How to Pack and Store Your Summer Vacation Gear

woman in hammock reading a book

Whether you're staycationing this summer or finding ways to safely travel, like packing up the car for a road trip or daycationing to a nearby lake, here are some helpful packing and storage tips for all your summer vacation travels. Read on if you've been wondering what to do over summer vacation this year.

1. Boating

three red canoes lined up and stored

Many people live within driving distance to a body of water, and as most of us stick closer to home this summer, new hobbies like boating may surface. Getting out in a canoe or kayak is an excellent way to break out of your normal routine, commune with nature, and enjoy a socially distant activity. If you've avoided buying your own boat, now's the perfect time. If storage was holding you back, we have contact-free storage options to fit any number of vessels and gear.

How to pack for an outing on the water:

  • Create a packing list, like this one from REI, and make sure you have safety, comfort, and food and water covered.
  • If you're paddling out to a camping or picnicking destination, packing the boat is mainly a matter of weight distribution and access.
  • Place everything in protective storage bags.
  • Pack most of the weight in the center of the boat for stability, lighter items you don't need on-hand toward the ends.
  • Make sure you have quick access to:
    • Drinking water, snacks, sunscreen, and the first-aid kit.
  • Pack a change of clothes and shoes in a dry bag and make sure they have extra protection from getting wet.
  • Some helpful accessories to pack:
    • A brimmed, securable hat
    • Waterproof flashlight
    • Whistle
    • Waterproof camera or case for your cell phone
    • Two-way radio

How to store your boat:

  • Canoe and kayak storage follow the same basic rule as all boat storage: when not in use, keep them indoors out of the elements.
  • The ideal way to store a kayak or canoe is upside down, hung by wide straps wrapped around the cockpit area.
  • Kayaks can be stored standing up on the stern. Make sure to secure it to the wall so it does not tip over.
  • Canoe storage is a little different, in that you should keep them upside down and off the ground.
  • Don't store it faceup on crossbars, on its side, on the transport wheel cart, or hanging from its handles. 

2. Camping

blue suv trunk open and filled with camping gear

It seems more and more of us are becoming campers this year. Camping is a great way to take a long summer vacation without encountering too many other people. If you're new to camping, you might be surprised at the number of supplies you may need, but don't worry, you can find a small storage unit to keep it all compact without cluttering your garage or home closets.

How to pack the car for a camping trip:

  • Make a checklist organized by category, and pack like-times together.
  • Storage bins are perfect for keeping supplies organized and make it easy to neatly pack the car.
  • The same rule applies to packing the car that we use for storage units: first in, last out. So, pack the things you will need first (like your tent and camp set-up items) with that in mind.
  • If you have limited car and trunk space, buy an exterior cargo carrier.
  • Pack heavier items on the bottom if you're stacking.
  • Start with a cleaned-out car, lay out all your items before you start putting them in the car to make sure nothing is missing before you start.
  • Pack layers for multiple temperatures, such as the shift from day to night, but don't overpack clothing. Pack smarter, not more.

How to store camping gear:

  • Camp gear ranges from small accessories to bigger items like tents, so organization is important. Keep an inventory to take with you to remember what you've got and what you'll need for next year.
  • Make sure you've removed all the perishables before putting the gear back in storage, and make sure everything is clean and dry.
  • Sturdy crates and bins will last through many camping trips and taking gear in and out of storage. Buy bins that will fit onto shelves to keep things off the ground. Use cardboard to segment out bigger bins and keep like things in the same quadrant.
  • Be careful to ensure there are few to no hard creases when packing up your tent. Rolling instead of folding it can help keep it from tearing at crease points.

3. Road tripping

person filling pink lunch box with food

To truly get away from home, pick a place you've always wanted to see in U.S. (like a national park), book a hotel, and hit the road. Road trips are the perfect way to see the country around you more mindfully and at a slower pace. You don't have to be in the car for days if that's not for you. Find a place closer to you and make a daycation out of it.

How to pack for a road trip:

  • Minimize the need to stop as often and pack your own snacks and meals. Easy-to-grab snacks high in protein and vitamins help keep you healthy and your moods even. Pack each meal and snack in individual containers for neat packing in backpacks and coolers. Make sure to pack plenty of water, too.
  • Pack pillows and soft blankets—not only will they keep passengers cozy, but you can use them in the hotel or rental house for added safety.
  • Make a great playlist of songs everyone loves and can sing along to, but also pack noise-canceling headphones for when you want to be in your own zones. Other electronics not to forget include device chargers, Bluetooth speakers in case the hotel does not have them, and tablets.
  • Top of your "how to pack for a road trip checklist" should be to prepare your car as well as you prepare yourself—make sure its spare tire, jumper cables, and fluids are all renewed, packed, and in working order.

