How to pack your car for a family holiday

Many factors can make a holiday journey stressful but packing the car needn’t be one of them. To prove it, we asked John Adams, father-of-two and founding author of Dad Blog, to provide his top tips on the best way to pack your car.

John’s tips are illustrated with photos of him loading a Corolla hatchback, which has a 361-litre boot that is 1,395mm wide and 350mm tall.

1) Children always want to help with packing but an adult needs to keep control of the process to ensure none of the essentials are missed. Give each child a small rucksack to pack with items such as colouring books and pencils, games (magnetic are best), favourite soft toys or comforters. These can be kept on the back seat with them for the journey.

2) Lay out all items on a tarpaulin so you can see what needs to be packed. This will also protect the luggage from getting dirty while you are packing.

3) If your car has one, lift up the spare wheel cover to make use of the extra space there. We managed to pack shoes, rollerblades, and two camp beds around the Corolla’s spare wheel.

4) Tuck bike helmets and coats into the wells and other gaps on either side of the boot, allowing maximum room for the larger, more rigid items.

5) Begin packing the main boot area with large, flat, robust items like body boards that can take some weight on top of them.

6) Bigger, heavier items such as suitcases and cool boxes should go next. It’s better if they are square or rectangular in shape as they will create a solid foundation for smaller, lighter items to go on top. Try to use one large suitcase or bag instead of lots of little ones. This way you know where everything is packed and there’s less chance of leaving items behind.

7) You could remove the parcel shelf to allow that extra bit of room, but try not to fill the boot any higher than the level of the parcel shelf to make sure your view of the road behind isn’t compromised. This way you can keep valuables out of sight and in the event of an accident, your possessions will stay in place and won’t fly around the vehicle, potentially causing injury.

8) Finish with lighter or delicate items, including footballs and tennis racquets.

9) Make sure children have sunshades, headphones and blankets so they are comfortable and can listen to audiobooks or music. These are ideal for long journeys as they are entertaining for both children and adults. I don’t recommend books or any type of screen-based entertainment as these can make you feel sick.

10) Parents should also have a bag or rucksack in the front passenger foot well for essentials such as passports, money, mobile, torch, snacks and a first aid kit. In the COVID era, don’t forget hand sanitiser and face masks for all the passengers, as they’ll need to wear them when stopping at service stations.

11) It goes without saying that a phone should not be used by the driver. Instead, stow it in the centre console while driving. Reservation details, directions and essential phone numbers may be on your phone, so it’s best to arrive with it fully charged. Passengers may want to use phones for entertainment during the journey, so keep them to hand and on charge.

12) Finally, even though it may be the UK, don’t forget your sunglasses! A recent survey by Toyota (see below) suggests that these are the items most likely to be left behind.

Did you know?

A recent survey conducted by Toyota revealed that the following items are most commonly forgotten when packing for a holiday journey: sunglasses (31%), beachwear (14%), underwear (13%), shoes (12%), money (9%) and mobile phone (8%).

The same survey asked people to reveal the leading causes of journey-related arguments. Navigation and/or getting lost was the leading cause (39%), followed by hunger (30%), journey length (26%), noisy children (23%), choice of music (19%), insufficient passenger room (18%) and running low on fuel (8%).


  1. Some great advice for packing. Nothing worse than arriving at your planned destination and having to find the kids bags first before the world ends.

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