Road Trip Do's + Don'ts - Packing Edition

We're on Day 10 of our month-long Epic US road trip, and I finally feel like I'm getting a bit of a handle on life on the road. In case you're not up to speed, the five of us Lapishes and our two dogs are packed into a 28 ft Class C motorhome making a big loop around the country. I'm reflecting today on how to pack to get the most out of the journey (and the space!). If you're packing for a glamorous beach getaway, or a business trip in a big city, or a weekend at the in-law's, you probably won't get much out of this post (sorry!!). But if you're looking for tips on packing for a long trip with kids (light on the glamour), then read on. First of all, can we all agree that "Don'ts" is just a rotten word, from a linguist point of view? I want to put an apostrophe after the "t" but I CAN'T. I don't like it. The end.Ahem. Now that that's out of the way...

DO create a capsule wardrobe.

Capsule wardrobes are your friend. And fortunately, there's approximately 957,475,518 posts on Pinterest about how to build them. Bottom line: say yes to pieces that can mix and match in a maximum number of ways. And obviously take into account what you'll be doing: i.e. nice restaurant/outing? Throw in the appropriate outfit. Bonus points if it's an outfit constructed from pieces you can wear for other more casual events as well. Also, this is common sense, but DON'T forget to pack all the required underthings for said outfit (strapless bra, shoes, Spanx, etc). Not that I've ever done that myself, mind you...(*cough cough*).

DO pack smart. 

There's no one right way to actually pack your crap for a trip, but what has worked for us with our specific situation (starting from home with all our things in our car, driving a full day to another state to pick up our RV, then unpacking our stuff and living in the RV for a month) is this:

  • We packed enough clothes for one week for each of us (which enabled us to use small bags instead of big suitcases - space saving win).
  • For actually packing up the clothes, packing cubes. These are the ones I have, and they are great for organizing and packing everything from socks/underwear to games/activities. We used them for categories of clothes ("Sam's t-shirts," "Charlie's socks," etc) then packed them into one bigger bag for each one of us. Now that we're unpacked with our clothes squeezed into tiny cabinets, this system makes it MUCH easier to locate the clothing item you need at any given time. Economical hack: use gallon sized ziplocks instead.
  • For most non-clothing items, plastic bins with lids are perfection. I have small ones for kids' gadgets, a huge one for non-perishable food items, and everything in between. They're stackable, and fit well in the under-cabin storage of the RV.

DON'T bring all your makeup/skincare.

There's just not room, OK? You'll be fine. Deep breaths.It's actually really fun to limit yourself to say, two lipstick colors, one blush, and a tiny eyeshadow palette. You can get creative with the looks and matching with your outfits. Too girly? OK, I'm done, I promise. Just DON'T forget to bring sunscreen. That's not the skincare item to skimp on. This one is my personal favorite. It's especially good for packing light because it's tinted, so it does double duty in your makeup bag.

DO trust your instincts.

I did a lot of research on what to pack and what to leave at home. I read things that said "don't bring bikes or scooters because they take up space and you probably won't use them." I'm SO GLAD we brought the boys' scooters. Every night when we get to our campground, they grab them and go exploring together. It gives them some independence in what is otherwise (for them) a very prescribed daily schedule. Plus, they fold up nice and small and fit neatly into the under-cabin storage, so NBD.Also in my research, I relied heavily on posts by Emily Jones of Jones Design Company who was on a similar (but longer) road trip. I love her blog, and REALLY loved her insights about their trip. In one of her posts, she said she regretted not bringing even just a small bin of Legos for the kids. So I got a small Sterilite bin for each kid, outfitted each with a label denoting who is belonged to, and had them fill them with their favorite Legos. They've been INVALUABLE in helping retain some normalcy and keep away the "I'm bored"'s (in ten days, I have yet to hear anyone say that dreaded phrase. Knock on wood.).

DON'T overpack technology.

In the early stages of planning, we kicked around the idea of bringing the xbox. I mean, you know there will come a time in a trip this long where it would be a relief (to everyone) to plug in the video games for awhile. But I'm so glad we didn't. Each kid does have a device to play/read on/etc, but their screen time is more limited on this trip. Right now as I type, they're all three voluntarily buried in a book. Does that happen at home? RARELY.Also - and this is going to sound crazy - don't overpack cameras. I have a go-pro mounted on the dashboard for some fun travel video, and we have our iPhones, and I have my two work cameras, and I packed my Instax. But it can be a little overwhelming and hard to exist in the moment when I'm juggling 14 cameras. So, you know, just cool it a little.

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I've got a Q&A post in the works, so I'll (hopefully) be posting again soon (Lord willing and the wifi holds out). You can follow along on our trip day by day on Instagram: @emilylapishphotog Previous Road Trip post: __________ Emily Lapish is a full-time photographer, wife, mom, and crazy person. She likes long walks through Target while cradling a latte. She is fueled by passion for restoration, grace, and also by obscene amounts of coffee. To book a free consultation or inquire about a session, click here.