Suitcase secrets: how to pack a car boot

A poorly packed car boot wastes space and makes things hard to find. Follow our handy trunk-filling tips for a trouble-free family road trip.

Do away with doubles

• Discuss with your family what they’re bringing and consolidate where you can – for instance, take just one toilet bag containing toothpaste, soap, shampoo and the like; and pack board games, games consoles and other smallish loose items together in a box.

• Each person should have a suitcase of similar dimensions, although women may claim to need more space (see box).

Before you pack

• Empty and clean the car interior – there’s nothing quite so inspiring as a clean slate.

• While the boot is empty, check your spare tyre (is it pumped to the right pressure?) and equipment.

• Gather all the baggage to be packed together in one place at the back of the car.

In the box

• Put small fragile or breakable items (such as electronic gadgets or DVDs) into a rigid box or plastic crate, and cushion them with small soft items, such as towels or pillows. This both protects them and makes them easier to pack.

Divide and conquer

• Divide your luggage into four piles:

#1. emergency equipment, including first-aid kit and torch

#2. soft stuff - pillows, blankets, jackets

#3. stuff that people will need access to on the road

#4. stuff that you won’t use until you reach your destination

In first, out last

• Tackling pile #4 first, and working as if you’re putting together a big 3D jigsaw puzzle, pack the largest, bulkiest and most awkwardly-shaped items first, pushing everything firmly up against the back seat. Then pack the largest squareish stuff (suitcases and boxes), fitting everything as closely together as possible. Pack the medium-sized stuff next.

• Repeat this with pile #3 – biggest first, then medium-sized stuff.

• Pack all the small things from piles #3 and #4 and the soft things (pile #2) last – you can usually use the remaining space wisely by pushing the items into gaps.

• Put the emergency stuff (pile #1) right on top.

What’s your car’s carrying capacity?

Even the most craftily packed trunk can cause problems if it’s crammed with very heavy items – not only does this put potentially
damaging pressure on shock absorbers, tyres and suspension, it can also cause potentially dangerous handling issues. Check your car’s handbook to confirm what its maximum carrying weight is, and don’t exceed it. And before you set off, remember to adjust your tyre pressure for the heavier load.

The battle of the sexes’ suitcases

On average, men pack about 40 items for a 2-week holiday. By contract, women’s attire tally is a staggering 150 items.
This vast difference contributes significantly to arguments around packing the car boot, with men indignantly – and accurately - pointing out that their little bag is a fraction the size of their partners’.

Other findings (by UK department store Debenhams and P&O Cruises) are:

• The average woman wears only about a third of what she packs in her holiday suitcase – of the 150 items, she really needs only about 57.

• Women plan their holiday wardrobes months in advance, and start packing about a week before; 90% of men pack at the last minute, and 70% of them forget something vital.

• 56% of women manage to cram a complete change of clothes, spare underwear, swimwear and shoes, plus an array of miniature toiletries, into their hand luggage.

• When flying, 29% of women have to pay excess-baggage charges, and nearly half of those lie about the weight of their suitcase to their partner before leaving for the airport.

For a demonstration on how to pack a car boot, watch this:

Sources: Debenhams, SkyNews
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