How I Pack for a Months-Long Road Trip, and What I Brought to Mexico

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I’ve been on the road in Mexico (this time around) for three and a half weeks now, and since I always tend to get the questions, “But, how do you look so cute when you travel, Julie?” and “And, what do people actually pack on a months-long nomadic sabbatical?” — I thought it prime time to give you a look under my hood (or perhaps, more aptly, into my trunk) when it comes to my earthly possessions in this world.

Plus, I’m sharing a few fun facts you just may not know about me, along with my best packing and organization tips for long-term travel. 🥰 

While I AM a nomad, officially, I have domicile in Kansas. I wasn’t born there, nor did I grow up there, nor have I ever actually lived there, but according to the government (who needs me to have a permanent address), it’s my home in the U.S. (And, it’s that of my family’s — my mother, my brother and his wife, and a whole host of their offspring.) Kansas is where I’m insured, where my car is registered, where I get mail, and what’s on my driver’s license; it’s also the place where I park my SUV when I go abroad, and where I keep a couple bins of clothing and other various stuff I didn’t downsize. I spent two and a half months there over the winter while I was waiting to obtain Mexican residency through the Kansas City consulate, which was my longest stint ever in the Sunflower State.

I drive a paid-off, thoroughly hail-dented 2017 Honda CR-V, and I love it, insomuch as it gets the job done, holds all my stuff pretty well, and gets decent gas mileage (33-36 mpg). My Apple CarPlay visual navigation is also an absolute lifesaver. I don’t sleep in my SUV, although I have before when I car-camped across the American West in early 2020.

What kind of stuff did you keep? When I sold my house and 98% of what I owned in 2020 (and that is not an exaggeration), I moved a few items into a storage unit in Phoenix, which I had for just over a year. When I cleaned that out, I donated a few more things and took the rest back to Kansas. Some items were gifted to members of my family (some art, a microwave and kitchenware, some books, an Apple TV) and the rest was amalgamated into my mom’s place or my brother’s basement.

At my family’s, I store a file cabinet with important documents, some warm weather clothing and shoes (because I tend to spend Thanksgiving with them), some business casual attire and formal wear that still fit and flatter me (I have rare occasion to wear them, but for now, I’m holding onto them), a shelf with some mementos, jewelry, and other knick knacks I have yet to organize or purge, and my desktop computer tower and monitor. (I spend $15 a month on renter’s insurance to safeguard these items.) It’s not a TON, but it’s SOME. I definitely feel grateful to have a place to store these items, and a mother who reads my mail for me (with permission). 😉 

When I’m getting ready for a trip, I cycle out some of my clothing. Depending on the season, the place, and whether I’m taking a suitcase or my SUV, I go through the bins I have and pick out what I want to take. There are usually pieces of clothing that always come with me — my favorite $25 jeans, my favorite sweater, and Birkenstock shoes — and then there are some articles I’m sick of from wearing too much on my last trip, so I’ll switch those out for something “new.” This little bit of refreshing helps keep me from looking imploringly into my suitcase and thinking, “I have NOTHING to wear!” Check out what I brought for 16 weeks in Europe in one suitcase.

What I brought on my road trip to Mexico

In this 4-minute video, I quickly walk you through how I arranged everything in my SUV for my Mexico road trip. I put the rear seats down in the CR-V, and everything comes together like puzzle pieces! (I’m pretty proud of this!)

Pro tip: I also chose these organizational bins because it’s easy to move them directly into my rental without much hassle or shifting around, and the fact that some of them are drawers are super helpful.

During my long road trips, this is how I pack for long-term travel:

  • Two large plastic drawers, like these
    • One of these bins holds my exercise clothing, tennis shoes, and sports bras. 
    • The other bin holds my swimsuits, underwear, and bras. 
  • Two clear lidded stackable bins, like these
    • One bin holds my shoes. I have a couple pairs of sandals, a couple pairs of waterproof/athletic/hiking footwear, and a few wedges/short heels for “fancy” nights out.
    • One bin holds my overflow clothing. This is anything that I don’t expect to be wearing right away (because that would be in my suitcase!). For example, I have dresses and beachwear in my overflow bin, which I have yet to wear since it’s been on the chillier side landlocked in central Mexico.
  • One tote bin, like this. This is for my toiletries, cosmetics, and hair dryer/curling iron. I also have a portable mirror (because believe it or not, sometimes the rooms I stay in don’t have them) and a few vitamins/medicines. 
  • One large lidded heavy-duty storage bin, like this. This contains a few emergency items, like a solo stove, battery powered lanterns, and small tools. I also have a couple of my miscellaneous accessories in there, like a waterproof dry bag, small backpack, extension cords, velvet hangers, measuring tape, and other household/camping/outdoor stuff I might randomly need.
  • One small plastic drawer, like this. In this drawer, I have overflow medications, cosmetics, and small accessories. 
  • One unopened bag of dog food and one dog food “vault”. Since the same brands are not all available in Mexico, I brought a bunch of Penny’s dog food.
  • A sturdy fabric dog bed, like this one. Penny sits on her bed, set atop the folded-down seats, while I drive. She’s super comfy here. I am also known to bring it into the rentals we stay in, one, so Penny’s got her little place, and two, to dissuade them from charging me a pet fee!
  • One medium-sized Monos suitcase (read my Monos luggage review here). I am really happy with this suitcase, and it fits perfectly in my car (and if it were any bigger, I don’t think I could lift it!) 
  • A large soft tote bag for my dog Penny’s lifejacket, toys, and accessories, because Penny needs to have her comforts too.
  • A soft cooler from Trader Joe’s. In here, I have a french press, some plastic silverware and plates, all my cooking spices, a can opener, bottle opener, a small skillet and spatula, and a few small Tupperwares for leftovers. Sometimes, there’s also food in here (when I go from rental to rental). 
  • And of course, my backpack, which has my laptop, iPhone tripod, and a few other computer and photography accessories! It’s also from Monos.

Some other rules I follow for road-tripping

  • Download the Google Maps for the totality of the route, just in case cellular service is weak or non-existent
  • Download free audiobooks via the Libby app authenticated with my library card, because listening only to music gets boring (and why pay for books when you can rent them for free?)
  • Fill up no lower than one-third a tank, just in case
  • Keep a jug of water in my vehicle, just in case

And finally… don’t serious minimalists own a lot less than me? Well, for one, less and more are subjective, two, I am a reluctantly self-defined minimalist, and three, minimalism is an ongoing practice. I feel like I have a lot of options, probably more than I need (but not too much to handle), and I can still see out my back windows. Plus, I actually have one fewer bin than last year!

Be sure to follow my journey south of the border on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, and pick up my new eBook, “Money and Mindset: How to Take a Sabbatical!”

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One thought on “How I Pack for a Months-Long Road Trip, and What I Brought to Mexico

  1. Great post Julie. I’m planning a five week road trip of Italy in the summer. It’s great to hear what works for you!

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