Moose Taylor Park Colorado

How to Pack for a Colorado Road Trip

posted in: US Travel | 4

Summer Road Trip to Colorado~

Does the open road ever call to you? Do you prefer driving rather than flying? I love long road trips and I have taken them all of my life.  I started as a passenger in my parent’s cars driving from state to state while changing duty stations in the military to driving to my grandparent’s homes from wherever we were living at the time. Once I got married, my husband and I have driven all across this country from coast to coast.  Sometimes just the two of us, sometimes just me and one of our sons, other times as a family. 

Rawah Wilderness Colorado
Rawah Wilderness

Eight Weeks on the Road

Since my husband is a teacher and has the summers off, road tripping has been our preferred mode of transportation for extended trips.  This summer we are on a road trip for eight weeks driving from Southwest Florida to Colorado and back again. We are gone most of June and July. Our two sons and their families live in Colorado and we road trip there each summer to see them.  All of the photos in this post are from our travels in Colorado.

lake on the Grand Mesa
Grand Mesa

Prior Planning

Being on the road this long is no easy feat! A lot of preparation, packing and prior scheduling is the only way for us to approach such a big trip.  Not only do things need to be packed and prepared for the trip, but things at home need to still run without being there to do them in person.  In other words, things have to not only function wherever you are at, but things at home have to still flow like normal.

Rio Grande River Colorado
Rio Grande River

Electronic Calendar

When deciding to take a long road trip to Colorado, I start planning at least 6 months out.  I start thinking and talking about what I want to do and where I want to go.  I put together an electronic calendar of possible dates and start talking to people that I may be visiting to see what dates work for everyone involved.  Eventually the calendar starts taking shape and dates become more concrete.

Steamboat Springs barn
Steamboat Springs

Lodging on a Road Trip

Once this happens, I can really start to plan where I want to stay.  I will make reservations that are cancellable for days when I’m on the road. I always book a hotel that has a restaurant close by as I always eat dinner after I check-in so I can relax after a long day of driving.  Also when booking a hotel, I need a hotel that allows pets because my beagle Scout accompanies me on these summer trips.

columbines on Lizard Head Pass
Columbines on Lizard Head Pass


I am also a big fan of vacation rentals by owners, vrbos. I will research vrbo properties for the towns that I am visiting and make reservations. The cancellation policies are more strict so I make sure that I am informed as to what they are. This year I booked vrbo properties in both Salida and Breckenridge, Colorado.

camping in Estes Park
Estes Park


Since I’m spending the summer in Colorado, I also camp at various campgrounds or RV resorts.  These types of reservations also need to be made in advance.  This is especially true for Colorado summers as people come from all over the world to camp in Colorado.  This summer I made reservations in campgrounds in or near Aspen, Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

rafting the Colorado River
Rafting the Colorado River


Now that I have all lodging reservations made well in advance, I can concentrate on making reservations for any activities that I may be interested in while on this road trip in Colorado. I love to whitewater raft so I did make a reservation in Salida for that in advance.  I also want to raft in Breckenridge and Glenwood Springs and have done some research in advance for those potential trips.  However, this year the water levels are extremely high and rafting may not be a possibility as the summer progresses so I will monitor and make a decision as the time gets closer.

elk in Estes Park
Elk in Estes Park

Packing Essentials

The next thing I need to concentrate on is packing for all of these different places that I am visiting. Since I am gone for eight weeks, I really can’t pack for that long.  But, I can pack about 10 days worth of clothes and toiletries.  This makes things much more manageable even though being on a road trip this long can be complicated.  

Independence Monument
Independence Monument


When packing clothes, I like to use packing cubes. I use the Eagle Creek ones from The Container Store.  I really like them as they are stretchy.  I place undergarments, pants, pajamas and other random items in them. Since we are driving instead of flying, we use a clothes rack in our truck for shirts and jackets. I also throw in my swimming suit.  You never know when you might need one!

wildflowers on Uncompahgre Plateau
Wildflowers on Uncompahgre Plateau


I then move on to packing cosmetics. They are a little more tricky for me.  I pack my basics in Eagle Creek toiletry kits.  I use the Original Wallaby for toiletry items and the Original Quick Trip for my makeup. Since I have sensitive skin, I need to make sure that I have enough of each of my products before I leave home. Packing too much is better than not packing enough.

