Our tiny living adventure afforded us the ability to take a nice two week road trip across the east coast of the United States. We thought our experience reducing and moving into a tiny home prepared us for living on the road, but we have so much more to learn. So much!!!
I’m sure you’ve seen people or shows about people that travel with only their backpack. Everything they need to sleep, eat, dress, etc., is in this lone backpack. It’s a compelling idea to even see if you can do it. Could you survive with only what you can carry on your back? Well, our family certainly could not, unless it was life or death- but then, I’m sure everyone would try their best.
We already had accommodations set up for most of our days– staying with friends/family and an occasional night in a hotel. At the midpoint of our journey, we planned to camp out for a couple of nights in Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, so camping equipment was needed. Having been in scouting for the past seven years has given us the time and knowledge to know exactly what we needed and pack light. We were covered with a tent, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, lanterns, flashlights, and a small box of camping essentials (ie; fire starter, waterproof matches, hammer, reusable dishes/utensils, etc.). These items took up a total of 1/4 of our roof cargo box. I considered that a success.
Our road trip had us moving around a lot so we were unsure if we would be able to do laundry or if we should pack extra clothes to stay clean and fresh. Of course, we ended up packing more than we needed and our “suitcases” were a bit cumbersome to pack and unpack at each location. Each one of us had a piece of luggage the maximum size of an airplane carry-on which is a good start. However, then we added a bag for toiletries, a bag for jackets and a bag for electronics. We each could’ve packed our jackets, toiletries, and electronics in our own luggage bags had we reduced the number of clothing items. (We were able to do laundry about every third day which meant we were wearing mostly the same favorite clothing items anyway.) We need more work in this department.
Next, we wanted to save money by bringing our own drinks and snacks. This probably was a good idea where money is concerned because these items can really add up when you buy them one at a time in high tourist traffic areas and even at rest stops. It’s also nice to have them readily accessible to reduce unnecessary driving breaks. BUT, these items took up 1/2 of our hatchback! We knew we would be traveling to very hot areas so we planned dry snacks that would fare well in the heat. Those fit perfectly in a small box. We lost our space in bringing a cooler to keep the drinks cold. We definitely enjoyed the cold refreshment and the cooler came in handy with food items we picked up along the way, but it took up a lot of space. It would have most likely been just as convenient to bring a smaller size cooler to refill as needed, but we were concerned about leaving an overstock of bottled drinks in the car in extreme heat conditions. Another idea is to bring only water or powder mix singles for when a little extra electrolytes are needed to reduce the cooler size.
The best purchase I made for my Subaru is a roof-top cargo box! As far as tiny living is concerned, this is probably cheating, but it made us more comfortable. We were able to see out the windows of the car by not packing to the ceiling and we could still bring some fun accessories. We knew there would be a beach adventure on our trip so we stowed away beach chairs and a boogie board in our cargo box. All of our camping equipment also went inside including some extra items (ie; s’mores sticks, beach shovel, lanterns, beach towels). It was nice to have some comforts on our trip and not “rough it” too much.
We were glad we stocked the car with necessities we could buy at home cheaper and even on sale. Sunscreen, bug spray, first aid, water, dry snacks, Gatorade, and iced tea were items we used regularly that would’ve cost us a fortune had we bought them only as needed during our trip. Packing them in the car in clear storage boxes that stacked also helped us easily access and enjoy them. (Not to mention keeping the bug spray away from the pressed fruit!)
Our road trip was a huge success. We had a lot of terrific family moments filled with fun and laughter. We drove through nine states (and DC) and explored five. We connected with four families that we typically only see on social media due to distance. (We hadn’t seen three of those families in over a decade!) Connecting with friends, family, different commmunities, and Mother Nature made this the best vacation we have taken as a family to date.
We were very comfortable on our trip with what we brought, especially traveling in a mid size vehicle, our Subaru Crosstrek. We could’ve chosen to bring less and, ultimately, travel as light as a backpacker, but I think we’ll reserve that option for weekend camping. We did see hundreds of RV’s on the road and in the parks. RV’s seem like a terrific suggestion for long distance and long term trips, especially if you have a large group. We like the idea of being able to use the bathroom, sleep in a bed, and play board games all while driving to each destination. We may venture to team up with another family and try this next year.
Our destinations are posted on Instagram and FaceBook to check out.
If you’ve taken a long road trip, I’d love to hear about your experience!
Tips for traveling light…
- Drink water– you can travel with one reusable water bottle for each person and gallon containers of water for refill if you’re traveling to an unknown or poor water quality area. Our family of three used four gallons of water during our trip when on the road. If you’re really trying the “backpack” method, look into mini water filtration systems, water bottles with a filter, and potable tablets.
- Dry Snacks– pick snacks that will not melt or expire in varying temperatures. Nuts, dried/dehydrated fruit, pressed fruit, pretzels, chips, granola, etc.
- Camping Equipment– Try to opt for lightweight quality equipment. Sleeping bags and air mattresses can keep you warm and comfortable without being bulky. Do your research when it’s time to invest. When it comes to your sleeping- quality is money well spent.
- Cookware/Plates, Utensils- owning a set of reusable kitchen items will save you space, eventually money, and help minimize trash. Collapsible silicon bowls, plates, tea kettles and the like are our favorites. A good spife (spoon/fork/knife combo) is all you need to enjoy your meals.
- Storage boxes– organizing your items can help save space and reduce confusion when an item is needed. We had separate boxes for sunscreen/bug spray, dry snacks, beach towels/accessories, and camping accessories. It made it real easy to find and take items out of the car when needed.
- Laundry– look into the accommodations for washing your clothes in advance. If you have access to cleaning your clothes, you won’t need as many. Fitting everything into a single bag that’s easy to transport will make your life easier/simpler.
Once again, minimizing your stuff comes down to what you can live without, but don’t forget to be comfortable!