Christmas Motoring: Packing Your Car for the Festive Drive

car packing tips

Whether you’re driving home from the shops with a carful of presents or setting out on a cross-country drive to visit family and friends for the festive period, Christmas is a time for car journeys, and normally with lots of luggage in tow.

We all know how challenging it can be to cram everything into the small space in a car, with some drivers going to extreme lengths to squeeze everything on-board. Even the biggest and most spacious cars can seem a little cramped during the annual drive home for Christmas, so you’ve got to get clever when it comes to packing — otherwise you could jeopardise the safety of your car.

Here, we offer a few hints and tips on how to pack up your car as skilfully as Santa himself.

Keep Things Secure

In a desperate bid to fit everything into your car, it can be easy to overlook how secure certain items are in the cabin. Loose Christmas presents sliding around inside the car is the last thing you need during a stressful cross-country drive in poor weather conditions, and at the very worst they could become a dangerous distraction.

If you’ve filled the boot and are forced to pile things on to the backseat or into the rear passenger foot wells, try to secure each item by jamming it in with heavier things. Empty boxes and cushions can be used to jam items together and stop them moving around as you brake or corner, and we’d also consider fastening the rear seatbelts around heavy items to stop them moving.

Any unsecured items in the cabin will become a potentially lethal projectile in the event of a crash, so make sure you’re happy that everything is secure before setting off.

Pack heavy items on the bottom

Not only will loading bigger, heavier items into your car first make life easier, it’ll make it much safer and more secure. If heavy items start moving around whilst you’re driving, they’ll cause the biggest distraction and could prove devastating in the event of a crash. Strap heavy items down with seatbelts, and weigh them down with other items so they’re unlikely to move.

car packing tips

There’s another reason you should keep heavy items low down in the car, and that’s handling. The added weight in your car will affect how it performs, so it’s better to keep heavier items low down in the car to improve the centre of gravity and reduce the rolling resistance caused by additional weight.

Bonus tip: When loading heavy but small items — a case of beer, for instance — push these tight up against the back of the seats in the rear foot well. This will provide better weight distribution, and stop them bursting through in the event of a crash.

Check Your Visibility

Keen to get on the road, many motorists pile luggage so high they’re unable to see out of the back and side windows, impacting their all-round visibility. While this isn’t illegal, it is pretty dangerous, especially if you’re driving on the motorway and need to check those all-important blind spots. And if the police think excess luggage is affecting your driving, they may pull you over.

As a rule, luggage should never rise above the rear seats, ensuring that all rear windows are left unrestricted. Items stacked higher than this are likely to fly forward in the event of a crash anyway, so aim to keep things low down in the car where you can.

Consider a Roof Box

If the thought of loading the car before the annual Christmas drive is enough to fill you with fear, consider getting a roof box to lighten the load in the cabin. Roof racks and boxes are the perfect way to carry awkward items, and they’ll definitely come in handy when you’re returning home after receiving lots of gifts and pressies from loved ones.

Most cars can be fitted with a roof rack, even tiny city cars, so it could be well worth investing in one if the Christmas commute proves a struggle each year. Roof boxes are great for carrying light but bulky items, which take up a lot of space in the boot or on the backseats.

However, before loading a roof box, it’s important to check your car’s maximum permitted roof load, which can be found in the manual. Roof load weights are surprisingly low on some cars, so you should never overload a roof box or strap anything too heavy to the rack before checking its weight first. When you’re working out how much a load weighs, remember to include the roof rack and box, as these need to be factored into the total load on the car’s roof.

car packing tips

If you decide to invest in a roof rack and box to carry those extra festive supplies, don’t forget about the extra height added to your car! It can be all too easy to forget that an extra metre has been added to the car’s height, and this could lead to major embarrassment if you try to enter a multi-storey or park in a relative’s garage.

Bonus tip: When driving with anything attached to the roof, you should aim to stop regularly to check that straps, ropes and catches are secure. These can work loose at speed or when items are moving around under cornering, and we’d hate for the family Christmas tree or pile of presents to end up on the central reservation.

Don’t Carry Excess Weight Longer than is Necessary

While most cars are built to be put through their paces, don’t carry excess weight longer than you need to during the festive period. A family of four and all their luggage (including those weighty Christmas pressies) put additional strain on the suspension, brakes, tyres and clutch — potentially leading to pricey repair bills as we head into the new year.

If you can, make multiple trips with both passengers and then their luggage, to reduce the strain placed on your car. Offloading heavy items that you no longer need to carry will also help with fuel economy.

No matter what your festive driving plans, you can enjoy a very merry Christmas with Holts. Our DIY car maintenance products are designed to get you back on the road without the hassle, so you’re guaranteed to arrive in time for the festivities. For more information, visit our homepage.