#TravelatHome Series: Women’s Road Trip Packing Tips for 2020

Feature Image: How do you pack for a road trip? Small spaces mean carefully planning your pack – JW editor Amanda knows all about that / Photo credit: mkzdillon on Shutterstock.com

Road Trip Packing in the COVID Era

Packing is a blood sport for me. The challenge of figuring out everything I need to bring with me for a trip and configuring it all into a carry-on and small daypack is as thrilling and satisfying as the classic Nintendo video game Tetris.

I look at my trip by day and activity and make lists. As I am a visual creature, I collect my items and arrange them in a flat-lay on the floor so I have an unobstructed view of everything on my list. Then the configuration games begin. I almost always bring more than I need, but as long as everything fits into my carry-on bag, I don’t sweat it.

Flat lay detail of what JourneyWoman editor Amanda takes in her carry-on on road trips

Packing for any kind of travel – inter-city, in-state/province, in-country or international – in the COVID era is akin to a new parent collecting everything they need for a simple outing. It always boggles my mind how one tiny human can need SO.MUCH.STUFF.

New items I’m carrying with me for the first time as Carolyn and I head out on the road for several #TravelAtHome adventures in the wilds of Ontario:

  • A selection of facemasks (and filters)
  • Hand sanitizer (I always carry a small one strapped to my backpack – now, that tiny squeeze bottle isn’t enough)
  • Thermometer
  • Disinfectant wipes
  • My own set of reusable dishware (plate, bowl, cup, cutlery, cutting board)
  • My own bedding and pillow
  • Towels
  • Weighted vest (for tuning into livestream F45 classes on the go)
In late July, I spent five days camping on a farm in Chatsworth, using it as a home base from which to explore the Bruce Peninsula with two of my best travel buddies, Darra and Amanda. Packing for a camping trip in the COVID era presents a new set of configuration challenges, as there’s some unwieldy gear to pack on top of luggage. I have a two-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon – high on power and style, extremely low on trunk space. While tents, a cooker/cookware, metal food boxes, ropes and a toolkit were provided by our friend Eugene, whose family runs a nearby campground and outdoor activity venue, everything else had to squeeze into my Jeep:
  • A large Coleman cooler on wheels for food and beverages, which would only fit in the backseat (when it’s full, I sweat it out strong-arming it into the back of a two-door vehicle and feel like Wonder Woman when I succeed)
  • Ice packs
  • Air mattresses
  • Pillows and sleeping bags
  • Rain tarps
  • Camping chairs
  • Canopy (when you’re camping on a farm in the middle of a heatwave, artificial shade is less luxury and more necessity)
  • First aid kit
  • Camping cutting board & knife set
  • Camping dishware
  • Washbasin /washcloths /dishtowels /dishsoap
  • Water jugs
  • Garbage bags/paper towel
  • Tent lights/string lights/flashlights/headlamp
  • Portable chargers
  • Quick-dry towels
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Baby wipes
  • Backpacks
  • Daypacks

Well. I won’t lie – there was some sweating and swearing as we packed all of that in. But we did it. Now, on the other side of that adventure, I have some tips to share with you.

Road Trip Packing Tips

  1. Like Santa Claus, make a list. Check it twice. But don’t sweat it if you forget something. Baby brain has nothing on COVID brain. Having compassion for yourself and being able to laugh about your foibles goes a long way. And really, forgetting things – even important things – is part of the adventure.
  2. Lay everything out on a flat surface so you can visually scan it. Put things in logical piles – outfits by day/activity, toiletries, COVID kit (sanitizer, masks, disinfectant), sleeping gear, cooking/food storage/food prep & washup gear, lighting, technology, etc. Check it one more time against your list. Think like Marie Kondo and put unnecessary, non-functional items away. Ask yourself: Will I really use this? How many times will I use it? How much time/effort/grief will it save me? Will it simply weigh my pack down?
  3. Make must-go and nice-to-have piles outside of your vehicle. Start with the unwieldy/awkwardly shaped must-go items and find the best configuration for them in your vehicle. Fill in around them with flexible must-go items. See how much room you have left for nice-to-haves. Triage that list. Say goodbye to the things that won’t fit – and try not to think about them once you’re on your way.
  4. Pre-shop for any food/beverage favourites that small towns may not stock and put them in your must-go pile. This one is key for a road trip that includes camping, where the surprise element of rain can put a damper on your day. My friends and I are in love with a bougie hydrator from Toronto’s Greenhouse Juice Company – spicy turmeric lemonade. At 20 calories and packed with pucker-your-mouth flavour, this is a guilt-free drink that tricks your tastebuds into believing you’re having something special. I pushed my friends into stopping to grab some – and we all ended up grateful that we each had one to start every morning off with. It made the sole rainy day feel sunny.

Amanda Burgess

Amanda Burgess, a Toronto-based writer and creative strategist whose bags are always packed for her next adventure, is our Editor at JourneyWoman. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), and a Certified Cancer Journey Coach who creates a safe space for cancer patients and caregivers to design their dream lives – while living with cancer, and on the other side of it.



1 Comment

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    There are several good lists online for camping/and or travelling. Print one or several off, tick off the items as you pack them and then take the list with you so when you’ve packing to come home you’ll know if you have everything. It’s amazing the things we forget to take and a list saves a lot of grief.


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