Car Rental Tips: Packing Your Car

Two Car-Packing Pros share insider tips to help travelers easily load their cars and drive off on vacation in no time.

When booking a rental car for vacation, most people consider what matters most: those who will be riding in the car during your adventures. Travelers frequently book cars to accommodate the number of people vacationing without also considering their luggage. As a result, packing a vehicle’s trunk can be a bit of a puzzle.

To solve this travel conundrum, we’ve tapped two car-packing pros Anthony “Tony” Nozewski, Alamo Rent A Car Branch Manager at Lambert – St. Louis International Airport and Rebecca Starodub, concierge at Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago to share their five tips to help travelers load their cars with ease and drive off on vacation quickly.

Material Matters

If you’re renting a car, pack soft luggage. Materials like nylon and leather are more malleable and can be nearly half the weight of similarly-sized hard-shell luggage. The lightened load will not only be useful making your way through the airport, the added flexibility of softer luggage pieces will help you solve your suitcase-packing puzzle.

“With a lot of bags, there’s no give, especially the hard bags,” says Nozewski. “You lay it flat, and that’s what you have to work around.” So, if you’re cramped for room, says Starodub, soft-sided luggage helps maximize trunk space.

Go Medium

Because many airlines charge fees for checking luggage, some travelers check fewer bags. However, the size of the bags they check might be larger as a result, says Nozewski. This can be problematic when you load the trunk of your rental car, especially if you have more than one large rolling suitcase. “Medium soft bags work better, because you can stack them side by side and fit four across [in a standard-sized vehicle],” he says.

Book Your Car With Bags and Comfort in Mind

When families book cars with enough seats, but not enough storage space to accommodate their luggage, they end up placing suitcases on the laps of passengers. Nozewski says doing this is neither comfortable nor safe for travelers. If you’re traveling with more than two people and a decent amount of luggage, Nozewski suggests booking a standard- or large-sized car to ensure travelers – and all of their belongings – can cruise comfortably to their vacation destinations.

How to Load the Trunk

To make the most of your trunk space, Starodub and Nozewski recommend putting the largest suitcase in first to see what space is left to work with. "Pack with the handle [facing] out," Nozewski adds, noting that this is especially helpful when unloading heavy bags. Starodub suggests leaving the edges of the trunk open to pack smaller items. Travelers can slide these smaller items through the trunk opening, which is smaller than the overall trunk area, and place them along the edges of the trunk where larger items don’t always fit.

Packing the Peculiar

Just when you think you’ve solved the suitcase-packing puzzle, odd-shaped items such as skis or golf clubs can throw you off your game. Nozewski recommends reserving a vehicle with a back seat that folds down, such as a hatchback, so travelers can slide their clubs or skis through. Upon arriving at an Alamo location, you can also ask if a hatchback vehicle is available. Headed to the mountains? Ask about vehicles equipped with ski racks. “[This way] you’re not taking up all of your trunk space with the unusual object,” he says. Strollers can present another problem when loading the car, which is why Starodub says travelers should consider packing a folding umbrella stroller. “It’s not only easy to open and close, but takes up less space in the trunk of a rental car,” she says.