Packing for an extended solo Auto-Trip
Total 30 days on the road

As soon as we say, “We’re going,” many of us immediately think, “What must I take? What am I going to wear?”
Well, the great thing about an auto-trip is that we can take an awful lot including as many outfits as we'd like. I mean, within reason.
Point is that we have an entire car as luggage.

But where to start?

From experience, three bags form the control center of the trip's smooth functioning.
The number one, the alpha dog, the first being the waist-pouch (or purse or pocketbook that never leaves us.)
In my case, the waist pouch my belt secures to itself by threading through its back.
This little bugger contains tickets for today’s events, cash, as in folding money, credit cards and business cards, iphone, a folded sheet of blank paper and a pen for notes, and car keys.
Everything we ever wanted at our fingertips but wondered how.

The waist pouch: it never leaves me

The waist pouch: it never leaves me

Why call the waist-pouch 'first?'

Because we use it constantly, like paying at rest stops and gas stations.
Like for identification - our driver's license; or to share contact information with a just-met friend - our business cards.
Like stopping at a rest area, not needing to reach or search for anything.
Like open the car door and swing those long, cramped legs out to the pavement and we're free to pee.

Because it's convenient.
Like walking around town with our light backpack over our shoulders.
Stop to pay for something and we don't have to swing the pack from our shoulders to fish out any of the useful stuff waiting in our waist-pouch for cafes, restaurants, admissions, and shops.

Because it contains the most important of the personal property we plan to take.
That so, it is always with us, like a pair of shoes, even while driving.
Attached to us even at a urinal or on the bowl. I do what I have to do to keep that baby dry, because it's never coming off.
Losing it will bring serious problems when we're far from home and vulnerable.
So, so important.
We’re not leaving this baby behind, anywhere.

Several other noteworthy characteristics.
It doesn't need to be constantly replenished.
It requires no space in the car for backup materials.
Its contents each has an assigned space in the bag, and since we use it again and again, we will immediately note if anything not in its place before we close the top.
It's used the same at home so this the one bag that doesn’t need packing.

The light backpack: carry it around town

The light backpack: carry it around town

Second, because after the waist-pouch we spend more time with it than any other bag, is the light backpack.

The light backpack contains our reading book and reading glasses, sunglasses, Vaseline (my lips are always dry,) a piece of fruit, a bottle of water, a toothbrush and toothpaste, (I hate my mouth when it isn’t fresh tasting,) a sweater against air conditioning, and a large cloth shoulder bag that folds or crumbles very small, to be used to carry unlooked-for-shopping. I hate having my arms occupied with carrying things.

Nothing expensive In the bag but everything useful.
And like the waist pouch or shoulder bag, the light back pack needs very little room in the auto for back up materials. We’ll replenish supplies for the light back pack in local markets.
Second in importance because every time we leave the car to walk-about we take this bag with us: around the center of town, to museums, to cafes and restaurants.
The light back pack comes into the hotel room with us.
Like the waist-pouch it is always loaded with the same list of goods.

And like the waist-pouch, we never close it up without knowing from total familiarity that the bag is complete.
We don’t lose anything.
We don’t forget anything.
We don’t have to pack this bag until the day before we leave.

Now for the heavy-duty backpack, the third bag constituting the control center of our trip. Organize these bags well and the packing logistics are almost complete.
Some may consider this bag the first in importance.
Who does will get no argument from me.

backpack heavy duty.png

Think about the trip and I think we’ll all agree that the most repeated and often stressful activity of the trip is the transition from the car to the hotel room and its reverse.
From the car, it’s very easy to forget something we’ll need for the overnight necessitating an extra trip or two.
From the hotel to the car, it’s easy to leave something behind. And that sucks.

Much of the contents of the heavy-duty backpack stays in the bag, minimizing the time it takes to load and unload it properly.
And like the waist pouch and the light back pack, the contents having reserved places in the heavy-duty backpack means we sense if anything is missing.
That augurs well when repacking, reducing the risk of leaving anything behind.

The waist pouch and the light and heavy-duty back packs are packed.

Consider that we have the entire car as our luggage.
I find it best to compartmentalize the trunk with boxes with removable covers.

