Road trips can be grand adventures, or they can be a sticky uncomfortable disaster. Here are some tips to keep your trip clean and organized so you can focus on having fun and seeing the sights.
Use cooking spray.
Spray your front bumper, grill and mirrors with some nonstick pan spray so bugs will easily wash off after the trip. You may even want to tuck the can in the glove compartment so you have the option of stopping at a car wash to remove bugs along the way and can reapply your protective barrier.
Apply Rain-X on your windshield to keep you safe if you encounter bad weather, which can be harder to deal with when you’re in unknown surroundings. This will also make it easier to clean off bugs along the way and after the trip.
Save your empty hand soap container, and just before the trip, add a few squirts of soap (new hand soap, dish liquid, etc.) and fill it with water. Keep this in the car for your trip along with a roll of paper towels so you always have a quick way to clean up. Another option is to keep a pack of baby wipes available, but if you do this regularly, double-check before your trip that they haven’t dried out over time in your hot car.
Many passengers like to bring along a pillow for a road trip, especially kids. However, the pillow can get very dirty very fast as it gets dropped on the way to the car, crammed into floor spaces when not in use, or doubles as a lap tray for meals or kids coloring activities. After all that, you might not want to put your face on it. An easy fix is to put the pillow in several pillowcases before the trip. When one pillowcase gets dirty, you can just remove it.
Pack like a pro.
Rolling your clothes is a more efficient use of space than folding them. Just keep in mind that you will also need to roll them when putting them in the laundry bag to keep the same amount of space. Rolling your jewelry is good way to keep it organized and compact as well. To do that, lay out a cloth and lay your jewelry out on top, then fold or roll the cloth, keeping one item in each fold so they stay separated and the chains won’t get tangled up. Small items like earrings can be put in a sandwich bag before being rolled in with the rest of the jewelry to keep them together. Fasten the cloth with a couple hair ties or rubber bands.
Put a few trash bags in the trunk to hold your dirty laundry so you don’t have to keep putting it in your bag with all your clean clothes. These can also double as makeshift ponchos if you need them. Also bring some large Ziplocks for swimsuits and one grocery bag for each day of the trip to use for car trash. Produce bags work well for keeping dirty shoes off clean clothes in your travel bag or for organizing small travel items like toiletries or socks.
It is always a good idea to keep some containers available on road trips in case someone gets carsick. If you’re going to be prepared for that though, it is even more helpful to keep an unused toothbrush and toothpaste around with a bottle of water; this will make any carsick passenger feel cleaner afterward, which is especially nice for children. You can also keep some ginger candies like Gin-Gins or a ginger ale (that contains ginger) on hand to help stop someone from getting carsick in the first place.
Ready your refreshments.
Bringing your own snacks also allows you to plan exactly what might be all over the floor of your car after the trip (hint: skip the cheese puffs!). It is also a good idea to make sure snacks are low-sugar to keep passengers from getting antsy, and to be sure any kid snacks are small enough that they can’t choke. A couple cold waters can always be available via a small cooler or lunchbox, and if you bring that, also bring a damp washcloth in a sandwich bag with a little lemon juice on the cloth to use as a refreshing face wipe along the way. If you know you’ll be snacking, charge up your dustbuster in advance and tuck it somewhere you can easily reach it to suck up any crumbs that are around (or all over the place) at the end of each day.
Don’t dump drinks.
One of the most common car messes is a spilled drink. This is especially true with the flimsy drive-through cups whose lids pop off with the slightest bump in the road. Instead of risking your upholstery, get every passenger a large beverage bottle that has a secure lid and a pop-up spout. Drive-through drinks can quickly be poured into these bottles, preventing the mess. (It’s a good idea to transfer the liquid outside the car, just in case.) You may be able to find these bottles at a dollar store to keep costs to a minimum.
Plan for your return.
When you get back from the road trip, you’re probably going to be tired. Use all of your excited energy in advance to clean the house so it’s nice for your return. In particular, make sure there aren’t any dishes in the sink and make sure you have some clean laundry for when you get back. It’s extra nice if you have time to vacuum and clean the toilet as well, which will make your own home feel more like a vacation from your vacation when you get back.
- If you will have a smoker along for the ride, put a little baking soda in the ash try to prevent any odor from the butts. If you don’t have an ashtray, bring a metal water bottle for them to use instead.
- Tweezers can be helpful to have on hand in case of splinters or stickers from rest areas or wood walkways.
- Forget to bring Q-tips? Wrap a tissue over the handle of your toothbrush or a makeup brush.
- You should always consider getting an oil change before a long trip and if you do, ask them to top off your wiper fluid while they’re at it.
- Don’t forget to bring any supplies you may need for the car, such as extra keys, water for the radiator, a windshield scraper, a flashlight or a spare tire.
- After the trip, spray the underside of your car with a hose or put a sprinkler under it to wash off the road dirt.
- Hotels are notoriously germy. See our guide How to Sanitize a Hotel Room for cleaning tips.
- The Queen of Clean’s Complete Cleaning Guide by Linda Cobb
- Vinegar, Duct Tape, Milk Jugs & More by Earl Proulx
- Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things by Reader’s Digest
- Handy Household Hints from Heloise by Heloise
- Fix It, Clean It, Make It Last by Gayle Wood