How We Prepared Our Car For A Road Trip From Seattle To San Diego

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Our family took an amazing vacation in March. We drove from Seattle to San Diego along Highway 101. We were in our vehicle for 18 days! Well, of course not all of those days were spent in the vehicle, but we did feel like we lived in the car just a bit. So how did we get our car prepped for this long, multi destination road trip? And how did we pack for visiting 3-4 different climates and a myriad of activities?

Thank you to Jiffy Lube and Shell for partnering with us for this post by providing gift cards for services. All opinions are 100% my own.

Driving from Idaho, up to Seattle, then taking Highway 101 all the way down the coast to San Diego, and finally heading home through the desserts of Nevada and Utah was a big endeavor. We traveled for 18 days. We encountered snow, rain, and nice warm SoCal weather. We hit cities, beaches, dude ranches, forests for hiking, and theme parks. We drove over 3300 miles. So how did we prepare our car for a road trip of this magnitude?

Day 2 of driving. Still pretty happy.

How We Packed Our Car For A Road Trip On The West Coast

Hitting up so many different locations, climates, and activities left me wondering the best way to pack our vehicle. Should I pack each of us one big suitcase with all the many things we would need? Should I put drawers for clothing in the back of the vehicle and pull out what we needed at each stop?

We had done a multi destination road trip last year and I had tried the one big suitcase for me, one for my husband and 1 for all three kids. It didn’t work well because we had to dig through all the different clothing for the ones just for that area. So this year we tried packing a suitcase for each location.

We had a small overnight bag for anywhere we were staying one night. Then my husband and I each had a bag because we were pretty sure we would still wear the same clothing in many of the locations. Then for each stop we had a bag for the kids, marked with the location. Finally we had a bag of our swimming clothes and a box with all of our shoes in it for the different locations and activities. (Tennis shoes, sandals, water shoes, cowboy boots, and hiking boots)

Packing for road trip
We packed a bag for each location we were stopping.

We only brought in whatever we needed at each stop, until we hit Southern California. We were going to be there for a week so we just brought everything in. Plus we needed room to take our rented stroller back and forth to DIsneyland.

All of our clothing bags fit in the back of the suburban, but we had trouble finding locations for other random items. I kind of missed my mini van this trip. Even though we had a bigger vehicle, we felt more squished with the same amount of stuff… Still not sure how that worked.

How We Prepared Our Car For A Road Trip of 3300 Miles

So how did we get our car ready for this massive road trip? More than you might think.

First, we made sure to have a road side emergency kit. With that, we checked that we had extra oil, our spare was in good condition, and more. After that, we realized, we needed to prepare our car to help make it easy to pack.

So we quickly built a shelf for the back of our Suburban. I absolutely love how it worked out and it cost us all of $30.

Preparing car for road trip. Suburban shelf
Our shelf for our suburban cargo area. Took us an afternoon and $30.

Before leaving, we had our car serviced with an oil change at Jiffy Lube. I love that Jiffy lube has locations all over and oil changes are their specialty. They are easy to get into, and they explain the different service options well. They also vacuumed out our vehicle which was nice before we went on vacation, but even nicer after we had it serviced after our return.

Finally, before heading on vacation, we mapped our where some Shell stations were so we knew where we could fill up our vehicle along the way. My husband fell in love with Shell stations when he had an older motorcycle and every mechanic he spoke to suggested going to Shell. So we are Shell lovers in our home…er, vehicles.

Jiffy Lube for car service before road trip.
We made sure to have our car serviced at Jiffy Lube both before our road trip and after.

Finally, we tried to organize the inside of the vehicle. Over the course of our trip, we moved things around A LOT! (I really missed that Mini Van.) Being our first trip with this vehicle it took us a while to figure out how we liked having things set up, but once we found what worked for us it was all good.

Some other things to look at before heading on the road with your vehicle:

Are your tires in good shape?

Are all your lights working? (Jiffy Lube will check this for you)

Are your windshield wipers in good condition?

Do you know where all the outlets are?

Have you had your maintenance done?

Do you have roadside assistance?

Do you have a map in your car (even if you plan on using GPS, it is still a good idea to have a map)?

Do you have a spare that is in good repair? Do you have everything you need to change a tire?

Do you have an emergency roadside kit?

Once you have all these things in order, you can hit the road knowing you have done everything possible to make sure your car is road trip ready.


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