How to store road trip gear:

  • Remove cords from electronics and store in their original boxes of possible. It's best to store electronics in climate-controlled units. Also, make sure to remove batteries from electronics and flashlights.
  • To best store linens, roll instead of fold if you're short on space, invest in ventilated shelves for longer-term storage, and launder and thoroughly dry everything before packing away.
  • Storing things like car fluids requires clear labeling and safe zones. Keep fluids in their original packaging and clearly label if you change containers. Mark containers with a date and store out of reach of children.

4. Staycationing

cozy deck patio with furniture

Turn staying home into something new by creating a summer staycation. Camping in your backyard is a fun and more inexpensive option (if you already have the gear), but so is simply unplugging and finding new ways to rest, relax, and pamper yourself at home. Vacations can get pricey, so why not spend a little to enhance your surroundings at home? The best staycation ideas come by getting creative and treating yourself.

How to turn your house into a staycation destination:

  • Prep work is key—make sure your kitchen is stocked and the house is clean before you go on "vacation," so you won't feel tempted to tidy while you should be relaxing.
  • Order delivery "room service" from a local restaurant that makes you feel like splurging.
  • Turn your bedroom into a hotel suite:
    • Put your bedding in storage and buy some new high-thread-count sheets and fluffy pillows.
    • Buy fresh cut flowers in a big arrangement.
    • Use aromatherapy diffusers to create a calming atmosphere.
  • Create an outdoor relaxation zone with new patio furniture like an outdoor daybed, rugs, sail shades or umbrellas, water features like tabletop fountains, and a hammock.
  • Pay attention to lighting, and include soft lights like candles, dimming lightbulbs, outdoor torches or string-lights in the trees.

How to store outdoor furniture:

  • Keeping things dry and out of harsh elements is key to maintaining the quality of outdoor furniture. Storage units are a great option when you're not using your outdoor space.
  • Clean all your furniture before storing. It's good to use protective sealants on word furniture before use.
  • Metal is especially susceptible to things like rust and chipping paint, so make sure it's washed, dried, and sealed with a coat of wax for extra protection.
  • For cushions with removable slipcovers, make sure to launder and dry them before loosely stacking, elevated from the ground.
  • Wash umbrella covers, let dry completely, lubricate the joints, and store in the closed position.

5. Day hiking and biking

hand wiping down a bicycle tire

You don't have to stay somewhere overnight to feel like you've had a getaway. If you've never explored the natural areas around you, find the closest place to hike or bike and hit the trails. Longer hiking and backpacking trips are also an option if you're looking to get out of the house for longer than a few hours.

How to prepare for a day trip:

  • Picking the right trail is an important first step. Take into consideration your skill level to make the most of your day trip. Don't waste your time on a course you won't enjoy or be able to finish.
  • Download trail map apps on your phone or bring a physical copy as backup.
  • Bring supplies. Carry water either in a water bottle or CamelBak, which can also hold snacks, a small first-aid kit, a multi-tool, and an extra tube for your bike.
  • Outfit yourself for success—a good pair of hiking shoes and moisture-wicking clothing or cycling gear, backpack, and sun-protective hat will make your day hike or ride all the more enjoyable.

How to store bikes and hiking gear:

  • Like most items, it's important to clean your cycling gear before storage. Make sure your bike is clean, the chain is lubricated, and the tires are inflated to the recommended pressure. Keep your helmet cool and dry in its own box.
  • When it comes to hiking gear storage, cleanliness is also key. Clean your hiking boots with a coarse brush for caked-on dirt, and mild detergent and warm water once brushed. Spray insides with anti-fungal spray, dry, and stuff with paper to retain shape.
  • Check in on your first-aid kit to make sure items are up to date and ready for use.
  • Use plastic utility bins with labels for easy access to your gear at the start of a new hiking season. Keep an inventory list to remember what you have and what you need to stock up on.

Hopefully, some of these summer vacation ideas can help you reimagine canceled plans. Even in these challenging times, it's important to remember why summer vacation is important and how we can still manage while sticking to social distancing. Happy summer!

About the author

Lily Rogers

Lily is a writer, editor, and content strategist. Her curiosity spans genre, from travel to pop culture to food, and she writes about all that and more. She's also a social introvert, literature nerd, and (slight) hoarder. When not in pursuit of her next adventure, she's most likely at home with her wife and two cats.

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