If you want to pick the perfect luggage for road trips, this short article has some useful tips.
After several road trips, I’m a packing expert. In fact, I’ve got the entire process of loading and unloading down to a science.
The first lesson is to travel light and bring only what you need. If you find yourself shopping for a rooftop carrier, stop! You’re bringing too much stuff.
My wife and I ride with two small luggage sets. We each have one carry on sized luggage with wheels, a soft sided cooler and daypack, which is a small lightweight backpack. I also have one hand held tote bag. The back seat of the car is empty, because everything fits in the rear compartment, out of sight, behind the back seats. (If you don’t have a SUV, use the trunk to hide stuff.)
When arriving at the hotel to check in, we slide the backpacks on, grab the tote, then sling the soft sided coolers over the luggage handles, and roll into the hotel. Everything gets brought into the lobby and up to the room in one trip.
The backpacks have personal items. My wife puts water, wet wipes, laptop and assorted personal items in hers. I carry my laptop computer, tablet, AC power adapters, eyeglasses, hand sanitizer, wipes, tissues, water, gum and a few snacks in mine.
The main suitcase has everything we need for overnight stays. The other has extra stuff that doesn’t get unpacked, unless we plan on staying in the town for a couple of days.
The main suitcase has one change of clothing, flip flops, fresh socks and underwear. It also has shampoo, toothpaste, moisturizer, razor and all the personal hygiene stuff. The second longer term stay bag has all the spare clothes. Extra shoes and coats stay in the car.
The main cooler has all the perishable food. This includes any kind of proteins like meat, eggs, milk, cheese, and foods with protein in it, like mayonnaise. It also carries easily spoiled food like seasonal berries and salad.
The second cooler has all the non perishable items. This includes bread, veggies, any canned or packaged goods, salt, pepper, ketchup and spices. It also has collapsible bowls, plates, cups and plastic cutlery for eating.
The tote bag has cleaning supplies in it. Things like a spray bottle, a bleach based disinfectant, J-Cloths, antibacterial wet wipes, hand sanitizer and the like. (Be sure to read our article on how to sanitize a hotel room.)
As a side note here, always bring all luggage into the hotel. It’s ok to leave your coat, shoes and sweaters in the trunk, but do not leave any luggage in the car overnight. Not even if it’s out of sight and you have a car alarm.
Crime is everywhere and you don’t want to give criminals any excuse to break your windows, or steal your luggage. Either one can put a real damper on an otherwise great trip.
The luggage that I recommend and use, is the same size and style that’s used for carry on bags when traveling by air. That way, I can have a “one size fits all” approach to travel, using the same bags for road trips, cruises and air trips.
The bottom line is that you absolutely must get luggage with wheels. Preferably with four wheels on swivel casters that roll in all directions. With all the moving in and out of hotels, packing and unpacking the car over the coming days and weeks, four wheels are a necessity, not a luxury.
This is especially true if the hotel is busy and the parking lot is so full, that you have to park on the edge of their lot. Then when you check in, your room will be – according Murphy’s Law – at the very end of a long hallway, at the opposite end of the lot.
A four wheel bag will save your hands and shoulders from stress, strain and possible injury. You don’t want luggage to stress you out, especially after a long day of driving. It should roll along side you with ease.
Download our road trip packing list. It’s a printable PDF and it’s FREE!
Perfect Road Trip Luggage for Two People: 2 “carry on” size bags with wheels, 2 soft sided coolers with plastic inserts, 2 backpacks with computer slots, 1 hand small held tote or gym bag.