Online I bought a dozen boxes for $31.00. Eight of them were smaller size, 15Lx12Wx10H and four were medium, 18L x 15W x 14H.
I assembled them. It took a half hour.

I received them on August 10, leaving September 4, about 25 days before leaving.
None too soon for me.
I worry.

I immediately use one for my underwear, socks, and pajamas.
These only came ½ way up from the bottom.
Plenty of room in the box yet.

We’re not looking to fill the boxes.
For us, the boxes are the compartments of the car.
We’ll keep all of our clothing on single stacks so when we’re looking for an article of clothing nothing has to be moved.
Underwear, socks, and pajamas are all looking up at us from their dedicated box.
Pick one out and nothing else is disturbed.
Rummaging and upsetting other clothes is not part of what we’re doing.

One exception: liquor.
Traveling across many states and communities will certainly bring us into contact with a ‘dry’ locale.
All we’ll need is ice.

I drink with every dinner.
No exceptions: alcohol is part of my daily routine.
So I will be taking nips of vodka and gin.
Nips because perhaps a locality doesn’t allow open bottles of alcoholic drinks in the car.
Use it and throw the bottle out.
For the drinks, I’ll carry some small bottles of tonic water. 
And some paper cups.
While the liquor is not immoral or illegal, I’d rather not flaunt it.
I will tuck the bar-makings under my underwear with a pack of condoms.
No one likes to search underwear.

Back to packing.
Our goal is to create an easy ‘pick’ of the clothing or of anything else that we need.

Fill the boxes over the next several days, smoothing their usage while we’re still at home when tweaking is easy.
After a few days, the practice will result in setting up the boxes to function pretty conveniently.

Shoes in one dedicated box.
We can take boots, slippers, sandals, dress shoes, two pairs of sneakers, whatever we want.
What a luxury.

Same with coats and jackets.
No need to be efficient.
Take anything we can possibly need.

Over the next few days I’ll be packing my boxes.
I’ll tweak this page as I make discoveries, not really finishing it until the trip is entirely over.

Having packed the three bags and assembled the boxes, what items are still looking for a home?

One is my printer.
I take my printer.
I like to take my printer.
It doesn’t take much space.
It sits quietly in the trunk until we arrive at our motel.
And then I use a hotel cart to carry it in and out.
So it’s no trouble at all.
Why take it?
See “Travel Aids” later on this page.

A second set of items looking for a home is the clothes we need for better restaurants, pants, shirts, jacket, and tie.
These I hang up on the hooks provided by the rear passenger windows and then carry them into the hotel room using a hotel cart.
(While few restaurants require jackets and ties anymore, I dress to suit the occasion.
And dressing up makes me feel better while I eat a more formal dinner.)

And the passenger seat.
Remember we’re solo on this trip, no one to hand us a drink of water; or an orange.
We need to outfit the empty front passenger seat for the benefit of the driver: a water bottle, sunglasses, music, maps, fruit, an emergency urine bottle (albeit more needed for women than men who are more casual about ‘taking a leak,’ any place will do,) a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a comb.

Travel Aids are next.
What are they:
Audio Books
Hard copies of Maps and
Idiot Sheets, as in "What is an Idiot Sheet?"
Idiot Sheets, the ‘why’ I take my printer.

Night after night of pulling into the selfsame-hotel with its selfsame-room as every other mid-level hotel and motel in the county has a stultifying effect on us.

Idiot Sheet without Printer

Idiot Sheet without Printer

Each day we wake in the selfsame room totally disoriented.
Where did I just come from?
Where am I?
Where do I go next?
Time and places blur.

My antidote to this disorientation is the Idiot Sheet, composed and printed out before I go to bed.

On the top of this sheet, in large font, I will type in tomorrow’s day and date.
I will, in large font, type in the town I am in; the time I am leaving the hotel; and the destination.
It’s 5.00am when I wake.
I don’t have to think.
Thank you Idiot Sheet.

Of less importance, but nonetheless useful, I also add in the highlights of tomorrow’s activities, inc. contact info.
I keep this sheet on the passenger seat as a handy note paper to gather odd thoughts I have during the day.

I need my Idiot Sheet.
I need my printer.
It’s a big car and it makes for a big suitcase. 

I need my printer.
It’s a big car and it makes for a big suitcase.