How to Pack a Car for College

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Strategic packing may spare you the disappointment of leaving behind treasured possessions that won't fit in your car as you head off to college. With a little planning, you can find room for the things your parents insist you need along with your cool posters, overstuffed pillows and video games that can make you feel at home. Even a small vehicle can hold a lot if you exploit every crook and cranny. Avoid packing at the last minute to reduce stress and forgetfulness.

Determine What to Pack

  • Before packing, check your school’s housing website for suggestions on what to bring and what to leave at home. The Regis College Residential Life website recommends bringing a computer, compact refrigerator, extra long twin sheets, dishes and a shower caddy, for example. Policies vary from school to school, especially when it comes to household appliances, such as microwaves. Most schools prohibit items that pose a fire or safety hazard, such as candles, halogen lamps, extension cords, electric blankets and weapons.

Pack Items Efficiently

  • Use boxes sparingly and mainly for wrapped breakables. Garbage bags are better than suitcases because they’re easier to squeeze into tight spaces. Clothes on hangers can be placed in plastic garbage bags, with a hole in the top for easy carrying, and laid flat in the back to reduce wrinkles. Group similar items together to speed unpacking. For example, place your toothbrush, hair products, curling iron, hair dryer, soap, detergent, first-aid kit and shaving supplies in a plastic wastebasket. Stack towels, washcloths, sheets and blankets in a laundry hamper. School supplies should go in your backpack.

Put Safety First

  • If your school allows you to bring a small refrigerator or microwave, exercise care when transporting. Consumer Reports recommends positioning heavier items in the center of the car, ideally on the floor, to lower the center of gravity and reduce the chances of a rollover. Putting too much weight in the back end over the rear springs can affect braking and handling of the car. Use several cargo ties to strap everything down inside and outside the car. Put small items inside other containers, so they don’t act as flying projectiles if you have an accident.

Determine Packing Order

  • Put the backseats down. Load the heaviest items first and push them forward so they’re situated in the center of the car. You can securely strap any suitcases to your car's outside luggage rack if you have one. Place smaller items -- storage bins, boxes, sports equipment -- in the cargo area. Then you can add electronics, framed pictures and mirrors wrapped in blankets. Squish garbage bags wherever they fit. Small compartments in the doors, console, under the seats, and the trunk can be filled with necessities that you may need to find quickly, such as your laptop, cell phone charger, medicine and flashlight.

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