Taking a roadtrip involves a lot of planning, but it doesn’t stop at crafting your route, getting a tuneup, and filling the cooler with snacks. There’s also the fact that you have to figure out what clothing to pack and how to pack it based on how long you’ll be gone. After all, your vehicle doesn’t have the cargo space like an Airbus A380.
As a general rule of thumb, less is more and it’s all about choosing core pieces that can be used to create several different outfits. But what about your toiletries, shoes, and accessories? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Whether you’re traveling for three days or three weeks, we’ve got a vacation packing list that details the only road trip essentials you’ll need for your trip.
If you're going on a short weekend getaway, there’s less packing pressure as you only have a few days to worry about. Even so, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Considerations to Make
Consider the weather in the destination you’re traveling to when choosing your clothing, but always be prepared for unexpected changes. Also, is your destination going to be a cosmopolitan city where you’ll need dressy or smart casual clothing for dining or is it more of an active, sporty excursion?
You’ll only need a weekend bag, rolling duffle bag, or a small carry-on type bag for a weekend getaway. Anything larger and you’re simply overpacking. This is a general list of what to pack, but obviously, you’re going to want to tweak it based on what you’re doing, whether that’s hiking in the mountains, dining at a Michelin star restaurant, or a combination thereof.
The Ultimate Packing List
This is really quite simple. If you’re gone two days, you need two outfits. Three days, three outfits. Don’t bring anything more than you need.
- Just in case: If you’re unsure of your plans and you’ve packed ultra-casual outfits, toss in one dressier option like a dress or a suit coat just in case you become inclined to go to a nice restaurant, see a show, hit the casino, etc.
- Shoes: Bring two pairs of shoes max: the ones on your feet and the spare pair you’ll stow away in your suitcase. When choosing shoes, consider what you’ll be doing, durability, comfort, weight, support, functionality, versatility, and style. And whatever you do, only choose shoes that have been broken in.
- The extras: Add essentials like accessories, underwear, bras, socks, tights/nylons, a bathing suit if you plan to swim, outerwear if it’s chilly, and of course, your pajamas.
Coast to Coast Trip
Packing for a cross country road trip can feel a bit more overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. When you pack light, travel is more enjoyable, you’ll have more room in your car, and choosing what to wear each day is a breeze. You’re going to create what’s known as a capsule collection, which basically means a minimal yet functional wardrobe while still being fashionable at the same time.
Considerations to Make
Since you’re going to be covering more territory than you would with a weekend getaway, take a moment to think about the areas you’re going to be visiting. Are they more rural or more urban? What’s the weather like? Will it change from place to place? Also, what type of activities will you be engaging in? Mountain biking in rough terrain? Lounging by the beach? Visiting museums? This will help you make a more practical decision when it comes to what type of clothing to choose.
When it comes to luggage, consider how much space you have in your car — this will be greatly affected if you’re traveling with more than one other person. Once you see what we suggest you pack for a cross country trek, you may very well see that you can fit everything into a carry-on type bag. However, if you do need more room, opt for a medium-sized, soft-sided suitcase versus a large, hard-sided suitcase as it provides more flexibility when you’re trying to stuff everything in the trunk. If for some reason a particular pair of shoes (like boots) or some of your toiletries don’t fit in your suitcase, consider packing them in a small, spare bag such as one of our totes or weekend bags.
Guidelines to Follow for Creating a Capsule Collection
To maximize the number of outfit combinations you can create, keep the following guidelines in mind when choosing specific pieces.
- Fabric: Don’t mix cold-weather fabrics with warm-weather fabrics (because corduroy pants don’t pair well with a linen shirt.) Other considerations are whether or not the material will wrinkle, if it’s the right fabric for the activities you’ll be taking part in, how fast it dries, and if it’s too bulky (takes up more room in your suitcase.) Keep in mind that synthetic fabrics don’t absorb odor as much as cotton, so you’ll get more wear out of them because they won’t need to be laundered as much.
- Color: This is a no-brainer, but to simplify this step, stick to hues like black, white, tan, khaki, bone, navy, etc. It’s okay to throw in one splashy shirt or dress if desired. Alternatively, choose one neutral and one color as it can give you the best of both worlds. So, for example, khaki and blue, black and red, white and green. Every item of clothing should be one of these colors so it’s easy to put together your outfits. This doesn’t mean you can’t include patterned pieces. Just make sure they match your color scheme. — you can jazz things up with accessories like a smart handbag, jewelry, a scarf, hat, wristwatch, a belt, etc.
- Style and fit: To create seamless ensembles, choose pieces with a similar style and fit so you don’t get stuck wearing a tailored blouse or shirt with a pair of baggy cargo pants. Remember, you want to create as many outfits as possible with minimal pieces.
- Maximize Your Wardrobe: Only choose clothing that can be worn with more than one piece. It’s useless if that one top you have to bring doesn’t go with anything else but one other pair of pants. This includes anything that’s overly trendy.
- Multifunctional: Opt for multifunctional pieces that can be worn to more than one type of occasion.
- Experimentation: Don’t just lay your outfits on the bed and hope they work out for you when you arrive at your destination. Sometimes things don’t look as good once you try them on. Spend time playing dress-up so that you feel confident with your final choices.
The Ultimate Packing List
Guess what? You only need to worry about choosing ten pieces to create several outfits. Aside from that, you’ll need to add a piece of outerwear if it’s chilly, pajamas, and a bathing suit if applicable.
Consider the following additional combinations to help simplify the packing process. Remember, they aren’t set in stone; this is merely a guide. If you prefer more bottoms to tops or vice versa, go for it — the possibilities are endless. And as aforementioned, tailor your picks to the weather, the type of activities you’ll be doing, and of course, your gender.
- Four bottoms, six tops
- Three bottoms, five tops, two dresses (men can swap out the dresses for additional tops, bottoms, or even a sport coat)
- Seven bottoms, six tops
- Five bottoms, four tops, and one jumper/romper (again, men would swap that out)
- Enough bras, socks (unless you’re wearing sandals), and underwear to sustain the duration of your trip — you can get away with less if you plan on laundering them along the way. Don’t forget a couple of pairs of tights or nylons if you have an outfit that necessitates either one.
- Two to three (max) pairs of shoes that follow the aforementioned guidelines
Dealing With Toiletries
When it comes to toiletries, don’t drag full-sized bottles with you. Either purchase travel-friendly products or fill empty travel bottles with your favorite lotions and potions. The same applies to those going cross-country. You’re bound to come across a store where you can restock on your refills so you can save on space.
Also, try to think minimally when it comes to choosing toiletries. That means don’t pack five products to do your hair, your entire makeup drawer (stick to one color palette for the entire trip), a 15-step skincare routine, and a fragrance to match every outfit. Look for two-in-one products like an SPF plus moisturizer, Blush plus lipstick, shampoo plus body wash, etc. Store everything in one toiletry bag. If you start to notice everything won’t fit, it’s time to downsize. Remember to put potentially leaky things like shampoo in a ziplock baggie.
Maximizing Space in Your Bag
When it comes to maximizing the space in your bag, there are several different methods you can choose from. The wrapping method is best used for fancier garments like dresses and pants, the bundling method which involves folding outfits together, and the rolling method which is handy for sweaters, pants, and t-shirts. There’s also the option to use compression packs for bulkier items like sweaters and outerwear and packing cubes to help keep your clothing/outfits, toiletries, shoes, accessories organized. Along with packing cubes, Briggs & Riley offers other travel accessories that could come in handy on a roadtrip such as a laundry bag, shoe covers, luggage hooks, and more.