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How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
25,893 posts
111 reviews
45 helpful votes
How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

I just got back from a short RT to Yellowstone ( tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60999-i481-k66122… ) and by the afternoon of the 4th day I needed a pitchfork to muck out my car when I got to my lodging. This is traveling solo!!

I am planning a long RT in the Fall, heading back east to TN/NC to deliver some family *heirloom* stuff to cousins and I am wondering how you keep the inside of the car organized. The trunk (well, I have a Honda CRV, so it's a covered cargo area) is fine. I travel with one 21" carryon and should be able to do with that over the 3-4 weeks for the longer trip. On this trip I had a cooler (back seat behind driver seat) which was fine plus a tote bag with food and a tote bag with my reference books/maps for Yellowstone p;us reading material/Kindle/audiobooks both on the floor in the front. I, of course, didn't really need maps for Yellowstone, but I will need maps/AAA guide books/reference stuff for the trip East. Stuff just seemed to collect in the passenger seat...jacket, fleece vest, hat, scarf, gloves, food, the aforementioned reference books for Yellowstone, entry tickets/brochures, yikes!

I am thinking instead of soft tote bags which crumple and spill I need hard plastic bins for maps/files, etc. I do eat while driving, so maybe another hard sided bin for food stuff. Has anyone tried hanging outerwear from the back of the base of the headrest? (Have no idea if that is contraindicated for safety or not.) The visual field in the CRV is pretty crummy so I don't want to make it worse by having clothes hanging from the hooks by the back seat windows.

Anyone with any ideas for interior organization? Or should I just throw in a pitchfork and get down and dirty every few days, lol?

Pam

Jacksonville...
Level Contributor
117 posts
1. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

The pitchfork works best for me. I've taken several cross country road trips in a regular cab PU. Tools and "dirty" parts in the tool box. Luggage, cooler, the usual tourist purchases in the back. Large garbage bags for trash and dirty laundry. I try to keep the cab free of clutter. Maps, jackets, and a book or two for DW. Of course, I'm finding stuff in the truck six months later.

Sedona, AZ
Destination Expert
for Sedona
Level Contributor
2,494 posts
8 reviews
10 helpful votes
2. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

I have found that the only way I can keep the car neat is to just have the discipline to straighten it up every few days. Stay on top of it, then it won't seem overwhelming.

Just google "car headrest hanger" and you'll find lots of options for that.

Lewes, United...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
27,368 posts
38 reviews
103 helpful votes
3. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

Oh, for sure, just pack that pitchfork, too, Pam! :-)

I share your pain. Unless you're the super organised and disciplined type, who never eats or drinks in their car or carries books and other paraphernalia of normal life, which we're not, the car will look like the inside of a trash can after a few days on the move. From our own more recent experiences, as it seems I now take my own private rain cloud to hang over us everywhere we go, to add to the accumulated junk you have mentioned, we also always have wet outerwear that needs somewhere to hang to dry out or it will get sweaty and smelly, too!

When we travel in our own car on extended trips, I stuff either some used supermarket plastic bags or a roll of trash bin liners in a door pocket and use one each day for the trash, left open and ready down in the passenger foot well. All drink cans, sweet and snack wrappers, etc go in there. At the end of each day, as we check into our lodging, we can grab that bag and find a convenient and appropriate place to dispose it. That, at least takes care of the genuine garbage. As I'm the navigator, I usually also gather up my maps and travel guides at the end of the day, to take them into the motel or wherever with me, to prepare for the next day and refresh my memory (and I keep the various loose sheets of paper, confirmation print outs, etc in coloured plastic folders). Other times I just quickly stack them up more neatly and for the guide books or map atlases, move my book markers to the correct page for the next day.

However, as said, when we're on long road trips, just have to be fairly disciplined and have a tidy up and clean out fairly frequently, returning no longer needed stuff to the bags in the trunk or rear storage area. This includes having a shake out of the floor mats, too, as they always acquire a layer of debris. Of course, we're a bit more fussy in our own car than in a rental, but they too need to be kept organised to some extent. There's nothing worse than burying your cell phone under the junk and wondering if you left it behind at the previous motel! (Of course, just when you absolutely need to use it!)

