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10 Things to Pack in Your Personal Vehicle When You Move

Posted in Moving on Apr 08, 2019, tagged with moving tips

No one wants to scramble through their moving truck looking for a missing piece of paperwork—or worse, open the back of their truck to the unpleasant odor of food that didn’t quite survive the trip.

When you’re packing up your home ahead of a move, there are some items you will want to set aside to be loaded into your personal car, both for convenience as well as for safety reasons. But when you’re faced with a mountain of boxes and a house full of furniture, it can be hard to narrow down what to pack in your moving truck and what you should take in your personal vehicle.

Generally speaking, items that you will need immediately upon arrival, items that have significant value (whether sentimental or financial), and items that require certain ambient conditions, such as plants and animals, should all be transported in your personal vehicle rather than in a moving truck. This includes:

  1. Living things
  2. Important paperwork
  3. Spare keys
  4. Emergency preparedness kit
  5. Food
  6. Cleaning supplies and toiletries
  7. Entertainment
  8. Clothes
  9. Bedding
  10. Valuable items

Since you’ll typically have limited space in your personal vehicle, you’ll want to get organized and prioritize your belongings before you pack to ensure the most important things are brought along.

1. Living things

In addition to important or expensive belongings and things you will need within the first day of arriving at your new home, you will want to bring any plants or pets along in your personal vehicle. This helps limit some of the stress placed on them, and allows you to:

  • Monitor their condition, and provide any care, food, or water that they need
  • Ensure they are snug and secure throughout the trip
  • Adjust the temperature of the vehicle to suit their needs.

Moving with pets? Learn more about how to make moving with pets less stressful.

2. Important paperwork

This includes any moving paperwork, lease or rental agreements, or other paperwork you might need to deal with your moving team or gain entry to your new home. You’ll also want to bring all forms of personal identification (such as driver’s licenses, health and insurance cards, and passports), and you might want to consider bringing things that contain sensitive information, such as medical records or financial documents.

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3. Spare keys

Who among us hasn’t accidentally locked their keys in their home or car at least once? Having an extra set in your wallet, purse, or pockets is a great way to ensure that you don’t have to call and wait for AAA, a locksmith, or your realtor on an already stressful day.

4. Emergency preparedness kit

You should always have an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle, but it’s something you will definitely want during a lengthy road trip to your new home. You’ll be packing and unpacking your stuff, spending lots of time on the road, and—depending on the time of year and location—driving in varying weather conditions. Having a kit stocked and ready can help you through a number of different situations, including breakdowns, accidents, and inclement weather. In your emergency kit, you should include:

  • First aid kit, fully stocked with bandages
  • Emergency rations (non-perishable food)
  • Flash light
  • Radio
  • Extra winter or rain gear
  • Spare tire and car jack
  • Roadside flares
  • Folding shovel and cat litter or sand
  • Emergency contact information

5. Food

In addition to emergency rations, you’ll want some tasty treats and healthy options to snack on while you travel. This way, you won’t have to pull over every time someone is hungry, or get by on nothing but fast food. Load up your cooler with ice packs, drinks, and a variety of easy-to-eat options like sandwiches, wraps, or snacking foods, like veggies, granola, crackers, and cheese. Don’t forget to throw in something fun as well.

6. Cleaning supplies & toiletries

When you are traveling in a car for a while—especially if you are going to be eating snacks—you will definitely need a cleaning kit and set of toiletries so you can refresh yourself when needed. This can include:

  • Tissues
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • Small garbage bags for the car
  • Sunscreen
  • Moisturizer
  • Lip balm
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Face wash
  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, and mouthwash
  • Prescription medications

You’ll also be grateful that these essential items are easily accessible when you arrive at your new home and your regular supplies and toiletries are buried under the mountain of boxes you just unloaded.

PRO TIP: While it may be tempting to cram in as much of your stuff as you possibly can, it is even more important to ensure good visibility for the driver, and that there will be no items sliding under the pedals or otherwise making things unsafe for anyone in the vehicle.

7. Entertainment

For the driver, download some audiobooks, podcasts, and music to help them stay alert and entertained without getting too distracted.

For passengers, ensure everyone has headphones, and pick up some car games, as well as activity and coloring books. You may also want to pack handheld consoles and download some favorite shows, video games, or movies.

8. Clothes

Whether you are planning a few overnight stays or are hoping to drive right through the entire trip, you’ll want to have a few changes of clothes on hand so you don’t have to unpack immediately after arriving. Make sure they are comfortable for traveling and are clothes you don’t mind getting dirty if you are going to be lifting boxes and unloading trucks.

The amount of clothing you’ll need will depend on the duration of your trip—you may need several outfit changes or just one. Either way, make sure you pack as much as you need of:

  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Shirts
  • Bottoms
  • Pajamas

9. Bedding

Whether for naps in the car or to quickly get your bed set up in your new home, having bedding on hand in your personal vehicle is a good idea if you have the space. Include:

  • A set of sheets for each bed
  • Bed pillows if you have space in the trunk
  • Thin pillows and light blankets for inside the car
  • Sleep masks and earplugs

PRO TIP: Rather than taking up space in its own box, bedding can easily be used to fill in gaps between boxes when packing the trunk.

10. Valuable items

Jewelry, small electronics, and other expensive or sentimental items that you want to keep your eye on should all be packed in the car you will be driving. This way, you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged, misplaced or forgotten.

PRO TIP: To make unpacking or finding the things you need easier, always clearly label what each box, bag, or bin contains, who it belongs to, and which room it belongs in. In this case, you will also want to specify that it is going to be transported in your personal vehicle so it doesn’t get loaded into your moving truck by mistake.


With limited space, it can be hard to narrow down what items to bring. Sorting it out beforehand and sticking to the most important items will save you a lot of time and spare you lots of stress on moving day. Important items to pack in your personal vehicle include:

  1. Living things
  2. Important paperwork
  3. Spare keys
  4. Emergency preparedness kit
  5. Food
  6. Cleaning supplies and toiletries
  7. Entertainment
  8. Clothes
  9. Bedding
  10. Valuable items

Keep reading: What not to pack: Items to keep handy on moving day

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