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blog large image - Road Trip Essentials: How To Pack A Small Car For a Road Trip

Road Trip Essentials: How To Pack A Small Car For a Road Trip

Table of Contents

  1. Benefits of road tripping with a small car
  2. Prioritise packing the essentials
  3. Get creative with your storage solutions
    1. Roof racks
    2. Cargo carriers
    3. Organisers
    4. Cargo barriers
  4. Pack smartly with these practical tips
  5. Safety tips for long road trips
  6. Make room for fun
  7. Get Ready to Experience a Road Trip of a Lifetime

Whether you're planning a day trip or a month-long bucket list adventure, there's no doubt that travelling in a small car comes with some challenges. But with the right packing tips and tricks, you can experience some of the best road tripping Australia has to offer, based out the back of a small car. Get ready to hit the open road, with our ultimate road trip checklist.

Benefits of road tripping with a small car

Whether you've got a small car you use to get around the city, or you're needing to head to a car rental before your next long road trip, there are heaps of advantages to hitting the road in a smaller vehicle like the Mazda 2, Mazda CX-3 or Mazda 6 Wagon, including;

  • Fuel efficiency - with rising fuel costs, now is the best time to choose a small car that won't break the bank every time you have to fill the tank..

  • Safety & reliability - new small cars are designed with advanced safety features and reliability in mind. Trust us, breaking down halfway up the west coast is not how you want to spend your next road trip.

  • Optimisable storage space - although they might look little, once you fold down the seats and add some easy storage solutions, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the storage space in your small car.

  • Affordability - while a bigger vehicle might seem appealing at first glance, purchasing, hiring or simply maintaining a small car is guaranteed to be kinder to your bank account!


Prioritise packing the essentials

When space is limited, packing your small car with the essentials is the perfect place to start.

We recommend you start by making a road trip checklist of essential items you'll need for your specific location. For instance, if you're heading to the beach, you'll need swimwear, sunscreen, and a beach towel. If you're planning a hiking trip, you'll need hiking boots, a backpack, and appropriate clothing.

Next, prioritise items that are necessary for your safety and well-being. To help get you started, we've put together a packing list of common road trip essentials for any destination:

  • Phone charger and power bank

  • Water bottles, food and snacks

  • Personal items such as toiletries

  • Travel mug

  • First aid kit

  • Spare tyre and tyre-changing tools

  • Jumper cables

  • Sunscreen and insect repellent

  • Comfortable clothing and shoes

  • Blankets and pillows

  • Camping gear

  • Cash and credit cards

  • Swimwear

  • Beach towel

  • Warm clothing (jacket, beanie, scarf etc.)

  • Waterproof jacket

  • Sunglasses and hat

When making your list, consider packing versatile items that can be used for multiple purposes to save space. For example, a sarong can double as a beach towel and a big scarf can serve as a blanket.

Get creative with your storage solutions

The next best way to prepare for your road trip is to get creative with your storage solutions.

Below are some of our favourite ways to maximise and enhance car storage, giving you enough room to allow for long trips to even the most remote areas:

Roof racks

A great idea for storing larger items, such as bicycles, kayaks, or camping gear. Make sure to secure the items tightly and evenly distribute their weight to prevent any damage or safety hazards.

Cargo carriers

A cargo carrier is an excellent option for storing bulky items, such as suitcases, camping gear, or sporting equipment. Look for lightweight, durable options that can easily attach to your small car's roof or boot.


Use organisers of different sizes like packing cubes and plastic tubs to keep smaller items in order. Consider using hanging organisers or backseat organisers to allow for easy access to useful items while on the road.

Cargo barriers

Cargo barriers can be useful for separating different items and keeping them organised. For instance, you can use a cargo barrier to separate clean and dirty clothes or to keep food and drinks separate from other items.


Pack smartly with these practical tips

So you've prepared an essential road trip packing list, found a creative storage solution, and now it's time to actually pack for your long drive. When it comes to packing, being smart about the way you use space is key. Here are our top tips to keep in mind:

  1. Pack strategically by weight
    Pack heavier items first and place them at the bottom of your storage space. Lighter items should go on top. Distribute weight evenly to ensure that the car is stable and safe to drive.

  2. Roll clothes
    Rolling clothes instead of folding them saves space and reduces wrinkles.

  3. Use vacuum bags
    Vacuum storage bags help compress bulky items like blankets or pillows to save space, while also protecting items from moisture and dust.

  4. Use bungee cords
    Bungee cords can be used to tightly secure items like coolers or camping gear, creating more room.

  5. Use every inch of space
    Use the space in your glove compartment and in between larger items like suitcases or camping gear to store small things like shoes and hats.

While packing your car, it's important to keep safety in mind. Be mindful that you don't overpack, and ensure your belongings aren't at risk of falling on the driver or passengers.

Safety tips for long road trips

Whether your next adventure is shaping up to be for a day, a week, or a month, safety should always be your top priority. It’s even more critical if a big road trip with long days of driving is on the horizon.

Before setting off to chase your next adventure, we highly recommend keeping this checklist in mind:

  • Vehicle check
    Before setting off, ensure that your car is in good condition. Check the brakes, tyres, fluids, and lights to ensure everything works correctly. If your car is due for a service, we recommend booking it with a mechanic before you hit the open road. The experienced technicians at Melville Mazda can provide a full health check on your vehicle to give you peace of mind. Book here.

  • Plan your route
    Plan your route in advance and let someone know your plans, including your expected arrival time and route. Also, check road conditions and weather forecasts for potential hazards along the way.

  • Secure your items
    As we've mentioned, securing your items not only saves you space but also ensures the safety of everyone in the car. Remember to always lock your car when you leave it, and avoid leaving valuables in plain sight.

  • Take breaks from driving
    Take regular breaks during long days of driving to prevent driver fatigue. Stop every few hours to stretch your legs, have a snack, or take a nap if necessary.

  • Stay aware on the road
    Be aware of other drivers and their behaviour. If you are entering a new state, it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with any differences in road rules.

  • Be prepared for emergencies
    Bring an emergency kit with essentials like first aid supplies, a torch, blankets, and extra water. Also, make sure you have a spare tyre, a jack, and a tyre iron in your car.

  • Keep track of your nearest service stations
    Being aware of where your nearest service stations and rest stops are on a road trip is crucial for safety. This ensures that you know where to access fuel, food, restrooms, and other essential services at all times.

Make room for fun

What's a road trip without a car-load of fun? While packing the road trip essentials is crucial, it's also important to make room for items that will make your journey even more enjoyable.

Here are some things we think should make the cut (and should be able to fit in your small car):

  • Camp chairs

  • Games (e.g. card games, board games etc.)

  • Bluetooth speaker

  • Camera (if you're interested in photography)

  • Sports equipment (e.g. football, soccer ball, cricket gear, volleyball etc.)

  • Books

Get Ready to Experience a Road Trip of a Lifetime

Pack your small car just right and you’ll be ready to hit the road for some of the best adventures Australia has to offer, all while making the most of the financial benefits of a smaller vehicle. As long as you remember to start by packing the essential items, add creative storage solutions like roof racks or a cargo carrier, pack smartly and keep safety and fun in mind, you’ll be all set for your next big road trip!

Are you still searching for the perfect all-rounder car that can easily manoeuvre the city streets AND make all your long road trip dreams come true? Head to our Mazda dealership in Perth to check out our range of small cars guaranteed to fit your needs.