There are various car organisers out there, but I'm too mean to every buy them, and they're no use to you in a rental car in a foreign country, anyway!

SWT

Ohio
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
9,403 posts
248 reviews
298 helpful votes
4. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

only answer is to keep things picked up daily. Every bit of trash gets put in a trash bin every gas stop. Every morning when packing up from the latest motel stop, we straighten out the car- fold jackets in the back seat-- seriously-- every day we keep it up. Also pull out the rugs and shake them at the rest areas. The hubby even goes thru the car wash some trips :)

Or... use the pitchfork approach! ;-)

Honestly, we keep it up because we ARE in the car for so many days. It just gets miserable to ride if it's too messy. Wet jacket -- spread it out on top of the cover in the back.

Lewes, United...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
27,368 posts
38 reviews
103 helpful votes
5. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

Oh, and Pam, congrats on reaching the 6K posts milestone!

SWT

N. Idaho
Destination Expert
for Yellowstone National Park
Level Contributor
25,893 posts
111 reviews
45 helpful votes
6. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

Thanks to everyone! It appears my travel style is pretty normal! Pitch fork it is.

SWT, really laughed about the cell phone because, yes, early Sat. AM I had to pull over on a forest road about 10 miles west of West Yellowstone to make sure my cell was in my purse. I usually park it in a cup holder, but had jammed an OJ and a bagel in the ones in the console. (And PS, hadn't realized I got to 6,000!)

Janss, thanks for the google term. I hadn't thought to do that. I did look and will check out the local auto supply stores as well. Traveling in Oct I will have a variety of outerwear, so I think I will plan to hang jackets and vests.

So, the plan of attack is garbage bags, staying on top of the mess at every stop and a good going over with a pitch fork every night!

Pam

NC
Level Contributor
1,706 posts
154 reviews
87 helpful votes
7. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

My husband gets every piece of trash out every time we stop for gas/food. We keep a plastic grocery bag in the car and empty that out at every stop. We don't eat meals in the car, but will have snacks and of course, drinks.

Uden, The...
Destination Expert
for Road Trips
Level Contributor
60,942 posts
42 reviews
168 helpful votes
8. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

Not much help here Pam and congrats as well. Like SWT our car is a mess within a couple of days and it usually stays a mess for the time we are travelling and that can be 10 weeks or more. The rental firm could not see the color of the car when we delivered it -lol- And yes, we do eat meals in the car. Of course we can't do without a cooler.

Houston, TX
Level Contributor
5,470 posts
22 reviews
29 helpful votes
9. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

I am a map and guidebook person, as well as a brochure collector, so things can pile up rather quickly on my side of the front seat. For my ease during the day (and for the comfort of the other driver when they are in the passenger seat) I take two reusable shopping bags along on every trip. One has the day's maps, guides, web print-outs, hotel info etc in it, with the stuff I've printed from the web and the hotel info in a pocket folder and is kept in the foot well for easy access.As we go through parks, cities, whatever, the material that is no longer needed gets put back into the bag, and the upcoming stuff gets pulled out. Any brochures, tickets I want to keep, park newsletters etc that I've accumulated also get stuffed into the bag. At the end of the day everything is back in this bag and it goes into the hotel at night, where I take a few minutes to sort through things and get rid of anything I thought I might want/need to keep from the day but now see the folly of my ways as things begin to pile up.

The second bag has all the other things for the trip--maps, guides etc for the upcoming days. The things needed for the next day come out, stuff from the present day that I want to keep goes in. The next day's stuff is put into the daily bag. The second bag will be placed into the trunk so I don't have to dig through both bags to find things during the day.

And then I get the pitchfork out and muck out the car :-)

Marina, California
Destination Expert
for Tucson
Level Contributor
7,522 posts
104 reviews
148 helpful votes
10. Re: How do you keep your car organized on a Road Trip?

I do the two bags thing, with the smaller one containing toiletries and clothes for the next day, and it's drawn from the larger bag. But I also have a third bag that contains various things of value so that I don't have to leave them in the car overnight.

But I've found it unavoidable to not clean the car periodically. I usually make it a little over two weeks before I just have to dedicate some time to remove the trash and basically repack and reorganize. I usually do it in some pleasant, cool, shaded, forested area so that I don't get beaten down by the sun.