Organizing the Car for a Family Road Trip

The following is a guest post from regular contributor, Sharon at Mom of 6.

You’ve made your travel plans, booked your hotel, ordered your tickets for the attractions you plan to visit, and now all that’s left to do is to pack up the kids in the car and get started on your road trip adventure! But how do you keep the car organized so that you can find exactly what you need when it’s time to check into the hotel? How do you keep the kids gear together and organized so that their things aren’t all over floor of the car during the entire adventure?

Organizing the Car for a Family Road Trip

Well- as a tried-and-true road-tripping mom of six- I’ve got some tips for you on how to organize your car for a family road trip:


Packing Clothing, Toiletries, and Other Vacation Essentials

I prefer using a bin and bag system to pack and keep our car organized. Each bin can hold two shopping bags inside, and in each bag- I pack one day of clothing for my entire family. When we arrive at a hotel, I simply need to unpack one clothing bag, a bag containing pajamas, a toiletries bag, and possibly a swim bag. Now I realize that I drive a car that’s larger than most (but then again, the size of my family is larger than most!) but a bin and bag system can work in lots of different kinds of cars- especially SUVs and minivans. Simply measure the trunk space that you have to work with, and order bins that meet your size requirements.


Organizing the Inside of the Car

A few years ago I purchased these fantastic blue bins that fit between two kids seats, and can hold all of their gear. It has mesh pockets in the front that hold their water bottles, plus tons of pockets on the outside to hold small items. Inside of the bins the kids will pack their books. DVDs, paper and pencils, a deck of cards, craft supplies, and anything else they bring along to keep them busy while we’re on the road. In each row of seats I hang a plastic grocery bag that they can use for garbage, and I encourage them to keep their rows nice and tidy along the way. Underneath each child’s seat I have another plastic bin where I put a blanket, sweatshirt, hat, sunglasses, and where the kids keep their shoes while riding in the car. They can access anything that they need on their own before we hop out of the car at a rest stop or even to go hiking.


Organizing Vacation Paperwork

I keep a filing box in my car with a labeled folder for each section of our road trip. Inside of the folders I can file tickets, brochures, maps, hotel confirmations, and I can also file all of my receipts for each destination. That way it’s easy for me to check in once we get home and see how we did against our travel budget.


Car Cooler and Snacks

I like to use a cooler that fits on the floor of the car in front of the kids seats so that we can access food and drinks while traveling (it would be too difficult to do this with the cooler in the trunk of the car). I like to pack our cooler with a basic road trip breakfast- bagels with cream cheese, yogurts, small containers of juice, and then in a small plastic food bin (that I also keep on the floor)- I’ll pack cold cereal, granola bars, bowls, plastic spoons and knives, as well drinks that don’t need to be cold- like bottles of water or G2 for the kids.

Want to See Road Trip Organization in Action?

I’ve created a series of short videos for the Momof6 You Tube channel to show you how I plan, organize, and pack for a family road trip. Here’s one that shows you the bin/bag system (and you can see the “massiveness” that is my family car!)

You can follow our Great American Road Trip adventure this summer by reading our Road Trip Diaries on Tuesdays and Fridays over at Momof6!

Sharon Rowley Head Shot 150 x 150 Thumbnail If you get a chance, I hope you’ll stop by to see me at Momof6 – a place where I write about organizing your home, using a family calendar, creating household routines, hosting at-home birthday parties, and holding a DIY summer camp! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter (@sharonmomof6), and Pinterest!



Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Travel/Auto Organization


14 Responses to Organizing the Car for a Family Road Trip

  1. 1
    Amber Geffon says

    I just returned from a 3300 mile road trip with a family of 5 this week. Would have loved to have seen these great ideas beforehand. The van was a disaster by the time we got home! The bin with one day of clothing for the entire family would have been a lifesaver when we pulled over in a strange city at 1 am and had to spend 20 minutes unloading everyone’s bags. Thanks for the great tips.

    • 1.1
      Sharon at Momof6 says

      You’re welcome Amber! Sorry these didn’t come sooner!

  2. 2
    Jasi says

    Great system. Consider also adding a few of those huge IKEA shopping bags. When I have a ton of groceries in the car I load all of the bags into one and can carry that on my shoulder easily. They’re great for holding towels and things that need to be accessed quick. Thanks for the tutorial.

  3. 3
    Holly mccormick says

    Wow this looks great, in your 4week trip are you doing laundry? Or are u bringing 4 weeks woth of clothes?

    • 3.1
      Sharon at Momof6 says

      I am doing laundry at least every 6 days…. We don’t even own 4 weeks worth of clothing for six kids! 🙂

  4. 4
    Michelle-I'm Living the Good Life says

    This is fantastic! As I scrolled down and saw the back of the van with all of the storage bins, I thought “Wow, she wasn’t kidding!” We leave for a trip in a couple weeks, so I really appreciate this post! Thanks!

  5. 5
    Jennifer says

    This was so helpful- I would have never thought of it! Thank you!

  6. 6
    Christine Alcott says

    We just took 6 people 3000 miles roundtrip. I did not believe it at first – but those bins work! Our stuff fit in our small minivan so much more easily. It was wonderful! Thank you for the tips!

  7. 7
    Jamie says

    Any suggestions for packing a stroller in the van. I have a minivan an a 9 month old a 2, 4, an ll year old plus husband to pack for when we go on road trips.

    • 7.1
      Sharon at Momof6 says

      Hopefully the stroller folds flat… so perhaps you can place it vertically against the “wall” of the backseat- between the seat and the bins. My other suggestion to to purchase an inexpensive umbrella stroller for the trip which folds up very small, and can even go on the floor of the car in front of the car seat.

  8. 8
    Chrissy says

    The whole time I read this and watched the video I was waiting for a closeup of the labels on your bins! This is a great idea but I can’t grasp the system. Maybe it’s just me?

  9. 9
    Sharon at Momof6 says

    Hi Chrissy-

    If you click on the photo above, and then expand it a bit, you can read the labels on the bins. But in case you are having trouble seeing them in the image…. here’s a rundown:

    *4 of the bins are for tees and shorts
    *2 hold sleeping bags/misc gear
    *1 holds swimsuits and towels
    *1 holds rain gear and sweatshirts
    *1 holds Daddy’s clothes (since he wasn’t traveling with us the entire time, it didn’t make sense for his clothes to be packed with ours)
    *1 holds extra footwear/backpacks
    *1 holds jeans, sweatpants, and dress up clothes
    *1 holds toiletries
    *the smaller bins held food and laundry supplies

    I hope this helps!


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