Traveler’s checks and money
  • Medical insurance cards
  • Driver’s license or other photo identification


  • Extra water for the car only
  • Toolkit for roadside emergencies
  • Owner’s manual
  • Insurance card, vehicle registration, auto club membership info
  • Duct tape
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra fuses 
  • Air pressure gauge
  • First aid supplies
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Extra keys
  • Pillows and blankets
  • Travel games
  • Plastic bags for refuse
  • Pack items you will need during the trip (cooler, games, snacks, etc.) separately from suitcases
  • Snacks and drinks in a cooler
  • Moist towelettes for washing hands
  • Paper towels or napkins
  • Roll of toilet paper


  • Turn air conditioner back on, or lower
  • Unpack your car
  • Sort laundry as you unpack your suitcases and start a load
  • Pick up your mail from the post office if it isn’t being delivered
  • Pick up your pets from the boarder

This may seem like a lot to do and remember, but your goal is to have a safe, fun trip. The better prepared you are, the better the chances of having a great time away!



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