Road Trip Car Organization: How to Maximize Your Vehicle Space

When it comes to taking an extended road trip, it’s crucial to maximize your space. This post is all about road trip car organization! Take only what you need and keep your things organized and properly stored so you know where to find them when you need them.

For my four-month journey through 46 states, I had the luxury of having a huge conversion van, with four regular seats and a bench seat in the back that folded down into a bed, under which I could store all kinds of belongings.

conversion van back seat - road trip car organization

I actually get really excited about organizing my car for a road trip!


Most road-trippers won’t have that much space; however, they also won’t be on the road for that long, so the amount of crap they have to bring is also a lot less.

See previous Road Trip Hacks:
#1: Tips for sleeping in your vehicle while traveling
#2: Three must-have gadgets for the budget road tripper
#3: Bring the best snacks with our list of road trip food suggestions

Here’s how I arranged the inside of the van. I kept one of the middle-row high-back seats so I had somewhere to sit upright, aside from the front seats. But I removed the other, opening up a big space for storage.

Road Trip Car Organization Suggestions

conversion van inside - how to maximize your space

Clothing-wise, I brought the bare minimum – seven tshirts, one or two long-sleeved shirts, a coat, and a few pairs of pants. They all fit inside a big plastic storage bin. I kept the electronics and food in a small plastic dresser.

Shoes and additional food went under the front of the bed, while dirty laundry, a suitcase (which I ended up not even needing) and gallons of water went under the back of the bed. I was surprised how much I was able to fit. I actually could have taken a lot more if I wanted.

It’s weird, because during the whole four-month trip, I never felt like I was missing out on anything. Once in a while, I wished I had a particular piece of clothing with me, but overall I didn’t miss everything I left behind. That’s yet another reason why I keep trying to become more minimalist.

road trip organize van interior

Road Trip Hacks for Those in Smaller Vehicles

I’ve also taken road trips in a tiny pickup truck with just the two seats in the front and very little storage. And I’ve taken road trips in small compact rental cars, like when I traveled on Route 66 through Kansas and Oklahoma.

Joshua Tree Day Trip: How to Spend One Day in the National Park

The same principles apply. Prioritize your needs, maximize whatever space you have based on those priorities, and most importantly: Remember where you’ve packed everything so it’s easily accessible!

Take advantage of your trunk to store necessities, but don’t go overboard bringing too much crap that isn’t essential. Remember to have trash bags, napkins or paper towels, and of course, chargers for your phones and cameras.

While you’re on the road, can you even pretend you’re competing in a road trip reality program across America!

Check out our road trip planner if you want tips to map out your own adventure.

Do you have any tips for road trip car organization?

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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  1. I’ve been thinking about renting a camper and driving around the US so this totally gives me an idea of what it would be like to live in a camper. Being a girl, packing has to be the hardest thing to do. One thing I was wondering about is if you can park a camper van anywhere? Do you have to have a permit or are you required to park at a mobile/camper park?

    1. Hmmm, it might depend on how big it is and whether there are any local ordinances, but I would assume you can park it on the street like any other vehicle.

  2. Have to applaud you on packing light and being very organized. I am less decisive when it comes to clothes, so I end up mostly carrying lots of clothes when traveling (working on choosing right clothes for travel XD)

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