I take packing a car seriously. It has taken a few road trips with multiple suitcases to get to this point, but I know just how to pack it all in. I have learned the in’s and out’s of our little Toyota Prius and its 14.4 cubic feet of cargo space.

That was until we had our fourth. The baby might be the smallest of the bunch, but he also requires a suitcase just for him, a pack and play, stroller, and a car seat. Don’t forget the diaper bag or you might be up a creek whenever you drive up to your destination.

Preparation for packing your Toyota Prius.

In the nine months (7 or 8 really when you find out your wife is expecting) I started to think about how I was going to be able to fit it all in. Before the baby arrived, we would pack the dogs kennel in the seat next to our 5-year-old to keep her under control. That would be the first change that we would have to make when our new addition arrived.

Toyota Prius

Our dog’s kennel, while it would fit, in the trunk of our Toyota Prius (with a hatchback) was going to be too big to put much of anything else around it. I am someone who likes to utilize just about every inch of space to my disposal. I tried everything that I could. Stacking suitcases on top of the kennel, on the side, in front of, all sorts of directions. Nothing worked.

It is not always a viable option for us to send our dog to a kennel to have her taken care of while we are gone. Some of our road trips we have the choice to bring her along with us. I do not know why it took me so long to figure out that there is space underneath the kid’s legs that I could use. I have used that space many times before, but it never occurred to me to have that as our new “dog seat.” We bought a harness for her wrapped it around a seat belt, and there she stayed.

More suitcases than you could imagine.

Two kids also mean that we have an added suitcase. Which also poses a problem because that suitcase was space that I would use to bring the stroller. Knowing that we could not sacrifice either, we ended up shrinking our stroller. We bought a stroller that would pack down nice and small to the size of a suitcase, and magically it fit. One other way that I added some room was to take off the wheels so it could fold up smaller and stashed the wheels in an empty area of the trunk.

We are all in there... including a 3-month-old toddler and a dog!

We are all in there… including a 3-month-old toddler and a dog!

A habit that I started pre-baby was turning our suitcases on their side. Realize that you are still using the same amount of room, but you are leaving more of your base available to you so that you can add a few bigger items in your trunk space.

Packing in such a small vehicle is not easy. It just takes some ingenuity. While I would do just about anything at this point to own a bigger SUV (or minivan if you want to try and win me over in that argument), the gas mileage of our Toyota Prius still wins over when we head out on road trips.

Now I just keep the two kids from touching each other in the back seat.