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains


Having a plan for medicine and prescriptions is definitely something that you need to think about well in advance.  If you have prescriptions you will need to get those filled prior to leaving on a trip. Since this trip is over 30 days long, I try to get permission from my health plan to fill them for the full 60 days.  This has never been a problem.  I also make sure that I have all doctor information with me so if the needs arises I can contact my doctor. Don’t forget about regular over-the-counter medication and supplements.  I try to have at least a good amount on hand and have a plan to be able to pick up more if needed.

big horn sheep Colorado National Monument
Big Horn Sheep Colorado National Monument

Doggie Items

Don’t forget about the little doggie in your life. You can check out my post on traveling with a pet where I outline how I pack for Scout on road trips. Having all of a pet’s food, treats and medicine is very important as it may be hard to pick up these items while away from home.

Eagles Nest Wilderness
Eagles Nest Wilderness


One of the most important things that I do before a long extended trip is to get documents gathered up.  Having my bills in order is absolutely essential. By that I mean I try to have all bills paid automatically or get the bills electronically.  This is a great help when on the road and away from home.  I have a bill table that lists each bill and their due dates and it is saved on a cloud electronically so I can access it from all computers or my phone.  I also make sure to travel with all of my passwords.  There is nothing worse than needing to contact a business and not knowing my password. Been there, done that and learned the hard way!

Colorado elk
Colorado Elk

Electronics for a Road Trip

Speaking of passwords, what about all the electronic devices that we use on a daily basis? Those have to be packed as well.  I travel with my phone, laptop and kindle at the very least. On long road trips like this summer in Colorado, I also travel with a portable speaker, headphones and external hard drive.  I need to make sure that I have all of those items and their cords packed.  

Flattops Wilderness
Flattops Wilderness

Charging Cords

I like to keep my charging cords packed in a separate container with the cords marked in a way that I can identify what device they go to. Just as an aside, when I am traveling I always keep my electronic devices and charging cords with me when I go into hotel rooms and any other lodging.  I do not leave these items in my vehicle overnight.  It is better to be safe than sorry for sure!

Upper Arkansas River
Upper Arkansas River

Safe Road Trip Vehicle

I would rather be safe on the road too.  By that I mean making sure the vehicle you are traveling in is in the best working order possible. Maintenance is scheduled on our vehicle a few weeks before we leave just in case something is wrong or a part needs to be ordered.  Once maintenance is done, I make sure the vehicle is gassed up and that any supplies I might need on the road and in Colorado are in the vehicle.  Kleenex, wipes, gum, paper towels, toothpicks, blanket and a pillow are all items I stock for long road trips.  

Elk outside Telluride
Elk outside Telluride

Entertainment on the Road

What about entertainment on the road?  My sons are grown and don’t travel with us anymore but my husband and I have a routine that we generally stick with.  I prefer to drive, when I’m not napping, and my husband prefers reading when not driving. However, several days on the road can get tedious. The one thing we always do is print out a list of all 50 states and try to get license plates for each. We check them off as we make our way to our destination and then do the same thing on the way home.  It’s fun and keeps us entertained.

Colorado Moose
Colorado Moose


Last but not least, I like to have a Rand McNally Road Atlas in my vehicle.  In this age of electronics and GPS I don’t know if an atlas is an absolute necessity, but I like to have one nonetheless.  I just like to look at them and be able to quickly change routes if need be and not have to rely on electronics. Nothing wrong with old school!

Brush Creek Trail

Made It!

I am now safely in Colorado and enjoying my road trip thus far.  On the way out to Colorado we saw license plates for all 50 states except Delaware and Hawaii.  Maybe we will get all 50 on the way home. I hope you are enjoying your summer and please comment on where you are headed this summer on your road trip. Maybe you will give me an idea for summers to come.

Happy Wandering!

4 Responses

  1. Louise Rahmann

    Enjoyed your post so much. Very, very interesting. Hoping to see you soon. Love, Louise

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